VIII. Copernicus and His Time in the Light of Spiritual Science
15 February 1912, Berlin
There are people who regard the deed of Copernicus as the biggest of the cultural revolutions which humanity has ever experienced as far as the historical memory reaches. One has to admit that the impression and the influence of this spiritual revolution was so significant for any outer thinking of the human beings that, indeed, hardly something more effective can be compared with it. One can bring to mind also easily what it had to mean to the world of the sixteenth century, the earth on which one believed to stand firmly resting in the universe, not only to have to retrain the relation of the own residential place, of this planet, of the sun, of the whole universe. The human beings literally lost the ground of their view. What they had regarded as firm up to then that the sun and the whole starry heaven circles around this firm earthly residential place, and everything that is spread out in space exists only because of this earthly residential place, one had now to assume that the earth is something that hurries with big speed through the cosmic space. They had to imagine the sun as something that does not move in relation to the earth and the earth even as something moving.
Even if the time is relatively short, since this spiritual wave descended upon humanity, one does not at all realise today, which change of thinking was necessary to submit to the new way of thinking in this area. But it is also necessary to realise that hardly any idea of humanity seized the whole human education and culture in such relatively short time and settled down that we have to think today that the human being has to learn the Copernican world system as one of the most elementary teachings and knowledge already as a child at school. If one looks at its significance and effectiveness, it becomes twice interesting to ask oneself: how does this progress position itself generally in the whole development of the human spirit?
In the last talk, I have spoken about Human History, Present, and Future in the Light of Spiritual Science. What appeared to us as the biggest event of human development presents itself just in a nice special case if we look at the action of Copernicus. What happened, actually, at that time in the sixteenth century when already after the death of Copernicus his great work On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres appeared before the educated world? Copernicus had yet believed that it complied with his position as a Catholic canon so that he dedicated it to the pope, and was, still, on the index of the forbidden books of the Catholic Church up to 1821.
Only from the whole attitude of his time one can understand the action of Copernicus, actually, only if one takes the fact into account that in the centuries up to the appearance of Copernicus in the cultural life, Aristotelism prevailed in science. Since those medieval thinkers and researchers who preceded Copernicus stood on the ground of that what Aristoteles had produced as a scientific spirit centuries before the Christian calendar. As far as these philosophers and researchers of the Middle Ages were Christian, they connected the Christian doctrines harmoniously with that what they had taken up as a scientific way of thinking from Aristotle.
The teaching of Copernicus is a break in a certain respect, one would have to say, not with the teaching of Aristotle, probably, but with that what had arisen from Aristotle by the Christian researchers. These called Aristotle a precursor of the Lord, of Christ the things of the natural world order. For them the whole worldview disintegrated into two parts: in a part which could originate only from the Christian revelation, from the tradition of the scriptures. This part dealt with that what is generally inaccessible to the human reason but only to faith. They took the second part of their worldview from Aristotle, and they penetrated everything with Aristotelian attitude that the human being can attain by research and science. If one sees Aristotle having an continuous effect on the intellectual culture of the Middle Ages that way, and if one sees him then replaced by Copernicus and his great successors Kepler, Galilei, Giordano Bruno and others, then one has to ask oneself, how was the original Aristotle, and how was his teaching which the Christian scholars of the Middle Ages regarded as Aristotelian?
If one becomes engrossed in the comprehensive, magnificent work of Aristotle, one realises that Aristoteles has summarised the reflections of the preceding culture epochs. But they face us with Aristotle in a strange way. Of course, in this context I cannot dwell on the teachings of Aristotle, I would like to draw your attention only to one thing that is necessary just for spiritual science to understand the action of Copernicus and the character of his age.
With Aristotle, you find that logically and reasonably processed and brought in ideas what he had taken over from old times. If you only wanted to refer to that which his reason could understand, we would realise that the ideas of human reason cannot enclose everything that we find in the teachings of Aristotle. There we find the idea that universe and nature are ensouled, are spirit-filled. He pronounces distinctly that not only the human physical body, but also the spiritual-mental of the human being are born out of the universe. The human body because the matter is spread out in the universe. But the spiritual-mental has arisen from the universe because he imagines the universe as spirit-filled, as ensouled. What we see in the stars is for Aristotle not only an accumulation of matter, but also the material embodiment of a soul being, and the passage of a star through the universe is for him not only the result of mere mechanical or physical forces, but also the expression of the will of the star's spirit or the star's soul.
If one goes deeper in detail, one everywhere finds something quite peculiar shining through. With his wholly logical, abstract explanations, one finds an old knowledge shining through which was still delivered to the Greeks, and which Aristotle brought in rational ideas. One can understand Aristotle only properly if one takes that as a basis, which I have said in the last talk, the whole human development proceeded in such a way that humanity originated from a consciousness different from the present one which is organised mainly to the intellect. — Against it there was on the bottom of every human soul a kind of innate clairvoyance in olden times which we can achieve by instruction today as I have explained it in the book How Does One Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds
Humanity has developed from this clairvoyant knowledge which existed in ancient times and which became weaker and weaker in the course of human development. Humanity could behold in that which is deeper in the things than that which only the senses and the reason can understand. Everywhere one finds an original knowledge hidden on the bottom of human cultures, a knowledge by Intuition, Inspiration, and Imagination. But this original knowledge had to get lost gradually, because only on this condition humanity could develop the intellectual culture.
The main concern of scientificity and scientific worldviews could develop only because the old hazy clairvoyant knowledge gradually changed into our knowledge. Since the old clairvoyant consciousness lacked our logical thinking completely. What one knew at that time what the originally clairvoyant human soul gained was continued up to the Greek times. This old knowledge of humanity still shines strangely through with Plato, the teacher of Aristotle. We find this old knowledge in the form as the modern human being can no longer attain it for himself, for example, in the Oriental cultures, mainly in the ancient Indian culture. It is interesting to realise that in the Indian culture from the ancient culture of humanity, which was able to behold in the spiritual world, something similar originates as we find it with Aristotle. In the Indian culture something arises at last that the human beings gained as it were by the education for millenniums, by the internalisation up to the logical thinking which has now to get to a world explanation without clairvoyance purely by itself. We realise that this old culture maintains its knowledge, but educates the soul in such a way that that which is delivered is grasped in logical, reasonable ideas. With the Indian culture, we see the interesting fact that the humanity of the East stops on that level beyond which it does not get, a level that resulted since centuries before our Christian calendar.
With Aristotle, we see that the logical culture, the intellectual culture assuming another character while it develops from the old clairvoyant knowledge. We realise that still the teaching of the ensoulment of the world sounds through. But while humanity develops from the old clairvoyance the culture of the thinking, the logic arises with Aristotle as a kind of separate science that can become now again the instrument of a quite different disposed research.
If we compare Aristotle and the Indian culture, we have to say: the Indian culture comes to a dead point, it comes as it were to a dead end where the thought always when it wants to recognise something positive has to turn back to the ancient culture and its clairvoyant results.
Against it, with Aristotle we see the ancient culture ending, indeed, that, but the thought is so maintained that it can seize something else. One does not understand Aristotle properly if one does not see his whole philosophy related to his psychology. Since for Aristoteles it would be absurd that the human soul was only a function, a result of the activity of the human body. He was clear in his mind that the physical body is gifted if the human being enters the world directly from the spiritual world with the spiritual-mental essence. He would never have believed that the human being arises only from heredity, but he derived the spiritual-mental from that what he called the world of God from which he let the most significant inner core of the soul arise.
Just as little, Aristotle let the spiritual-mental essence of the human being stop at death, but he was clear in his mind that that what lives in us and works and uses the body as tool lives on after death. However, he was also clear in his mind that the physical life is by no means superfluous or useless, but that the soul must submerge necessarily in the physical life because it can only there attain that what it has to bring into the spiritual world after death. It is interesting how Aristoteles imagined the destiny of the human soul core as bound to the destiny of the life, which it experienced here between birth and death. He lets it be bound to the life on earth so that the soul relieved of its body lives on after death in the spiritual world, but has to look back at a world in which it was. While it turns the spiritual view down, it sees its former physical body. It realises the good or bad, nice or ugly, clever or silly actions, sensations, or thoughts he had in life. Thus the soul is bound in this retrospect of the physical life to this view, while that what of it lives in the spiritual world is dependent from its corporeality.
There Aristotle had the sombre idea that the soul experiences for all eternity what it has — bound to the physical body — to experience. Since Aristotle was too far away from the original, human culture that still knew something of repeated lives on earth. That is why he could not show how the soul appears after death in a new human body again and uses the sight of its last life on earth during its existence in the spiritual world so that it transforms the experiences of the previous life on earth and uses them as an opportunity to compensate in a new life on earth what it did wrongly or imperfectly. Concerning the imperfect the only consolation is that the soul gets a new stimulus to make the defects more perfect in the next life. Aristotle did not know this because he did not recognise that at his time the human culture had come to that point where the human being did research by the instrument of the brain that exists only between birth and death. Only that way Aristotle could become the founder of the logical, scientific thinking while he clouded the view of repeated lives on earth and the life in a spiritual world for his time. He did not go so far of binding the spiritual-mental to the bodily, although he had lost the view of the repeated incarnations of the spiritual-mental. The fact that this is in such a way is proved in particular in a book that has just appeared and belongs quite certainly to the best works of the literature on Aristotle if it is not generally the best about the worldview of Aristotle. The book that I recommend very much is Aristotle and His Worldview (1911) by Franz Brentano (1838–1917).
I would just like to read out the words of this excellent expert of Aristotle to show what he writes about the destiny of the soul after death out of a deep penetration with the whole way of Aristotelian thinking: “But how? Is the idea of retaliation not completely shattered? — One could mean it, and then it would be explained, why Aristotle did not refer to retaliation in the beyond in the ethics in contrast to Plato. That is not the case. We remind of the difference to which I drew the attention with the spirits of the spheres in the comparison with the godhead. Similar differences exist also here, and if the dead look at the world and feel intertwined into it with their lives on earth, then the one recognises himself as identical with someone who accomplishes good actions, and another with someone who accomplishes shameful actions. This knowledge, which they attain, is at the same time an everlasting, glorifying, or condemning Last Judgement, a Last Judgement that takes place as such in front of everyone for all eternity. Should one not regard this as retaliation and as completely adequate to the true merit?”
We realise here at the same time that not only the religious confession, but also the science of Aristotle have assumed an everlasting connection of the soul with this one life on earth. Here we have an explanation why one has also spoken of everlasting reward and punishment so stubbornly where the medieval doctrine wants to be scientific. As an old tradition, Aristotle had his spiritual view and his conviction that something spiritual penetrates the human being and lives in him. His mission was to lead out the old culture from a spiritual culture.
Now not a deep understanding, but strictly speaking only the outer tradition of Aristotle remained the whole Middle Ages through beyond Copernicus; one swore on the works of Aristotle. Everywhere one taught at the schools what one had found in them. But the instrument of reason matured, hidden to outer observation, in the human souls. What Aristotle had to tell of the old spiritual teachings of wisdom was misunderstood and interpreted sophistically, so that those who came then, Kepler, Galilei, Giordano Bruno, could not help scrapping that what one had taken over of the belief in Aristotle. What Aristotle had delivered as contents got lost. But an inner soul culture developed, the culture of the intellect, of the reason. Reason, thinking is empty in itself if it has no object of research. We still find the old spiritual wisdom with Aristotle as the object of research. But it gradually disappeared. The Middle Ages had, so to speak, only for that more talent which one can see with the senses and understand with the intellect. Copernicus was that man who now turned the glance to the world in such a way that he understood the world coherence in space, as this could be understood with the mere outer reason at first that summarised by logic and mathematics what spread out in space. Because the spiritual original culture was anxious, above all, to understand the human being, as he is on earth, in relation to his spiritual-mental and in relation to his origin from the spiritual-mental of the world, the old teachings considered the outer spatial conditions only a little. The old teaching simply accepted the sensory appearance, because it did not give something to understand space and time but to recognise what lives in the depths of the human soul and is born from the spiritual-mental depths of the universe. Only when the reason felt alone with the thought, it got the urge to understand the outer reality. We can characterise the age of Copernicus even better with someone who is even greater than Copernicus is although he did not work in the scientific area so impressively on humanity as Copernicus did.
Imagine a spirit who is put into the fifteenth, sixteenth centuries when the greatness of the old spiritual culture had disappeared from the general consciousness longtime ago when in the human soul the possibility developed to grasp the outer sensory reality greatly with the forces of the strong human personality. If we imagine a human being who is just endowed with this tendency we have the older contemporary of Copernicus, the genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) who was able to grasp the immediate sensory reality in such a depth that his Communion in Milan, even if it is disfigured, still takes our deep fancy. Leonardo da Vinci is a person who created this completely from the depths of his soul as an artist; he was not only a painter and sculptor, but also an engineer and architect, he was scientifically active in a comprehensive sense. His scientific records have a great effect on us if we study them. He is the greatest representative of the time that developed to the sixteenth century; he was a man in whose inside largely and immensely all forces had become fertile which Aristotle had directed to the consideration of the world. What was abstract with Aristotle became immediate, lively, spiritual reality with Leonardo da Vinci. He also faces us that way where he grasps the world as a scientist.
The canon Copernicus is also endowed with that what humanity could learn as culture, as self-education from Aristotle. He investigated in all silence, during four times nine years, as he himself says, not some outer facts — this is the typical that he did not investigate outer facts —, but that he accepted that what the senses, the outer reason knew about the outer facts of the solar system. That who appears compared with Copernicus as “half-advanced,” Tycho de Brahe (1546–1601), seems virtually pioneering with the investigation of sensory facts, whereas Copernicus contributed nothing to the investigation of outer facts. What did Copernicus really achieve? Someone who intensely studies his writings knows that he did not apply the culture which humanity could gain by Aristotle to the old spiritual culture like Aristotle, to the knowledge of the spiritual-mental of the human being and of the universe but to the outer sensory reality.
Let us grasp the inner relation of the stars to the sun not in such away as the medieval science and Aristotelism have grasped it, but let us assume that the sun is in the centre, and that the planets circle round it. What would result from this assumption? Copernicus possibly asked himself. He could say to himself, we have obeyed a methodical, a logical principle of Aristotle more than those do who want to explain the sense-perceptible in their way. They have to assume complex movements of the single planets, and put up laws that constitute the solar system at last. But an old principle that can make sense to the human beings just by the logic of Aristotle says that we should never use a complex thought if a simple thought can explain the world coherence.
Copernicus used the simplest thought, not by a special intention. Because he took the view to summarise the outer sensory facts, he put the sun in the centre of the system and let the planets circle round it. That which one could only explain in complex way once, the place of a star, when it was seen, arose easier. Thus, Aristotle gave the impulse, although those did not understand him who believed to be true Aristotelians in the Middle Ages, which brought humanity on that level on which it grasped the idea inside Copernicus to apply the idea of simplicity to the outer universe.
That which Aristotle still applied to spiritual wisdom originated from the old culture of the humanely mental for science. But that what has originated from the old spiritual culture as an instrument begins spreading over the sensory world and surveying it lawfully. If then we realise how the action of Copernicus keeps on working in Kepler, Galilei, Giordano Bruno, even still in Newton, it becomes clear to us everywhere that the age of Copernicus gave humanity the mission to add the culture and science of the sensory world to the old spiritual culture and science.
However, it was also necessary for it that the human habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and willing were directed to the immediate physical outer reality. This also appears in a strange way that it combines with the action of Copernicus. We still see souls like Leonardo da Vinci and those who belong to him arising from the Renaissance culture, which breaks with the medieval avoidance of nature and which brings joy of the immediate reality to the human beings. This was necessary to be able to understand the outer reality also immediately with the scientific reason with Galilei, Kepler and Copernicus.
It is interesting to realise that it becomes more difficult to the human beings, so to speak, in one area and easier in the other area to familiarise themselves to the quite new way of thinking and to apply the new mental pictures to the universe. We realise too that it becomes difficult to humanity to accept the outer reality at first as the basis of an intellectual culture in the origin of the Faust legend in the sixteenth century that also has a historical background. There we realise that the human beings felt the new thinking as something by which they lost the old coherence with the spiritual of the world. As far away that what is connected with the Faust figure seems to be from the feeling that the human being is torn out from the spiritual culture and is a slave of all mistakes and errors that arise from his personality. Nevertheless, it is reflected in the popular education of the sixteenth century as the consciousness, while it tells about Faust that he laid the Bible behind the bank for a while and became a worldly man and doctor The latter represented a researcher in the outer nature. It is interesting to observe that a naive person like Copernicus felt: you have only brought the thought of simplicity on the solar system up to the inward-looking human soul.
As a devout man, he had to say to himself, recognising the laws of the universe in their true form, I contribute, actually, to the knowledge of the divine thoughts working in the world. — In his naivety, he could believe that it was right to dedicate his work to the pope. But friends had kept him from publishing his work, so that he received the correction of the first sheet only on his deathbed, because he believed that it was not right to keep it longer from fear. Now, but we realise the peculiar that the time culture had to position itself to it. The work was published only after his death. The publisher weakened what Copernicus wanted to say in a preface in which he said in a careful way that this work would be not something that counts on the facts of the world directly, but it would be a possible hypothesis among other hypotheses. Now we have to be clear in our mind that the action of Copernicus is the starting point of a cultural epoch within which we still are, because it is a straight progress from Copernicus to our days. But that peculiarly presents itself which in his naivety Copernicus regarded as well founded on the Christian faith. It appears in a peculiar way what he did at that time if we compare it to that what was connected with it in the course of the centuries. One knows it well. Copernicus himself still escaped from any persecution because he saw his world-revolutionising work only on his deathbed. Those who kept on working in his sense Galilei, Giordano Bruno, experienced another destiny. This is known to all world. We realise exactly here what arises from the action of an ingenious human being, how everything that becomes later common property of humanity can only assert itself by opposition. Really, one has to confess that one feels it as something quite peculiar if one looks at the action of Copernicus as a necessity just in such a way, as we have done it today — and realises now that this action keeps working as, but also the opposing attitude keeps on working.
If one looks at the time of Copernicus in this cultural-moral sense, the following arises. He himself believed that this action did not at all contradict his confession that he believed to have as a man devoted to his church. Since when the action of the Copernicus took place, and the culture of the outer sensory world seized humanity, there still enough existed of the culture of the old times with which humanity connected that what is spread out in the universe as a spiritual and formed the contents of the Aristotelian teachings. It would be not at all possible at the time of Kepler, Galilei, also of Newton, to count as a reasonable person if one stated that possibly only from the cooperation of the material processes the human soul rises in its activity, as the flame comes into being from the material processes of the candle. Just for the greatest spirits, this would not have been possible. Although his doctrine worked so world revolutionising later, Copernicus remained firmly founded on the belief in the spirit working in the universe.
Kepler, his great successor, still worked as an astrologer beside that he was a great astronomer. This is important for the characteristic of the age of Copernicus that Kepler worked as an astrologer. Only from this viewpoint one has to consider that he was convinced — although he inserted three principles named after him in science — that something spiritual-mental works in all mechanical processes of the universe, so that one could get to know something of the human destiny from the constellations of the stars.
Galileo also felt that the human soul was embedded in the spiritual-mental of the world. Since Galilei was of the view that one was not allowed to stop at a science of paper but has to advance to a science of reason after Copernicus and after he had invented his telescope with which he had discovered the Jupiter moons and the fact that the Milky Way was composed of single star formations. Galilei was, as others of his time, an opponent of Aristotle but only of the misunderstood Aristotle. Against it, he was penetrated by that what one can call culture of thought, internalisation of the thought up to the logical conception of the outer reality. But he had never become estranged to the idea that the human mind can understand by logic at successive times what is spread out in space and time. But compared with this human reason, which can recognise the secrets of the universe successively by the consideration of that what the senses perceive, Galilei saw the divine spirit working and interweaving in the world and of which he felt reverentially that it pre-thinks the universe in one single moment and does not after-think it as the human being does. So for Galilei the divine spirit formed the basis of all world phenomena which the world thought creates within one moment on its own terms whose image the world is which then the human mind and intellect can maybe understand successively, at least through many ages.
For the age of Copernicus, the consciousness was not yet lost generally that the human soul is based on the spiritual-mental of the universe. Even with Newton, we still recognise that he imagines — although he believes to have explained the forces of the outer universe as mechanical ones by the principle of gravitation — that the spiritual-mental of the human being is so firmly based on the spiritual-mental of the universe that he became an interpreter, a commentator of the Apocalypse at the same time. Just the principal documents of this age were still filled with that what had, indeed, disappeared of the old science which still went on sounding with Aristotle, and which knew that the spiritual-mental is connected inside the human being with the spiritual-mental in the universe outdoors. The old knowledge had disappeared, but the traditions were still there to which one could dedicate himself quietly, because in the human heart something lived that wanted to dedicate itself to them quietly. Nevertheless, something different was the habitual ways of thinking. We see the thought on its own becoming impoverished. Where these spirits wanted to advance to an understanding of the spiritual-mental life, Kepler, Galilei, Giordano Bruno, Newton, all traditions still could live in their souls. But if they wanted to understand the soul life with the principles attained with their reason, these soul forces turned out to be incapable, even if they were alive ever so much. As to the shine of a past old wisdom Galilei tended to the reason of his God, as he believed it, and as it existed in the tradition of his faith.
However, those who wanted then to look for a lawful connection of the human soul with the spiritual-mental of the world in similar way, as they had looked at the time of Copernicus for a lawful connection of the earth with the stars, the spatial universe, faced the impoverishment of thought put on its own. With one of the most enthusiastic spirits of the Copernican age, with Giordano Bruno, we see this impoverishment of the thought that had brought itself to interpret the world in the sense of Copernicus. He points to the fact that where one had supposed the so-called “eighth sphere” behind the fixed star sphere according to the previous view nothing exists everywhere but worlds as the earth is, it is only a small world in the big one. One has only to remember his miraculous and astute worldview that breaks down a lot of that what had remained to humanity from old times, and then one recognises that just Giordano Bruno wants to enliven the consciousness of the spiritual coherence of the human soul with the spiritual world. He is clear in his mind that if one looks at a physical being like the human being, one has to imagine that it arises from a spiritual universe that the spiritual of the universe concentrated in a human body as it were to extend again at his death and to concentrate later again. He imagines the repeated lives on earth this way. But his thought does not become full of contents, not internally rich.
The thought that had showed its momentum and its fertility towards the outer world shrinks with Giordano Bruno and later with Leibniz (Gottfried L., 1646–1716) whom we can consider as a successor of Giordano Bruno to that which both called a monad. What is a monad? Something of which one imagined that it is born from the spiritual world. As to Leibniz even a monad includes something like a reflection of the whole universe. But this view did not bring more than the dry abstraction that the monad is a reflection of the universe. Thus, one may admire the strength of Leibniz's philosophy as an effect of the action of Copernicus. But if we penetrate into his philosophy that imagines the world composed of monads, we realise that it cannot say a lot about the human soul, because it is surely only a little if one says that the soul is a reflection of the universe. We see nothing but abstract descriptions, if we look at the philosophy which goes back directly to the action of Copernicus. Strictly speaking, this philosophy remains poor. The old spiritual science of Aristotle which had the traditions of the old culture and an uncertain consciousness of it still speaks of the human being as composed of different members of his being, It understands him as a harmonious arrangement, relates the different members to the different outer states and facts, still connects what drops from the human being at death with that which comes from a spiritual world and goes to a spiritual world, and gets concrete mental pictures full of contents about the spiritual in the soul that way.
We still see a real science with divine contents with Aristotle. We still see the spiritual described as one really describes something spiritual today again. But it shrunk to the miserable monad in the age of Copernicus. The same Giordano Bruno who finds the most enthusiastic words where he points to the greatness and infinity of the universe finds the poorness of the monad for the soul only. Now a few concepts, pieced together, should show the human soul, its conceptualised being.
There we realise how the ages work how the human missions work. Humanity would never attained its today's culture unless Copernicanism had come, but we realise at the same time how spiritual science had to become impoverished inevitably at first. Now only in our time, we realise that something appears that will show again that now, after the human thought wanted to be only an instrument of understanding the outer sensory world for a while, this human thought also becomes means to get to an inside world exceeding the mere thought. Since wherefore the thought was used since Copernicus up to now? It was used for understanding the outer sensory world; it was the instrument of the outer facts, which the eyes see and which can be grasped, with the instrument of the brain. The thought had to offer an objective, clear image of the sensory world. After this kind of soul condition has hardened, the thought may now become again something else, something that educates the human soul in itself. The human being must no longer use the thought only as an image of the outer reality, but he has to separate it in such a way that it does not depict the outer reality, but works if the soul excludes all appearance in meditation and concentration, so that the thought becomes internally creative, and that the soul gets contents different from the contents of the shrivelled monad.
In the Copernican age the thought received its mission to be an image of the outer reality, it will go over to preparing the soul, will bring up inner hidden forces from the depths of the soul by which this can look at that which forms the basis of the old Aristotelian culture. These will be no old, traditional thoughts that are the most fertile ones. No, these will be the thoughts that are found by the age of natural sciences. Just the thoughts that are built up on the age of Copernicus bring out those soul forces, which let the soul behold itself and then the spiritual-mental of the universe. Now the human soul has to develop the thought for the other mission to take the thought as a means of education of the soul for a culture of the higher self, for a beholding in the spiritual world.
We stand at this turning point today, and this turning point in the human culture has to take place. If we understand the necessity by which the age of Copernicus came into being, we can also understand the necessity that the time has to change into a new one in which the thought exceeds itself and in which we get to the nature of the soul if we no longer talk about the soul in abstractions, but in real descriptions of its actions, qualities, and characteristics. If one considers spiritual science in such a way, those will not maybe come to their own who run after everybody today who states anyhow that he knows anything of spiritual science.
We live not only in a critical age today but also in an age where many people without examining run at once after every prophecy et cetera. Just as today a part of humanity is too much critical, the other part is too much gullible and takes everything as a revelation of spiritual worlds. Real spiritual science wants to have to do nothing with what arises from such a need. Since it is not possible today that spiritual science can bring the human beings to an understanding of our age unless one tries to understand the lawfulness of humanity and of the evolution generally. Hence, it also happened when once a spirit, Lessing (Gotthold Ephraim L., 1729–1781), intended to survey the development of humanity in the same way as Copernicus had surveyed the principles of space that he got to the hypothesis of the repeated lives on earth. How will it be then with those who take spiritual science seriously?
Just there we can also learn a lot from Copernicus. I have already stated once what Galilei experienced with a real follower of Aristotle. One of his friends believed due to the no longer understood Aristotle that Aristotle had taught that the nerves of the human being originate from the heart. Galilei who stood on the ground of real sensory observation said to the person concerned, I want to lead you to a corpse and show you that Aristotle was not right, because the nerves of the human being originate from the brain. — Really, this follower of Aristotelism also looked at the corpse and said then, if I look at nature, it seems to me, as if the nerves originate from the brain, but from Aristotle I know that the nerves originate from the heart, and if nature contradicts Aristotle, I believe in Aristotle and not in nature. This is no fairy tale; this is a fact that shows that the big facts have to be accepted in the human culture in spite of all opponents.
Hence, we must not be surprised if anything appears in our time that one could characterise in the following way. Anybody could want to show to another with the whole development of the child that not everything that the human being bears in himself can originate from mere physical heredity. This could happen in such a way that he says to the other. have a look at everything that spiritual science has said about this field. — Then there one could imagine that somebody of the quite clever people would answer, yes, if you spiritual scientists talk in such a way, it seems, as if from a former life on earth that came over which appears as effect with the adolescent human being. But monism says it different. If the spiritual observations contradict monism, I believe in monism and not in the spiritual observation.
Maybe such a thing could also recur in our time like that what took place when the age of Copernicus appeared in humanity. Many people could say today, we have to regard the teaching of repeated lives on earth as a hypothesis that explains the human life reasonably, but we cannot yet convince ourselves of it. Indeed, one says that those who have developed the inner beholding behold the soul in a state where it belongs to a lawful spiritual world that it reaches beyond birth and death. But what does it avail us who cannot observe the human soul going through the repeated lives on earth and if we must accept the teaching of the repeated lives on earth as hypothesis?
Someone who could say this from a materialistic-monistic way of thinking would give evidence of the fact that he is not yet so far as the Catholic Church is with the Copernican teaching with which it was also not yet careful some decades ago. Since as what had people to regard the Copernican teaching? Copernicus had done nothing but grasping a thought as simply as possible and had taken it as basis of the phenomena. With this thought, he had worked hard for a proof, not by investigations, of that what takes place. If one takes his thought, one can say, that's right.
The same applies completely to those today who cannot do the way to the spiritual beholding of the human soul and its immediate nature or do not want to do it. Since spiritual science shows that everything that presents itself as human destiny, as human work and as laws of this work is only explicable if one accepts the principle of the repeated lives on earth and of karma. It is shown that today one can have the same certainty the spiritual-mental of the human being as Aristotle could have certainty by his logic compared with the contents of his teaching that came from the old wisdom, and as the followers of Copernicus had certainty of his teaching in relation to the outer phenomena in space.
In 1543, the work of Copernicus was published. In 1851, a real proof of the Copernican teaching was possible only because then Foucault (Léon F., 1819–1868) showd the rotation of the earth on its axis with the pendulum experiment which showed the rotation of the plane of oscillation of a long and heavy pendulum. From the constancy of the pendulum rotations one could find inner evidence of the Copernican teaching only in 1851.
Thus, it happens with outer facts. In relation to reincarnation the human being can start the way any time which leads him to the spiritual beholding, and which shows where from the living comes which goes from life to life. The inner evidence that was given for Copernicanism only after centuries can be offered for reincarnation any time. But as little as it was necessary for the acceptance of the principle of reincarnation and karma that somebody has this spiritual beholding as it was for the acceptance of Copernicanism that the inner evidence would have already been given with Foucault's pendulum experiment. I said, someone who would reject the teaching of reincarnation and karma because of the given reasons would turn out to be even more intolerant than the Catholic Church was which did not wait until 1851 to withdraw the work of Copernicus from the List of Prohibited Books, but it withdrew it already in 1821.
However, we who stand on the ground of spiritual science can learn with Copernicus, Kepler, Galilei, and Giordano Bruno, how that what has to settle in the human culture will settle in spite of all opposition. Since today the attitudes that opposed Copernicus, Kepler, Galilei, Giordano Bruno and others are also there, even if by those who regard spiritual science as daydreaming, as speculative fiction, as follies, although they belong to the “enlightened” people. Indeed, they do not write or print a List of Prohibited Books, but they ban spiritual science as the Catholic Church banned the teaching of Copernicus.
Indeed, they can brace themselves against the human progress, but they cannot prevent it. Those who call spiritual science daydreaming have to withdraw their edicts just as the edicts against Copernicanism were withdrawn. Spiritual science, filled with its truth, can wait for the year “1821” of the materialistic monists, and it will wait. It waits while speaking to those who understand already before that spiritual science opens their eyes again towards the spiritual worlds with which the innermost being of the human nature is connected in such a way that the human soul gives itself hope, confidence, and strength.
The soul can say to itself about the connection of its forces with the universe what I tried to express in my second mystery play The Soul's Probation the feeling together with the spiritual of the universe:
In your thinking cosmic thoughts do live,
Within your feeling cosmic forces play,
Within your will cosmic beings work.
Abandon yourselves to cosmic world thoughts,
Experience yourself through cosmic forces,
Create yourself anew from cosmic will.
End not at last in cosmic distances
By fantasies of dreamy thought beguiled;
Begin in farthest spirit-realms
And end in the recesses of your soul.
The plan divine then shall you recognise
When you have realised your self in you.
(Somewhat changed translation by H. Collison and others)