Berlin, 26 February 1914
Shortly after the death of Voltaire (pen name of François-Marie Arouet, 1694-1778) Lessing's (Gotthold Ephraim L., 1729-1781) writing The Education of the Human Race appeared (1780), and one would like to say that in this writing you can find the starting point of a historical consideration in the spiritual-scientific sense. I have mentioned this writing by Lessing repeatedly in these talks. It tries to find the causes for the view of the repeated lives from the consciousness of the eighteenth century.
Someone who tries to think Lessing's discussions through to the end in this testament of his intellectual work realises that by the ideas of this writing coherence comes into the whole structure of the human historical becoming. We see successive epochs in this historical becoming of the human being, which differ from each other. If we look back at ancient epochs, we realise that the human soul experiences other things, that it searched its ideals in other things than in later epochs. We can say as it were that the different epochs of the historical becoming differ sharply from each other by the character of that what they can give to the human souls. Sense and coherence come in this historical becoming if one considers that this human soul — which could participate in cultural blessings and impressions of one epoch after the belief that the human being lives only once — that this human soul appears for Lessing and the modern spiritual science in repeated lives on earth. Thus, it gets out from any epoch what it can give. Then it experiences a life between death and the next birth in a wholly spiritual world. It appears in the next epoch again, of course with some divergences in the individual lives, to carry over the fruits, the results, and the impressions of the former epoch to the next one. Therefore, we can say that the human soul participates in all epochs through the historical development. Thereby one can really speak taking up the idea of Lessing once again of a kind of education of the human soul by the spirits of the successive epochs. If one goes once spiritual-scientifically even more exactly into that what exists as elementary beginnings already in Lessing's ideas about the education of the human race, then one is in the field of the interpretation of history, where above all our souls develop only so far as one believes to be today in the wholly scientific field. Then only one will have history.
Only then, one brings sense and coherence in the historical becoming; one will recognise how an epoch builds itself up one after the other, what the souls gain from the different epochs, why they are positioned in the different epochs. Then that what spiritual science has to say no longer appears as something fantastic to many people. Then one smiles less about the fact that spiritual science assumes not only a physical-bodily cover of the human being, but that it must recognise an inner spiritual-mental being of the human being which one has to consider, however, in such a way that it develops its different formations and arrangements in the course of the epochs.
Spiritual-scientifically, we distinguish three parts in the human soul, as it has developed up to the present epoch. One may say that the most primitive part of this arrangement is that in which the blind passions work and the desires and emotions pulsate, on which, however, also that works what provides the perception of the physical outside world for us. We call this part the sentient soul. Then as distinct from the sentient soul we speak of another soul part that shows us the human being already with bigger inwardness, shows him in such a way as he can grasp himself if he turns away the look from the physical surroundings and rises above his more unaware desires, emotions, and passions. We call this higher member of the human soul the intellectual or mind soul in which the spiritual life of the human being turns already more inward. We call the highest member of the human soul the consciousness soul, that member in which, above all, the full self-awareness of the human being, the purest ego-consciousness appears.
If we speak about the three soul members — sentient soul, intellectual or mind soul and consciousness soul, we do not talk about abstractions or about arbitrarily constructed concepts and ideas; but we see at the same time how in the course of the historical development these three soul members gradually developing.
If we went far back in the historical becoming, behind the times in which Homer and Hesiod sung in which the Greek tragic poets lived and the Greek philosophy originated, we would find what we recognise in the echoes of the ancient Egyptian and Chaldean cultures even today. The outer research has already brought many things of them to light. Spiritual science, however, shows that in the epoch that dates back behind the eighth to tenth centuries before our calendar until the second and third millennia the human souls, that means our souls experienced something that one cannot compare at all with the modern life. At that time, our modern thinking that appears as something natural to us in the scientific worldview would have still been impossible. It would have also been impossible that the human soul felt isolated and strictly separated from nature at the most important moments of its life. All that was still impossible at that time. The human being felt his soul like living in the whole universe, in the whole nature, felt like a piece of nature, as the hand had to feel as a part of the organism if it could have consciousness. Only with the help of spiritual science, we can imagine the quite different soul life just today that reached possibly until the eighth to tenth centuries before our calendar.
If at that time the human being said, my desires drive me to put forward a foot, or if he said, I breathe — or if he felt hunger or saturation, he felt something in this transition of the inner experience into the movement of the body that he faced in such a way as he faced other experiences if he said to himself, it flashes, it is thundering, or, the wind blusters through the trees. The human being did not distinguish what he experienced emotionally from that what took action outdoors; he was with the whole inner life in nature. For it, however, that he felt himself still as a member in the big total organism, he had an original clairvoyance, he could behold in the spiritual world. He saw nature not in such a way as he sees her today, but ensouled by spiritual beings to which we work our way up again with the methods of spiritual science today. It was natural in those times that one experienced nature ensouled and spiritualised. However, one could not think such thoughts as we think the physical processes but one saw them like in pictures and the pictures were that what the physical principles are for us, and something of these pictures is preserved in the legends and mythologies of the nations, even in the real fairy tales until today. The human being had a pictorial imagination in ancient times.
We can gain these things today not only with the help of spiritual science, but I hope that I have succeeded in the new edition of my World Views and Approaches to Life in the Nineteenth Century (final title: The Riddles of Philosophy, CW 20) in pointing to the fact that one can consider the spiritual life completely philosophically. Then one can realise that a pictorial imagination existed in primeval times which went over to the Greek-Latin imagination only gradually, and that the human soul felt projected in the total organism of the world by the old pictorial imagination that was felt ensouled. This took place mainly in the sentient soul.
The Greek-Roman imagination lasting until the fourteenth, fifteenth centuries preferably demanded the intellectual or mind soul. I have already tried to show the quite different feeling and imagination of those times with the talks on Raphael and Michelangelo. I have explained how the Greek — later also the members of the Latin culture — felt completely one with his “soul body” because in the Greek world mainly the intellectual or mind soul was developed. He felt with his soul living within any single member of his body at the same time. While the preceding times of the sentient soul had a consciousness of the fact that the human being is a member of the whole nature, the Greek had a consciousness that that what lived in his whole body and what this body can give him is for him the immediate, true sight of nature at the same time.
This became different in modern times; also even today, one does not realise these matters with full thoroughness because one does not yet want to penetrate into spiritual science. It changed in particular since the aurora of modern thinking, since Copernicus, Kepler, Galilei, and Giordano Bruno. For at that time the consciousness soul started developing. It started developing in such a way that the human being became a riddle to himself, while he started now feeling separated with his independent soul from the whole nature, while he felt his soul as something particular beside the body at the same time. As strange as it sounds, nevertheless, it is right that the human soul felt more separated from nature when the more materialistic tendencies appeared in natural sciences. What a time arose in the western culture since the fifteenth century? At this time, a net of lawfulness spreads out as it were which extends to unlimited spatial widths.
It is great to see Giordano Bruno standing there in the aurora of modern times and imagining the power of physical laws extending into infinite widths. However, in these spatial widths one cannot find what the human being experiences in his soul. If the ancient Egyptian or Chaldean looked up at the stars, he felt that from the constellation of the stars a force arose which was connected with his own moral experience in this or that way. If the old astrologer looked up at the stars and felt the human destiny in them, this view of nature still allowed him to imagine the soul in the work of nature. Now, however, a time arose which made it to the human being more and more impossible to imagine the soul within nature. Since just with the appearance of modern natural sciences the human being had to struggle with the question: how have I to position myself to the work of nature from which no longer anything soul-like shines to me? The human soul had to get around to asking itself for the position of natural sciences to the own soul. With Giordano Bruno, we see this fight. He imagines the own soul as a monad. Although he imagines the world in the sense of modern natural sciences, he still imagines it as ensouled by monads.
Leibniz (Gottfried Wilhelm L., 1646-1710) also imagines the soul as a monad, and he imagines it in such a way that it can suitably relate to the world. Leibniz asks, how must the human soul be to be able to exist in my view of nature? He cannot answer it without formulating this view of nature in a particular way at the same time.
Leibniz considers everything as a combination of monads. If we look into anything of nature, we find the underlying ensouled monads. What we see is for Leibniz in such a way, as if we look at a swarm of mosquitoes which appears like a cloudscape; if we come closer, this cloudscape disintegrates in the single mosquitoes, and the swarm of mosquitoes appears to us first only in such a way because we do not look exactly at it. I have to imagine the view of nature, Leibniz said, in such a way that the human soul can exist in it. He was able to do this only if he imagined it as a monad among monads. Hence, he differentiates monads vaguely living from day to day, then sleeping, then dreaming monads, then those as it is the human soul. However, everything else that originates because everything that we see originating appears to us only in such a way as a swarm of mosquitoes appears to us as a cloud. We could enumerate the most brilliant spirits until our days. We would find that the fight for the knowledge of the human soul presents itself compared with the modern view of nature in such a way that the human soul feels, I must be able to get an idea of that what can arise as a view of nature, and what does no longer offer any ensoulment of nature. Compared with this fight is that what appears as a more or less materialistically coloured monism only an episode that will pass by. Nevertheless, the human soul that is separated from its view of nature will strive more and more to gain contents in itself, that means to arrive at that what it extracted from nature in old epochs.
Hence, we can say: since the age of modern natural sciences everything aims at deepening the human soul in itself, and everything points to the modern spiritual science, which I represent here, that the human soul can get around — experiencing itself in a spiritual world — knowing to be carried by spiritual-divine powers whose outer expression the outer nature is. As true as the human being when he still lived in his sentient soul recognised himself as a piece of the whole nature, as true as the Greek-Latin age, which experienced itself still in the intellectual or mind soul, did not yet feel separated from the bodily, the modern human being experiences himself in the consciousness soul. However, his soul knows itself separated from nature, since it must get an idea of it that no longer contains anything mental. The human soul had to strengthen itself to conjure up the wealth of spiritual experiences from itself, which can return to that assurance which it had when it still felt as a member of the ensouled universe.
Thus, the modern human soul experiences itself in the development of the consciousness soul since the fourteenth century. From the eighth, tenth pre-Christian centuries until the time of the fourteenth, fifteenth post-Christian centuries the development of the intellectual or mind soul lasted. We have to recognise that the spiritual life that the human soul conjures up from itself will be able to become wealthier and wealthier, so that it can live again in a spiritual realm. What we experience as the inner recognition of the consciousness soul began from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries on. We live for about four centuries in this period.
Voltaire lived in the middle of this period, in the middle between the emerging consciousness soul and us. You understand this spirit if you put him historically in this age of the self-experiencing consciousness soul. Since Voltaire with all his shining spiritual qualities, with his superior intellectual activity, with all the good qualities he had is a symptomatic expression of the pursuit of the consciousness soul, just as he is with all his bad, questionable qualities.
Two matters must face him in this age. One is that a glorious view of nature developed during the last century that got its shine only in the modern natural sciences, in which however no place was for the human soul grasping itself. Besides, the most brilliant spirits attempted to solve that riddle: how does the human soul attain an idea by which it can assert itself compared to this modern view of nature? The view of nature becomes more and more glorious; the striving in the human soul to assert itself to get inner assurance appears more and more in such a way that we see it like surging up and down. Since we see the human soul, as if it wants to attempt repeatedly to find itself compared with the view of nature, but shies away from it repeatedly because it is helpless to find that in itself what the consciousness soul has to conjure up in this time. Thus, we are still fighting and that is the most important reason why spiritual science has to position itself in the fight for the inner universe about which I have spoken in these talks and which the human beings have to search.
Thus, we see spirits like Descartes, Hume, Berkeley, and Locke attempting as it were to answer this riddle: what do I have to do with my soul compared with the view of the outside nature? One could link to each of these spirits who face us there. We want to link, for example, to Locke (John L., 1632-1704).
Locke — who is a symptomatic expression of that what one searched in the English cultural life at the beginning of Voltaire's age to understand the soul — appears to us in the following way. Locke feels, so to speak, completely defeated by the power of the view of nature, so that he must say, we can find nothing in our soul except that, what the soul has taken up only from the outer nature by the senses. The view of nature works so immensely, so impressively that Locke wants to limit all human soul life, in so far it develops knowledge, to that, what the senses induce in it and what the reason can combine as a world view. He faces the world in such a way that he says to himself, we find nothing in the human soul that does not isolate it that does not show it as a “tabula rasa,” as a blank slate, before from the outer nature the sensory impressions come which work on the soul. We realise that the power of the view of nature is so big and immense that Locke loses the confidence to find something in the human soul generally. One must consider the moral-spiritual aspect of Locke's standpoint above all. Indeed, old traditions, the religions connected the human being with the spiritual world. Nevertheless, up to the times of modern natural sciences one believed to be connected with the spiritual of the world, also with the help of spiritual links. There was a view of nature now that worked so overpowering that the human soul did not dare to think anything about itself. Now the soul stood there — and the view with which it stood there originated from spirits like Locke above all.
The human beings said to themselves, we can know nothing that is not delivered to us by the senses and by the reason limited to the senses. Now it mattered to develop so much mental force from the old traditions and emotions that one could recognise — beside that what one can recognise only as a picture of the outer nature — any spiritual-divine world from which one had to admit that one cannot attain it by knowledge, even if one believes in it. The view of nature assumed a form at first that cast off any cognitive connection of the human soul with the divine-spiritual primordial ground.
Thus, that worldview and that attitude towards life originated in which Voltaire was put in his youth at first. He stood at first before the spirit of his time so that it made a tremendous impression on him when he fled soon to England because he had been pursued in France and became familiar there just with that philosophy of Enlightenment. This philosophy limited any human cognition generally to the consideration of the view of nature and still cherished a divine-spiritual world only because of the temperament of the soul. Thus, Voltaire's core was occupied, so to speak, by this world experience, by this soul feeling, and in his so worried and, however, so clever soul the immediate conviction emerged that one stands on sure ground only on the ground of the overpowering physical laws. However, the religious temperament was strong in him. The soul did not give up its faith in a connection with a spiritual-divine world.
We see an infinitely extensive admiration of that originating what the modern natural sciences and the view of nature have brought on one side, and an admiration of the philosophical discussions that Locke, for example, raised. On the other side, we see the need originating in him to exert everything that the human spirit can exert as reasons for such a view of nature. Nevertheless, he adhered to the old idea of the immortality of the human soul, to a connection of the human being with the whole world existence, to the idea of freedom of the human soul in certain limits. Now a peculiar trait of Voltaire faces us that shows us how in him completely a symptomatic expression of that exists what lived in the whole time.
What we face there becomes maybe most vivid if I mention another work that appeared almost at the same time as Lessing's Education of the Human Race, namely the Critique of Pure Reason by Kant. Kant lived since his youth in quite similar conditions concerning the view of nature, as Voltaire did. Kant was devoted to the spirit of Enlightenment in the sense of the word. The dictum is due to him: Enlightenment means that the human soul has the courage to use its reason. It is contained in the nice essay What is Enlightenment? (1784). As to Voltaire Kant is like the fullest consequence of the impulses of Enlightenment. Kant faces like Locke and later Hume the power of the view of nature that showed how the world and the human soul come about. Since one cannot reject what has come up as a view of nature. This worked impressively! This view of nature worked so impressively on Locke that he rejected everything for knowledge that could not come from the sensory impressions and the reason. Kant goes forward “in principle.” He is the thorough, principal man who must lead back everything to the principles, and, hence, he writes his Critique of Pure Reason.
He shows in it how the human being can generally have knowledge only from the outer nature and how the human soul can get a practical but not deniable confidence that can arise from another side than that to which the outer knowledge is due. In the second edition of his Critique of Pure Reason Kant betrayed his position in the preface: “I had to cancel the knowledge to make room for the faith.” Kant demands an area for the faith where the conscience projects where the categorical imperative speaks which does not give knowledge, however, an impulse to which the human being has to adhere, and leads to the idea of God and the idea of freedom. That is why Kant had to tackle with the matter in principle, while he put the question: if the human soul can attain no knowledge about itself already under the impulse of the modern view of nature, how can we receive a reasonable faith? He asserted a reasonable faith for the human being by the fact that he cast off the knowledge generally from the area where something is to be said about the human soul, while he limited the knowledge to the outer world.
Voltaire did not yet have what Kant had to reduce to a principle without which he could not live which then the whole future lives on. He had the logical side only which said that any cognition limits itself to the physical knowledge. He had to take out from the power of his personality what Kant took out in a principle, from something quite impersonal. Thus, we see Voltaire conjuring up from his temperament, from his ramble mind in his whole life that is identical with a side of the cultural life of the eighteenth century what Kant tried to derive from a principle, the categorical imperative. We see him repeatedly endeavouring in his long life to exert his wit and cleverness to say to himself, we can know nothing compared with the view of nature. But now human soul, step into the breach and try with wit and cleverness to bring all reasons whichever they may be whether good or bad to maintain what must be maintained compared with the view of nature!
Thus, in Voltaire's temperament and ramble mind that lived what had shrunk with Kant to an impersonal principle. Someone who wants to assess human souls must try to search into the structure of a soul with all its fights that as it were must maintain for a long life what can disappear from it by the power and importance of the view of nature perpetually. If we consider Voltaire in such a way and turn the glance at that which he created in detail, then he becomes understandable. Since as he stood there with his soul, he had a world against himself strictly speaking. Voltaire searched a spiritual worldview in which God, freedom, and immortality have space that can be up to the view of nature. Since Voltaire became a more and more ardent and biased confessor of the modern scientific view, and this striving lived and developed in him — because it was the basis of his nature with all the forms which assumed a surely unpleasant character sometimes in the course of his life.
Just at the time in which we recognise Voltaire as the most spirited expression of the struggle of the human soul to find itself as consciousness soul it was almost impossible to realise how this struggle of the human soul relates to an older struggle of the human soul in former epochs. Voltaire could not get to a pure, noble image of the Greek culture, for example. The scientific way of thinking appeared to him much more important and greater than that which the Greeks had intended with their view of nature that contained the picture of the mental-spiritual life at the same time. Therefore, Voltaire had to misjudge an epoch as it were in which in any form of culture the affinity of the human soul with the remaining world expressed itself. One can still recognise this in the figures of Homer and the great Greek tragic poets, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. As to Voltaire, one could not at all compare these Greek tragic poets to that which humanity reached in his time. To him the Greeks with their worldviews were human beings who had produced figments about nature; whereas the age of the great scientific researchers appeared as that which furthered the human beings in shorter time than all former epochs had done. Yes, in the age in which the human soul had to strive to maintain itself compared with the view of nature it had to become unfair compared with former ages in which the human soul could still extract its forces from the surrounding nature, so to speak, without its assistance.
Thus, we see the relation of Voltaire to former times gets a tragic character as it were; and we see him positioned in his surroundings in entire opposition to the world which he had grown out, actually.
If one surveys the French cultural life at the time of Voltaire, one can say that this world still cared less about the big riddles which the scientific way of thinking and the arising consciousness soul had to solve. This world still lived in those traditions that were given as it were to the world, so that it could develop in complete silence to the age of Enlightenment, to the age of the conception of itself. Voltaire saw himself surrounded with a world — and his French world was still filled with the most rigid intolerant Catholic principle — which wanted to extract anything mental-spiritual from the traditions, and which refused what was just dear to him: to be on his own towards the view of nature.
A tremendous aversion emerged in Voltaire against the cultural world surrounding him, an aversion that caused a life full of vicissitudes. He was twice in the Bastille, in 1717 and 1726; then he had to flee to England in 1726 where he stayed up to 1729. Next he returned to France and lived since 1734 a longer time secluded at the castle of the marchioness du Chatelet in Cirey in Lorraine. At that time, he became engrossed especially in scientific studies that should show him how the worldview can be grasped in the sense of modern natural sciences. From that, he got an insight of the necessary spiritual basic conditions of modern times. One may argue ever so much against him that he flattered, that he lied, that he deceived his friends, that he tried often to achieve something with the lowest means, all that was not nice. However, a holy enthusiasm was in him that expressed itself through the often cynical-frivolous form in such a way: the impulses of the human soul demand that the soul finds a worldview from itself, renews itself in a worldview that it can put before itself. At first, he could only have the view of nature. Hence, ardent hatred arose in him against Catholicism. He wanted above all to penetrate with his worldview into that which opposed him. He used any means at his disposal.
While he faced Catholicism that way, he found himself cut-off from everything that could connect him with it. For he hated the facilities and customs of Catholicism, its rites. He recognised no connection with that what resulted from his worldview that he wanted to support on natural sciences. The other matter was that he adhered to God, freedom, and immortality only because of his temperament, of his ramble and clever soul, however, only with abstract thoughts and ideas.
If the Greek looked up to those regions, where from the human being got his impulses, he saw something divine-spiritual prevailing there. Let us look at the works of the Greek tragic poets. We see in them the human world shown, adjacent to a divine-spiritual world, we see the divine world working on the world and the destinies of the human beings influenced by the destinies of the spiritual beings. We see above all in the images of the old times a lively consciousness of these spiritual beings existing in poetry. Exactly the same way as human beings could come to life in the tragedy, in the epic, these contents of consciousness could come to life in poetry. They came to life in the poems of Homer! We see in the age, when the human soul struggled out of the other co-creatures that the connection with such beings got lost to it! We can pursue how the supersensible figures still living in the Greek poetry become more and more abstract, already from Vergil until the modern times — with the exception of Dante who wrote his Divine Comedy on basis of a clairvoyant inspiration, and with whom these figures are alive again, indeed, in the form as he could see them.
Nevertheless, everywhere we see these figures growing paler and paler, and the human beings are left more and more to their own resources. We recognise that the poets must refrain more and more from a supersensible world that they do no longer face. Voltaire was too great to be able to refrain from the spiritual beings with his survey of life. His temperament was too big, too comprehensive. This was in his predisposition. Hence, the strange, the miracle which faces us as it were already in his youth epic, in the Henriade (1723) where he describes the destinies of King Henry IV of France. There we recognise that he cannot confine himself to what takes place in the outer world. However, we recognise on the other side that he feels restricted in his action everywhere, so that he is connected with the words from which he gets ideas of freedom, immortality and God only with abstractions. His soul had developed too far to show life in his Henriade in all the fights which were fought out at that time between the various religious and political parties like somebody who looks only as a human being with scientific view at it, and who grasps the other human life only as abstract ideas of God, freedom and immortality. His soul is too great for that. Hence, we see the longing projecting in Voltaire to connect the human soul with a supersensible world. However, we also realise that he cannot behold a humanly possible supersensible world from Catholicism that he hates. Since hagiography was only a collection of legends, and Christ was more or less a devout, good natured enthusiast to him.
However, Voltaire could not accept that the human life runs during its most important events only in such a way, as it happened around Henry IV of France as it looks if one investigates it with the outer senses and deduces with the reason. Thus, strange figures appear in the Henriade like the Discord(e). Why this figure of Discord with the representative of Enlightenment, with Voltaire? She looks at the events of France that do not happen in such a way, as she wants it. She wants more and more disagreement among the human beings, so that she can achieve her goal. With annoyance, she looks down at what happens against Rome, and, therefore, she takes to the road to Rome to come to an understanding with Rome.
Now one could say that all that is allegory. However, just from poetic impulses one has to say what I have just said: this Discord accepts completely realistic forms, so that one cannot consider her as mere allegory. Voltaire describes, for example, that she comes to the pope, that she is alone with him, and that she gets him around. There she behaves like a flirtatious person of the age of Voltaire; she carries out all possible arts of seduction. Just from the poetic impulses, I would like to say, I do not give an allegory credit for that it is able to sway the pope for the political party in France. With that what the pope can give her she returns to France, works as an agitator, appears in the figure of Saint Francis, as Augustine to the monks, goes from city to city, from village to village, and when she wants that Henry III does not win, she manages to seduce the Dominican monk Jacques Clement. Voltaire put everything into this portrayal what he had on his mind against Catholicism in the sense of his freethinking.
It is interesting to recognise how far Voltaire goes in the representation of this Dominican monk who should be seduced by Discord, so that he causes the doom of Henry III and Henry IV. A prayer is stated in the Henriade, which Clement, the monk, sends to heaven. I would like to read out this prayer, so that you get the feeling for that what lived in his soul against Catholicism from which he expected that one of his devout followers sends the following prayer to heaven:
O God! Whose vengeful justice should descend
To crush the tyrant, and thy faith defend
Is murder now, and heresy thy care
Thy wrath unjust, must we, thy children, bear?
Too long the partial trial we endure,
Too long a Godless monarch reigns secure.
Raise thy dread arm, o God! Thy people save,
Descend upon the king, thy anger gave;
Spirits of ruin his approach proclaim,
Ye Heav'ns announce his wrath in show'rs of flame!
Their trembling host, avenging lightnings blast,
Their chiefs, their soldiers perish to the last!
Let their two kings expire before my eyes,
Drive them like wither'd leaves, when storms arise;
Sav'd by thy arm, thy League its voice shall raise
And o'er their breathless bodies chant thy praise!
Stopp'd by these accents in her mid career,
Discord, in air suspended hung to hear;
The dropt to Hell, and from its dungeon drew
The fiercest fiend those fiery regions knew;
Fanaticism! — Nature abhors the name,
Unown'd the monster from Religion came;
Nurs'd in her bosom, arm'd for her defence,
His aim destruction, zeal his fair pretence.
The Dominican monk prays this to cause the death of Henry III and Henry IV, he prays to heaven, so that God sends death. Discord is attracted by this prayer of the monk, enters his cell, and calls “Fanaticism” as confederate from hell. Voltaire presents a figure again to us quite really! How does he speak of Fanaticism from which/whom he assumes that he finds his best support in the principles of the national disposition in modern times? He speaks about him:
'Twas he on Raba's plains, near Arnon's flood,
Taught Ammon's wretched race the rites of blood;
To Moloc's shrine, the frantic mother led,
To slay her infant which her womb had bred!
He form'd the vow which Jepthe's lips exprest,
And plung'd his #8224 in his daughter's breast!
'Twas he, at Aulis, Calchas voice inspir'd,
When Iphigenia's blood the priest requir'd;
Thy forests, France, were long his dark abode,
Where streams of blood to fierce Teutates flow'd;
Still does affrighted memory retain
The sacred murders of the Druid fane;
Rome, falling, own'd the God' mysterious birth,
From Pagan temples to the church retir'd,
The fiend, with rage, Christ's meck disciples fir'd;
Teaching the patient martyrs of his word,
To brandish persecution's bloody sword.
'Twas he, that furious sect in London bred,
By whom too good, too weak, a monarch bled!
Madrid and Lisbon yet his rites disgrace;
He lights those piles where Israel's hapless race,
By Christian priests, in yearly triumph thrown,
Their fathers' heav'n-taught faith, in flames atone!
Robed in Religion's vestments to our eyes,
Still from the church, he borrow'd his disguise ...
(Translation published by Burton and Co., London, 1797)
Discord fetches this guy from the gorges of Hell. From this guy Clement gets the #8224 with which he wounds Henry III, so that he dies.
We see spiritual powers working in Voltaire's poem that way. We realise that God sent down Louis the Saint, the ancestor of the kings, to encourage Henry IV, to instil wisdom into him as it were. Voltaire does not shrink back from putting words in the king's mouth what should happen in the history of France. We realise also that he links the time of Henry IV in an even worse sense to the fact that — after Henry had first advanced triumphantly and got tired then — he leads back this to the fact that Discord led him to the “temple of love” where he tired in unhappy love, until he is called again to a new fight. One reads this portrayal of the temple of love as he presents it as a kind of magic service that the adversaries of Henry IV are addicted to, as a kind of devil service with altars and rituals, which play a role with certain parties. One can say that Voltaire tends not by his reason, not by his intellect, not by that what he becomes from his fight for the consciousness soul but by his ramble temperament, by the sum of his emotions, to connect the whole human life with a spiritual world. However, in that struggle of the human soul, which takes place in the forecourt of the spiritual life, before one could think of spiritual science, is the tragedy of Voltaire that he must search the connection of the outer life with a spiritual world where he wants to show true experiences of the human life. Nevertheless, he can do it only insufficiently. Hence, the Henriade appears as an “unreadable” poem today because everything that Voltaire could exert along these lines is based on traditions which he hates because he feels unable to portray the secret forces anyhow which are working in the human evolution.
The agility of Voltaire's soul was necessary to keep up itself towards the fact that it can get inner contents less and less from the outer view of nature. Already in the Henriade, with those figures which are mythological figures and do not appear at all as mere allegories one notes Voltaire's soul fighting and looking for something that it can tie the human life to, and still finding nothing. One must consider this side of Voltaire and will properly appreciate what he did to understand the human development. Therefore, his marvellous characteristic of Charles XII and Louis XIV is so exemplary, in spite of all defects because for him the biggest riddle was how one experiences historical becoming. Which forces work in it, which work in the environment of the human becoming?
Because of the power that the view of nature exerted on him, he must express himself with all power and cynicism, besides, so to speak, kicking over the traces everywhere, for example, if he incriminates the Maid of Orleans of everything that he regards as superstition. But just Voltaire's soul is such by which one can recognise how souls feel which face the pulse of time in such a way that they do not hear it beating, but feel in the pulse of their own blood that an age comes to an end and a new age is not yet there. — One feels the tragic of this soul that asks, how do I find purchase compared with the new picture of nature? Today we would ask, how does the consciousness soul struggle out in the human being? We find the answer if we look at Voltaire who looks at everything that France could produce as outer culture and to whom the old traditional powers became abstract which are delivered from prehistory. He describes the heaven, the hell — the heaven even splendidly in a certain respect -, in which Henry IV is taken up by Louis the Saint. He describes how the spiritual forces divide the natural forces, how worlds work into each other, — and how all that gnaws, nevertheless, at the deepest subconscious soul grounds which search the hold where the soul can be anchored with its deepest divine being. However, Voltaire cannot find this anchor.
When the decade approached in which Voltaire died, a seed was put in a soul to search the primary source of knowledge in the human being that immerses itself not only in nature but that can also become engrossed in the spiritual universe. When Voltaire had died, Goethe bore the idea of his Faust in himself. Goethe gets out a figure, actually, of that what Voltaire would have called the most superstitious image, a figure which shows us how to search the deepest longing, the deepest wanting and the highest cognition of the human soul. Under the influence of this look into the deepest depths of the human soul, Goethe put a figure that is rather similar to Voltaire: Mephistopheles, save that Faust who searches the birth of the consciousness soul in another way says to Mephistopheles: “In your Nothingness I hope to find my All!” (verse 6256). Strictly speaking, these words sound to Voltaire from Goethe who searched the striving of modern times for the consciousness soul and its anchorage in the spiritual worlds in another way than Voltaire did. Voltaire is like the star of a declining world to which any striving is directed to achieve the consciousness soul and into which the scientific worldview shines which very strongly forces to the consciousness soul. Voltaire is still the greatest star of this declining world, although he cannot find what extends the human soul again to a spiritual world. Nothing is more typical for Voltaire than a quotation that he did about Corneille (Pierre C., 1606-1684, French dramatist) in his history of Louis XIV. There he says that Corneille edited a French translation of the booklet The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (~1380-1471), and he would have heard that the French translation would have had 32 editions. He cannot believe this and says: “for it seems to me so unbelievable that a healthy soul can read this book to an end only once.” There we see expressed how Voltaire could not find the possibility to open a source to the spiritual world in his inside.
Today we say that spiritual science is a real continuation of that to which the scientific worldview forces the human being, but also that this spiritual science is a real continuation of the Goethean worldview. We speak of the fact that in the human being a second human being lives who can experience himself emotionally, we speak with the words of Goethe: “Two souls live, alas, in my breast.” Nevertheless, we speak of it in such a way that the spiritual-mental of the human being searches its spiritual-mental native country and can find it. We talk again in spiritual science of a spiritual world to which the human being belongs with his spiritual being as he belongs with his bodily physical to the physical world. However, the view of nature overpowers Voltaire so that he has no feeling for the “second human being” in the human being. While soon after him Goethe lets his Faust strive with all power for that second human being who strives from the physical-bodily human being to the spiritual worlds, we realise with Voltaire that he can understand nothing of such a second human being. A quotation relating to this second human being is very typical: “So much I have endeavoured to find that we are two, nevertheless, I have found in the end that I am only one.” He cannot admit that this second human being is in him. He has taken care, but this is his tragedy: in the end, he can only find that he is only one who is bound to his brain. This was his deep tragedy about which Voltaire himself helped by his cynicism, even by his frivolity. Subconscious soul depths, the second human being in the human being in connection with a spiritual world, — the upper consciousness was not allowed to confess that to itself. The upper consciousness needed numbing. He could find that in the outer experience because the outer experience dedicated itself to the magnificent, clever worldview that he could create within the most inconsistent soul experiences.
Thus, we can understand that Voltaire had a rather rough ride to manage with himself, and that he wanted many a numbing. One must already look at the greatness of this man to understand such paradoxical matter that he feigned a severe illness and called for the priest one day — it was in Switzerland where he did so many benefits —, so that the priest came along to give him the last rites. After he had received the sacraments, he jumped up and said that to the priest, it was only a joke, and mocked him. However, one must even live in such “derived” world that does not have the real connection of the human soul with the spiritual worlds as Voltaire lived in such a world and could not come to the connection to which he wanted to come.
If we look once again at Goethe, he takes a “vagrant” — Faust — to show how the deepest impulses arise in the human soul. If we pursue the whole life of Goethe, we realise how he tries to find the human character in its full juiciness in the simplest souls. Voltaire completely lives in a derived layer, in his educated class where everything is uprooted. There he cannot find what ties together the human soul with a spiritual world, and thus he can even speak to that derived layer. Today we can hardly understand that a spirit like Voltaire says: “I do not deign to write for shoemakers and dressmakers; to give those anything that they can believe in, apostles are good for that, not I.” He does not want his holiest conviction to be treated as we would want it today, namely that it penetrates into any human soul. However, he does the typical quotation that he writes only for the educated class because he grew out of it: “Only an upper class can understand heaven and earth which arise to my enlightened mind; the lowlife is in such a way that the silliest heaven and the silliest earth is just the best for it!”
In this respect, Voltaire lives within a dying cultural sphere. This is his tragedy. However, such cultural spheres also have the possibility to develop maturity concerning certain tendencies. Voltaire developed that maturity. It expresses itself in his clever, urgent judgement that does not confuse itself, even in the joke, it expresses itself in his healthy way — even if he is frivolous — to work on the world and to relate to the world in a way. Thus, one can also understand that a spirit who was so great in many a respect, as Frederick the Great (1712-1786), could feel attracted to Voltaire, could push off him again, allowed him to return after some time repeatedly, saying about him, this Voltaire deserves, actually, nothing better than to be a learnt slave, but I estimate what he can give me as his French. He could still give him even more than only the element of language. I have tried to indicate this today.
One can understand that the eighteenth century that had to put everything in the right light on one side what hampered the emerging consciousness soul what had to show a certain greatness, however, just in the downward spirit of the cultural current. One can understand that this had to be expressed in such a peculiar way just with Voltaire. You see Voltaire in the right light if you put that as a counter-image what we have found as the positive, as the continuing in the sense of Lessing or Goethe for the pursuit of the consciousness element. Indeed, what I have spoken about Voltaire today can serve only to cause a consciousness of how difficult it is to gain an objective picture just of this peculiar man: He fought for many things, he strove for live as something natural today in us — also in those who do not intend at all to read Voltaire's writings.
Yes, one can say just with Voltaire that humanity can outgrow his writings; but it cannot outgrow what he was as a force because it has to remain always as a part of the spiritual striving of humanity. Since what had to result as the liberation of the human soul is based on the fact that at first something had to be cleared away by such a decomposing, one would like to say, Mephistophelian spirit like Voltaire. One is not surprised that similar applies to the historical picture of Voltaire what happened to his mortal remains. In the honorary burial parts of the Pantheon in Paris they were buried first; when another political current got the power, it was exhumed again and dissipated; then when the third political current replaced the previous one, the bones were collected again and buried. Some people state now that these bones fetched back again are not the real ones. The historical picture of Voltaire will be right which is portrayed from the one side like that of a liberator from bondage, like an apostle of tolerance, on the other side, however, is denigrated so much. With the whole complexity of Voltaire's personality, it can easily happen if one considers the historical picture of Voltaire objectively that then some people maybe say that it is not right, as the bones buried in the pantheon are not the real ones. Nevertheless, I say, if spiritual science can fulfil its task in the present and future, the picture of the great destroyer, of that who abolished so much, can maybe arise before spiritual science in its full objectivity. Since Voltaire is a human being — he pronounced it even towards Frederick the Great — with all mistakes of a human being and, one would even like to say, a human being with all “miracles” of a human being who is well-suited to fulfil the poet's saying:
By the parties' favour and hatred confused,
His portrayal of character fluctuates in history. (Schiller in the prologue of “Wallenstein”)
His personality was such that his picture can only “fluctuate.” However, although it fluctuates, one has to confess compared with the picture of Voltaire with those to whom he is likeable as well as with those to whom he is unpleasant that he was, nevertheless, a great human being who filled a place in the ongoing education of the human race.