The Impulse for Renewal in Culture and Science
VI. Anthroposophy and Theology
10 March 1922, Berlin
My dear venerated guests! As an introduction I have been obliged to refer to a notice in the newspaper which has just been handed to me; a notice in “Christian World,” a publication I don't know and obviously have not thought about. In this notice it says: “From 5 to 12 March an Anthroposophic University Course will take place in Berlin. The day for theologians is Friday the 10th. This event on Friday is now an unequivocal challenge of Steiner and his followers to the theologians ...” and so on.
Now, my dear friends, this event may be anything; what it certainly isn't, even if it was believed to be, it would be misunderstood in the most profound sense, if it is regarded as a challenge to the theologians. I myself would not be involved in any other way than having been asked to cooperate through lectures and introductory observations in this university course which didn't come out of my initiative. I'm least involved in today's event (which is an insertion into this program item of the course) by thinking that what we were dealing with today could be understood as an “unequivocal challenge of today's theologians.”
Thus, you will also allow, my dear friends, that not all sorts of misunderstandings will again be linked to what I have to say in a few introductory words today. I want to limit myself to a theme: The relationship of Anthroposophy to Theology. I want no new misunderstandings to arise; I will renounce some of them in my presentation because otherwise I would have to once again find my intention misjudged.
Dear friends, it has never been my purpose — forgive me if I'm forced by this challenge given to me by shortly mentioning some personal details — it has never actually been my intention to challenge theology and from their starting point Anthroposophy had, insofar as it presents a work sphere in which I participate as well, never attempted to set them apart within the work, with today's theology. This has happened so far, and really from me it has happened as little as possible, but unfortunately it has resulted that many attacks against anthroposophy from the side of theology have taken place, and sometimes people — not me particularly but others — defends themselves. Anthroposophy wants to remain thoroughly neutral in its working sphere, I'd like to say, it wants to work out of present day spiritual science.
Towards the end of the previous century one had a certain scientific direction, certain scientific methods, an attitude and method, out of the foundation of which we have already spoken and which can't be spoken about more extensively, established a method and attitude which people apply to the entire development of recent times and particularly apply to scientific research. Through this natural scientific research the greatest possible triumphs — I don't mean in a trivial but in a deeper sense — have come to human progress and human well-being. During this time natural scientific research stands in a somewhat puzzled manner towards philosophy. Philosophy had to separate itself from those methods which are applied to natural science; the difference of a factual sphere made scientific methods inapplicable in philosophy.
People were not always, one could call it, theoretically and epistemologically clear in what sense the scientific methods or philosophic methods had to apply. Practice lapsed into experimental philosophy in certain areas where it was more or less apparent or more or less really worked, but the uncertainty is basically there as well. By contrast Anthroposophy worked out of the most varied foundations towards its own working methods. On the one hand it wants to take into account what can be achieved in modern thinking and research methods of science, and on the other hand the human needs for the spiritual world and its knowledge. The human being is confronted on the one hand with the fact of fully recognising scientific methods, and in relation to the treatment of the scientific field — I have already mentioned this — I am today as much a student of Haeckel as I was in the 1890's; not in the sense of scientific methodology not to be developed further and not as if, from the side of science Heackel's writings should not be applied, but it comes down to quite a different area being discussed. In the treatment of the purely natural world I'm as much in agreement with Haeckel as at that time. It deals more with the experience of natural scientific observations through which one is educated in scientific precision, in a natural scientific sense which can result in the creation of ideas and concepts, which are needed for working scientifically. This then holds true for all observations in the world — due to our limited time now, I can't give you proof of this. This remains a truth: for all outer sensory observations this sentence is valid: “there is nothing in the mind which wasn't previously in the senses” — certainly on the other hand, Leibniz's statement applies: “Except in the mind itself.”
In the experience of the mind, that means in the weaving of the soul through the mind's categories where ideas are experienced in objects of nature, the examination of facts of nature which need a formulation of natural laws, in which experience of the world of ideas live, there is something which goes beyond the mere sensory experiences, so that when a natural scientific researcher confronts natural science, he must say to himself, if he is sufficiently unprejudiced: everything in the mind must be created out of the senses, only the mind itself can't be created out of the senses.
Once you have understood this in a lively manner then there is no obstacle to now observe what inwardly to some extent can be looked at in the pursuit of the expansion of the mind's categories through an inner soul-spiritual process, through such a process which is inwardly quite similar to the outer growth processes seen in the plant and animal. One remains always true to one's conviction of natural development when one admits that out of the seedling, if you have an inner image of it, you gain a truth which is that the mind itself can't be created out of the sense world. One remains true to that which is learnt from natural existence when you make an attempt to observe the human mind as a seedling which can grow within. When you make this attempt in earnest then the rest is a direct result of what I've suggested here and in other places, of the growth of human intellect in Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. This is simply a fact for further progress in inner human development. Through this the result is a true observation of the spiritual world. This observation of the spiritual world Anthroposophy tries to clothe, as well as possible, in words of today's language use. Naturally one is often forced that what one is observing — I admit this without further ado — is clothed inadequately in words from the simple basis that speech, as in all modern languages, in the course of the last centuries adapted to the outer material world outlook and today we have the experience, which we have with words, of already being more or less orientated to this world outlook.
As a result, we always struggle with words if we need to dress in words what we have observed through Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition in such a way that it can really be proven again through the ordinary, healthy human mind, because this must also be a goal for Anthroposophical research.
So Anthroposophy was simply a field of work and as such a field of work it has become, in the strictest sense of the word, conceived by me. Those individuals — and they make a very small circle — who have the need to hear about such research methods in the supersensible world, will be told and shown what can be discovered in this way. Nobody in this Movement will be forced in any way to participate in something other than through their own free will. What is said about this, that some or other suggestive means is applied, with one person it is a conscious and with another it is an unconscious defamation of what is really striven for in the Anthroposophic Movement. It is true that whoever thinks it over with a healthy mind, what is researched in Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, in his higher senses becomes a more free person than any other people living in the present. His contemporaries for instance follow currents in parties and are influenced by all kinds of suggestions. From this inner soul dependency Anthroposophy must free people, because it claims that everyone, who wants to live into it, will not merely become immobilised in simple passive thinking, but that this thinking will make them inwardly mobile and powerful, and this empowered thinking makes a person more free.
For reasons, into which I don't want to enter today, it happened that from the scientifically orientated people on which Anthroposophy actually depend, in the beginning only very few drew closer to Anthroposophy. Today we have really made a start. Those people who first entered into the Anthroposophical Movement — with more or less naive minds with strong soul needs — they were never told anything other than what could be found in a conscientious way within anthroposophic research. I'm always delighted when things are said to me, for example by one of those present here today, a very honourable personality: ‘It is actually remarkable that you even get a large audience, because you avoid actually talking in the way which is considered popular, which we call understandable. You speak in such a way that people actually always have to do work to listen and this people don't want these days, so one must actually wonder how you still manage to find such a large audience.’ — These are what the words sound like, which I've heard for years and now a seated person here has also said them, after they had heard a course of my lectures at that time. For popularity I have never striven because I have the validity of Anthroposophy which I want to bring to the world.
Now it is extraordinary that people from all kinds of circles of life and circles of commitment have come. Because Anthroposophy came their way simply through their work in a certain relationship to religious streams of the present, it actually never came into conflict with religious needs of people who came to it: to people, like I said, from all walks of life. For instance, I have often been asked by Catholics who find themselves in our midst whether in connection with religious practice it would be possible to remain Catholics when they also take part in the Anthroposophical Movement.
With Catholics I must say: Obviously it is possible for a good Catholic to take part in what Anthroposophy has to offer because Anthroposophy is there, not to limit the knowledge which speaks about the supersensible world, but it forms a foundation on which supersensible research can be done. This is my preference, that what comes out of the supersensible world is spoken about without entering into any kind of polemic. Someone who honestly says what he sees, knows how polemic comes about and how unfruitful that really is. My original striving was simply to honestly say what is found through Anthroposophy and to exclude any polemic considerations. Things don't always happen this way in life. Still, within the Anthroposophical Movement people of all faiths are found together, and so I would like to say that Catholics may obviously take part in the Anthroposophic Movement, but it will only come into one single point of conflict in the practical religious exercises and that is the audible confession. Not on the basis of it being an audible confession because that could be considered as a matter of conscience. I have found enough protestant clergymen who have gloated over a kind of confession in order to develop an intimate relationship with the congregation. One can have various opinions regarding this. However, here the point is that the Catholic Church denies the altar sacrament to anyone who has not made an audible confession before it. Due to this impediment, taking part practically in the most important Catholic church sacrament is difficult because those beliefs which are gained from the supersensible world need to be combined with this behaviour which is not freely done but which have nevertheless to be adhered to in the Roman Catholic Church constitution. The audible confession, as it is handled, tears the Catholic away from freely following the supersensible world, not because of Anthroposophy but because of the Roman Catholic Church constitution.
This could be avoided if confession could be avoided. One can't avoid it because otherwise one can't participate in the communion service. Still you can find many Catholics who search within the Anthroposophical Movement to satisfy their soul needs.
My dear friends, it is of course natural that people of all beliefs come to Anthroposophy, it is natural that simply in our time a strong need has developed to express what Christianity is about within the Anthroposophical Society. Now I would like to say the following. Just as with all other phenomena of research, in as far as the phenomena of the supersensible and sensible world flow together, just so Anthroposophy regards the content of Christology; it likewise tries to help with research into the supersensible regarding the content of Christology, help which can be acquired through anthroposophical methods. Now it is difficult to say in only a few words what characterises the position of Anthroposophy regarding Christology, but I would like to say the following.
We observe people in earthly life between birth and death where they have their soul and spirit life in their physical being, that they are bound to their physical body in relation to what they observe and process whatever is presented to them in their environment, also in relation to work itself, in relation to their life of will and finally in the way in which they place themselves in the sensory physical world. When a person looks back at when he wakes up, naturally in his surroundings, he firstly finds perceptions possible through the senses of his body, through his mind, and all of these experiences and observations of his environment he experiences as combined.
However, because his mind, intellect and ancient spirituality are carried within his own spirit, so he can — if he only thinks enough about himself, if he only looks away from the environment and looks at himself — not deny that through his own activity he comes to the conclusion culminating in a concept which only has spiritual content and that this spiritual content — if I may express it this way — is the Father-godly imagination. Here anthroposophical research must be of help with its methods. I can only briefly characterise this. It makes the entire human cognitive work process clear — this will also emerge out of the lectures in this course. It also wants to point to what happens through people when they try to turn their gaze away from the outer world, in order to gradually observe their own past actions and ask themselves: What have you actually done? What justifies you at all to make an imagination of the outer world? — By researching this experience far enough a person — when I may use this expression again — comes to a Father-godly experience. Whoever examines this divine godly-Father experience through Anthroposophy, arrives at quite a definite judgement. I ask that this judgement, which is a fact, which I speak about radically, should not be misunderstood.
A person arrives at this verdict, a person who is totally healthy — totally in full health in his physical body — comes to this godly Father experience, this means that whoever doesn't arrive at this godly-Father experience carries some or another degenerative symptom, even if hidden. In other words, through Anthroposophical research you can say: To not come to a Father-godly experience indicates some human illness. That is of course radical to say because illness is ordinarily seen through physical means because — if I might say so — it dwells in the subtleties of the human organisation. In fact, it is clear to those who research through Anthroposophy: Atheism is illness.
What I've said yesterday about the development of opinions, right or wrong, this is particularly important here. If a person follows only this route then he will come to a Father-godly experience. When he then goes further in this way, if he becomes aware what shortcomings live in his soul, if he only comes to this Father-god experience, he becomes aware that basically in the limitation of modern humanity leaning towards intellectualism there also lies a kind of limitation of this godly-Father experience, then he will realise he must go further with this godly-Father experience. Here outer observations can support this easily.
It is an extraordinary fact that in western countries where natural science has grown to its maximum intensity and where this scientific attitude doesn't want to enter into discussing the supersensible but that religion must remain preserved, that just in these religious movements of western countries the spirit of the Old Testament has particularly and successfully intervened even in our modern time. We see how in the west, when Christianity is outwardly accepted and preached that it is done totally in the spirit of the Old Testament; in a certain sense Christianity reshapes the Father-god and doesn't discern a difference between the Father-god and Christ.
In the (European) east by contrast, where people's minds don't see the division between religion and science as sharply as in the west; in the east where this bridge for the human soul more or less exists as an elementary inner soul experience — we find that for example in the presentations of the great philosopher Vladimir Soloviev — how the Christ experience, as an independent experience, exists beside the Father experience.
In this way one can say to oneself: indeed, a completely healthy person can't be an atheist if he combines everything around him in the outer world into the culmination of a God-imagination, which he must give a spiritual content; yet he remains with only a Father-imagination. With this Father-imagination one doesn't arrive at a summary of outer natural phenomena, it fails immediately when applied to one's own human development; one is then, as it were, abandoned. By deepening this inner development from this point at which one has arrived, having taken up the outer world into one's soul — then by following this inner development one will, if by open-mindedly pursuing it, come to a Christ experience, which is initially present as an indefinite inner experience. This experience continues to be recognised by Anthroposophy. A person, simply through honest observation of the human evolution on earth, comes to seeing before his own eyes, the Mystery of Golgotha, the historic Mystery of Golgotha. He arrives here through the inner development of spiritual organs which direct him to Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. If one with the help of these research means pursues the way human development went from antiquity to the Mystery of Golgotha, then one finds that everywhere in religious imagination — not only in the Old Testament religious imagination — lived a gravitation to the coming of the Christ-Spirit.
Then one can simply through observation, learn to recognise how the Christ-Spirit was not united with the earth in the time before the Mystery of Golgotha. By pursuing all of this which was sought for in the mysteries, was popular in pre-Christian religions, then we see how the images they made of their gods, finally all melt together into what the Christ-Imagination is. We see how the minds of people all over the world are lifted to the supernatural when they turn to their gods in their souls. We see how the point of origin for earthly mankind's development was simply more given through the human organisation than what was perceived through the senses or the mind in what could be observed in his surroundings. It entered into the human soul — most strongly in ancient times, and then less and less — what I would call instinctive perception — not earthly — of the world, to which the human being felt he belonged. In the moment when a person, through the mysteries or through popular religion, is brought to where he can lift his soul into seeing extra-terrestrially, and with which he knows he is united in his deepest being, at this moment a person experiences a rebirth within himself.
Now my dear friends, when we follow human evolution from an Anthroposophic point of view up to the Mystery of Golgotha, it shows that these abilities, which dwelt within human beings, actually diminished gradually and were no longer there the moment the Mystery of Golgotha took place on the earth. Certainly there can be remnants, for evolution doesn't take place in leaps. Individuals preserved, though perhaps inaccurately but still instinctively, an awareness of what had once been seen; this can be pursued in art. Then the Mystery of Golgotha took place on earth. In the Mystery of Golgotha Anthroposophy sees the streaming in of that spirit which previously could only be searched for in the extra-terrestrial: the in streaming of the Christ into the human body of Jesus. How this can individually be imagined, can only be discussed with those who have engaged positively in these fields of research. Here Anthroposophy shows how from that time onwards, from the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, another time has begun on earth, a time about which all the old religious knowledge confessed about. The Christ who went through the Mystery of Golgotha, the Christ who Paul saw on the way to Damascus, the Christ then remained within in the earth with humanity. This is what these words want to say: “I am with you every day until the end of the world.” He lives among us, He can be found again. The Paul experience can, with certain preparation, be renewed time and time again. Then, if Christ is searched for in this way, a person — by looking at his own inner development — just as since the Mystery of Golgotha happened on earth — can see Christ walking; he discovers Christ in his inner life in the same way as when in the outer world — if he is not ill with atheism — he found the Father-god.
Thus, I can only fleetingly, in a sketch, indicate how Anthroposophy through real research of the Christ event, can arrive at an inner objective fact. With all possible detail Anthroposophy tries to present the Christ event as the most important fact of the earthly life of humanity, as something which happened objectively. For this reason, the entire spirit through which the Christ event is presented in Anthroposophy is done in such a way that this event can be absorbed simply as fact. We have within the anthroposophic movement experienced that for example Jewish confessors found themselves in the most genuine, truest and honest sense in recognising the Mystery of Golgotha. With this, my dear friends, the Anthroposophical Movement has already anticipated what after all must enter into human evolution: through directly pointing to what can be seen in the Mystery of Golgotha, how the way to Christianity can be found again.
There is always a question whether there isn't yet a deep meaning in the book by Overbeck, a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche, that modern theology is no longer Christian. If this is legitimate then one could even, perhaps with a certain right, say: Anthroposophy is suitable for directing people in a lively way to the Christ experience. It states that during the time in which the Christ event took place there still existed an instinctive insight among some individuals, so that the spiritual foundation, or I might call it, the spiritual substantiality of the Mystery of Golgotha could be seen and acknowledged in the first Christian centuries. We then see how this diminished gradually; we see it completely fade in the figure of Scotus Erigena, we see medieval theology spreading where the attempt was being made to separate itself from what modern humanity had to develop in the intellect, that which, when it is left to the person who no longer develops inwardly, he becomes incapable of accessing the supersensible worlds. It split what wanted to enter into the human soul into what was recognisable by the intellect, and what people could not attain themselves, except through a revelation.
On this basis one can understand the entire medieval theology, especially Thomistic theology which was considered by Catholicism as the only authority. Today something can be said about this. What Anthroposophy was and is, is nothing other than simply to express what exists and is available through spiritual observation.
As Anthroposophy comes to the proposition that atheism is actually a hidden illness, it arrives at a second proposition: Not finding the Christ, not finding a relationship with the Christ is destiny for humanity, is the fate of misfortune. Atheism is an illness, not finding the Christ is the fate of misfortune because one can find Him in an inward experience. Then He positions Himself there as that Being who has gone through the Mystery of Golgotha. One can only discover Christ through one's inner life; one doesn't need anthroposophical research to be a religious person in the Christian sense. Then again, when one has come to Christ, one becomes a member of the spiritual world and one can really speak about a resurrection of the human being in the spiritual world, because the person who fails to find Christ in regard to his world view, is restricted. Atheism is an illness! Not coming to Christ is a destiny, not reaching the spirit is soul obtuseness!
Now, my dear friends, Anthroposophy relates from such foundations basically only to religion (and not theology) and to religion only in as far as people who have religious needs and who are unable to fulfil them through current declarations, approach Anthroposophy. Anthroposophy will only do what is necessary within the needs of today, and that which others fail to do. What ethos is at this basis — I have to always characterise this again — you can find from the following.
Some years ago, I once held a lecture in a southern German town — at that time it was a German town but it no longer is — a lecture entitled “Bible and Wisdom”. Two Catholic priests were present at the lecture. After the lecture they both approached me and said: “We actually haven't found anything in your lecture which could be challenged from a Catholic point of view.”
I answered: “If only I could always be so lucky!”
To this they both replied: “Yes, but we noticed something, it is not what you say but it is the manner and way how you present it. We must add that you speak to people who are prepared in a certain way. You lecture to a kind of congregation who have a certain education; we, however, speak to all people.”
I said: “Reverend, it doesn't come down to how our subjective experiences decide, but it comes down to us living into our work in evolution, that we don't imagine we speak for all people but that we answer such a question according to what objectively lives in the evolution of humanity. So, I can imagine I speak for all people — and could be very mistaken — you can imagine that. It is very good for enthusiasm to have such an imagination. Still, ask yourselves for once: do all people who have the need to hear something about Christ all come to church?”
Both of them couldn't say yes because naturally they knew that a lot of people who search for a way to Christ, do not come to the church.
So I said: “You see, for those who don't come to you and still search for a way to Christ, it is for those I speak.”
This means finding your task in the evolution of time, and not to imagine you speak for everyone, but to ask: are there minds out there who want to accept this or that in a special way?
Anthroposophy never turns to any other mindset, like to some or other religious confession.
When we, in the Waldorf School, manage to apply teaching in a practical way out of Anthroposophy we still completely avoid making the Waldorf School a school which will splice Anthroposophy into the heads of the children. With regards to religious instruction, we leave the Catholic children to be instructed by a catholic priest and the evangelists by an evangelist priest. Only for the dissident children there is a freer kind of religious instruction, but in the thorough Christian sense. We don't introduce abstract Anthroposophy — also no concrete anthroposophy which is presented to grown-ups — but we try with all our good intensions to bring to the children what is suitable to the stage of their development; all of that must first be searched for and determined according to the content and method. Through those of us who have given free religious instruction, we have managed to bring those children who have no religious instruction as such, towards Christianity and they come in droves to take part in this kind of religious instruction. Never have we preached some or other kind of religious propaganda within the Anthroposophical Movement and even less would Anthroposophy embark on something against single theological systems. With this in mind, anthroposophy can only apply itself to finding differences in separate theological systems in order to understand them and not to oppose them. Thus, I've always regarded it to be my task when I speak to people who have come to Anthroposophy: to make it understandable why Catholicism has become Catholic, Protestants Protestant, Judaism Jewish and Buddhism Buddhistic and how all of them — I believe that is a Christian concept — have within them a Being who through their destiny will let them experience the true Christ.
So it is not possible, if attacks have not originated from the other side, to start a struggle between Anthroposophy and theology, and also today I want to utter these words, while it has been asked for from those who organised today's theologian's day. The only task of Anthroposophy is the pronouncement of anthroposophic research results about the supersensible worlds. This is why I have always been reticent in particular regarding attacks originating from the theological side.
Anthroposophy doesn't want to act as a fighter on the scene but to satisfy the legitimate demands of human soul needs of the time. Everyone who in this sense wants to work together with Anthroposophy and wants to bring to the surface the fulfilment of legitimate, soul foundations of human soul needs, everyone who wants to work with her in this sense, is welcome!