Berlin, May 25, 1909
It is often emphasized, and with good reason, that Spiritual Science should not simply be a theory about the world, life, and the human being, but that it should become the most profound content of the human soul: that which gives life its meaning. If one approaches Spiritual Science with the right attitude, it can indeed become the very substance of life within a human being. However, let me stress emphatically that it can take on this function only gradually, little by little, because Spiritual Science is much like everything that grows and develops: first it must have a seed that keeps growing, and then by virtue of this growth it becomes ever more effective.
It is also a fact that nobody could hope to extract from Spiritual Science the right way of life just by an intellectual understanding of its truths. Judging Spiritual Science by its outward features, one may come to the conclusion that it is a view of the world, albeit one that is more comprehensive and sublime than others. But no, it is still something else, for what other theory would be able to advance those comprehensive ideas about Saturn, Sun, and Moon? What other theories of the world today would dare to make very concise statements about this? None, because they end up with abstract concepts when they attempt to raise themselves above the objects we perceive with our physical eyes and ears. Such theories and conceptions of the world can offer only vague concepts about the divine that weaves and works behind material reality. As far as other less ambitious truths are concerned, such as the doctrines of reincarnation and of karma, Spiritual Science is also far ahead of anything traditional science has to offer when it talks about the evolution of the human being. To be sure, science too could adopt these doctrines for if one really wants to draw the proper conclusions from the materialistic-scientific facts, reincarnation and karma would long have been popular ideas. However, because modern scientists have not dared to come to these conclusions, the discussion about the subject has simply been put to rest. Evolution from the perspective of natural history and of history is discussed, but nobody wants to hear anything of the true evolution of the human individuality, which continues from one life to another and carries the human soul into the future.
Those who observe life properly will be compelled by its very consequences to embrace the doctrine of the four members of the human constitution, which is also revealed by clairvoyant investigation. But because thinking in the modern age lacks all courage, this doctrine is proclaimed only by Spiritual Science, which as a body of knowledge is in many ways ahead of other conceptions of the world and of the philosophies presented to human beings at the present time.
However, when all has been said and done, all that is not the real fruit of Spiritual Science. Its fruit does not consist in the fact that one accepts its teaching as satisfying and far- reaching. We cannot have the fruit without the seed. What we develop today as the fruit of the anthroposophical world view can make our hearts happy and warm our capacity to love. Yet nobody can enjoy this fruit of our spiritual scientific world view without the seed, that is without spiritual scientific knowledge itself. People may say: Of what use are these ideas about reincarnation and karma, or about the members of the human constitution and the evolution of the world? What is really important is the development of human love and of moral character. To this I would answer: Certainly, that is important, but true human love that is fruitful for the world is possible only on the basis of knowledge — Spiritual Scientific knowledge.
As a branch of knowledge, Spiritual Science has an advantage over other world conceptions in many areas. When it is experienced by us in a truly intimate manner, when we do not tire to awaken in our souls time and again those great comprehensive thoughts and carry them with us, then we will see that this body of teaching can in a very definite sense become the content and substance of one's life. Spiritual scientific teaching is a body of ideas that leads us into super-sensible worlds, and in spiritual scientific thinking we must therefore soar to higher worlds. Every hour spent in spiritual scientific study means that the soul reaches out beyond the concerns of everyday life. The moment we devotedly give ourselves to the teaching, we are transported into another world. Our ego is then united with the spiritual world out of which it was born. Thus, when we think in a spiritual scientific way, we are with our ego in our spiritual home, at the fountainhead from which it came.
If we understand this in the right sense, then we can truly compare spiritual scientific thinking with that state of consciousness that we recognize from the spiritual point of view as sleep. When human beings fall asleep at night and sleep themselves into a spiritual world, then they have transported the ego into the world whence it was born and from which it emerges every morning so that it can pass into the world of the senses within the human body. In times to come, the soul will live consciously within this spiritual world; however, at the present such is normally not the case. And why not? It is because in the course of the ages consciousness of the spiritual world has become weaker and weaker in the ego. In the Atlantean epoch the ego during sleep saw itself surrounded by divine-spiritual beings, but after the Atlantean catastrophe the ego was pushed out into the world of the senses and increasingly lost its capacity to gaze into the world that it inhabits during sleep. The idea that the ego is blotted out at night and resurrected in the morning is absurd. It is in the spiritual world but is not conscious of it.
Spiritual scientific thinking gives us the strength to tie ourselves consciously, little by little, to these spiritual realities. By leading us — at least in thinking — into the spiritual world, anthroposophy has certain beneficial qualities in common with sleep. The cares and worries that issue from the things of the sense world are obliterated in sleep. If human beings are able to sleep and their thinking is blotted out, they forget all worries. That is the most beneficent effect of sleep, an effect resulting from the fact that the ego lets the forces of the spiritual world stream into it during sleep. These spiritual streams contain strengthening forces, the effect of which is to help us forget our worries and cares during sleep and also to repair the damage that such worries and cares have inflicted upon our organism. The injuries caused by the sense world are healed by spiritual powers — hence the refreshment, the regeneration that every healthy sleep bestows upon us. In a higher sense, these then are the qualities that spiritual scientific thinking has in common with sleep.
Spiritual thoughts are powerful if we accept them as living forces. When we elevate ourselves to the thoughts that are connected with the past and the future of the earth and allow these momentous events to work on us, then our keyed-up soul will be drawn to these events, far away from the worries of the day. Thoughts of how the ideal of our own sovereign will grows for us out of karma — this plan of destiny — give us courage and strength so that we say to ourselves: “However insurmountable some of the problems of our lives may be today, our strength will grow from one incarnation to the next. The sovereign will within us is becoming stronger every day, and all the obstacles will help us to strengthen it even more. In the process of overcoming these obstacles, our will is going to develop ever more, and our energy is going to increase. The trivialities of life, all the inferior things in our existence, will melt away as the hoar does in the sun — melted by the very sun that rises in the wisdom that permeates our spiritual thinking. Our world of feeling is made to glow throughout and becomes warm and transillumined; our whole existence will be broadened, and we will feel happy in it.”
When such moments of inner activity are repeated and we allow them to work on us, a strengthening of our whole existence into all directions will emanate from this process. Not from one day to the next, to be sure, but constant repetition of such thoughts will bring about the gradual disappearance of our depressions, lamentations about our fate, and an excessively melancholy temperament. Spirit knowledge will be medicine for our soul, and when that happens, the horizon of our existence widens and implants in us that way of thinking that is the fruit of all spirit knowledge. This resulting way of thinking and feeling, this attitude of mind and heart, must be considered the ideal state to which spiritual scientific endeavors can lead. All discord, all disharmonies of life will disappear opposite the harmonious thoughts and feelings that bring about an energetic will. Thus, spiritual investigation proves to be not just knowledge and doctrine, but also a force of life and a substance of our soul. Seen in this light, Spiritual Science is capable of working in life in such a way that it frees human beings from cares and worries. And that is how it has to work in our time, for it owes its existence not to arbitrariness, but to the knowledge that it is needed.
The individualities who in their knowledge were far ahead of normal human beings, the Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings, knew that Spiritual Science had to flow into our culture if it was not to wither. Spiritual Science is a new sap of life, and humanity needs such new sap from time to time. Spiritual Science is the stream necessary for our time. Those who have a feeling for these great truths should hurry to us and absorb the truths so that they can be salt and ferment for the spiritual life of all humanity The striving individual must see this as a sort of duty. It is not difficult to understand why the highest authorities have issued a call for Spiritual Science in our time precisely so that those with open hearts and unprejudiced minds may be assembled.
We have been viewing with our souls post-Atlantean humanity and have traced its cultural epochs from the ancient Indian down to our own fifth post-Atlantean epoch. We have seen that during this time human beings lost their consciousness of the spiritual world bit by bit. In the first epoch, the ancient Indian, human beings still had a profound yearning for the spiritual world. The world of the senses was considered maya, illusion. Then came the ages that issued a call to human beings to do external, physical labor. Human beings had to learn to love the world of the senses because only then were they able to cultivate it. At this time, human beings no longer said that the external world was nothing but maya. On the contrary, human beings now had to immerse themselves into the world and work on it with their faculties and wisdom. That, however, resulted in human beings' gradually losing the consciousness of the spiritual world so that Zarathustra, the initiator of the Persian culture, felt compelled to tell his disciples: “All living beings are called into existence by the force that streams from the sun as physical force. But this physical force is not the only thing. In the sun lives Ahura Mazdao — the spiritual Sun Being.” It was necessary to demonstrate to people how the material world is but the physical expression of the spiritual world.
Thus it was first in the ancient Persian epoch that there arose the sentiment that would express itself as follows: “Certainly, what the sun shines upon is maya, but I must seek the spirit behind this maya. The spiritual world is always around me, but I cannot experience it with physical eyes and ears. I can experience it only with super-sensible consciousness. Once this consciousness has been awakened, then in the physical existence also can I recognize the Great Spirit of the Sun with all its subordinate beings who also belong to the Sun. But an age is approaching when my soul will no longer have this knowledge.” It was difficult to transmit this knowledge fully to human beings. They must gradually be made more mature through renewed incarnations in order to recognize the divine-spiritual element behind all physical phenomena and to understand that all of nature is permeated by it.
In the ancient Persian culture, human beings were still capable of recognizing the divine element in this life, but they were unable to take this consciousness into the time period between death and rebirth. For the peculiar thing in this epoch was that consciousness between death and rebirth became increasingly darker. By contrast, let us look at the soul of an individual in ancient India. When it passed through death into the other world, it lived there among spiritual beings in a comparatively light-filled world. In the Persian culture, such was less the case; the world between death and rebirth had become darker. Obstacles between various souls accumulated, and the soul felt lonely; in a manner of speaking, it could not extend its hand to another soul. But that is the difficult and dark side of life in the spiritual world: the soul may not share its path with others.
In the Egyptian epoch, a substantial part of the soul's capacity to link up with other souls had already been lost to such an extent that the soul longed for the preservation of the physical body, which was to be preserved in the mummy. The reason for this was that the soul sensed it had very little strength that could be taken into the life between death and rebirth. Human beings at this time wanted to preserve the physical body so that the soul might be able to look down on it as on something that belonged to it, thus compensating for the power it no longer had in the spiritual world. Cultural phenomena such as mummification are deeply connected with the evolution of the human soul.
An Egyptian had the notion that in death he would be united with Osiris. He said these words to himself: “Long ago, in ancient ages, the soul was able to gaze into the beyond. It has now lost this visionary power, but it can make up for the loss if in this life it develops qualities by which it will become more and more like Osiris himself. The soul will then itself become Osiris-like and will be united with Osiris after death.” And so, by clinging to Osiris, the soul tried to create a surrogate for everything that could no longer be preserved from ancient times.
However, what Osiris was unable to give to the human soul is told in an Egyptian legend, whereby Osiris was once living with human beings on earth, until his evil brother Seth shut him up in a wooden box similar to a casket. This means that Osiris did live on earth with human beings when they were still more spiritual. But then he had to remain in the spiritual world because he was too sublime to fit into the physical human form. Similarly, if the soul wanted to create a substitute for the lost spiritual power of vision between death and rebirth, it had to become a being that is too sublime, too good for the human form. By becoming similar to Osiris, the soul would be able to overcome its loneliness in the beyond, but it could not take into a new incarnation what it had received in the spiritual world through the characteristics it had in common with Osiris. This is so because, after all, Osiris was not suited for this physical incarnation.
The grave danger threatening humankind in those times was that incarnations were steadily deteriorating because there could be no new influx of spiritual forces. Only what had remained from ancient ages could be further developed, and all that reached its ultimate maturity in Graeco-Roman times. This was made manifest in the magnificent art of the Greeks—the mature fruit from earlier blossoms. Greek art was the finest fruit of the heritage bequeathed to humanity beginning with primeval times. But hand in hand with this accomplishment came the feeling of deep darkness in the life between death and new birth, and a noble Greek individual was right when he said: “Better to be a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realm of the shadows.” 44Homer, Odyssey, Canto 489–491. These words are spoken by the soul of Achilles after Ulysses had conjured it up from the Underworld. Yes indeed, human beings in Greece and the Roman states possessed so much to delight and satisfy their senses, but they could take nothing with them into the life between death and new birth.
Then came the event of Golgotha — the event that is of significance not only for the external physical world, but also for all the worlds through which a human being must pass. The moment when the blood flowed from the wounds of the Redeemer, when the corpse was hanging on the cross, the Christ appeared in the underworld and kindled the light that once again gave sight to the souls below. And the soul was able to realize from that moment on that once again strength could also be derived from the world below and benefit the physical world. No longer does the soul endeavor to unite itself with Osiris in order to have a surrogate for the loss of vision. From now on, it could say to itself: “In the underworld, too, I can find the light of Christ — that which has immersed itself into the earth, for the Christ has become the spirit of the earth. And now I imbibe a new force from a spiritual fountainhead, a force that I can take back to earth when I return for a new incarnation.”
What was necessary so that this force could flow into the soul in the right way? A complete reversal in the way human beings looked at the physical world was necessary. First, let us ask what the people in ancient India experienced when we reconstruct what one of them might have said: “This world is maya, the great illusion. Whenever I perceive this world and relate myself to it, I have fallen victim to the illusion. Only by withdrawing from it and by elevating myself to primeval spiritual things beyond the world of the senses can I be in the world of the gods. Only by withdrawing from the outer world can I traverse through my inner being that has remained with me as an ancient legacy of these spiritual worlds and thus return to my ancient home. I must return to this primeval holy realm from which I once started out to the world of the senses, and I can return only by giving free rein to my spiritual powers, thereby diverting my attention from the lure of the outer world.” In the days of the ancient Indian culture it was possible for human beings to take this step back into the far-distant past. Inside of them, they had retained much of the force that could help an individual, if properly applied, to find the way back to the old gods. Thus did the human being in ancient India find his Devas, the beings from whom everything had come into existence.
Now came the epoch of ancient Persia, when the human soul had lost much of the power that was like a legacy from ancient times. If in this epoch the soul had said: “I will turn back because I do not wish to remain in this world,” it would not have found the ancient gods because the power to make that possible was no longer adequate. This fact is related to the evolution of humanity. Had the soul attempted to divert its gaze away from the outer world and consider it as nothing but maya, this would have led to its seeing not the higher gods, but rather the subordinate Devas who were evil spiritual beings that did not belong to the ranks of higher gods. Because this danger existed, the soul had to be shown how this world of the senses could be seen as the outward expression of the spiritual by starting from the world of the senses and not turning away from it. In looking up to the sun, the soul learned to see in it not only its external physical sun force, but also the Sun God Ahura Mazdao, and thereby it learned to know something of the divine-spiritual reality.
The soul of the ancient Persian had become too weak to activate the spiritual forces that could lead it back to the ancient gods. Hence, it had to be educated to pierce through the veil of materiality covering the spiritual. In the outer world the evil Asuras lay hidden, but human beings were not yet capable of seeing the beneficent spiritual beings beyond the world that was regarded as maya. That is why all names for spiritual beings came to be reversed during the time between the Indian and the Persian epochs. Devas were the good beings in ancient India, but in the Persian culture, they became the evil gods. The true reason for this reversal is evident from the continuing development of the human soul; in relation to the external world it had become increasingly stronger, in relationship to the inner world, increasingly weaker.
Preparation for what was to come was now made by those beings who guide and direct human evolution. After Zarathustra had learned to look up to the sun and see in its aura the Sun God, he knew that this Sun God was no one else but the Christ-Spirit, who at that time could reveal Himself only from outside the world. The human being in his soul here on earth could not yet perceive the Christ-Being. The being that was formerly seen in the sun and had been given the name Ahura Mazdao had to descend to earth because only then could the human being learn from within to recognize a Deva, a divinely spiritual principle, within his own soul. In the age of ancient Persia, life in the human body was not yet capable of receiving the Christ-Spirit, let alone be permeated by it. All that had to happen slowly and gradually. We must acquaint ourselves with the thought that the gods can reveal themselves only to those who prepare themselves as recipients of a revelation. Deva, the god who can be perceived through our inner forces, could appear only to that part of humanity that had prepared itself for his coming.
Everything in human evolution comes to pass slowly and gradually, and evolution does not proceed everywhere in the same manner. After the Atlantean flood, the tribes had migrated to the East. Since they settled in various regions, their development also differed. What enabled the ancient Indian to have a vivid feeling for the spiritual world? This happened because the evolution of the ego in this part of the world had taken a very special course. In the people of ancient India the ego had remained deeply entrenched in the spiritual world so that it was disinclined to make much contact with the physical world. It was the peculiar characteristic of an individual in ancient India that he or she would cling to the spirituality of preceding ages while at the same time confining relations with the physical world to a minimum. Since the individual in ancient India did not want to connect his or her ego with the physical world, the achievements of external civilization have not blossomed in India or in many other regions of the East where people by and large seem to have lacked inventive genius. By contrast, the inventiveness of the people in the West prompted them to take hold of the external world since they considered it their task to cultivate and improve it. Ancient Persia formed, as it were, the boundary between East and West. The people who paid little attention to the material existence in this world tended to settle and remain in the East. That is why the teaching of a Buddha was still necessary for the people of the East six hundred years before Christ. Buddha had to be placed into world evolution at this juncture because it was his mission to keep alive in the souls the longing for the spiritual worlds of the past, and that is why he had to preach against the thirst for entering the physical world. However, he was preaching at a time when the soul still had the inclination, but no longer the capacity, to elevate itself into the spiritual worlds. Buddha preached to human beings the sublime truths about suffering, and he brought to them the insights that could lift the soul above this world of suffering.
Such teaching would have been unsuitable for the Western world. It needed a doctrine that was in tune with the people's inclination to embrace the physical world and that could be summarized by the following explanation: “You must work in the outer world in such a way that the forces of this world are placed in the service of humanity; but after death, you can also take the fruits of your life into the spiritual world.”
The peculiar essence of Christianity is usually not properly understood. In the Roman world it did not appeal much to those who were able to enjoy the treasures and riches of this world, but those who were condemned to toil in the physical world liked Christianity. They knew that in spite of all their work in the physical world, they were developing something in this life that they could take with them after death. Such was the feeling of exaltation inspiring the souls of those who accepted Christianity. Human beings could say to themselves: “By setting up Christ as my ideal, I develop something in this world that cannot be annihilated even by death.” This consciousness could develop only because Christ had actually been on earth not as a Deva, but as a being who had incarnated in a human body and who could be a model and an ideal for every human being. For this to happen, the impulse and the proper forces had to be created, and this preparatory work had been done by Zarathustra. He had experienced so much that he was prepared to take this mission.
In ancient Persia, Zarathustra had been able to behold the Sun God in the aura of the sun, but he had had to prepare himself for that task in earlier incarnations. During the era that was still inspired by the teachings of the Holy Rishis, Zarathustra had already gone through some sublime experiences in incarnations. He had been initiated into the teachings of the Holy Rishis, having absorbed them stage by stage in seven subsequent incarnations. Then he was born into a body that was blind and deaf, which afforded him as little contact with the outer world as was possible. Zarathustra had to be born as a human being who was practically nonsusceptible to outer sense impressions, and then out of his innermost being the memory of the teachings of the Holy Rishis from a previous incarnation welled up in him. And at that moment the Great Sun God was able to kindle in him something that went ever further than the wisdom received from the Holy Rishis. That experience awakened in him again in his next incarnation, and it was then that Ahura Mazdao revealed himself to Zarathustra from without.
You can see, therefore, that Zarathustra had experienced a great deal before he could become the teacher and inspirer of the people of ancient Persia. We also know that Moses and Hermes were his disciples and that he gave his astral body to Hermes and his etheric body to Moses. Moses was the first to proclaim the teaching that emanated from the Akasha Chronicle, the teaching of the “I am the I am.” (Ejeh asher ejeh). And thus Zarathustra prepared himself slowly for an even greater and more prodigious sacrifice. When Zarathustra's astral body reappeared in Hermes and his etheric body in Moses, his ego — whose development had steadily progressed — was able to form a new astral body and a new etheric body for the new incarnation, commensurate with the full powers of the ego. And six hundred years before Christ, Zarathustra was born again in the land of Chaldaea and became the teacher of Pythagoras under the name Zarathos, or Nazarathos. Within the Chaldaean culture he then prepared the new impulse that was to come into the world. This is reflected in that passage of the New Testament that speaks of the Three Wise Men from the East who came to greet the Christ as the new Star of Wisdom. Zarathustra had taught that the Christ would come, and those who were left as disciples of this significant Zarathustra doctrine knew at what point in time the great Impulse of Golgotha would arrive.
There is always a certain connection between great individualities of the world, such as Buddha, Zarathustra, and Pythagoras, because what is at work in the world is a force — a fact. Great spirits work together, and they are born into a certain age for a purpose. Likewise, the great impulses in human evolution weave themselves into each other. Zarathustra had pointed to the One who was to make it possible, through the Event of Golgotha, for human beings to find the world of the Devas through the force of their own inner being; moreover, they would be increasingly able to do so as they developed forward into the future. And in the same epoch, the Buddha was teaching: Yes, there is a spiritual world, compared to which the whole world of the senses is maya. Turn your steps back into the world in which you were before the thirst for an earthly existence awakened, and then you will find Nirvana — rest within the divine!
Such is the difference between the teachings of Buddha and Zarathustra. Buddha taught that the human being can reach the divine by going back; Zarathustra, in his incarnation as Zarastra, taught that the time is approaching when the light will incarnate within the earth itself, which will enable the progressive soul to come closer to the divine. Buddha said, the soul would find God by going back; Zarathustra said it would find Him by going forward.
Regardless of whether you regress or progress, whether you seek God in the Alpha or in the Omega, you will be able to find Him. What is important is that you find Him with your own heightened human power. Those forces necessary to find the God of the Alpha are the primal forces of a human being. However, the forces necessary to find the God of the Omega must be acquired here on earth by striving human beings themselves. It makes a difference whether one goes back to Alpha or forward to Omega. He who is content with finding God and just wants to get into the spiritual world has the choice of going forward or backward. However, the individual who is concerned that humanity leave the earth in a heightened state must point the way to Omega — as did Zarathustra.
Zarathustra prepared the way for that part of humanity that was to become involved with the very forces of the earth. Yet Zarathustra also fully understood the Buddha, for their quest was ultimately the same. What was Zarathustra's task? He had to make it possible for the Christ-Impulse to descend to the earth. Zarathustra was reborn as Jesus of Nazareth, and because of what had transpired in the previous incarnation, his individuality was able to unite itself with many a force that had been preserved as a result of spiritual economy. The world is profound and truth is complicated!
There was also interwoven in Jesus of Nazareth the being of the Buddha. It had advanced on different paths because many powers work in the one who is supposed to have an influence on humankind. The ego of Jesus left the physical, etheric, and astral bodies at baptism in the Jordan River, and the Sun God — the Christ-Spirit — entered and lived three years in the bodies of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is how Zarathustra had prepared humanity to be the recipient of the Christ-Impulse.
An important moment in the evolution of the earth had arrived with these events. It had now become possible for human beings to find God in their innermost being; in addition, they were now able to take something with them from the life between death and new birth into the new incarnation. And now, in our own age, there are already present souls who feel strongly enough that they have been in a world illumined by the Light of Christ. The fact that this is dimly divined in many a soul means that human beings today are capable of receiving and understanding the teachings of Spiritual Science. And because such people exist today, the Masters of Wisdom and of the Harmony of Feelings have expressed the hope that such people will also feel the truths of Spiritual Science and will make them the very substance of their lives. Knowing all this, the Masters assigned the mission of proclaiming anthroposophy in the present age to those who have already attained a high level of understanding.
It is essential that Spiritual Science begin now to become a spiritual impulse of our time. Christ Himself has prepared human souls for Spiritual Science, and it is guaranteed to stay in this world for the simple reason that the Light of Christ, once kindled, can never be extinguished. Once we inspire ourselves with the feeling that the stream of anthroposophical spirituality is a necessity, then we are immersed in it in the right way, and it will always stand before us as an unshakable ideal.
Yes, the human personality had to develop to such an extent that light could descend and say in a human body: “I am the Light of the world!” The Light of the World first came down into the soul of Zarathustra and spoke to it. Zarathustra's soul understood the meaning of this universal light and sacrificed itself so that these significant words would go out to all humanity — from a human body: “I am the Light of the World.”