The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego-Consciousness
VI. The Birth of Conscience
Berlin, 2nd May, 1910
In the course of the lectures given here last winter we considered the Being of Christ from many different aspects and we endeavoured in various ways to point out that what we know as the Christ-Impulse is the most powerful factor for the development of mankind that we have ever possessed in the whole evolution of the earth. It is therefore easy to understand that, in the first place, this subject can never be exhausted, that there could be no end to all one might do to elucidate further the Christ-Impulse from all sides, and moreover, when all is said and done, all that is of profoundest interest to man is really connected with the appearance of Christ. We saw that the Gospels themselves attempted to approach the subject of the Being of Christ from four different sides, and we touched upon several of the secrets contained in the different Gospels. We were only able up to a certain point to throw light on that of St. Matthew. It must be left for the present, and we shall return to the secrets of St. Matthew's Gospel in lectures to be given at a later time, after which we can venture further into the depths of St. Mark's Gospel. If we were now, at the conclusion of our winter lectures in this group, to give more sketchy indications of what remains to be discussed, it would interfere with the harmony of the lectures to be given later. To-day, as also in our next lecture, we shall touch upon questions which in a certain respect relate to the Christ-Problem; in fact, we shall to-day refer to the question of the connection between the human conscience and the intervention of the Christ-Impulse in the development of mankind. In so doing we also achieve another object. Next Thursday the public Lectures on ‘The Human Conscience’ will be given, and we shall speak on that same subject in our group-meeting to-day. There is a definite purpose in this — one which, as time goes on, will often be apparent to our Spiritual vision. The object is to show that the same subject can be spoken of in a different way in a study-group such as this, from the way in which it must be handled in a public lecture, intended for persons who are not members of our movement. The Anthroposophist, among many other capacities which he must acquire, must also acquire a feeling of how matters concerning the world can be approached from many standpoints and from many different sides, and that a man who has already mastered certain basic facts can both speak and hear of a subject in a different way from one who has not. When we speak in a study-group we assume that the minds of those present have to some extent become accustomed to the conceptions of a Spiritual world, that as regards their thoughts and feelings they are already in that world and are therefore able, by means of those thoughts and feelings, to form a concept of the human conscience. The answer to such questions can be drawn from much greater depths in a study-group than in a public lecture given to a non-Anthroposophical audience. Those public lectures have indeed the mission, by means of the phenomena of the soul-life, — introduced in the first place as external experience, — of giving a sort of proof that the truths known to Spiritual Science are truths indeed. That is a different task for the Spiritual Scientist, who probably brings with him certain inner convictions and perhaps even certain opinions about the Spiritual world. He must gradually learn to become acquainted with ideas and concepts from all sorts of different sources and sides which will help him to make certain things clear, and he must leave off looking at things and speaking of them in one way only, though that method, of course still prevails in external life.
The question of the human conscience is one that must stir the very depths of our souls. For centuries philosophers and thinkers the whole world over, have been more interested in this subject than in any other. With regard to the phenomenon of conscience one might easily succumb to the illusion — which has often been here described as such — of believing that everything to be found in the human soul to-day, was always to be found there. Yet, as we know, the various soul-faculties and processes which man has developed in the course of thousands of years, were very different in primeval times from what they are now. Much of what is now most prized and valued in our soul-life, we did not possess when we wandered on earth thousands of years ago, in other incarnations. There is a purpose in these many incarnations of ours, as we have often emphasised. The purpose is that the soul should in the course of its development from one incarnation to another, acquire ever-new capacities and forces; that it should have a history of its own; that its earth-existence should be a time of learning to realise that the soul was not the same when our incarnations just began as it is now, and that moreover in the distant future it will again he different. The human conscience too, — that precious possession of the human soul, which speaks like the voice of God in each individual man or woman, warning them of good or evil — even this precious gift was not always in man's inner being. Conscience, too, is something that has developed. And indeed it is not so very long ago, comparatively speaking, that the human conscience announced its presence, since when it has developed more and more. Yet precious as this possession is to us, it is not intended that it should continue to live in the human soul in all the ages yet to come, just in its present form. It will develop further, and take different forms; it will discover itself as something which man had to acquire, and which will bear fruit. And in later ages, when these fruits are his, it will be something upon which man can look back, saying: There once was a time when, in the course of my passage through the different incarnations, I was able to embody into my soul that which is now my conscience, and I am now enjoying the fruits of that! Just as we now look back at a time when our souls were in other incarnations and did not possess what we call conscience, so in later times our souls will look back at the present time and exclaim: Hail to that past! Thanks for the gifts which in the past became our human conscience! If we had not then been able to develop a human conscience in our souls, we should now lack what we need for our present life!
From this we see that conscience forms part of the treasures of the soul at the present time, and if we understand something of the nature and being of the human conscience it gives us a sort of understanding of our age, and of its psychic life. Man's conscience came into being; that is a fact we have often referred to in various connections. In the public lecture next Thursday I shall state that one can, as it were, point to the very time when conscience was first discovered in the human soul. If we go back a few centuries into ancient Greece, about five hundred years before the Christian era, we come to the great poet, Æschylos. When we let the personages depicted by the mighty genius of the old Greek dramatist work upon us, we do not find what is to-day called conscience, or at any rate not designated by that name. Five hundred years before the Christian era the greatest dramatist then existing had no words to express what we now call the human conscience. If he wanted to express that process in the human soul which corresponds to what we now call conscience, he had to do so in this way: — If a man committed the sin of murdering his mother, he was, through the might of the event made to see into the Spiritual worlds and there he perceived certain figures, which were known to the ancient Greek as the Erinyes and later to the Romans as the Furies. Thus, according to Æschylos, a man who had committed the evil deed of murdering his mother, did not, as he would to-day, hear the reproachful voice of conscience in his inner being; but something drove him to spiritual vision, and he saw around him figures, the avengers of his deed.
This is one of the remarkable proofs to be found in the historical development of man, of what has just been asserted, that in olden times the capacities of the human soul were quite different. We have repeatedly emphasised that only gradually has the soul developed to its present power of perceiving the physical-sense world through the senses, and of using reason as it is used to-day. We stated that in olden times the soul possessed a certain clairvoyance as a normal capacity. At the time of Æschylos this only appeared in special cases. For instance, it became clairvoyant when it was to see what it had brought about in the physical world by its wrong-doing. The soul of Orestes became clairvoyant after the murder of his mother. He then saw the spirits he had aroused in the spiritual world by his deed. They encompassed his soul on all sides. There was nothing of the nature of conscience in his soul; but a clairvoyant consciousness set in, enabling him to see the disorder brought about in the spiritual world by his wrong-doing. In olden times we find that when an evil deed was accomplished, no voice of conscience was heard, for in those days the soul was in a clairvoyant condition and could see what came about in the external world in consequence of a wrong.
What is it then that occurs when a wrong is done? Something is brought about by ourselves in the spiritual world. It is a purely materialistic belief that a wrong can take place without anything taking place in the spiritual world; it produces quite definite processes therein, — effects radiate from us which, though invisible to sense perception can be clearly seen by spiritual sight. These spiritual processes, radiating from one who has done wrong, provide nourishment for certain Spiritual beings who are actually present in the spiritual world. Such beings cannot approach man at all times; they can only do so when the radiations resulting from evil actions emanate from him. It is just the same as with a room — if it is quite clean no flies will enter it; there are no flies in a perfectly clean room; but if food is left about or dirt of any kind, the flies come immediately — so, the moment a man radiates certain spiritual emanations as a result of his evil action, he is surrounded by beings who feed on them. These are the beings whom Æschylos, the great Greek dramatist, depicts around Orestes. What we to-day know as the inner voice, Æschylos represented in external forms because he was so conscious of it; for he knew that in special cases, a certain clairvoyant consciousness which was formerly the common possession of all men, could still be aroused. There is always something remaining in later times of what existed previously, but it appears atavistically, and only in abnormal cases. No blame should attach to Shakespeare for representing something of the nature of an objective conscience.
We need only trace Greek Art a little further, from Æschylos to Euripides, who in his tragedies shows us that he already had the idea of conscience. In ancient Greece we can see how the idea of conscience gradually came into being during the last five hundred years before Christ. Look where you will in the old Testament for a word corresponding to what we to-day call conscience: you will not find one. Conscience, as a quality, drew into the human soul; and if, instead of contemplating short spans of time we look at great periods, we see that conscience entered the human soul at about the same time as the Christ Impulse. We might say that conscience followed close on the Christ Impulse; it entered the historical development of the world almost like the shadow of that Impulse. In order to understand this, we must call to mind much that we have learned in the course of past years and make it fruitful for our understanding of what the human conscience really is.
If we wish in a deeper sense to grasp what conscience is, we must call to mind that particular period of time during which mankind in the course of its development was approaching the Christ Impulse and in which it absorbed this Impulse, and then gradually passed into our own, when development proceeded further. We know that this includes three epochs of civilisation in the development of man, which we designate as the Egyptian-Chaldean, the Greco-Latin and our present period. (The two epochs preceding these we may for the moment leave out of consideration; for our own souls were then too far removed from the possibility of having even an inkling of what we mean to-day by the concept of conscience.) In the Egyptian-Chaldean civilisation we see a gradual preparation of everything which subsequently rose to the greatest height possible, so that in the Graeco-Latin civilisation it might be able to reach and absorb the significant impulse we know as the Christ Impulse. And in our own age we see the epoch in which this Impulse will be further developed, and this will be continued increasingly in the epoch still to come. Now, if we recollect more closely the development of man from the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch, through the Graeco-Latin, into our own, it is clear that in each of these epochs one part of the human soul was developed. Of these, what we know as the Sentient Soul was developed during the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch. That means that we had at one time to be incarnated in Egyptian-Chaldean bodies, so as to be in a position to acquire aright those qualities which serve for the special development of the Sentient Soul. We then as souls, took that quality with us into our next incarnations during the Graeco-Latin epoch, in order then to develop the intellectual or mind-soul, or soul of higher-feeling. And we live in our present incarnations with the fruits of what we gained in that Epoch, so as to be able now, gradually to bring to a higher stage of development, what we call the forces of the Spiritual- or Consciousness-soul. (Dr. Steiner has, since 1923, called this the Spiritual Soul.)
So that our souls — as human beings — have been developed throughout these three epochs; and when our own age comes to its conclusion, our souls will then rise to the development of the quality of Spirit-Self. That will come about in the sixth epoch of civilisation. Thus we see, what a profound purpose there is in our going through successive incarnations, namely, that we may gradually acquire these faculties with which we, as human souls, are acquainted, — and in a wider sense acquire those also which extend beyond the mere life of the soul.
Thus, during the Egyptian-Chaldean culture our souls acquired the forces of the Sentient Soul and brought them to their full development; — during the Graeco-Latin age we developed the intellectual soul or soul of higher feeling. Man had to develop in a normal way as far as the intellectual soul; for then only could the Christ-Impulse be exercised upon him.
Now this development took place in quite a different way in different parts of the earth. If we were to allow ourselves to believe, in an easy sort of way, that the development of mankind proceeds in the most simple way possible, we should never arrive at an understanding of that development. One must indeed learn much before one can even to some slight extent grasp the great thoughts of the guiding Cosmic Beings! When man asserts that the truth is simple, that is great arrogance on his part; it shows that he wants to twist the truth to suit his own convenience. It is simply a love of ease which leads him to assert that the truth must be simple. The truth is indeed very complicated, and the spirit of the guiding cosmic beings can only be grasped by us when we make the most intense efforts to plunge into their thoughts, into their most subtle and intimate thoughts. So we ought not to believe that we have exhausted everything, when we say that: our souls have gradually evolved through Egyptian-Chaldean, the Graeco-Roman, and our own epoch. Let us now for a moment transport ourselves to that time when there was as yet no Graeco-Latin, but only Egyptian-Chaldean civilisation.
There were also human beings living then in Greece and in the countries of the Roman Empire; they lived in the countries of the Graeco-Romans before that age began. And in our own countries, on the soil we tread to-day, there were human beings living at the time when the Egyptian-Chaldean civilisation was playing its part in Asia and Africa. While certain souls, in Asia and Africa, at the epoch of the Egyptian-Chaldean period, were more particularly going through all that was to prepare them to receive the Christ-Impulse, others living in the regions of the subsequent Graeco-Latins were preparing to bring something quite different into the collective development of mankind. In our own countries too, there were people living then who were preparing themselves for something else. Not only do our souls take up different qualities in successive ages, but during the same age they live together side by side.
In this way different influences are brought to bear on the souls and further complications thus arise in evolution. By this means more is brought into the development of humanity than if everything went along smoothly in a straight line. It is indeed a fact that preparations had to be made in the Graeco-Latin lands, as also in our own, that the right thing might be brought into the development of civilisation from various sides. The Asiatic and African peoples had one mission and the South European peoples another, — while the peoples inhabiting Northern and Central Europe had a different one again. They all had to bring quite different qualities into the collective development of humanity, and they were able to do so because both their gifts and their training were essentially different.
When we turn our gaze towards the Egyptian-Chaldean peoples, to the souls who reached their zenith in that particular age, we must say: These peoples developed certain qualities of the Sentient-Soul, qualities which can be specially developed by the study of the wonderful teachings which then flowed from the sacred centres of Egypt, or from the marvellous astrology which could be learnt in a similar centre in Chaldea. That which flows from the various centres was sent for the very purpose of aiding the soul's progress. The true meaning of what thus flows forth is not to be found in the content of the streams of civilisation, but in what they contribute to the development of the human soul. The content itself passes away! Only those who in a deeper sense have not all their wits about them can believe otherwise than that in a few centuries of time our contemporary science will just as much have sunk into oblivion, as certain things connected with the Egyptian-Chaldean civilisation have done to-day. Anyone who believes that the Copernican conception of the universe yielded eternal verities, is making a very great mistake; that will become a thing of the past later on, just as have the discoveries of old Egypt to-day. As far as the content of these things is concerned they pass away, like many another thing in the development of humanity. For instance, in that wonderful picture of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci in Milan, familiar to you all, at any rate in reproduction, there are only faint outlines to be seen to-day; and we know that before long nothing will remain of the work into which Leonardo da Vinci put his best powers. Some day there will be just as little left of Raphael's works, which so move our souls to-day, when we allow ourselves to be affected by them. All these works of art will perish and there will be no memory of them on the physical plane. The content of these pictures will succumb to death, like the content of the civilizations themselves. But when we stand before these pictures we ought to remember that they flowed out of Raphael's soul, and that his soul was different after he had conjured them forth from what it was before. Thousands and thousands of people who are moved and uplifted by these pictures, are made different through having this experience. And someday, when the whole earth crumbles into dust — as it certainly will, — the external arrangements organised by the various civilisations will no longer exist. But what the souls have acquired will pass over with them into eternity. What the civilisations give us, is given for the advantage of human souls, for into human souls was poured forth what flowed from the Sanctuaries of Egypt and Chaldea and which — for that time — was exalted wisdom. The souls of men were thereby to be brought a step further; and to the extent that they did advance further, to that extent were they ripe to encounter new treasures, which then, in the Graeco-Latin Age helped the human souls a little further still. If our own souls had not absorbed what they could in the Graeco-Latin Age, they could not now be living into the spiritual soul. That constitutes progress in time.
If we recollect various things said in the public lectures, we are aware that what we call the ‘ I,’ the ego, works in the three soul-principles. Out of the chaos of soul-experiences that we encounter in the Sentient-Soul, Intellectual-Soul and Consciousness- or Spiritual-Soul, the ego gradually develops, crystallising itself there from: — but not in the same way in different parts of the earth. For instance, while the souls in Asia and Africa, during the Egyptian-Chaldean Age, had been developed by the influence so long exercised upon them by the revelations of the Chaldean and Egyptian Sanctuaries, — the peoples in Europe who were far removed from these as regards distance, had developed in such a way that they were in a sense ahead of them. In the European countries men had already in a certain sense developed the ego in the Sentient-Soul, — they had developed a strong feeling for the ego.
Here we come to an extremely important point; those men passed over to Asia and Africa who could wait with their ego until there should have developed in the Sentient-Soul that which was to be the result of the influence of the Egyptian and Chaldean sacred knowledge. Souls were incarnated in the regions subject to this culture, who, more or less without any distinct feeling of the ego-nature, absorbed the sublime teachings and lofty culture. The lofty culture of ancient Chaldea was poured into a Sentient-Soul as yet unconscious of its ego. Here in the North, no such lofty culture was sunk into the soul. It remained more or less uncultivated, but on the other hand, in this very lack, the Sentient-Soul, which had never experienced the warm glow of the revelations pouring in from the Sanctuary knowledge, developed the Consciousness of an ego. We may say that among the peoples of Egypt and Chaldea the ego-consciousness was late in coming, it waited till the Sentient-Soul had absorbed a certain culture and until the later soul-principles had developed. In Europe the ego did not linger, it developed at once in the Sentient-Soul, but on the other hand, it waited till the later soul-principles had been developed before absorbing certain qualities pertaining to the treasures of civilisation. Thus there were certain souls, incarnated in Asia, and Africa, who had hardly any consciousness of their ego but who, in their Sentient-Souls, were granted revelations of a high order; while in Europe there were souls who, without having any high degree of culture, were able to emphasise their individual ego; they could both look upon and feel themselves as men, as human individuals. The people of the Greek and Latin countries occupied a middle place between the two extremes and they had the mission of developing the qualities of the Intellectual-Soul. They developed the ego in the Intellectual-Soul, — while at the same time they were also able in that soul to absorb certain forms of civilisation. Thus then, the Egyptian-Chaldean culture waited, holding back the ego for a later time, while the European culture developed it prematurely; but the Graeco-Latin culture in a sense kept the balance, for it developed a certain civilisation at the same time as the ego.
In this way we can divine a great mystery of our human development, and without knowledge of this we can never understand why the Christ-Impulse could find so unhindered an entrance into Europe and why it gained so much influence there. Why was this? Could Christ have appeared in Europe? Might He not have incarnated there in a carnal body? No! that would not have been possible. He appeared in the Graeco-Latin Age, that in which the Intellectual-Soul was developed. That age was particularly adapted to come forward to meet Christ, as it were. But Christ could not have made his appearance in Europe, because of the strong ego-feeling prevailing there. This strong, individual feeling of self, was not adapted to produce one single person having the sole prerogative of being able to provide the vehicle for the highest. A premature ego-feeling, a too great feeling of the equality of mankind, had developed in the countries of Europe. It would have been impossible there for one person to tower so greatly above his contemporaries, as did the one who was to provide the vehicle for the Christ. If Christ was to find a body fit for Him to occupy, there must be no premature appearance of the feeling of ‘ I.’ He had, therefore, to appear on the borders of the Egyptian-Chaldean and of the Graeco-Latin culture, where it was possible for a body to be formed not having the premature ego-feeling within it, but having nevertheless the profoundest comprehension of the Spiritual world given by the Egyptian and Chaldean cultures. But if Europe had not the power of preparing a body for the Christ, yet, just because it had prematurely developed the ego in the very dawn of the new life, it had also acquired other faculties, which served — after Christ had appeared — to bring to mankind a full consciousness of the ego, to help men to a full understanding of it. This was possible because the European peoples had acquired the feeling of the ‘ I ’ too early and had as it were grown up with it.
This must be borne in mind if we wish to understand the newer civilisation. In Asia and Africa we find people who know much concerning the world-secrets, and who are skilful in the setting up of certain symbols — who have in fact cultivated their Sentient-Soul in such a way that they have a rich soul-life; but their Sense of Ego is weak. In Europe we find people who have received less culture through revelations from without; but on the other hand we find there the type of man who looks to himself, who finds the strongest support in himself. So in Asia the ground was prepared for the coming of Christ, for there a body could be found into which He could draw in, — and in Europe we find the people best prepared to understand the bringer of the ego-consciousness. He brought to the peoples of Europe what they were longing for. Hence it was in Europe that Christian Mysticism was developed, that wonderful Mysticism in which a man sought to draw Christ into his own soul, into his own ego.
Thus the wise guidance of the World prepared mankind in different parts of the earth, so that each epoch of development should find what is right for that time. It is one of the great assets acquired by studying the conception of the world presented by Spiritual Science, that we gain more and more strongly a sense of the wise way in which the development of humanity and of the whole world has been carried on. We see how for thousands of years souls were prepared on the soil of Europe, that they might develop as early as possible a firm centre in their inner being, and for this very purpose they were actually kept back from acquiring the forces so highly evolved in Asia. Therefore, the stream of culture flowed across from Asia, while the strong sense of the personal ego was being developed in Europe. Again, we can actually point out how the Adriatic almost constituted a boundary between a rather weaker sense of self in Greece, where a man did not so much feel himself to be a separate individual as an Athenian, a Spartan, a Theban, a member of his city, — and the Roman culture on the other side, where the strong ego-feeling was developed in the consciousness of the Roman citizen, who stood firmly on his own ground as an individual person. In Greece we still find the ego somewhat of a retiring nature; man still took in more from the outer world, in such a way that the ego need not be present. If we cross the Adriatic and come to Rome we find the Roman citizen standing firmly on his feet — already conscious of his ego. All this is connected with deep and significant sub-depths. These things do not occur on the physical plane without corresponding events taking place in the Spiritual world. We see that in the culture of Greece there was still a strong influence of the ego that was withheld. Much in Greece was still taken impersonally. The Greek did not feel himself to be a separate citizen, but a member of the organism of Athens, Sparta, or Thebes. This had to be done away with. The longing of man to draw things into himself from without must disappear, and as he becomes more and more a Westerner he must learn to find entrance into the inner part of his soul. What is to be formed by the masses, must be lived and experienced in advance by the Great Leaders, the Great Individualities of humanity. Let us keep before our minds the fact to which we have often referred — that the Greek still had a strong consciousness that what was given him from without, apart from his having greatly developed his inner personality, was of particular value. Once more I would remind you of the saying of a very cultured Greek, which gives us a deep insight into the longings of the Greek people. ‘Better be a beggar in the upper world than a king in the realms of shades!’ The great value of the invisible, of the super-sensible life, had not then been realised. That which could be drawn from the environment without the help of the ego, is drawn from that environment. It is profoundly moving to perceive how at this juncture, at the turning-point of the times, a great Leading Personality stands like a sign-post, to cast off the disposition towards the earlier and to put on the disposition for the new; to ring forth far and wide, speaking as it were for the spiritual-world: ‘A time is now coming when men must no longer take into themselves that which can flow into their personality apart from the ego, but rather that which enters it through the ego!’
This deed was accomplished by one of the great Sages of ancient Greece; it was in part fulfilled in Empedokles, in the island of Sicily. In many of the legends which to-day are only told as tales, great depths lie concealed. Empedokles, — the great Sage who was not only a great philosopher but an Initiate into the deep mysteries of his time, who was both one of the greatest statesmen of all times and also a sacrificial priest, — of him the legend (which in an occult sense is true) relates as follows. Having completed his task in Sicily, Empedokles threw his body into Etna, that his external sheaths might be united with the soil of Sicily, thereby to record that ‘firm faith in the ego would follow, now that the outer had disappeared!’ The sacrifice of the outer sheaths of Empedokles was accomplished when he surrendered them to Etna. There is a deep occult truth behind this. Among the Spiritual experiences in Sicily to-day is the following. If spiritually one breathes the air of Sicily one can still trace in it the after-effects of the deed of Empedokles! — His soul has continued to incarnate; but his body attained a special significance by having been consciously given over to the elements, so that it can still be found in the spiritual atmosphere of Sicily to-day. The body of Empedokles forms a considerable part of the spiritual atmosphere of Sicily. It was a very important moment to me — such things can be discussed within our groups — when a few days ago I was able to tell our Palermo friends in their actual presence, that if anyone wanders in Sicily with a spiritual consciousness, he certainly still breathes spiritually, even to-day, that which has permeated the air of Sicily ever since the death of Empedokles!
So now we see that the boundary between East and West, — which we, speaking in an external and spatial sense, have referred to as the Adriatic Sea, — was indicated by a great Leader of Humanity, who, as he was to work on further in the West, stripped off the principle by means of which man could grow in the East, desiring to preserve for the future development of man that which is exalted above all the elements of the external physical plane.
It is a very great thing to become aware of these distinctions for they show how, in regions widely separated in space, different effects are being prepared in order that in this variety the greatest may be attained. It is through the co-operative effects of differentiation that the goal of the collective development of mankind must be attained. By this we can see that Christ, after having appeared in the East, went across to the West, there to be accepted by those who were made ready for this by a strong ego-consciousness; that they might thereby understand the Bringer of that consciousness. That is the secret of Christ's entrance into the West, that He there found souls prepared for Him, and that those souls accepted Him. Thus in the East we see humanity doing everything possible to prepare a body or a corporality, — consisting of physical body, etheric body and astral body — into which could penetrate the Christ, He who, together with the ego-consciousness and by means of it, brings the impulse of Love to the earth. Love is that which, in its most psychic and spiritual form, came to the earth with Christ, appearing in its psychic and spiritual form in the East, — for thus we first see it — and then flowing on further, to the West, where it is understood. In this way do we see development progressing further.
In what way was the ego-consciousness able so to work in the West that it felt itself related to Christ? What had happened to the souls who had prematurely taken up the ego-consciousness?
The Egyptian-Chaldean people waited for the spiritual or Consciousness Soul before they developed the ego; the Graeco-Latin peoples developed it in the Intellectual-Soul or soul of higher feeling; the culture of Northern Europe had prematurely developed the ego in the Sentient-Soul. That was in the human soul early in those countries; thus the Sentient-soul and the ego-consciousness worked together there in a different way than anywhere else in the world. In Northern Europe they first made themselves felt in the development of mankind. What was the result of the Ego-consciousness being firmly established in the Sentient-Soul in the European peoples, before a Christ had entered into the development of mankind, and before the latter had taken up what had been developed in Asia?
Because of this a force had been developed in the soul of man, together with the Sentient Soul, which could only have been developed through the Sentient-Soul being permeated with the ego-feeling while still quite virginal and uninfluenced by other civilisations. This permeation of the Sentient-Soul with the sense of self (the ego-sense) has grown into man's conscience. This accounts for the wonderful innocence of conscience! How does it speak? It speaks in the same way in the simplest and most primitive of men, as it does in the most complex soul. It says quite simply: that is right! that is wrong! without any theory or dogma. When it says: that is right, or that is wrong, what it tells us works with the might of an instinct or an urge. You will only find it developed in this way in the West. Therefore it throws its first rays like a rosy dawn, towards Greece and from thence towards Rome, where indeed we find it very strongly developed. We first meet with the word conscience, — conscientia — in the works of the Roman writers. Whereas among the Greeks we only find the first sporadic hints of it in Euripides, we find the Romans quite familiar with it, it had then become a word in general use. This is because of the influence of that strain of culture which came into being through the mutual inter-permeation of the Sentient-Soul and ego-feeling; for the ego-feeling, which lifts men up from the lowest to the highest, already speaks in the Sentient-Soul, — in which hitherto nothing spoke but instincts, desires and passions, — and speaks there like a voice from God, urging man to do what is right that he may press up to the higher ego.
In this way we can trace the first rise of conscience among the peoples of Europe. From thence it spreads its rays abroad to the other peoples of the Earth. Thus through a wise world-guidance, the humanity in one part of the world was so prepared that conscience could be added as a contribution to the whole collective development of humanity. We have now mentioned everything that can throw light upon conscience. We mentioned that indefinable attribute of conscience, its pressing forth from the depths of the soul. Conscience speaks like an urging impulse; but it is not an impulse. Those philosophers who so describe it, are far from hitting the mark. It speaks with the same power as does the Spiritual-Soul itself when it appears; but yet with elemental, original forces.
So, we see: Love appears on the earth in the East; Conscience in the West. The two belong together; as Christ appears in the East, so Conscience awakens in the West, that through it Christ may be accepted. In the simultaneous occurrence of the fact of the Christ-Event and the comprehension of it, and in the preparation for these two things in different parts of the Earth, we see the ruling of an infinite Wisdom guiding our development. We have thus indicated the past history of Conscience.
If we recollect what has often been emphasised, — that now, after the conclusion of Kali-Yuga, we are going through a transition in which new forces will have to be developed, — we shall easily understand that we are now faced with important questions regarding the further development of conscience. In the last lecture we strongly and clearly emphasised the fact that we are advancing towards a new Christ-Event, in that the soul will become capable of perceiving the Christ by means of a certain etheric clairvoyance, and of re-experiencing, in itself, the Event of Damascus. We are therefore justified in asking the question: What will happen as regards the parallel experience, that of the development of conscience, in the epochs towards which we are advancing? We will go into this question next Sunday (8th May), for the best way of celebrating our White Lotus Day will be to point out the living nature of the movement of Spiritual Science, and to explain that the conscience of man is in a state of transition. We shall see that light can be thrown upon it from many different sides. The public lecture will treat the subject quite exoterically, but even in these lectures many a thing can now be mentioned, because they have been going on for a number of years. Conscience can be spoken of in a deep sense, as we have done to-day, — or quite exoterically as we shall do on Thursday, — or it may be gone into yet more profoundly. But it will be some time before we can do that.