The Destiny of Individuals and of Nations
6. Spiritual Perception Essential at the Present Time
26 January 1915, Berlin
Due to circumstances, my departure has been postponed till tomorrow and so we can still have this evening together.
As usual, let us first of all direct our thoughts to the souls of those who are out at the front, having to stand up for the momentous events of our time.
Spirits of your souls, guardian guides,
On your wings let there be borne
The prayer of love from our souls
To those whom you guard here of earth.
Thus, united with your might,
A ray of help our prayer shall be
For the souls it seeks out there in love.
And for those who have already gone through the gate of death:
Spirits of your souls, guardian guides,
On your wings let there be borne
The prayer of love from our souls
To those whom you guard in the spheres.
Thus, united with your might,
A ray of help our prayer shall be
For the souls it seeks out there in love.
May the spirit who has gone through the Mystery of Golgotha — the spirit we have been seeking in our spiritual movement over the Years so that he was able to influence our mind deeply — may he be with you and with the hard duties you have to perform.
Dear friends, I want to use this extra evening we have been given, as it were, to comment on a number of unrelated points that may of value to us in one respect or another.
First of all let me point out that in spite of the materialism of the present age, or perhaps exactly because of the materialism of our age, the souls of people doing scientific work in certain fields are guided towards the existence of a spiritual world even though they do not really intend this. Let me give you a specific example. It would of course be possible to pick up a great many threads with regard to what I have just indicated, but I should like to refer to a pamphlet which has appeared quite recently. It is number twelve in a series now being published with reference to the war written by Professor O. Binswanger, the well-known psychiatrist, under the title Die seelischen Wirkungen des Krieges (The Psychological Effects of War). 34O. Binswanger: Die Seelischen Wirkungen des Krieges in the series of political pamphlets entitled Der Deutsche Krieg. Stuttgart and Berlin 1914. It is not my intention to take up the more detailed points made by Binswanger concerning the psychological effects of war but merely certain comments he made in this pamphlet. A scientist like Binswanger now feels compelled, as it were, to do more than just hint at the existence of a spiritual life. Yet he also feels obliged to apologize for this, pointing out that the present age is not inclined, where the enlightened are concerned, to believe in any such thing as a life of the spirit or of the soul. In his pamphlet Binswanger refers to the more than well-known fact that there has been a major increase in nervous diseases in our day. He discusses a number of contributory causes and on page 10 makes the significant statement: 'It may seem strange to some of you that I put such great emphasis on the psychological element in these nervous conditions.' He is a psychiatrist entirely in the materialistic way, yet finds it necessary to speak of the psychological element, the soul element, as one of the causes of the diseases he is particularly interested in.
‘What does the psychological element have to do with a nervous stomach, with a nervous heart, nervous pain in the back, arms and legs? All I can say is that it is the general medical opinion that in the final instance, pathological nervous reactions in many different organs and parts of the body are largely due to disorders in the psychological sphere.’
We see how someone whose researches lead him to consider the facts of soul life is forced by those facts to confess that nervous stomach complaints, nervous heart complaints, nervous pain in the back and, indeed, also in the extremities — conditions as a rule only considered from the materialistic point of view today — have their causes in disturbances in the soul life.
The modern scientist will however tend to go no further than making this admission. He will go no further, not one step further. In the first place it has to be admitted that we are not getting anywhere if the causes of pathological processes of the kind described are sought only in the physical sphere. Yet people still lack the courage and energy to do some serious investigation of spiritual scientific aspects. The moment people hear anything positive relating to the field of spiritual science they feel they no longer have solid ground under their feet, as it were; as though everything we are able to gain from the spiritual world by applying the methods of spiritual science lacked the security of certainty. For a psychiatrist this is doubly fatal, one might say. If the causes of certain physical conditions lie in the processes occurring in soul-life, it will have to be admitted that the best way to deal with such conditions is through treatment directed at the soul life.
But how is one to treat a soul if one has not developed any concept as to how the soul relates to the body? The prescriptions for getting rid of spiritual disorders, as it were, can only be taken from the spiritual world. Yet it is only possible to perceive the relationship between the spiritual world and the outer material world if we know something of that spiritual world. And so one gets a peculiar lack of precision, lack of logic, very peculiar reasoning, when such people attempt to speak about the relationship between body and soul in a really positive way. This is something we can demonstrate in the case of this particular scientist. A few pages further on — on page 23 — he says something very peculiar indeed. Wanting to speak of the Confidence he feels as to the successful conclusion of the German campaign in the light of his understanding of how the human soul is constituted, he says:
‘It is my conviction that the army whose soldiers have the better nerves will win, or, to put it in other words those with greater moral resilience.’
Let us consider this in all seriousness. A scientist who admits that the causes even of physical disorders, so-called nervous disorders, are psychological, says that victory is sure to go to the soldiers who have the better nerves, or — as he says— '...in other words, those with greater moral resilience'. It is hard to imagine anyone producing greater nonsense than this. Both statements are of course absolutely true, but it is nonsense to maintain that the one says the same as the other. Just imagine someone forming a very clear picture of the nervous system, able to trace this nervous system down to it smallest ramifications, and then saying that 'put in other words' stronger nerves are equivalent to greater moral resilience in a person. It means that purely physical nerve strands are, in other words, supposed to be moral resilience. The modern reader will, of course, fail to nonce such things. You will find he fails to notice the oddest things when reading anything he considers tremendously erudite. Such things are, nonetheless, genuine nonsense unless they are seen in relation to what spiritual science has to say about it. What view does spiritual science take of these things?
If we consider the moral power of a person, the moral element that ensouls him and fills the whole of his soul, it is in the first instance something entirely spiritual, nonphysical, something that has nothing to do with anything material. What we call the moral power of a soul is a spiritual power within it, in so far as this soul belongs to the spiritual world. When the soul returns to its body on waking up, as it always does, it uses the body as a tool for the physical world from the moment of waking until going to sleep. Between going to sleep and waking up the soul is living in the purely spiritual world, separate from its physical tool, the body,and it also gathers its moral power there. In the physical world, however, moral powers can be active only by using the physical body as their tool. They are in that case also active as spiritual powers. In the ego and astral body of man the element we call his moral power is active. It is something purely spiritual in them. But what does this purely spiritual element of moral power in the astral body and ego of man have to do with his nervous system?
Let me make a comparison. The moral power of a person has exactly as much to do with his nervous system as I have to do with the floor on which my feet are now standing. If the floor were not there, nor the ground on which it rests beneath it, I would be unable to stand here, being a physical human being. The floor has to be there, but it has nothing to do physically with anything within me. The floor or the ground has to be there for me to stand on. In the same way the nerves have to be there in the physical body merely to provide the Physical resistance which the moral powers of the astral body and the ego must encounter in the physical world in order to make their Presence felt.
There is another comparison I can make — one that really goes to the heart of the matter though it will be necessary to think it through in some detail before one can really see what lies behind it. I am going to use a comparison that again comes up in physical life.
Consider the process of digestion. It consists in some of the food stock becoming part of the organism whilst the rest is eliminated. If it were not possible for a certain part of our food to be eliminated, digestion would be impossible. The process of elimination has to be a very regular one. Yet no one would get it into their heads to say we obtain nourishment from the part of the food we eliminate. The processes going on in our nervous system when we develop moral Power within us are like processes of elimination, genuine processes of elimination in relation to what is fruitful for us, what really lies within us as our true human nature. The assertion of a specific moral impulse in the soul is connected with a process of elimination. The process of elimination — the part which drops out as it were, the waste material we produce—that is the process in the nervous system. This relates to what we are actually doing in the same way as the process of elimination relates to the process by which foods are assimilated in our digestion. People who refer to the spiritual process in which moral impulses are formed as a process in nervous system are really saying—with reference to another sphere — that human nutrition consists in elimination, and they then examine the products of elimination in order to establish what is particularly beneficial to man. That, then, is the back-to-front method used by materialistic science. The principle which the spirit has to eliminate in order to unfold is considered the real thing. In their efforts to get at the truth about the spirit modern scientists investigate exactly the things the spirit has no use for. The method is more or less like that used by someone examining the intestinal contents in order to find out what kind of substances man takes up into his muscles. One has to put this bluntly at times to show up the utter absurdity of modern materialism. The false picture produced by modern materialism carries such enormous conviction in the perverted mental climate of today that strong words have to be used in pointing out the nature of the terrible misconception which prevails.
I am now going to start from something quite different, though later we shall relate this to what I have already put before you. Let us consider the question of the different religious systems that have evolved in the course of human evolution. In the course of human evolution a number of different religious teachers have appeared, telling People one thing or another about conditions in the spiritual world. It really does not take much to arrive at a really clever view of those religious systems. (It is not really difficult to be clever in the present age, as we have seen with regard to a number of opinions held today. You know how this should be taken and that it does not imply criticism of the present age.)
Someone who may be considered clever can so easily point to the fact that different religious teachers have taught different things and draw the conclusion that none of it could therefore be true. For if it were to be true then surely they must all have taught the same. This in turn would lead to the conclusion that all the talk of higher worlds has been shown to be so full of contradictions that it cannot be considered to be based on anything that comes to mankind out of truth.
The only way of finding the right answer to the above question is to form an idea of how much of what man has lived through here on earth goes with him through the gate of death. You can easily form an idea of what we take with us if you consider the following. As soon as you close your eyes and put your hands over your ears you will see or hear nothing of the physical world around you. And now ask yourselves: How much of the impressions the soul takes into itself from morning to night, and how much of the ideas and concepts it holds within it, is in actual fact owed to the eyes and ears? If we had no eyes and ears, by far the greatest part of human soul content would simply not be there. Now, after death the human being quite definitely has neither eyes nor ears. Anything taken in through the eyes and ears can therefore only be carried through the gates of death through memory. There really is no need to reflect further on this. Anything taken in through the eyes and ears can only be carried through the gate of death as memory. The same applies to all the ideas we have formed on the basis of sensory impressions. And now you merely need consider how much has to be left behind when we enter into the spiritual world — everything which has come to man through external impressions is left behind.
What quality should an idea have if we are to take it with us through the gate of death? It most certainly cannot derive from any form of external impression; and one quality it must possess is that anyone thinking in materialistic terms will be able to say: ‘What you have before your mind's eye simply does not exist, for you are not able to see it with your eyes nor hear it with your ears.’ The nature of such an idea or concept must be such, therefore, that its subject is not perceptible to the outer senses, for anything we are able to perceive with the outer senses cannot go through the gate of death as an idea. My comment is that materialism is seduced into raising such objections because it is all the time talking of ‘being’ and ‘non-being’ without really understanding the ins and outs of ‘'being’ and ‘non-being’. It is sufficient for our present purpose to consider just the German language. The verb sein (to be) derives from sehen (to see). Anything said to be in ‘being’ therefore is said to be no more than ‘something I have actually seen’. All the rest of the talk about ‘being’, is really nothing more than communication about that what has been seen. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that we should not speak of the things we take with us through the gate of death in terms of ‘being’, for that would imply that we must have seen them with our physical eyes.
What did the founders of religions want to give to people in the ideas they presented?
They wanted to present ideas to people that would strengthen the spirit within them, endow it with the power of inner light. On passing through the gate of death and entering into the supersensible world man would then carry his own light, being able to illumine what he finds there out of his own power. People find it very easy to say: When I get you to tell me of the supersensible worlds how can I know that all these ideas are really correct?' Let us imagine someone was spreading ideas about the supersensible worlds, ideas accepted by a number of people, and these were in fact wrong, or one-sided, or did not turn out to be correct in the sense we speak of things being correct in the outer physical world. In such a case it would still have been better for people to have taken up the wrong ideas than to have taken up no ideas at all concerning the supersensible world. Why? It would have been better because the soul has to make an effort in accepting any kind of idea about the supersensible world. You may take up correct ideas or incorrect ideas but you have to make an effort, and it is this effort which counts in the spiritual world when we go through the gate of death. It is this effort that will benefit us after death or, indeed, benefits us altogether when we enter into the spiritual world.
Let us assume we had made our own what is a completely wrong view of the spiritual world. By taking it up we have developed our soul forces just as a gymnast develops his limbs. And whatever we have developed will be ours and we carry it with us into the spiritual world. By taking it with us into the spiritual world we then have something there that is similar to our having eyes here on earth. We shall no longer be blind in the spiritual world. Even if it were to be the case that everything we have taken up was wrong and the only thing we have done is to make an effort, this means we shall have developed the eye of the soul so that we are now able to see what it there in the spiritual world.
Now the situation is that the teachings of the different religious teachers are in no way completely wrong. It is rather that the truth concerning the supersensible world has been presented from different points of view and only appears to be contradictory. The one must be taken to complement the other. What is essential is that all these religious systems have something in common, and this is that they all provide the human soul with concepts the soul uses to make itself strong to enter the spiritual world, so that the soul is raised from death in its spiritual depths. Individual religious teachers give to the souls what those souls are capable of receiving, depending on the conditions given in individual races — I would say depending on climatic conditions of the country and on the time when such teachers come forth. They all have in common that they give power and strength to the souls of men. We may also say they make them radiant within so that the souls may be real not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual world. Food to strengthen the soul is the universal truth that has been given to men in all religious systems, depending on the given situation.
Our own age is now faced with the necessity gradually to accept a different view of the spiritual world compared to what people of Past ages were able to take in.
Certain ideas which have evolved with the flowering of modern science need to be strengthened inwardly in our age, to grow in inward Power so that these very ideas enable the soul to be alive in the spiritual world and not dead. It is through this that something more profound — more demanding but also more profound — than anything achieved in the various religions arises for the soul of its own accord. I have given a number of reasons over the years as to why our age is the one called to spiritual science. What I'd like to say is the following: For anyone close to spiritual life it is evident wherever we go — and that is what Is so deeply moving for us today — that one of the elements that has to come into the life of the present age, one form of leaven, is spiritual science.
Many, many souls have gone through the gate of death these last months, gone through the gate of death in the full vigour of youth. I have already told you that in the normal course of events the human beings whose souls have now gone through the gate of death could have expected to live longer on earth. When a human being goes through the gate of death we know that first of all he lays aside his Physical body and then, after a relatively short time, his ether body. This ether body then belongs to the outer ether world and the astral body and the ego continue to belong to the person concerned. It is usually said that the ether body dissolves in the spiritual world. But the time it takes to dissolve differs greatly. When a person has grown very old, i.e. has reached what we may call a normal life-span, he will have used up the forces of his ether body so that it dissolves quickly. But when a person goes through the gate of death in the vigour of youth, his ether body could still have served him for many years. This ether body is a cohesive, structured whole. It will not dissolve immediately in the second case. It will separate from the astral body and the ego and these will go their own ways in the spiritual world. The ether body will separate from them, but it will not dissolve immediately. It will seem quite natural to you that the human being maintains a certain connection with the ether body which has separated immediately but still continues to be present in the spiritual ether. We are therefore able to say that the sphere of this spiritual ether—taking it in absolute terms, close to the earth's aura — contains a very considerable number of unused ether bodies, ether bodies with vigorous forces. It is particularly impressive to see, when observing the spiritual world as it is at the moment, that we find there such a large number of unspent ether bodies. Something else may be noted at every point where we are able to be in touch with the feelings of the dead with regard to these, their ether bodies. (You are, of course, free to believe this or not. My only claim to credibility lies in the power of truth contained in what I have been telling you over many years.) As to the feelings one may perceive in the dead in relation to their ether bodies, one finds that a spiritual whisper reaches one, as it were, from all those who have now made the sacrifice of death: ‘The time has come! Mankind will only make rightful use of the unspent energies within our ether bodies if it becomes conscious of its relationship to the spiritual world.’
Many, many energies stream from those unspent ether bodies. They enter our world and men will only use them rightly if they direct their thoughts to the spiritual world. Then the energies from ether bodies given in sacrifice will be energies to benefit mankind. That, as it were, is what the dead are calling out to us today: ‘Do not allow our ether bodies to be wasted. Do not let the time go by when the energies of our unspent ether bodies are able to serve the spiritual progress of mankind.’
There is a special point I wish to make. On one or more previous occasions I have described the way in which it is possible to help the dead. Under specific conditions the dead are able to benefit if we make accessible to them, by reading to them, what we attain to in spiritual science. I have pointed out that it means much to a person who has gone through the gate of death when we read spiritual scientific material to them in the spirit, when we form a vivid picture of that person in our mind and read a chapter of spiritual science to them, not aloud of course, but in our thoughts. It could also be several or, indeed, many persons. This may seem absurd to people who believe that the whole spiritual world is present around the human being as he enters through the gate of death so that there is no need for us to read to him. But it is not all that absurd. Of course, someone who has died does have the spiritual world around him, he finds himself within it. But just as someone here on earth understands only little of the world of the senses although he is within it, so someone who has died does not have full knowledge of the spiritual world merely by virtue of going through the gate of death, even though he will then be within that world. Such knowledge has to be acquired. When we read to someone who has died it is as though we were giving him food — it flows into him. In the time that lies ahead mankind will be able to achieve much strength-giving power where spiritual things are concerned by using the mantram I have always used at the beginning of our meetings: ‘Spirits of your souls, guardian guides...’ and so forth (in the version making reference to ‘those whom you guard in the spheres...’ for those who have fallen in battle). Usually this Method can be used only with the dead whom we have known personally, but this particular mantram can also be addressed to those among the dead who were not personally known to us. Having used this mantram with true reverence we are then able to read out into the unknown, as it were. Dead people who have gone to their death in consequence of the events of the present time will be able to receive this. They will be able to gain benefit from this connection with us and use it to influence cultural developments on earth through their ether bodies. They will be working together with the people living on earth to advance spiritual life.
There is something else we can achieve in this way. It is perfectly true that we have been living in an age of the most miserable materialism and that the events of the war have triggered something which clearly bears the marks of spiritual life. Anyone travelling through Germany and observing people spiritually could note an enormous difference in spiritual life between July 1914, or even earlier, and then in August, September and especially now. The difference which emerges is that before everybody had his own egoistic aura that was well closed in upon itself and clung to a person, as it were. Now a common aura may be seen, with people's thoughts flowing into it as something uniform. All thoughts going in one direction — that is something highly significant in spiritual terms. It means that for this time of war something has been created in the spirit that was not there before. This is quite undeniable.
But now imagine — for that is how it will have to be — that peace returns. Then souls will grow all the more empty and barren unless they are able to find some kind of spiritual asset out of their inner life. It is something men have need of at all times, that they direct their thoughts to something that has nothing to do with any external reality. In some form or other this strengthens them for the spiritual world. Ideas concerning the supersensible world will strengthen them with regard to the good powers in the supersensible world. Ideas not relating to the supersensible or ideas not justifiable with regard to the supersensible will also strengthen men for the supersensible world, though in that case for the Luciferic or Ahrimanic world. But it simply is part of the makeup of human beings that the spiritual wants to come to expression within them. We might put it like this: Man has to have something that does not hold true for the external world. If he has refused for a long time to take anything into his soul that does not hold true for the external world then there will be a reaction, a reaction to the effect that he will have to believe in something that does not hold true for the external world. Such beliefs may then take hold of human souls in the strangest way. Certain souls completely subject to materialism may nevertheless be religious in an external sense. And such souls may experience that reaction in a particular way. They may, for instance — how shall I put it — all be in accord in believing that some people, some race with its own culture, were a race of barbarians, and they may make this an article of faith. Leaving aside certain other aspects, this is nothing more than the soul's yearning for faith, for something that has no reality in the physical world. It is because they are no longer in the habit of applying their minds to what is genuinely supersensible that such men then fill their souls with the belief that some people or other are barbarians. This becomes an article of faith, a dogma, that is now as fanatically adhered to as they previously adhered to various religious dogmas. It is a substitute for a faith that has long been absent. We need to realize, however, that in the long run this will not do. Once peace has been restored People will no longer be able to have this real-world substitute that finds expression in the belief that some people or other are barbarians. And then emptiness comes, dreadful desolation. That is the prospect for those regions where people are today creating a faith, creating dogmas for themselves in a way that at times is downright disgusting, being nothing but lies. A terrible emptiness of soul will be experienced in those regions. And this emptiness of soul can only be combated if the unspent ether forces of those dedicated to sacrificial death are used in the right way, as I have described. That is why all of them are saying to us — reminding us, as it were, to use their ether forces rightly — and expressing it in form of a spontaneous discovery made as they went through death: ‘Now is the time!’ Mankind has to develop spiritually and these events must now be seen as a twilight state out of which a new Sun-state shall arise.
That is the thought which should fill the hearts and minds of those who suffer great losses: Our age desperately needs to become spiritual, and this will be possible only with help from the spiritual world. The means of providing such help have to come out of painful events like those we are now living through.
To the spiritual scientist it is immediately obvious that these events should not be considered from a materialistic point of view only. Yet a purely materialistic way of looking at these events is about all one can find. It may happen — and we have seen this happen — that a number of people in one part of the world feel that there is hostility towards them and therefore issue some form of proclamation. This proclamation reaches enemy territory and from this enemy territory the question is put: ‘Who was it who wanted this war?’ Or the other party is accused of having wanted the war. Again and again they forget the one thing which must be understood if a deeper insight is to be gained into the situation. Some good for the future will also come out of looking into things more deeply. It has to be understood that all these events are indeed willed out of the spiritual world, because the spiritual world needs the powers that may be the fruits arising from the seed of those unspent ether bodies. If accusations were to be levelled one would also have to level them at the spiritual world. But there all thought of blame goes from one's mind. There we become aware of the iron necessity which exists, the iron necessity which, from the point of view of the spiritual worlds, has to regard our earth world in about the same way as we have to regard a situation where it is necessary to consume so and so much, kill it, take it out of its natural context by force, in order to build up something else. We can not build a house unless we destroy so-and-so many rock formations' There is no point here in speaking of blame. We have to speak of necessity in this case. And in the same way it is necessary in the spiritual world to demand the sacrifices that are now being demanded because seed is needed. This seed consists in the unspent ether bodies which will then be present in all that develops for humanity, and these have to be available if evolution is to proceed. Otherwise mankind would lack the energies it needs to progress. Today's events have their outward significance but, in addition, we must also take these facts fully into account if we want to understand their true inward meaning.
Taking this point of view, we say to ourselves: I may not be able to know from the beginning if everything I am receiving from the spiritual world is ‘correct’, as they say. One thing is true, however, and that is that by uniting these revelations from the spiritual world with my own soul I am exerting my soul, and in this way I am giving it powers so that my soul grows luminous for the spiritual world, is given eyes for the spiritual world.
Conditions are, however, different in the spiritual world than they are in the physical world. In the physical world we can be satisfied once we have formed a thought and recognized its truth. It is sufficient for the practical life of the physical world to have perceived the truth of a thought just once. What I mean is this: If a body of judges wants to establish whether a person is guilty in a particular case, the matter is settled once the conclusion has been reached that the person is guilty. Everything that is necessary has then been done. In the spiritual world, however, everything has not been done once a conclusion has been reached or a thought has been formed. It is necessary for the thought to recur over and over again. What matters in spiritual terms is the repetition. It is not just a matter of knowing something about things but of ever and again making that thought present in the soul. This is also what meditative life is based on, that we have the content of the meditation present in the soul by constant repetition. Anything made constantly present in this way will truly have the power to act like the drops falling on a stone that will finally make a hollow. A single drop falling on to a stone will leave no impression. Nor will it do so if it falls ten times or a hundred times. But in the end it will make a hollow. When we take such things into our soul just once it might appear that they make no impression at all. Nor will they if taken in ten times. But if we are patient we can get to the point where we perceive the essential core that is eternal in man. It is the power we develop in the process that matters. People tend to run away from this power. They do not want it. Why is it that they do not want this power?
The question as to why people do not want this power, why they fight shy of spiritual science even today, can be answered if we briefly look again at the significance of the images for life after death presented in spiritual science. The images which are most important after death are those which do not depict anything belonging to the outer world, do not relate to external existence and are such that a crude materialist will say they are of no significance in life. Yet it is these images which are the most important after death. To form such images calls for such a great power of reflection, of deliberation and attunement, that it will make the soul strong, letting it experience itself, perceive itself, in the spiritual world. Those are the images the souls needs on going through the gate of death.
How can we gain such images? We know the answer. We do so by exerting the soul to a greater degree than it normally exerts itself. If we want to take in the images the modern scientist takes in we merely need to look, if necessary through a microscope or telescope. We can stay nice and passive as we receive impressions of the world and record them. That is only too common. No one likes to make an inner effort, for with things that are invisible it takes greater effort than with things that are visible. And greater effort in thought is what People shy away from, run away from. We are really inwardly lazy, if you will forgive such harsh words; we like to take things easy. The most profound characteristic of modern scientific endeavour is this inner laziness — going for the easy way, not wanting to call forth power from the soul. But if we do this, if we call forth such powers from the soul, what effect does this have after death? Well, we do gain something for life after death out of these powers we have called forth, but it is something we usually do not like at all, because we tend to live with a certain illusion. Let me tell you why we usuallY do not like it. When we enter the spiritual world through death or through initiation, something has to be experienced after death that is like a second death. It is a kind of second death- As you know, we later have to separate also from our astral body and this maY be done consciously or we can sleep through it. There is a certain fear in people's hearts which they do not interpret correctly. It is the fear of waking up so much after death that they will then be conscious of everything around them. That fear is entirely the same as the one men have in the physical world, where they would find it preferable not to live their physical life too intensively, not to be fully awake all the time, but rather go through life in a bit of a haze. Life would be more pleasant that way. And the most comfortable way of all would be to spend all one's life in bed, going through life half asleep. Yet this cannot always be done. The human being has to wake up. And if he has been in a haze concerning what happens after death up to the point in time I have mentioned, he cannot be allowed to go on being in a haze after death. Man must wake up. But he is still afraid of this! Even people who come as close to spiritual science as a scientist who says that nervous disorders affecting the back, the arms and the legs arise from the soul sphere will struggle to resist. He will struggle because he is desperately afraid. He will be like someone who says: 'Something is missing. It's been stolen. The wind cannot have carried it away, so it cannot have been removed by natural forces — some person must have taken it.' And he will stop at that point. He won't go further because he is afraid he may get beaten up. That is how some scientists behave, Binswanger for example. They say that certain nervous disorders affecting the arms, legs and so on are psychological in origin. But they will stick at that. They do not go further because they are afraid of getting beaten up — ahem! — I mean because they like to sleep through what goes on in the spiritual world.
Something we have to become aware of is that modern scientists actually are brought face to face with the effects produced by the spiritual world but refuse to tackle that world. Once these scientists are prepared to tackle the spiritual world they will have to understand that it is not permissible to talk about conditions relating to the spiritual world in just any kind of general terms, but that spiritual science has to be approached in a positive way so that the very act of turning one's mind to spiritual science becomes a kind of healing Process. That is how one thing goes with another. It is not that mental illness as such has increased — it would be wrong to think so — but it is a fact that the type of condition we may call a nervous disorder has spread a great deal in more recent times. If things continue the way they have been going until now the result will be that nervous disorders have to get worse and worse and this will show itself in the course human evolution is taking.
It would be possible to quote some very interesting facts. Let us take one very simple case. There is the Austrian poet Robert Hamerling [1830-89], an excellent poet, some of whose work has also been presented to this group. This man spent much of the second half of his life in bed. He was very ill suffering from a serious illness that was gradually getting worse and worse. He did not develop a nervous condition, however. There is nothing of a nervous quality about his writing. Even when he was only able to lie on one side and was in the most terrible pain when writing, his style was not what we would call 'nervous'. The reason is that he belonged to that Central European culture which has not yet fallen into nervousness the way the spiritual life of other European peoples has done. The nervous state does not take anything away from the life of the spirit, but the facts still must be seen clearly. I have seen how in the 1870s and 1880s People still had a feeling for the things Robert Hamerling had to offer, for instance, and then suddenly in the 1880s tremendous enthusiasm came up for Dostoevsky. [1821-81] Of course I do not want to take anything away from Dostoevsky, but what he mainly has to offer is a very nervy, twitchy art, however great. Such nervy art would develop if the stream of materialism were to go on and on, for Dostoevsky's art is materialistic even if it is psychology’.
If this is not to happen it will be necessary to develop the great powers which the human soul has to come up with to enter into lines of thought like the one that says Saturn, Sun and Moon are earlier stages of earth evolution. Just try and present ideas like Saturn evolution, Sun evolution and so on to a proper modern man, expecting him to exert his mind to the point where such things seem absolutely natural. It is possible to find such things absolutely natural, but the soul has to make considerable efforts to reach that point, and the result will be that the nervousness is driven out. It does require patience, but the nervousness will be driven out. The general nervousness which would otherwise affect the whole of human civilization will be cured if men take up what arises from spiritual science through the widening of the spiritual stream. In a situation where mankind is in danger of going all twitchy, spiritual science comes from the other side to offer a cure.
A psychiatrist who has not yet entered into spiritual science will have to admit to himself that nervous symptoms are on the increase. On the basis of spiritual science, however, he may then perhaps be forced to admit that the best cure for nervous conditions is to tell his patients: ‘Take a book on spiritual science for three-quarters of an hour every day and try to think it through; this will make your nerves much stronger.’ They will definitely get stronger. But we shall only be able to believe this if we clearly understand that our soul life relates to nerve function only in so far as it initiates processes of elimination, as we have shown in the comparison made at the beginning of this lecture. The soul life cannot be cured by putting particular emphasis on eliminatory processes but only by strengthening from within the aspect which has nothing to do with the eliminatory processes. The soul must impregnate this by letting spiritual energies stream into itself. A time will come when prescriptions are written on the basis of spiritual science, prescriptions making use of one thing or another that can only be found through spiritual science, and this will apply particularly to the diseases of more recent times. Of course we are not anywhere near it yet. For a long time to come it will be thought that there is sufficient evidence to show that any kind of therapy that could be labeled ‘mystical’ is claptrap. The label ‘mysticism’ will be all the more freely applied the less people know what mysticism really is. We are the ones who use the term ‘mysticism’ least often. We use it only as a technical term. On the other hand, it is used most of all by people who have no idea as to the nature of mysticism.
In getting a clear idea of these things we cannot hide from the fact that we are living in a significant time of crisis. I have said on a number of occasions that I am not in the habit of saying we live in a time of transition. Every period has something that went before and something that is to follow. The point is to recognize the concrete nature of the transition, the specific sense in which a time is one of transition. In our own time, the concrete part of it is that everything that is now happening points to one thing: Men must find the way to Comprehend the spiritual worlds. They will find calm, inner firmness and inner certainty in those spiritual worlds. That is what mankind is in absolute need of.
If you want to let this idea really come to life in your soul of how a new kind of calm has to be won for the soul out of spiritual science, it is a good idea to meditate on the following. It is truly significant that for the last three or four centuries people gradually had to accept the idea that they are rushing through space, genuinely rushing through space. Of course anybody can say they know this. But people do not usually reflect on this — a fact they already learned at school — that they are rushing through space at tremendous speed.
This more or less brings to mind the story of the man lying in a ditch who was very comfortable as he lay there and yet felt highly dissatisfied. Asked as to the reason for his dissatisfaction, seeing that he did not have to do anything, he replied that after all he had to revolve around the sun with the earth but would find it more convenient to stay behind. That was a man who had taken the notion of that revolution seriously. As a rule people do not think about this, for there is an element in man which he does not normally keep in mind.
To continue in our line of thought: Over the last three or four hundred years people have got used to the thought of being part of the earth as it rushes through space. Resistance has to be put up against this, resistance coming from cosmic space. It really is true that there Was a feeling of security in the old thought that the earth stood still and the sun was moving. Now it will be a long time yet before people come to realize that the Copernican view Copernicus, Nicolas (1473–1543). is not correct. Things are not the way they are taught today. It will however be possible to reach a point where life is brought into the concepts of non-physical science to the effect that a person may be sitting in a railway carriage or travelling by boat and make such inner efforts to counteract the rumbling noises that he will cease to hear them, being wholly contained within himself. That can only be done today with the help of spiritual science-It must be remembered, however, that constant repetition will be required, for it is the strength developed in the process that matters. Then we remain contained within ourselves, calm and sure. This is a good subject for meditation: The powers of the spiritual world will be able to come in and join us if we go out to meet them in the right way in such calm. They can only enter into our awareness if we go out to meet them with the kind of living idea I have described to you
That characterizes the period of transition we live in. That is the transition in which we really find ourselves. A longing for the spiritual world is definitely present in human souls, though most people do not yet know it. A conscious longing for the spiritual world will however develop out of the particular events that now involve such a large part of the earth. Something the spiritual scientist is already aware of today is that all the unused ether bodies given in sacrifice will release a truly profound longing for the spiritual world. This most profound longing will come, the longing for a truth that has to be won not through external observation but inwardly, through efforts made by the soul. The German spirit is indeed prepared for this. It is prepared for a truth that reveals itself to be true out of itself, not requiring external verification. The German spirit is prepared for this and evidence of this may be found everywhere. The thoughts of those who were truly working within the essence of the German spirit have always taken the form of considering truth to be an inner gift of the human soul. What would such a person say to many of the things happening in the present time? During the first days of August statements appeared in the foreign press that Hamburg fay in ruins, that the Russians had entered Stettin and even Cologne. And all kinds of other things were spread about as well. As you know, the Emperor Franz Joseph died on 8 September! 36Rudolf Steiner was using irony here, referring to a rumour. Franz Joseph died on 21 November 1916. What would a person of the type I characterized above have to say to this?
‘Brass may be sold for gold by some, forged bills of exchange rather than genuine ones, more than one side may claim a lost battle as a victory, and other lies concerning physical things and isolated events may be made credible for a time. But when it comes to knowledge of the essential reality where the conscious mind has direct certainty of its own existence, the thought of deception or illusion falls away.’
That could have been written out of the depths of what had to be experienced today. It was written by Hegel 37Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770–1831). See Phänomenologie des Geistes (VIb); Die Aufkärung (Phil. Bibl. Bd. 114, Leipzig 1907 p.358). who died in 1831. This is What is so strange: if someone is profoundly moved by the inner reality of truth he will say things that hold true for all times. What has been said out of an awareness of truth can be put forward again at all times. This is something that has to be said concerning the particular nature of the Central European spirit, concerning its very Special relationship to the truth. No one who takes the trouble to find out about these things can deny it. Today one has the feeling, of course, that one needs to ask again and again: ‘For what purpose have People been studying history?’ Perhaps they never actually have. It really is as though their souls had only been born after 1 August 1914, making no use at all of anything that happened earlier to help them form an opinion. But in the final instance all this exists only to make the reaction all the more powerful and intense, to arouse an even more powerful and intense desire for a truth that is true in itself. That is the nature of the transition we are going through now, at a time when this inner bond with the truth is often lacking and shows itself to be lacking. The reaction will be a most profound longing for the truth. Then the souls incarnated in bodies here will hear what those other souls are saying to them, the souls which have prepared themselves through their sacrificial death at this time to learn more of the truth than is generally known today.
That is what I have wanted to say to you in this lecture, to reaffirm once again what I have said on several occasions now in our time Concerning the way the events of the present time speak to us in a living way. For it is true: these events do speak of it. They offer courage and comfort to those who surrender to them ready to make sacrifices, to those who feel grief in considering the events of the present time — courage and comfort to lend new strength:
Out of courage shown in battle,
Out of the blood shed in war,
Out of the grief of those who are left,
Out of the people's deeds of sacrifice
Spirit fruits will come to grow
If souls with knowledge of the spirit
Turn their mind to spirit realms.