The Mystery of Death
10. The Significance of Central Europe's Position Between East and West — Ahrimanic Inspiration and Spiritual Impulses
15 May 1915, Prague
When we gather at such an occasion at which an own room is dedicated to our efforts which we can give a spiritual character commensurate with our spiritual-scientific feeling, it is good to think of the big viewpoint which we want to get as supporters of spiritual science towards the world and its phenomena, its tasks, its big riddles. How should our time, our distressing time full of ordeals not urge our souls to get a more far-reaching viewpoint? In particular in our time, one has to long for a viewpoint that reaches farther than the external life and external human efforts.
Out of the tasks and the efforts of our spiritual-scientific world view we put up a sculptural group at an important place in our new Dornach construction. This sculptural group should explain that which our souls should feel in the most intimate and also in the deepest sense. This group contains a central figure. One may call this central figure Christ; one may also call it the divine in the human being which tries to position itself in the right way in the world. One may call this middle figure the “human being,” the cosmic human being, expressed in an earthly personality as Christ was expressed in the earthly personality in a temporal-historical life by Jesus of Nazareth.
But two other figures will be on the sides of this middle figure, the one on top like on a rock, winged, but falling off from the rock. Because of the peculiar posture of the hand of the middle figure, expressing neither hatred nor power, but inner firmness a strength is achieved by which the figure on the rock on top, the winged figure, breaks the wings and falls down into the depth. This breaking of the wings — this must be well expressed in this sculpture — is not achieved because the human being, who stands in the middle, the Christ-human being, breaks the wings, but because he stretches out his hand in his spirituality, the other, the winged being, does not endure that, and because he finds that unbearable for his being which lives below, he himself breaks his wings by internal strength and falls off. You have to record the fact that this being throws down himself that he is not thrown down by any adversary.
Below inside the rock we see another figure tied up in chains. This is eager to turn up the earth from below. But he does not cope in his striving with that which flows out from the downwards directed hand of the middle figure. He writhes because he is thrown back by his own nature and by the strength of the middle figure.
You anticipate that in this group is expressed what we call the Christ-principle of our universe in the middle figure, the luciferic principle in the angel falling off from the rock, and the ahrimanic principle in the figure in the cave which strives from below upwards. I endeavoured to design the three figures as very similar portraits — we may express such a matter in this intimate circle, — so that one really gets an impression of the form which Ahriman takes on appearing to the human being in such a connection, and also of the physiognomy of Lucifer which he takes on appearing to the human being. Until our days, the western religious world view lacks the knowledge that Ahriman and Lucifer work in the whole world interrelation.
Publicly one can only indicate the matters because today people still recoil from precisely expressing these matters. However, we remember that even in the yesterday's public lecture I said that the human being is led by meditation, on one side, to a region where he feels lonesome in his innermost nature and helpless, on the other side, to a region where he feels being penetrated in his nature with fear and powerlessness. What threatens us if we strive unilaterally only for freeing ourselves from the material, what threatens us if we strive for the spiritual in the abstract this is that we are seized by the luciferic principle. What threatens us if we only strive down for the material if we live longing for the material where we appear as fossilized — as I have explained it in the public lecture yesterday — this is the ahrimanic principle. And the human being stands between the luciferic and ahrimanic principles.
This must be recognised. But we have also to recognise correctly that it is not sufficient for us to say: we have to remove anything luciferic and ahrimanic from ourselves. — All the emotions of hatred and fear which we summon up against the luciferic and the ahrimanic elements are not good, actually, for our human nature. We have to realise that Ahriman and Lucifer have their justification in the whole universe. That is why it is indicated in the sculptural figure that Christ does not want to overcome Lucifer and Ahriman because He hates them or wants to harass them, but that Lucifer and Ahriman overcome themselves. It is wrong to develop feelings in us, as if we had to reject Ahriman and Lucifer, as if we had to fight against them directly. Even the normal divinity permeating the world did not order in its wise guidance of the universe that Ahriman and Lucifer are not allowed to exist in the guidance of the universe. They are there.
If we ask ourselves where the luciferic principle does exist in the human development even today, then we have to look at the East. In the East, in Asia and in the European Russia, Lucifer prevails in the culture. Although the Russian element has a vocation to develop the spirit-self in future, as I explained in the series of talks on the mission of the folk-souls, the threat exists that the Russian culture is entangled by Lucifer. It is on the way to experiencing that. The luciferic principle consists of the fact that good spirits lag behind. In the Greek-Orthodox Church was a good spirit until the sixth, seventh centuries. But a spirit that is good at a certain time changes into a luciferic spirit if it is detained beyond this time. Adhering to the orthodox religion means “to be in Lucifer's claws.” And that is much more the case with the spiritual forms that develop in the East that were justified in ancient times. Because they preserve themselves, they run into in the luciferic element. Everywhere in the East, we find many people who have to go through something in the luciferic element. Everywhere in the West, we find the souls imbued with the ahrimanic element, in America above all. In America the trend exists to develop a civilisation which is imbued completely with the materialistic ahrimanic element which is infiltrated with purely material views, even where one strives for spiritualism. Even where one strives for spirituality, one wants to seize the spirits, as it were, with the hands like the spiritualists. This tendency becomes stronger and stronger, and the longing for the material becomes bigger and bigger. It will also seize the west of Europe gradually. There the mission is fulfilled to introduce the ahrimanic element into civilisation.
These are the big points of view I had in my eye: that we see how we are roped in between the luciferic principle of the East and the ahrimanic principle of the West in Central Europe, but that we have a vocation to rise toward the forces that are shown by the Christ-principle. This principle makes Lucifer break his wings by overcoming the feeling of powerlessness, and, on the other side, emits forces against Ahriman which push back any fear of knowledge of the spiritual world. Because you cannot hold up the ahrimanic element pulsating through the world, it is there. Also Central Europe is seized by this ahrimanic element. People must only know how they have to position themselves to it, because the course of the ahrimanic element is the course through materialism. This course through materialism must be, and it has a deep wisdom-filled reason why this course through materialism must be.
Imagine that there is a one-sided religious movement — I expressly say “one-sided” religious movement, also in Christianity, and manifests itself in the element of Jesuitism the strongest. Think that it always turns against the real scientific progress. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church did only acknowledge the Copernican world view in the 19th century. The one-sided religion combats the external science, of course, this cannot be different. Two impulses are in this fighting against the external science. One impulse is that the one-sided religion may feel: in science which is done only in view of the external world Ahriman shows himself. This aspect of the quarrel is justified. Ahriman cannot be kept away from the external science if it does not look up to the spiritual world view; this is justified. However, the impulse of the one-sided religion against science is not justified.
This one-sided religious world view itself is inspired, is ensouled, so to speak, by the luciferic element in particular. Since striving for religious deepening and hating the scientific investigation of spiritual worlds is that Lucifer wants from the human beings. Lucifer could not arrive better at his goal, if all human beings were only religious. This religious attitude has a tremendously strong selfish impact. Imagine only how the human beings who do not strive for spiritual knowledge understand their religion. They want egotistically to become blest, live egotistically after death, as they imagine it. They want egotistically to be embodied only once in the world. In the one-sided religion, egoism has reached its peak, egoism of the soul, not only of the body. The best religious aspirations which surround us are in this egoism. The most pious people who touch us by their devoutness — Lucifer is he who controls their religious feelings. Lucifer prefers to get a lot of devout souls who have a sense for the spiritual, for the good they aim at egotistically. Because he does not want criminal souls, he wants to lead just the devout souls into his realm.
So we have, on the one side, the justified scientific element, which stands just at the threshold to the ahrimanic if it does not look up to the spiritual world, on the other side, the luciferic element which would be enslaved by selfish religiousness also in Central Europe unless the spiritual world view brought in a spiritual knowledge. This will be the progress of Christianity. It is exceptionally valuable to our souls if we penetrate ourselves with the knowledge that we stand between that what must be there, to the luciferic and ahrimanic elements from which we cannot escape which lose, however, their power if we recognise them. This is the characteristic of the spiritual world: if we recognise it, it loses the power through which it makes the human beings obsessed. Lucifer and Ahriman are invisible. If we get an idea of them in space and time, they lose their power over us.
You must not believe that if a person has a premonition of a bad spirit because of his clairvoyant capacity but does not behold it, the person does something worse when he represents the bad spirit pictorially or plastically. On the contrary, the following is correct: the spirit loses its power as a result of the sensory view. People will no longer become nervous by spiritually putting a figure, but the spirit as an invisible power loses its significance as an invisible force, and we consciously position ourselves in it. As God Himself uses Lucifer and Ahriman to put the world from East and to West back to the right track, so that the world does not experience an irregular development, but advances like by a pendulum movement, in the same way the world government lets the luciferic of the East, the ahrimanic of the West be effective.
However, it also poses the difficult and big task for us in Central Europe to look at this pendulum movement correctly. This pendulum is, actually, a small boat, as if a small boat were appended to a pendulum clock. In this small boat the souls of Central Europe are sitting who strive rightly for spirituality. These souls really have to dive in it and know that they have to grasp the right balance point. They have to recognise what is behind the threshold of the everyday consciousness; they have to take up it in their consciousness. Our present grievous days are admonitions above all to those who already anticipate a little bit of that which approaches the world in future.
It does not concern that within the war an external victory is won by the one or the other side, but it concerns how people live after this victory. Imagine that the Central European nations were victorious, however, on the field of this victory the purely materialist-ahrimanic world view would spread out and this would be detained by the luciferic element. If the East, on one side, and the West, on the other side, penetrated the Central European spirituality, an external victory would also not be salutary for this Central Europe. Since centuries, the human beings are penetrated rather strongly by the ahrimanic-luciferic element without noticing it. Imagine only that it was necessary to reject the oriental-luciferic element in our Central European theosophical movement. For that which we got as theosophy from the East was infiltrated by Lucifer and led also in its extreme to the recognition of an external human idol, a physically reincarnated Christ. This was the quarrel we had to have about the unjustified interpretation of the theosophical world view.
But we must be clear to us that we have to recognise correctly in Central Europe how we have to imagine what approaches humankind in future. We learn to see just by that which spiritual science can be to us that materialism, the materialistic world view is not allowed to extend about the area prepared for Central Europe. Those have to strive to prevent it who anticipate a little bit of the fact that a spiritual world view really spreads out, floating over Central Europe and radiating from there to the whole earth. It would be imaginable, externally imaginable as a hypothesis that this Central Europe would serve a materialistic civilisation after a victory. Then Ahriman would reap the fruits of this victory. This must be prevented.
Think only of such a tragic figure like Ernst Haeckel. Goethe wrote a theory of evolution. Since 1884, I attempt to make it clear to the people that it is a theory of evolution which is spiritual in the highest sense. But people cannot understand it in the deep way in which it is given there. When Darwin put it up trivially, people understood the teachings which could flow into their hearts and souls. The teachings had got a materialistic colouring. Take such a tragic figure like Ernst Haeckel. He got any thought, any fiber of his scientific life from England. Huxley, Locke, Darwin were his masters. Today Ernst Haeckel is somebody who turns mostly against England, he is one of the most furious fighters — as far as he can be it as an old man. He stood at the head of those who sent back their medals, certificates and honourings to England. However, it does not matter to send back medals and honourings unless the English coloured Darwinism is sent back.
And still some other things are there. The souls are prepared for materialism best of all if they are in a half-sleeping state for the external life, so to speak, if they are still childish souls. One does not notice that one can bring into the souls ideas which prepare them best of all to accept the materialistic view as a matter of course. Ahriman accomplished this, while he let a very effective spirit come into being who planted the tendency of materialism in the childish souls, unnoticed by the British people, without the human beings being aware of it. This is the exceptionally ingenious author of Robinson Crusoe. If anybody plants the ideas of Robinson in the childish souls, they get the propensity for materialism. In the book even religion comes into being of its own accord, as well as cabbages grow up. Nowhere is reflected on anything that should flow in from the spiritual world. See only Robinson moving through the world. There was a time of the literary development in Central Europe when imitations of Robinson existed in many languages. So many translations of Robinson are there. One cannot count them at all. So deep is this there inside. But the Central European culture has to show the way to spirituality again. And really a higher guidance inspired the brothers Grimm to collect fairy tales. If we give these fairy tales to our children instead of the ahrimanic Robinson, we bring them the propensity for spiritualism.
One is painfully affected if one — all that is symptomatic — experiences the following: a very significant philosopher of Austria, Ernst Mach, wrote a book, Analysis of Sensations, which was of great importance for many who want to think philosophically today. On the third page, he speaks of self-knowledge. We know that self-knowledge is exceptionally important, as I have often explained. Ernst Mach gives a proof of the fact that self-knowledge is rather difficult even for the external world. He tells: I passed a shop window where I saw my own picture, my own figure meeting myself. I thought: what an unpleasant, disgusting person meets me there. I myself was it. — Thus he said. He himself was it who has known himself so little that he said to his mirror image: what an unpleasant, disgusting person. And to make that clear completely, he adds: when he was already a professor, he had once returned from a trip at night and had got in a bus. When he got in, he saw in the mirror a man getting in and said to himself again: what a down-and-out schoolmaster is getting in there? So he adds: I knew the appearance of my type better than my individual appearance.
If it is already so difficult for a person who does not often see himself in a mirror — this speaks for Ernst Mach that this has taken place — to recognise the external figure, then one will get an inkling how difficult it is to get self-knowledge in the soul. It is just this, however, what is necessary: attaining self-knowledge in the soul. I would like to say, it affects somebody almost tragically if one reads up in the same book even farther, and Ernst Mach speaks of the education of his son and says from really serious soul: thanks to God — no, he does not say that, but something that is commensurate with it — never did my children read any fairy tales. So they were not introduced in a spiritual world by fantastic ideas resulting from reading fairy tales. — There we see that nesting in the souls of the present which wants to lead the Central European culture to Ahriman. One has to say: that does not concern to be victorious, but that the right attitude of mind is victorious on the basis of the victory.
We are also heavily burdened in Central Europe, even in the case of a victory. Because we are connected with something that is infiltrated very luciferically. It was once a benefit for Europe that from South Europe the Arabian, Moorish culture spread out. For the past, it was justified, but today it has become ahrimanic. We are heavily burdened with the alliance with the Ottoman Empire. 1the Ottoman Empire entered the First World War on the side of the Central European powers in 1914. We have to find the correct standpoint and not believe that we can arrange our sensations according to external political viewpoints.
The life of the external world is not suited to prevent Ahriman. The external banal literature leads directly to the ahrimanic principle and pours scorn on the attempts to clearly see the powers working into our world. That is why that must appear as a big warning, which appears to us under the sign of blood and grief; to make the present souls inclined to get the gifts of the spiritual life. Our souls have to tend to that which was prepared in the Central European culture especially expressing that we are put pendulum-like between two powers permeating the world and that we must find the balance. We have to realise that, on the one side, the world strives for ahrimanic hardening, strives to get solidified in the fire of the purely material; that it strives, on the other side, to ascend egotistically to an abstract spirituality.
Following the one or other side would ruin the Central European human being. Following only the science engaged in the external senses would persuade us to tear the roses from the cross and only to look at that which solidifies. We would gain a world view gradually which would completely deflect the human being from looking at the spiritual. It would allow to only looking at that which has solidified ahrimanically. Try to imagine the ideals of the ahrimanic science: it is a world of whirling atoms, a purely material world creation. One wishes to throw everything spiritual out of this world-picture. One wants to imagine, and one teaches it already the children at school, that once whirling gaseous masses were in the universe from which the sun formed which then again pushed off the planets. One makes it clear to the children at school, while one does an oil drop in water, pushes a small round paper sheet at its equator through it, pierces it with a pin in the middle and turns the pin then. Small drops are split off that way; a small planetary system comes into being. Of course, it is proved what one shows in such a way, but one forgets the most important fact that the teacher must turn the pin. In truth, however, you have to conceive a big Mr. Teacher turning the whole matter in space, if you want to imagine it honestly. But the thoughts, the sensations and feelings, which tend to Ahriman, are those which imagine the creation of the sun and the planets in the just described way. That also influenced the historical view. Herman Grimm 2Herman Grimm (1828–1901), in his Lectures on Goethe says once: a bone of carrion around which a hungry dog is circling is a more appetising sight than this world view which is based only on this Copernican world view.
This is a threat to tear the roses from the cross and to have only the black, charred cross. The other threat is to tear the cross from the roses and want to strive only for the spirit, despise what the divinity has put in the world development, not to want to dive affectionately into the thought that the phenomena of the sensory world express the godhead. This is the unilaterally religious world view which despises the science which only wants the roses and which tends unconsciously to the luciferic element of the East. In the same way, science, which wants to tear the roses from the cross and to keep only the charred cross, tends to the West. We, however, in Central Europe, we have a vocation to have the roses on the cross to have this what is expressed only by the connection of the roses with the cross, the roses on the cross. Looking at the stiff cross we feel that that which has come as a stiff material to the world entered the world from the godhead. It is, as if spirituality created a circle in the material for itself: ex deo nascimur.
We also feel that if we understand it correctly we may enter the spiritual world not only with Lucifer, but that we die, while we are united with that which descended from the divine higher Self to the world: in Christo morimur.
And uniting the cross with the roses, the material world view with the spiritual world view, we feel that the human soul can awake in spirit: per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus.
Therefore, the cross wound around by roses was the symbol of Goethe who positioned himself in the spirituality of the Central European culture. It must be our symbol. That is why we will remind — as far as we can be present in future, gathering in this room — of that which must be our ideal out of the big tasks of the earth development: winding roses around the cross, neither tearing the roses from the cross and holding only the cross in our hands, nor only estimating the roses and ascending by means of the roses to the spiritually blossoming, sprouting life in the abstract. It is expressed to us in our symbol, in the rose cross, what we want to take up more and more in our souls, in our feelings when we come together in a room dedicated to our attempts. Then we can be sure that the spirits who lead the earth development in good sense exist invisible among us; that our words, that all our thoughts and feelings, while we dedicate ourselves to the spiritual-scientific attempts that all this is really supported in such a room by the spiritual powers guiding our attempts. We can feel, cultivating our spiritual-scientific views, as if we are constantly inspired by the spirits who exist invisible in such a room. I would like to call on these spiritual powers that they are always present with the souls if they strive in serious truth, honestly and affectionately in this room. If that comes true, we can be sure that this spiritual-scientific world view finds the way to the gods as it was always found.
Today we come together in such rooms. They are separated from the efforts of the external world. The external world considers the events in our rooms as something sectarian, something superstitious. And thus we are gathered as it were underground compared with the intellectual culture of the present. This intellectual culture, which is deeply infiltrated by Lucifer in the East, by Ahriman in the West, is above ground. There we remember repeatedly in order to strengthen our hearts, to invigorate our souls that in another epoch the western world view ascended from underground to the surface. There was the world view of the Roman Empire, the world view which had taken up the distinguished philosophy and the artistic world view of the Greeks. There were basically brilliant minds among those who lived within this ancient Rome and its surroundings with this old world view. They were deeply despised who cultivated a quite new teaching underground in the catacombs. However, those who cultivated the new teaching, separated from the world view above ground justified at that time, knew that they had only to hold on the contents of their striving and to retain what had entered in the world as a result of the Christ Impulse.
They strove in the catacombs and knew: those lived above ground who were out to kill them who pursued them who did not understand them. — After we have got these conditions of the ancient Roman Empire clear in our mind, we look at the human development a few centuries later. What was above has disappeared. What lived underground in the catacombs has ascended; it passes triumphantly through the West. It already lived in the souls of those who were striving for that which should then conquer the world although they were repelled, despised and mocked living underground in the catacombs. We must feel that way, my dear friends, as if we were still spiritually outcast and mocked and pursued by those who cultivate the so-called justified world view today. But in such a way as it happened in the first epoch of the western Christian development, it will go on. What one would best destroy — not like once, while one covered human beings with pitch and burnt them, but while one mocks them — it will gain acceptance. What jeers and mocks there, what wants to conquer the earth only with an ahrimanic and luciferic world view this will have disappeared, like the ancient Roman culture, the ancient world view disappeared in a certain way. However, what is cultivated in our catacombs — they are spiritual catacombs, the world has progressed, nevertheless — what is felt in these catacombs, what is imagined, what is reflected, what penetrates our souls: it will ascend and arrive triumphally at the culture of the next epoch. We may keep in mind that at every moment when we pass the gate to such a room. And staying in it, we keep in mind that we are still like in a submarine which will take the direction upwards — and absolutely will take it if we become engrossed strongly in this with which we have learnt to connect our souls. With this vow that we want to penetrate ourselves strongly with the spiritual Christ Impulse which is developing a further level, with this attitude, with this vow we really will enter this room. We enter in the sense of these feelings that everything is dedicated to the spiritual powers, to the spiritual individualities who permeate our movement, as we can know, who spread out their blessing and protecting hands about us. We want to keep in mind that when we come together here in future.