Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Things in Past and Present in the Spirit of Man
GA 167

VI. Death and Resurrection

18 April 1916, Berlin

We have already spoken of how the cultural development of mankind, in so far as it is spiritual, is permeated by all kinds of brotherhoods which bring to expression in their total content the symbolic actions which have been taken from certain imaginative ideas. The most significant symbol of such brotherhoods is that which is connected with the thought of death and resurrection. Again and again the thought of death and the thought of resurrection is brought together before such brotherhoods. Thus, one can say that as a middle point symbol man is shown how the thought of immortality proceeds out of both of these thoughts. First a man dies and is buried.

Now, in most of these brotherhoods, the personality to which this symbol is attached is called Hiram; this symbol is connected with what is called the legend of Hiram. Thus the name of Hiram, the architect of King Solomon who according to the legend built the Solomon Temple with King Solomon and then as a result of certain of his servants becoming his enemies, Hiram was killed and his death is shown in a symbolic way. It is shown how he is buried and the presentation is brought to a certain resurrection out of the grave, a proceeding of Hiram out of the grave. Through this symbol, they want to carry the thought of immortality to the soul in a much more penetrating way than is possible through mere theories. Through this symbol which takes hold of the unconscious forces of man, through this imagination one wants to show what the situation really is when one passes through death and then is resurrected.

Now, when you consider that the death of Hiram, the resurrection of Hiram is led before the brothers of the lodges, so indeed, we have the connection with the Easter thought. Now you know that in the Catholic cult there is also a symbolic presentation occurring; that the festivities of Maundy Thursday pass over to the Good Friday, and then the Festival is concluded in the symbolic placing of Christ Jesus in the grave. Then you have Christ Jesus lying in the grave from Good Friday through Saturday evening; and as is the modern custom the Resurrection is celebrated, which means that Christ is again taken out of the grave and you have celebration with the Resurrected Christ. When one considers the action which occurs there in the cult, particularly in the Catholic cult, it is just the same as that which occurs in occult brotherhoods as the putting in the grave and the resurrection of Hiram. So you see, the Easter thought stands as the center point in a certain connection in these occult brotherhoods. The meaning which is connected with this ceremony is that the human being, by gazing on this symbolic activity, goes deeper into his soul than he would with the normal forces which are present in his consciousness; it goes much deeper than that. Such a symbolic action would actually have no significance if you could not presuppose that deep down in the human soul you have an activity where the consciousness does not reach. The human soul contains activity below his conscious awareness.

We speak in art of the fact that that which gives the artist power enabling him to produce works of art or to reproduce them cannot originate from the ordinary conscious forces of the soul, but come up out of the unconscious and then enter into the consciousness. Hence, in connection with the artist, it is so that for him any sort of rules to which he might direct himself to, will become a disturbing factor; he cannot regulate himself according to rules; he must direct himself to that which as an elementary consciousness in his soul gives wings to those forces which he needs. He can, if he wants, subsequently to look back and give a certain explanation of that which comes to the surface from the subconscious aspect of his being. Therefore we must assume that many other hidden qualities hold sway in the soul, forces which do not play up into consciousness.

We speak of the fact as we have often spoken about it, that the astral life of man is much broader, much more extensive than the conscious ego life of this human being and these forces play out of the astral life of man into the conscious ego experience. Hence,these forces are present underneath. There is already a large number of people in our time who have so adapted themselves to the external, purely materialistic life and look for their salvation in this external materialistic life so that, in the main, in their soul life they only possess that which is connected with the external material life. You can really notice the difference when you lead a symbol such as the death and resurrection of Hiram in front of human beings who have only been educated for the external material life. They find it very comical, very superfluous. However, those people who have the unconscious soul forces, who are able to perceive the unconscious forces which hold sway in the astral, are taken hold of in the deepest sense by the symbol and call up those faculties out of their soul which are able to understand what is meant by immortality; whereas the ordinary forces which are bound to the physical life cannot understand this immortality.

Something has remained in the Easter Festival of what in the primal consciousness of mankind was connected, in the main, with the thought of this festival. We have often spoken about the question—When do we celebrate this Easter Festival? Well, we celebrate it on the Sunday following the first full moon after the beginning of Spring which falls on the 21st of March. Thus the establishment of the point of time of the Easter Festival is dependent upon the relationship between the sun and moon positions, which means that we upon the earth celebrate the festival which is dependent upon the cosmic connections. What does the human soul say in so far as it has undertaken such an establishment of the Easter Festival. It says the following: Here upon this earth everything shall not be regulated according to purely earthly relationships. However, at least that which touches the soul most deeply ought to be directed according to extra earthly relationships. Man should gaze upon the symbol of immortality; the placing in the grave and the Resurrection; the thought of immortality of the living; the soul going through the Portal of death. That should be carried in front of the human being either in the occult picture as in the Catholic cult or more in thoughts as happens in other confessions—that is not so important at the present time. However, in so far as the human being allows the picture of the placing in the grave and the Resurrection to sway in his soul, this should happen when the sun and the moon come into a corresponding constellation. This is a protest of the human soul, that the gazing upon such an important symbol should not be carried out purely under earthly conditions; it is a recognition that the gazing upon this symbol should be bound up with the cosmic relationships external to the earth.

Here, as I am giving a lecture, certain things are happening to your human soul. Just imagine that so-called Monists were sitting here instead of you. Naturally, there would be an entirely different effect upon their soul than is upon your soul, because you have taken up into your soul certain preliminary ideas from spiritual science. Man is continuously changed by that which he has experienced. You have been exposed to anthroposophical spiritual science; your soul is different from those people who have not been exposed to it. It is not realistic to speak in general terms abut the human being as is done by the academic would. As soon as one goes into the realities, one sees how unrealistic the way the human being is considered by anthropologists.

Now, you see, it is very easy for you not to assess correctly or even to overlook what has happened to your soul in so far as the work of spiritual science has impinged upon it. Much, much more is imprinted upon this soul. Much is imprinted in the human soul, because there is the unconscious, the astral united with the human soul and you will be able to say: That which plays into the human being from the external world and which remains unconscious is nevertheless far more powerful, far more significant, than that which enters consciously. You all know the beautiful love poems which unite themselves with the light of the moon. Here we see that the unconscious soul itself stands in a connection with the non-earthly, that which comes into the earth with the light of the moon. Here you have the moon with its light streaming in and it is something that you have coming from the cosmos, from the extra earthly and has to do with the unconscious weaving and swaying of the human soul. And, if you remember what I said to you on Thursday and again that which I said on Saturday evening at the public lectures about the swaying, the dominating, the ruling and weaving of the Folk Soul element in the human soul life, then, indeed, you must say to yourself that this Folk Soul element comes up out of the unconscious much more than from the conscious. It is really true that that which rules in the depths of our soul and can only echo faintly up into the consciousness, is precisely what rules and weaves in the astral body; that is very important and is of a non-earthly nature. And that person whose soul is open for the impressions of the spiritual world knows that our earth is not only different in spring and in Autumn, that in spring the vegetation shoots up and in autumn there is harvesting, but the portion of the earth which is illuminated by the light of the moon is something different than the earth when it is not illuminated by the light of the moon. After the 21st of March the sun stands in a different relationship to the earth than it had before the 21st of March and that which is reflected back to us as sunlight from the moon upon the earth is therefore something quite different from that which radiated down before the 21st of March. The first full moon after the beginning of Spring gives back to us the first strength of the resurrected sun and this is quite different from any other full moon. Thus our astral nature would not be the same if, shall we say, we would gaze upon the symbol of laying in the grave and Resurrection in December; it is not the same as when we do it in the week after the streaming down of the spring full moon. Our soul is in another condition at this particular time. Now, if our soul is something quite different through the fact that we have taken up spiritual science into it and are not just Monists, so our soul is also something different in the moonlight after the Spring Equinox than, shall we say, after the Winter Solstice. Hence our soul can experience something different at this time as compared with any other time.

Now, when spiritual science appears today, it does so in order that the circle of vision of human beings which has been shrunken by the materialistic development can again be expanded. If you take the thoughts of spiritual science into yourself in a thoroughly correct sense, then you actually are expanding the thinking, the perception, the willing, the feeling of your soul. Today people are not sufficiently clear about the fact that materialistic development has brought not only that which one calls materialism, but this materialistic development has brought something else; it has brought, I might say, short-sightedness of the thought life into all things. The thoughts have become small and now they must be made much larger. The possibility of seeing things in their larger perspective must again arise among human beings.

Just think if the human being were again to become clear about the fact that man actually consists of two parts, out of the head which stands at a much later stage of development and which, one might say, is much more hardened than the rest of the organism and the rest of the organism which stands at a much older stage of evolution. Just think what proceeds from the working together, of this head organism with the rest of the human organism. When we move a hand, the body is at the basis of this movement which participates in this movement. What occurs when I move a hand? I have previously told you about this. The physical hands and the ether hands both move, they move together. When I think, the left and the right lobes of the brain also execute ether movements, that is to say, the ether portion of the left and right brain lobes also execute movements which are quite similar to the hand movements. The ether movements are there, but the physical movements are imprisoned, they are enclosed in the solid skull. It is a bound Promethius and because of this, it is possible to have thinking. If it were not through this external imprisonment, but through the organic fettering of the human being man's arms would now be imprisoned as they will be in the future when the earth will have disappeared and developed into the Jupiter existence just as the brain lobes are imprisoned now. Man's arms will be imprisoned in the future as now the lobes of his brain are imprisoned. Then that which we call thinking will also be left over from the movement of the hands. I will show you what can be made clear with a much more concrete example presicely from the history of our time. It can be clearly shown how the thoughts of the best man of our age are very short.

Now, let us consider Eduard von Hartmann who was the philosopher of the unconscious. As far as his own estimation of himself was concerned, he would never consider hinself to be a materialistic thinker. However, how we think of ourselves does not depend on what we think, but the point is, are our thought habits of a materialistic nature? A person can establish a quite idealistic philosophy and nevertheless can still possess quite materialistic habits of thought; and these habits of thought determine whether he has short carrying thoughts or wide carrying thoughts. Now, as far as Eduard von Hartmann is concerned, among many of his contributions he has also written a great deal about politics, and I want to present Hartmann, the political author, to you, because in his age he was held in the highest esteem as one of the best German, nay, one of the best Prussian patriots as well as being a good political writer. Obviously Eduard von Hartmann's thoughts were so wide carrying that he was able to represent the constellation of the different great powers of Europe to himself: Germany, Austria, Italy, France, England, Russia and in between them the different small neutral states. He continually studied and wrote papers about the different political interest of these single states. Now, he wrote a very significant thesis which came out in 1888 and appeared in book form in 1889, and in it he set forth his ideas as to what represents the best political constellation for Europe.

Now, I have to make the preliminary comment that he was not only a German, but also a Prussian patriot, he spoke so obviously from the standpoint of Prussian patriotism. He attempted to represent what the best thing for Germany and Europe would be as far as alliances which must be developed were concerned, and he saw the salvation of Germany and of Europe in an alliance of common neutrality in the arising of an alliance between Switzerland, Belgium and Holland under English leadership. Just think, Eduard von Hartmann wanted Belgium, Switzerland and Holland under English leadership. You can see exactly what I am driving at from such a concrete example, and the same thing can be seen in other domains of life; When you look back 30 years you can see how ridiculous these thoughts were; how the whole development which one can describe as the age of materialism brings with it short thoughts, thoughts when they relate themselves to time relationships are perhaps valid for 2 or 3 centuries.

Now I will give you an example from the realm of medicine, but things do not go as easily here as in the realm of politics. Nevertheless here is an example from the philosopher Lotse, who had a well developed medical background. He said: “The enthusiasm for any given remedy, as a general rule, is only valid for five years. The enthusiasm for a remedy discovery today disappears and soon as another remedy comes into fashion.” this is noticed far more easily in the medical field than with politics. Gustav Theodore Fechner who really was a very intelligent person wrote a very interesting thesis in the 1820's. At that time iodine, a new medicament, appeared on the scene. Everyone began to claim that it could cure numerous types of illnesses. Then Gustav Theodore Fechner wrote a very neat thesis in which, according to the rules of science, and all you need to do is develop a method of receiving the light of the moon and then this universal medicament could be used in a wonderful way everywhere. Can you see from this that a shortness of judgment, a certain living concepts which cannot be carried very far.

Now, when you entered the domain of folk psychology or race psychology and read what the foremost writers had to say and then placed these side by side, you would be surprised at what you had before you. For example, you could find that men, in so far as they claim to be objective scientists with present ways of thinking, depict the population of Middle Europe as being descended from the Germans. Now, they depict these Germans as having all sorts of qualities. Then the Frenchman, shall we say tries to describe the French and says that they became wise through the fact that France descends partly from the ancient Celts and then he describes the Celts. When you compare and find that person who describes the Germans in Central Europe attributes the same qualities to the Germans which the Frenchman ascribes to the ancient Celts. However, there is much more of a Celtic element living within central Europe than within France. But this the people.

I can repeat numerous examples which will show you how the concepts are so very small that they do not carry very far. You can see what happens today when these so-called secure natural scientific methods attempt to go on into the spiritual life. When you realize all these things, then you will see how necessary it is that the spirit should beat into this realm. How long will it take however until one has such a psychology, a science of the soul of the type which I attempted to give in the lecture last Thursday? Only such a science of the soul can make that which actually rules in Europe understandable, and can also bring that understanding which is necessary if a culture your is to proceed further. One can think of all sorts of domains which are so advanced in materialistic directions, directions which are without any spiritual value. Then we see that this material element—it can be a state or any other structure—can never succeed, can never get better, because the way things are is that everyone needs a soul.

Now, that which we foster, that which we have as our science of the spirit within the Anthroposophical Society cannot be just one society among others. Why not? The answer lies in the following question: what do other societies do when they establish themselves? They set up programs and one unites round a certain program. You print the agreement of this program and when you leave this society, that means you no longer agree with the program. When the whole society dissolves, no one is hurt about these programs. One can get together and then one can also depart. That is the case which happens with every mechanism in the world.

Now, Weissman once attempted to characterize an organism from the natural scientific standpoint. Naturally he could only bring a negative quality, but this negative quality really is correct. He asks the question: how can you tell if something is living? His answer is: that which, when it does, leaves behind a corpse. Now, naturally in this way he is not characterizing that which is living. However, one has to concur that he is quite correct when he says: “The living is negatively characterized by the fact that this living being leaves behind a corpse.” Now, our Anthroposophical Society is a living being through the fact that there are a large number of cycles in the hands of our members of which, in the first place we know as a general rule non-members should not receive these cycles. However, one can now go into second hand stores everywhere and buy these cycles. You see from that that the Anthroposophical Society must be an organism, because just imagine, if the Anthroposophical Society dissolved itself away, then it would leave a corpse behind, and the corpse would be the cycles.

Now, one must be able to think about all these things. Other societies, when they dissolve away, can actually do so without leaving behind a corpse, because they are more mechanistically built. These people depart, the point of the program cannot be called a corpse because nothing is left behind. We are trying to deal in realities. This is something that must enter into our souls. When spiritual science becomes a real perception in us, every thought is felt in such a way that this thought stands in reality; whereas the abstract thinking which corresponds to the materialistic thinking does not bother itself with whether thoughts stand in reality or not. All this, my dear friends, show how limited the thinking is when it only restricts itself to the consciousness; when it is only bound up to the material aspect. Hence we should not wonder when those particular cultural streams in the development progress of mankind they want to take hold of everyday life, must also reckon with other than that which works only upon the ordinary consciousness. And so it has always been with the deep religious cultural impulses.

Why, for example, did something like the cult of Easter enter into the evolutionary history of mankind? Why was this Easter Cult brought into connection with cosmology, with that which occurs in a wide spaces of heaven between the Sun and moon? Because if man were only restricted to the experiences of the Earth, he would fall into the most extreme shortsightedness thinking, feeling and willing. Only through the fact that man is able to receive a greater perspective for his life can his thoughts be made much wider so that not only his physical ego consciousness is inserted in the right way into the earthly experiences but also his astral subconsciousness is membered into the great cosmic events. When the most important thought, the thought of immortality, is attached to the cosmos, it finds its fundamental basis in the religious connection. If man were only to originate out of that which is earthly, he would never be able to grasp the thought of immortality. If man was actually that which the materialistic natural science tries to say he is, if he was merely a highly developed ape, there would be nothing inside of him which would arrive at this thought of immortality.

I can give you a beautiful example from the philosophical aspect about how short the thoughts of natural researchers are in this domain. A few days ago I opened a book in which a person spoke about the connection of man with the apes in the sense that the monists do, in the material sense, not in the sense in which it is justified, but in the sense in which it is quite often expressed. At the beginning of his thesis, he says that he could prove that people who travel in certain districts where the cultural situation of the human being have so deteriorated could see that these people have the same instincts and drives as the apes. Now he says: “If it can be experienced that man can sink down to an ape condition, then it is logical that man can develop out of the apes.” Obviously, that is logical and quite clear. If a person becomes older, then you can get an old man out of the child; you can realize that without having to travel. In the same sense when you say that through cultural decadence man sinks down to ape condition, that is just as logical the same day man can become ape, why shouldn't the eighth also become a man! Therefore with the same logic you can say that if the child can become an old man, why shouldn't a child develop out of an old man; the logic is exactly the same. Material aspect is not that these people develop such logic, but that everyone reads this and no one notices what utter nonsense is being expressed.

If the present type of science, the present type of culture continues as it has, it can give people thoughts and feelings and perceptions only about what is earthly. Nevertheless there lives in man's depths that which is present as super sensible forces. They live there, but they must be repressed. And gradually as a result of this repressed spirituality in human soul, you would get the illness of culture. We cannot sufficiently emphasized the earnestness of our times. If from the heavy trials and tribulations which mankind is going through now, a small number of people can be permeated by the consciousness that what mankind needs is a spirituality, then out of this difficult time of trial something would happen which would be in the sense of the world spirit. But unless we get this spiritualization, nothing will go well for mankind.

We understand spiritual science only when we see in it not just a Christmas Festival but also an Easter Festival; that we understand what actually is meant when we have the thought of immortality for the whole being of man. When we grasp that which is immortal in the human being, only then are we able to understand immortality. Fichte, Hegel, many others knew that the human soul does not only become immortal when it passes through death, it is immortal now; that mortal element can now be found in us. Hence a science must be sought for, which besides taking into view the mortal body, takes into view the immortal soul of man.

It was natural that under the great advances and brilliance of natural scientific development in the last four centuries, that the consideration of spiritual life had to recede and the tendency towards the spiritual was also being eliminated from the external world. However, a time must come again when that Hiram, or shall we say that portion of Christ which always is there and which speaks of the super sensible, when that again resurrects itself after it has been buried in the Good Friday period of cultural development. We grasp the thoughts which at the time when the great Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo are all those who in the first place in a true way and can call that time cosmic Maunday Thursday. This has to be followed by a Good Friday. This view of the immortal element had to be buried. However, now the time has arrived when the cosmic Easter Sunday has to come and when we must celebrate the Holy Resurrection of the human soul and of the spirit knowledge.

Now, it is quite all right if, for example, we celebrate the Good Friday mood of soul in our present age. However, only when we have the power to gird ourselves for the Cosmic Easter Sunday, shall we also be able to perform the cult activity within our soul life which is there externally as the Easter Cult. Black mood of soul—that belongs to the days of Good Friday. The priests wear black clothes, because the corpse of the dead Christ rests in the grave. Then follows the Resurrection in the place of the thought of the grave. Today it is appropriate for us to carry in our soul the sorrow and the tragic. However, we ought to be able to know ourselves that we will be able to carry the spiritual Easter clothes when the times will again be different.