11 July 1916, Berlin
Before today's talk, there will be a recitation of several poems in the first part of the evening. In these poems I have tried to express some things connected with the way we think and feel in our spiritual science. These verses were originally intended for a eurythmy performance in Dornach and were indeed first performed in eurythmy. I will soon publish them with a few words of explanation, and they will be available here in a little booklet as part of our published cycles. 1Rudolf Steiner, Twelve Moods, (Spring Valley, NY: Mercury Press, 1984). However, before we begin, I would like to introduce the verses with a few comments.
Last time, in another context, I spoke about the art of poetry. Now we must really take seriously what I have said so often this winter, namely, that the whole impulse, the whole spirit of our spiritual science has to enter the culture of our times and bring something special to it. Poetry is after all not just a matter of expressing something one has invented or thought, but of expressing it in a certain form. Spiritual science seeks to connect the human being with the great laws of the universe, the great laws of the cosmos. The deepest impulses of spiritual science will be understood in the true sense of the word only when people realize how extensively we are actually searching for the connection between human beings and the great transcendental laws of the universe.
What is nowadays called poetry will gradually take on a new face. Granted, this is hard to understand these days, but it is true nevertheless. Though nowadays people hardly feel this way, poetry should represent what human beings experience together with the cosmos, what is drawn from the mysteries of the cosmos. All this must flow into poetic form. If we create certain mental images that are representations of what belongs to imaginative knowledge, we can then discover the laws governing the position of the twelve signs of the zodiac and the relationship of the movements of the seven planets to these twelve signs. We can also identify certain movements and laws that do not apply to all seven planets, but only to the sun and moon and their passage through the signs of the zodiac. What matters is not that we serenade what goes on in the universe, but that what speaks there in the great laws of the universe also speaks in the form of our poetry.
And today you will hear attempts at poetry where the laws that reign in the cosmos also prevail in the sequence of the lines, their relationship to each other, and in their meaning. For instance, you will hear a poem of twelve stanzas, and each stanza has seven lines. The structure of the poem is such that what the seven lines express represents the laws of the movements of the seven planets. The fact that there are exactly twelve stanzas and that the mood of the seven lines is repeated in each stanza corresponds to the laws determining the planets' orbits through the signs of the zodiac. Thus, what is going on outside in the cosmos, in the harmony of the spheres, is also in the meaning of the twelve stanzas of seven lines each. The laws of the cosmos are meant to prevail in these twelve verses of seven lines.
You will find, let us say, in the Capricorn stanza that the fourth line expresses a certain position of Mars in regard to Capricorn. The meaning of this line must be such that if you were woken up from sleep and heard only this one line from the Capricorn stanza, this Mars line, you would be able, after having developed a feeling for this, to say this line is the Mars line of the Capricorn stanza. In the same way, all the other lines have their meaning. Thus, the structure is not just superficial or merely external; it is the poem's inner structure. This is what matters.
Similarly, the short poem of quatrains is arranged so that certain movements express cosmic events. One of the poems of twelve verses is to be taken seriously; the other, as you will see, is really a satire. Now you may easily think it improper to treat “sacred things” satirically. But truly, my dear friends, if we want to advance in this sphere of a spiritual world view, one of the basic requirements is precisely that we do not forget to laugh at those things in the world that are a laughing matter when judged rightly. A lady once told a story about a man who was always in a mood of “looking up to the great cosmic revelations.” He never spoke of other people at all, only of “masters,” and she also said he usually made a long face.
When she told me about this man with his long, tragic face, I remembered a very interesting experience I had long ago in Vienna. Back then, there lived a man in Vienna who tried in every sort of way to live himself into spiritual spheres. He was professor of physics and mathematics at the Vienna Agricultural College, and his name was Oskar Simony, the same man who found a tragic end much later, in fact only just recently. 2Oskar Simony, 1852–1915, Austrian mathematician. We met in Vienna — I remember it as if it had happened only yesterday — in the Salesianergasse. I knew him by sight but had never spoken to him. He did not know me at all, and we met just as two people do who pass each other on the sidewalk. I was then just a young fellow of twenty-six or twenty-seven. Oskar Simony looked at me, stopped, and began a conversation about all sorts of things spiritual — remember, I am only telling you the facts. Then he took me to his house and gave me his latest publication on the extension of the four arithmetical operations, which he had published in the old Academy of Science. All this happened just at the time when the Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf and the Archduke Johann — who, as you may know, later disappeared under the assumed name of Johann Orth — were busying themselves with the unmasking of a psychic medium and other such things. 3Rudolf, 1858–1889, Archduke and Crown Prince of Austria. Only son of Emperor Franz Joseph. Died, allegedly by suicide, at his hunting lodge Mayerling together with Baroness Maria Vetsera. Naturally, people in Vienna back then talked a great deal about these kinds of things, and Oskar Simony examined these matters scientifically. He wrote a book about tying a knot into a round ribbon of one piece, which is very interesting. 4Oskar Simony, Gemeinverständliche, leicht contiolierbare Lösung der Aufgabe: In ein ringförmiges geschlossenes Band einen Knoten zu machen, und verwandter merkwürdiger Probleme (“Generally understandable and controllable solution to the problem of making a knot in a ringlike, closed ribbon, and other curious related problems”), 3rd. ed., Vienna, 1881.
Well, as we were talking, Simony paused and then said, “In dealing with these things, one needs a good sense of humor!” Indeed, that is true; for precisely when we enter into the depths of spiritual understanding, we must not forget how to laugh. In other words, we should not feel obliged to always make a long, tragic face! I am convinced that Oskar Simony lost his sense of humor in the last part of his life before he found such a tragic end.
Now there is ample opportunity to develop this sense of humor, particularly in our spiritual movement. Caricatures of the striving for the spirit love to cling to such spiritual movements. By caricatures I do not mean people, but only aspirations; the things said to sail under the colors of spiritual striving or, shall we say, of membership in a movement that has taken on spiritual striving!
That is what makes it so difficult to represent our spiritual movement in the world. Basically, there was nothing to be said — and still is nothing to be said — against some women wearing the kind of clothing I had to design for the performance of the first scene of my first mystery drama. After all, we couldn't have had modern dress on stage there. Then several women made such dresses for themselves. That is certainly praiseworthy, but then it got out of hand.
I don't need to tell you about that, as it is well-known how far these things got out of hand. Then people believed such clothes absolutely called for short hair. Yes, indeed, one could hear people say that in our movement the women wore their hair short, and the men theirs quite long — which has actually happened in only a few exceptional cases. Anyway, this has led to people asking me after public lectures whether having one's hair cut short was part and parcel of being a theosophist.
Well, all this is merely a matter of appearances; however, even in
matters of inner, spiritual significance people in our circle have been
up to mischief many times, mischief we must strongly oppose. The things
I am supposed to have said and the things that are supposedly thus and
so, and on and on! Sometimes what is said seems to indicate that the
person who spoke just wanted to get some attention, to put it mildly. In
other words, there are excesses that make it difficult to represent our
movement to people who can't help laughing when they hear about things
they do not understand. They will then also laugh about what is serious
and even about what is most significant. But we do not need to provoke
their laughter and give them a certain justification for it with the
caricatures accompanying the striving for the spiritual. These things
have led me to write a satirical poem to be performed in eurythmy, which
will also be presented
In this satire on the twelve moods of the signs of the zodiac, the planets are also used, but they are used to give you a glimpse, so to speak, of the seamy side of all this to-do about spiritual science — not of spiritual science itself, which, of course, has no seamy or dark sides at all, only its adherents do. These poems are intended to show how the intuited cosmic laws lead to true laws of form for the poetry of the future.
These verses will be recited with several by Robert Hamerling. 5Robert Hamerling, pseudonym of Rupert Hammerling, 1830–1889, Austrian poet. Best known for his epics Ahasverus in Rom (1865) and Homunculus (1888). Please keep in mind that they were intended for performance in eurythmy; today they will be presented without eurythmy, but never mind.
Program of the recitation by Frau Steiner that followed:
Poems by Robert Hamerling: “O, let me sing in solitude,”
“Son and heir of eternity,” “Between heaven and earth,”
“Nightly movement,” “Spirits of Night,”
“Don’t scold the soft tones,” “Venice,” “Song of life.”
”Followed by music on the harmonium
“The Eagle” by Robert Hamerling
Poems by Rudolf Steiner:
“Dance of the Planets,” “Pentecost,” “Twelve Moods.
Followed by music on the harmonium
“Lost Echoes” by Robert Hamerling
“Diamonds ”by Robert Hamerling
“ The Song of Initiation,” a satire by Rudolf Steiner.
I want to start from the same basis as in so many of our talks, namely, spiritual science as it permeates us should not live in our souls so that we simply know it in the same way we know geography, botany, or political science, and can keep it nicely separate from the rest of life. On the contrary, spiritual science should give us impulses and life forces that flow into our understanding of the reality surrounding us. This is how it must be for the sake of spiritual science and also because it has the task to intervene in our cultural life and revitalize many areas where our culture has reached a dead end. Spiritual science is to heal what is sick in our cultural and spiritual life. One thing above all must permeate the activity of our soul if we really want to enter deeply into spiritual science, and that is honesty. We will have to be so imbued with honesty that we do not waver from it in our whole understanding of life. However, we are confronted today by a view of life that is certainly not permeated by honesty in its judgments and attitudes.
Now let us take as our point of departure an event we have recently learned about. It is already a bit dishonest to think too little about such events and not to see them clearly enough in the context of life as a whole. You may have read about the shocking events that have recently taken place on a small scale, in one person's life, and must be added to those terrible, great, and gigantic blows of fate we witness in our time. Nowadays everything that is not part of the great events of the day is considered to be on a small scale.
Well, a painter, and apparently a good one at that, as the court
records show, had painted pictures and signed them Böcklin, Uhde,
Menzel, Spitzweg, and other famous names. 6Arnold Böcklin, 1827–1901, Swiss
painter. Known for paintings of moody landscapes and sinister
Fritz von Uhde, 1848–1911, German painter.
Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel, 1815-1905, German painter.
Carl Spitzweg, 1808–1885, German painter. Most representative of Biedermeier artists in Germany. Known for humorous and detailed portraits of small-town characters. He had painted many such pictures and sold them to people who wanted to buy a Menzel, a Lenbach, a Böcklin. However, the painter's name was really Lehmann. 7Franz von Lenbach, 1836-1904, German painter. His works included copies of Rubens, Titian, and others, as well as portraits of famous people. Lehmann was a good painter, and so his paintings were bought as genuine Böcklins, Menzels, Uhdes, and so forth. And then he was prosecuted. It was obviously a clear case of fraud. The experts held the fraud to be the greater because he was such a good painter and had been able to do so well that his paintings were indistinguishable from those painted by these famous artists. For this fraud he was sentenced to four years in prison.
Now, let me tell you a story that is the counterpart to this event. Goethe used to place a picture and its counter-picture side by side; that was his method. This is of course not so convenient as the usual way of thinking, but it throws more light on reality and truth. In Brussels, there is the Wiertz Museum, where paintings by Wiertz are exhibited. 8Antoine Joseph Wiertz, 1806-1865, painter. One can't help but be utterly amazed at the originality of these pictures by Wiertz. They are indeed different from any other paintings; they are unique. Some of them may seem weird and crazy to strict and narrow-minded critics. Well, their opinion may not always be a valid criterion, — in any case some of the paintings are very deeply moving.
Wiertz was born into a poor family at the beginning of the nineteenth century and grew up in poverty. One day, however, he was struck by the thought — and here true vocation met with extraordinary vanity; a combination that is indeed possible — that he wanted to become a painter greater even than Rubens, a successor of Rubens, a super-Rubens. 9Peter Paul Rubens, 1577–1640, Flemish painter. Renowned for excellence of his coloring. In post-Nietzschean times, I think we can say a super-Rubens. So he wanted to be a super-Rubens, and he certainly had talent. He got a scholarship and could go to Rome and study Italian painting. And then he painted a picture, a very large picture, a gigantic picture, of a scene from the Trojan war. It was better, indeed far better, than the average pictures you can see in exhibitions.
So, he submitted this picture to the committee of the Louvre in Paris. The committee accepted it, but hung the painting in such a way that it looked as though it had not really been accepted. You know it is a frequent practice of the committees in charge of selecting artworks for museums to hang pictures as if they did not really belong in the exhibition. But it is of course essential for a picture to be seen! When people cannot see it because it is hung in a poorly lit place, then even though the painting is on exhibit, it's as good as not really there. And since Wiertz had just as much vanity as talent, this vexed him greatly. He got very furious with Paris, went back to Brussels, and never again wrote the word “Paris” without drawing a thunderbolt above it that was striking the word. He later received other distinctions, but they did not particularly please him. For instance, he received a bronze medal from the king for something he did. However, Wiertz only said that if he could not have gold or silver, he did not need bronze either. He remained furious.
Then he wanted to test the Louvre committee again. In 1840 he sent two pictures to an exhibition. One of them he painted and signed with his name. The other he had come by in a different way. An acquaintance of his had a genuine, an admittedly genuine and significant Rubens painting. Wiertz at once scratched out the name Rubens and put in his own name instead. Thus, he sent two pictures signed Wiertz to the Louvre committee. The Louvre committee looked at them, at the two paintings by Wiertz and said, nothing doing; both are not suited for exhibition; they are both worthless daubs! But one of them was a genuine, even a quite excellent, Rubens! Thus Wiertz avenged himself; naturally he broadcast the story everywhere, and at the time it made quite a stir.
This is the counterpart to the event I told you about earlier. Think of the amount of dishonesty there is these days when people judge art. Do people buy actual works of art? No, names are what people buy. Names are bought! If somebody were to paint a picture today that was as good as any of Leonardo's — it might be a really good painting — it goes without saying people would buy Leonardo's but not the other person's painting. 10Leonardo da Vinci, 1452–1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist.
There have been other painters, and a newspaper wrote about them, who have taken to copying old masters because they were unable to sell their own work. When they wrote the name Leonardo or Michelangelo on their pictures, they could sell them! 11Michelangelo, 1475–1564, Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. By the time it was discovered what they had done, they had already died, and so it was too late to imprison them for four years!
Such events have to be seen in the light of the dishonesty of our general culture. Lehmann would not have sold a single one of his pictures had he signed them Lehmann, but they would have been just as good as they are with another name on them. These things are very distressing. It is necessary to think about them, for they are examples of things that are becoming more and more frequent in other areas of everyday life and show how much our age needs honesty and the avowal of honesty, the striving for honesty. But striving for honesty is not within our reach if we do not have the will to face things, to deal with them, instead of quickly passing over them and ignoring them. What matters is that we concern ourselves with what is happening around us and try to understand things more deeply. If we do not take a practice of observing reality in all its depth, we cannot really get very far in understanding the impulses of spiritual science. For spiritual science is born out of true reality, and if we are to understand spiritual science, we must familiarize ourselves with the impulse of true reality.
Those who know the facts realize that people who deal with truth the way it is usually done cannot understand spiritual science. At the same time, they see that the impulses of spiritual science must enter the spiritual life of the present and the immediate future. People nowadays read everything that comes before their eyes only superficially, their books as well as life. They look only at the surface of events, skimming lightly over them. Here I would like to point out something that can be understood only when we accept to some degree the facts of spiritual science. If you look at the development of our age, you can make an astonishing discovery if you pay attention to what the human soul takes in directly and to what it takes in to preserve and work on.
Now, in our time most people who read anything read the newspapers. Newspapers don't last beyond their day, and people think the newspapers leave their soul as easily as they entered it. They imagine this compensates for the superficiality and dishonesty of our journalism, which really defy description. But things are not the way people usually believe them to be. The contents of a book does not imprint itself as deeply into the soul of most people these days, though they remember it much longer, as the contents of the short-lived newspaper. It is precisely this fleeting and transitory character of the newspaper and the fact that we do not try to remember it but want to forget it quickly — forgetting here must be quick — that allows it to imprint itself infinitely deeply into our unconscious.
I have pointed out before how quickly we must forget in the case of some newspapers. One time, we were in the area of Pirano in Istria, where the Piccolo della Sera is published. Now, that is an evening paper, and one day it ran a very sensational article; I don't even remember anymore what it was about. Anyway, the article took up three columns, nearly the whole of the front page. But there was still a bit of space left on that page, and there this very same article was officially disclaimed and corrected because the article was based on an error. Now this is a thing not often found: a newspaper article that is disclaimed on the very same page. Particularly the big city newspapers are ever so gradually moving in this direction.
It is important to know that what we take in so quickly and then quickly forget is actually imprinted deeply into the subconscious of our soul and works there as a force over time. It goes on working in what we can call the general spirit of the times, the ahrimanic spirit of the times. In other words, good books today have far less effect than newspaper articles. What is carefully taken in and works upon the ego, which imprints it into our memory, has much less effect than what we take in hastily from a newspaper. Please do not take this to mean that you should not read newspapers, but accept it as your karma. Obviously, I don't mean that we must avoid reading so much as a line in a newspaper. We must take newspapers as part of the karma of our age and develop the side of our being that is able to sense whether we are reading actual content, something containing true spiritual striving, or mere empty words.
Thus, one can only hope that people will once again develop a feeling
for how mental and spiritual achievements come about. For this feeling
is what we are so sorely lacking nowadays. We cannot distinguish between
what is written well and what is written very badly. We take in the
content of a well-written piece just as indifferently as we do that of a
badly written piece. The difference, the capacity to distinguish, is
what we have lost. How many people nowadays can tell the difference
between a page written by Herman Grimm and one written by Eucken,
Kohler, or Simmel, and I could name many other writers, too? 12Herman Grimm,
Goethe, vol. 2, Lecture 23, p. 171f., Berlin,
Rudolph Christoph Eucken, 1846–1926, German philosopher. See Lecture One, note 14.
Josef Kohler, 1849–1919, German jurist and writer. See Lecture One, note 14.
Georg Simmel, 1858–1918, German philosopher and sociologist. His work was very influential in establishing sociology as a scientific discipline in the United States.
Who can see that in one page of Herman Grimm lives the whole culture of Central and Western Europe — in his composition, in the way he forms his sentences? Who can sense that if we give ourselves over to this sentence structure, we can connect with what is ruling spiritually in the world? The usual scholarly babble, however, connects us with nothing except the eccentricities of the gentlemen, or, as we may say today, of the ladies in question. I have known scholars and spoken with them about Grimm; well, these scholars actually dared to compare Herman Grimm with Richard M. Meyer, or someone like him. 13Richard M. Meyer, 1860–1914, German philologist. The initial “M” in Meyer's name was always used; Meyer never wrote his full middle name; I don't know why he was too timid to do that. Well, these scholars said Meyer's works showed clear, decisive, and strictly methodical research. Herman Grimm, on the other hand, was not to be called a real worker in the field of science; rather, he was only strolling through it. It was customary in those days to call him a stroller through the field of science because he had too few footnotes. Who nowadays can see that the whole of European culture up to the end of the nineteenth century really lives in the style of Herman Grimm's works, in his manner of presentation, regardless of the content? That is precisely what we must achieve: a sense for style, a true feeling for art even in this area, for that alone can school us in honesty. The hurried reading for content only, which aims only at getting information, is really a schooling in dishonesty, in lies.
You need only look at our modern age to see how infinitely much has to be done before people will again develop a feeling for style. Granted, we have to read newspapers nowadays, but we should also be so sensitive that the style that has gradually taken root there irritates us and drives us to distraction. This must really come about. How much this is lacking these days can be seen in countless examples, and you have no idea how little people are generally inclined to go to the bottom of things in their thinking.
I am not introducing what now follows in order to talk about national prejudices or personal likes and dislikes after all, we must be able to understand every point of view and get a feeling for it. No, what I would like to tell you has nothing to do with all this. A few months ago, a book was published that is not available in Germany, and for good reason. It is entitled J’Accuse, written by a German and has been translated into all languages except German, and several hundred thousand copies have been sold throughout the world. 14J’accuse von einem Deutschen (“J'accuse by a German”), Lausanne, 1915. Now I am not going to speak of the accusations in this book and the very pessimistic picture it presents of the connections between Germany and the war and Austria and the war. I do not want to talk about that; everyone has his or her own point of view in these matters. The point here is not that this book presents everything in the darkest light and puts the blame exclusively on the Central European powers, while exonerating all the others, completely clearing and whitewashing them — and not just whitewashing them, but presenting them as whiter than white. That is not what I want to talk about.
What matters is that this book has evidently been distributed widely not only among people who have been corrupted by newspaper reading and read nothing else anyway, but also among people with supposedly enlightened minds. Now this book is trashy literature of the very worst kind imaginable, quite apart from its point of view. If you just read it as it is, you will find in terms of form, in terms of sentence structure, a piece of trashy literature, really artistically abominable literature. It is the artistic side I want to look at here, regardless of the point of view; for I can perfectly well understand a point of view opposed to mine, or indeed any point of view. But what is so infinitely sad in this case is that people did not feel that anyone who writes so abominably badly — in his sentence structure, his thinking, and logic — comes into consideration only for those readers who do not go in for respectable literature but only for stuff that's peddled on the backstairs.
I would not be speaking about this today if the subject had not been revived the day before yesterday in an article in the Vossische Zeitung, which used to be a gossipy rag but is now a modern newspaper. The article was written by Dr. F. Oppenheimer, an untenured extramural lecturer, and deals with this book as well as with a very successful reply published as Anti-J'accuse. 15Franz Oppenheimer, 1864–1943, German economist and sociologist. The reply was J’accuse! Aus den Aufzeichnungen eines feldgrauen Akademikers (“J'accuse! From the Notes of an Academic in field-gray”), Berlin, 1915. However, Dr. Oppenheimer starts out in a strange way by explaining that this book J'Accuse had been brought to his attention by a man from one of the neutral countries whom he had always considered one of the most outstanding and most unappreciated authors of our time. Then Oppenheimer goes on to talk about his own impressions of the book. He has at least some idea of how badly the book is written — and that is what I want to emphasize here — but I was anxious to see whether he would draw any conclusions from this insight. It seemed to me that Oppenheimer's thoughts and feelings about the book should have led him to question whether he had been in full possession of his faculties when he believed the man great who recommended such an abominable book as something special. But he did not come to that conclusion in this article.
Now I am not saying this to criticize this particular case, but to point out that it is a typical one. People just skim over the facts these days. After all, isn't this case suited to make Oppenheimer ask himself what his judgment is worth when he had taken a man for important who later tried to foist such a book off on him as significant? Is this not something that leads necessarily to some self-knowledge? Clearly, drawing the obvious conclusions from the situations confronting us now in such a terrible way is not a priority in the souls of many people. We can see the basic character and structure of contemporary spiritual life in just such typical examples. We must really feel that the basic shortcomings of our time are expressed in such things, and we must not ignore them as if they were of no importance.
These things are tremendously important, for they show on a small scale what I pointed to on a larger scale when I said that nowadays many people believe themselves to be good Christians though they have not even managed to be good Turks! Remember, I once read you a short passage from the Koran to show that Turks who know their Koran believe much more about Jesus than many modern pastors do. It is the same all over again but now on a field where the mighty facts of existence arise before the soul. The same mistake, however, the same type of mistake, meets us everywhere in our daily life, in the terrible superficiality of modern everyday life, which is really nothing else but dishonesty. We must go beyond that if all talking about spiritual science is not to be a washout for our time. The important thing is that spiritual science be more than just a failure and a waste.
We have to realize that in the nineteenth century and so far also in
the twentieth century we have been wedged into a spiritual scientific
development that has influenced modern thinking and feeling from two
sides. There have been two streams, left and right, so to speak, and we
have been wedged in between them. And now we have to extricate
ourselves. Just this winter I have devoted a good many of my talks to
drawing your attention to the fundamentals leading to what is thought
nowadays. Truly, it is possible to show in many different symptoms what
prevails these days. I have showed you this by drawing your attention to
many occult movements active in different societies. I have told you
that to a large extent the direction and attitude of modern thinking go
back to the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, when the
predominating spirit lived in the accomplishments of Bacon, Shakespeare,
and Jacob Bohme. 16Francis Bacon, 1st Baron Verulam and Viscount St.
Albans, 1561–1626. English philosopher and author.
William Shakespeare, 1564–1616, English dramatist and poet.
Jakob Böhme, 1575–1624. German mystic. He was first a shoemaker, then had a mystical experience in 1600. This had to be so. However, we are now at a point where we have to overcome what was rightfully inaugurated at the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.
This is what I wanted to present in my new book Vom Menschenrätsel, 17Rudolf Steiner, Vom Menschenrätsel (“The Riddle of Man”), vol. 20 in the Collected Works, (Domach, Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1984). I wanted to explain the spiritual streams to which the fifth post-Atlantean epoch led, especially in Central Europe, and that the way out through spiritual science must be found. Time will tell whether this book, into which I really put all my heart — sometimes spending two whole days on a sentence that takes up a quarter of a page in order to be able to justify every word and turn of phrase — whether it will be read properly or just as badly as previous books.
You see, my dear friends, all our reflections amount to the insight that we must find in our soul the elements, the forces, to take in the Mystery of Golgotha in a new way. However, only those can understand the Mystery of Golgotha who do not seek this understanding with the forces of the physical body but by means independent of the physical body. Now, you may object that then the Mystery of Golgotha, the true wellspring of life for Christianity, can be understood only by people who have gone through esoteric development. Well, this is not the case, definitely not. Up to now people have indeed been able, even without spiritual science, to experience this freedom of the soul from the body necessary to understand the Mystery of Golgotha. But the number of those who understood dwindled while the number of those who opposed this true understanding grew ever larger.
Just think of one of the symptoms of this development: in earlier centuries, people were also reading the four Gospels and found the force contained in them. Thus, they approached an emotional and psychological understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Then came the people of the nineteenth century who were naturally more clever than their ancestors and discovered that the four Gospels contradict each other! How could their intellect avoid seeing that the Gospels contradicted each other? Great pains were taken to find all the contradictions and to unearth a core common to all Gospels. Not much came of all this, but the attempt made many people famous in the course of the nineteenth and even in the twentieth century. Well, are people of earlier centuries supposed to not have seen that the Gospels contradict each other? Were they really so foolish that they didn't see that the Gospel of Matthew differs from the Gospel of John? Or, perhaps, has it just not occurred to nineteenth century people that their ancestors had a different sort of understanding, sought understanding with a quite different organ of their soul? You can answer that question for yourselves on the basis of what you have learned of spiritual science.
However, the days are gone when people could understand Christianity and the Mystery of Golgotha without taking the path of spiritual science. The number of people who can understand Christianity without spiritual science will become smaller and smaller. Spiritual science will become more and more an indispensable path to the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, which has to be understood with the etheric body. Everything else can be understood with the physical body. But spiritual science alone can prepare us for an understanding of all that has to be understood with the etheric body. Therefore either spiritual science will be fortunate and succeed, or there will be no further spread of Christianity because the Mystery of Golgotha will not be understood. In this respect we are still misunderstood by all those who think they are on the right path.
I have to tell the following story again and again. A few years ago, I lectured in a town in southern Germany about some of the treasures of wisdom in Christianity. Two clergymen were present who came up to me after the lecture and said they were really astonished at my positive attitude toward Christianity. They remarked that I had presented everything exactly the way it was supposed to be in Christianity. However, they felt my manner of presentation could e understood only by people with a certain amount of education, while their way of presenting Christianity was for all people and therefore the right way.
Well, I told them we must not judge on the basis of what pleases people; rather we are obligated to consider for our judgment only what corresponds to reality. People can easily delude themselves into believing that what they think is right. The less people are grounded in reality, the more they are usually convinced their opinion is right. Those who know the least about Christianity are often the very same ones who believe they know the most about it. In other words, it does not matter what we fool ourselves into thinking true; what matters is that we judge on the basis of reality.
So I asked the two clergymen whether everyone was still going to their churches, for that alone would decide the issue. The decisive point was not what these clergymen thought about Christianity but whether they were indeed speaking for all people, whether all people still went to their churches. They had to admit that indeed many people were staying away, unfortunately! Well, I told them that some of those people who didn't go to their churches anymore had come to hear my lecture, and I was speaking to them. For those who do not go to their churches are also seeking a way to the Mystery of Golgotha.
This way must be found. Our opinions must be dictated to us by reality, by what lives and works in reality, not by what we imagine. Obviously, everybody thinks his or her own method is the right one. But the right thing is not what we think is right, what we have thought out and have felt is right, but what reality reveals to us. Of course, that requires that we get used to immersing ourselves deeply into reality. It requires that we have the reverence for reality and devotion to it necessary to have our power of discernment, our sensitivity, and our feelings guided by reality. This is precisely what people have forgotten these days. They must learn it again in order to understand the smallest as well as the greatest things, to understand everyday life as well as what gives meaning to the whole earth evolution, that is, the Mystery of Golgotha.