The Karma of Vocation
19 November 1916, Dornach
It is now my task to explain, episodically in a sense, something that is related directly to the practical and general outward life of humanity, in order to cast light on the direct relation to life that is essential to spiritual science in our time. I hope we shall still come to the parts of our lectures that have more to do with the inner life. As a whole, the central concern of our present considerations is to attain a spiritual scientific understanding of the position of the individual human being in practical, even vocational, life. On The Karma of Vocation is the title I should like to give these lectures I have been giving for some time. Thus, it is necessary to gain a broader basis, and so I must explain in a more comprehensive sense much that is related to the questions we are discussing.
We have made it clear that what the human being achieves for the world in any vocation is by no means something to be set aside as being prosaic, but that, as we have seen, it is most intimately related with his remote cosmic future. Each person integrates himself in a way into the social order of life. Because of his karma he or she is impelled to a certain vocation, none of which is to be considered more prosaic or poetic than the other, and we know that what a person accomplished within the social order is the first germ of something destined not only to have significance for our earth, but to evolve as the earth passes through the states of Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan. What may be called an understanding of vocation, a knowledge of the significance of the immediate life, may truly dawn upon us through such reflections. It is precisely the mission of our spiritual scientific endeavors not merely to communicate pleasant sounding theories. Rather, we must let our souls be touched by what is suitable to place us correctly in life so that each person is in his or her own place in accordance with the spirit of our age, with the arché 80 The archai are the spirits of the time. “Arché“ is the singular of “archai.“ of our time. Thus, our truths bear a character that is always strong enough to constitute the basis for a real judgment of life. We will not revel in comforting conceptions, but will take in those that will carry us through life.
When we recall something I have frequently emphasized, we shall see that even our scientific endeavors have the tendency to touch our souls with what is really meaningful for life. I have often called your attention to a significant fact that may, in a relatively short time, perhaps play a most important scientific role if only those whose mission is to cultivate learning are not too obtuse. A great deal of emphasis is placed today on the role heredity plays in human life, and teachers who talk about the vocations a person is destined to have also mention inherited characteristics when they wish to pass judgment on those things related to the future vocation of a person just entering life. Of course, they are just parroting what constitutes the current scientific view of the world. But those discussing the problem of heredity today mean that children inherit certain characteristics from their parents and ancestry strictly in a physical sense. External science cannot yet open its mind to a recognition of repeated earth lives and the carrying over of human characteristics from previous incarnations. People talk about heredity, but a correct opinion of it will be attained only when we introduce something that can be understood when we grasp the content of my little book, The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy. 81 Printed in: Luzifer-Gnosis 1903–1908, Bibl.-No. 34, CE (1960) and as a separate edition. There we see that human life first passes through a period of seven years, approximately to the change of teeth; a second period to the fourteenth year; a third to the twenty-first, and so on all the way to the twenty-eighth year. Something more thorough on this subject may be found also in a small brochure that contains the substance of my lecture delivered a short time ago in Liestal, 82 The lecture was given on October 16, 1916, and was entitled “Das menschliche Leben vom Gesichtspunkte der Geisteswissenschaft (Anthroposophie)“ [Human Life from the Point of View of Spiritual Science (Anthroposophy)]. It is printed in: Philosophie und Anthroposophie. Gesammelte Aufsätze 1904–1918 [Philosophy and Anthroposophy. Collected Essays 1904–1918], Bibl.-No. 35, CE (Dornach, 1965). in which I wished to call attention again, from another point of view, to these truths of the division of human development between birth and death into seven-year periods. We know that, in essence, the physical body develops inwardly between birth and the change of teeth, that the etheric body develops up to puberty, and that the astral body then passes through its development.
Let us direct our attention today to the time between the fourteenth and sixteenth years, accepting that it differs according to climate, nationality, etc. At that time, humans become mature, as we know, and are able to beget children. Now, it will be recognized that the consideration of this particular time is of the greatest importance to the scientific theory of heredity because the human being must by this time have developed all those characteristics that enable him to impart traits to his descendants. He cannot develop these capacities later, so this makes this an important period of life. To be sure, traits of secondary importance that are developed later may be passed over to descendants, but human beings are so constructed from the scientific point of view that they become fully mature between the fourteenth and sixteenth years with respect to transmitting traits to their descendants. It cannot be said, therefore, that what is essential in human development after this point has significance for the question of heredity. Science must find the reasons why humans cease at this point to develop the bases for the transmission of hereditary characteristics. It is entirely different in animals because they make no essential further progress in life beyond this time. It is this that we must carefully consider.
Now, without discussing many related things here, I wish to point out from the spiritual scientific view what really lies at the bottom of the matter. When we fix our attention back beyond the time of birth, a longer period of time stretches out before us that the human being lives through in the spiritual world between the last death and this birth. Within this stretch of time lie those processes I have often described in mere outline. All that takes place then between death and a new birth naturally has an influence on a human being and includes especially many things that are related to what he works out in his physical life between birth and the fourteenth or sixteenth years. The very thing a person is elaborating here mainly in the unconscious, he or she elaborates between death and the new birth from a higher consciousness. Let us be clear about this matter. Here upon the earth the human being perceives through his eyes and other senses the mineral, vegetable, animal world, etc. But while he is in the spiritual world together with Angels, Archangels, Archai, Exusiai, and also with those humans who have passed through the portal of death and are able to be in some close relationship with him, his attention is then directed, when he looks below, primarily upon what is connected with life in this period of time. It is from there, as I have explained even in exoteric lectures, that everything underlying heredity is determined. From a reflection I have already set before you, 83 Cf. Lecture V of November 13, 1916. we know that, as a residue of the processes between death and a new birth, all that results from a previous vocational life manifests itself in the physiognomy, gestures, and in the entire hereditary tendency. Thus, it is really possible to see in the human being during this period of time, in the way he walks, in the movements of his hands, in his general bearing, the result of his vocational life during his previous incarnation.
But then the period from the fourteenth until the twenty-first year begins, which stands in opposition, in a sense, to the preceding period. As you have heard, the hereditary impulses cannot continue to work in the same fashion during this time; the time is past during which these hereditary impulses develop. Science as yet pays no attention whatever to such matters, but, if it is not to be completely divorced from all reality, it will be compelled to do so. This is the period, however, in which the human being is guided toward his new vocation through the vague and unconscious working of certain impulses into which the processes that occur between death and a new birth play in lesser degree. During this period the impulses of the preceding incarnation are effective in far greater measure. While circumstances are thus developing, he believes along with others that he would be impelled to enter this or that vocation even if only these external circumstances were effective. But they are really unconsciously connected with something living within his soul that comes directly from the preceding incarnation. Note the difference. During the preceding period from the seventh to the fourteenth year, the previous incarnation, fructified by what has happened between death and a new birth, passes into our bodily organization, thereby making us a copy of our preceding vocation. In the following period, however, the impulses no longer work into us, no longer impress gestures on us, but guide us on the way to a new vocation.
You will see what infinitely fruitful thought for future education will result from these reflections if only external world culture can decide to reckon with repeated earthly lives, rather than taking fantastic ideas as truths — fantastic because they only consider a fragment of reality, one that encompasses only the present life between birth and death. Here we must gain a perspective of the immeasurable importance of the entrance of spiritual science into those circles connected with the education and development of the human being, and also with the influence on human life of the external social order. Naturally, we are here looking out over wide perspectives, but they are connected through and through with reality; what governs the evolution of the world is not chaos but order — or even disorder, but nevertheless something that is to be explained only on the basis of spiritual life. So a person who knows the laws that are connected with repeated earthly lives can face the world in counsel and deed in an entirely different manner; he can utter things, or even set things in motion, that have to do with the course of human life.
Bear in mind that, after all, everything in the world runs in cycles in a sense. We know, of course, the vast cycles of the post-Atlantean age: the Indian, ancient Persian, Chaldaic-Egyptian, Greco-Latin, our own and what will follow. Human souls are born many times in all these cycles — some of them only once. But it is not only here that we can see how life on earth runs in cycles: it takes its cyclic course in such a way that certain conditions can be determined when one knows how to properly judge previous conditions. If, for instance, we are able to judge in the right way what was spiritually at work in the first centuries of the Christian development — let us say from the third to the seventh centuries — so that we know the spiritual impulses of that time, we can judge, in turn, what social needs may be effective today.
Cyclic evolutions do take place. We bring unhappiness to a person who is destined to be placed in a certain fashion in the cyclic evolution when we advise him or her to assume a different relationship to life. Since, however, human beings must become increasingly conscious in life during our fifth post-Atlantean epoch, a knowledge of the corresponding laws must gradually come to light. It must become possible for a person to consider himself or herself in a connection with what is taking place and playing its role in their environment. This does not consist merely in learning how to direct children to the right vocation, but also in developing the right thoughts — for we know that thoughts are realities — about the relationship one has to the world. No matter what our station in life is, what we may think of all that is occurring in the world due to the development of the spirit of the time will become increasingly important, and the human soul will have to become increasingly more conscious of this.
Now you will recall how I have undertaken to characterize the currents that have arisen with the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. I have shown you 84 The reference is to lectures on October 7 and October 14, 1916, published in Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschheit [Inner Developmental Impulses of Mankind], Bibl.-No. 171, CE (Dornach, 1964). how a current has arisen over the western regions that tends especially to make people bourgeois — a comprehensive, approximate expression, but nevertheless the bourgeoisie has arisen in Western Europe and America. We have contrasted this ideal with the pilgrim, the Eastern goal, which is still only a goal since it has come less clearly to expression than that of the comparatively more advanced Western culture. These two ideals, the bourgeois and the pilgrim, face each other and, unless we realize the significance of this for life, we cannot possibly develop the understanding that is growing within us. In earlier ages men could face life without understanding since they were guided by divine spiritual powers; today, however, as we develop toward the future, we must have understanding.
You see, such things as I have explained to you in the form of the two currents, one having its source in heredity and the other in redemption, must be fully considered if we wish to judge life today because they force themselves upon us more and more. That these things press upon us is not a mere assertion of mine but something that may be said from present reality — something felt and to a certain extent known for a long time past by people who were not dull and indolent, but who confronted life with full participation. Indeed, I have already called your attention to the peculiarity of our times. Many people today have a thorough feeling for the things that are coming to pass in life, but they do not possess the ability — remember what I told you about Jaurés 85 Lecture of October 29, 1916, “Innere Entwicklungsimpulse der Menschheit“ [Inner Developmental Impulses of Mankind], Bibl.- No. 171, CE (Dornach, 1964). — to ascend to an understanding of repeated earthly lives and karma, either of the individual or of the world; they cannot, therefore, comprehend the very thing they perceive. But at numerous points within modern evolution we find those whose eyes are open to what is happening, in spite of the fact that they never developed the ability to explain matters from the standpoint of repeated earthly lives. Because of their failure to accept repeated earthly lives, they contributed much toward bringing about the very conditions they severely criticized. This is exactly the peculiarity of people today, even those of clearest vision; they criticize what exists and yet labor toward bringing about the very things they criticize while judging them correctly. That is how unconscious impulses play into human life.
Let us take, for example, a man who really saw a good deal in an extraordinarily clear manner, especially in the life of his environment. Such was John Stuart Mill, 86 John Stuart Mill (1806–73), British philosopher and economist, espoused a modified humanitarian utilitarianism but is also regarded by some as one of the founders of positivism. who was born in 1806 and died in 1873, a famous English philosopher, looked upon by many as actually the one who renewed logic and developed it further. He also developed social insights in the most comprehensive way, directing his attention especially to the social evolution of the world as he knew and encountered it in his environment. He wanted to answer the question that assumed for him a tragic character: In what direction does the present age advance? Where does what has forced itself as a social character upon the life of the nineteenth century lead? He said that the bourgeois was the human type that had developed in the nineteenth century and asked how the bourgeois differs from earlier human types. He answered by saying that in earlier times the individual was more significant; that more individuality spoke through the earlier human being. I will couch this more in our concepts, but Mill expressed fundamentally the same thing in his. According to him, the soul had in a certain way elevated itself up above the immediate external physical reality. On the other hand, the bourgeois type works toward levelling and rendering all men equal in the social order. But what, asked Mill, is the result of this process of becoming equal? Not the result of becoming equal in the greatness of the human soul, but of becoming equal in its nothingness. He thus indicates a future for humanity during this fifth post-Atlantean epoch in which men in their social life would become ever more the “pressed caviar” of bourgeois nothingness, and he felt this to be a tragic knowledge.
People sense such things in different ways, however, depending on whether they are born in the Western or Eastern culture. The Russian thinker, Herzen, 87 Alexander Ivanovich Herzen (1812–70) was a Russian writer and revolutionary. Steiner refers to Herzen's work Last Things and First Things (1864) and quotes from Dimitri S. Merezhkovsky's book Der Anmarsch des Pöbels [The Advance of the Mob] (Munich, 1907). acquainted himself thoroughly with these assertions, with these items of knowledge presented by Mill. In his soul, however, all this worked differently. The Western thinker describes this perspective of bourgeois life with a certain nonchalance, one might say, but the Eastern thinker suffers terribly under the thought then maintained by Mill and Herzen that Europe was on the way toward taking on the nature of China. As you can deduce from the writing of Herzen of 1864, both Mill and Herzen — the one with an Eastern and the other with a Western coloring — consider what has come about earlier in China as the goal toward which Europe is aiming as a later stage; that is, toward a new Chinese entity in which men will become the “pressed caviar” of bourgeois nullities. A constriction of the intellect will come, says Mill, a constriction of the intellect and of the energies of life, a polishing away of the personality, everything that leads to a levelling down. Constant flattening out of life, as he expresses it, constant exclusion of general human interests from life — so does Mill express the matter, and Herzen confirms it, but from a mood of tragic sensitivity; it is a reduction to the interests of mercantile offices and bourgeois prosperity. So did Mill and Herzen express themselves even in the sixties of the last century! Mill, who speaks first of his own country, said that England was on the way toward becoming a modern China, and Herzen said that not only England but all of Europe was on the way to becoming a modern China. It may be deduced from Herzen's book of 1864 that he and Mill more or less agreed that unless an unexpected upswing should take place in Europe, which might lead to a rebirth of human personality giving it the force needed to overcome the bourgeois, Europe, in spite of its noble forefathers and its Christianity, would become another China. These words were spoken in 1864!
Herzen, however, had no opportunity to take karma and repeated earthly lives into account. He could admit such knowledge as we have mentioned with only the deepest feeling of tragedy, which he expressed by saying that we are not the physicians, but rather the sufferings, of our time because what now approached — perhaps the thought can be better expressed with the English term used by Herzen and Mill than with the German — is “conglomerated mediocrity.” Herzen expressed this from a feeling of tragedy, saying that a time will come in Europe when the realism of the modern scientific view will have been carried so far that no one will any longer believe in anything belonging to another, a super-sensible, world. It will be said that outward physical realities are the only goal to be striven for, and human beings will be sacrificed for the sake of physical realities without any one realizing that they are something more than simply the connecting link for those who are to follow. The individual will be sacrificed to the future common colony. Such were the words uttered by Herzen who thought the one barrier to preventing Europe from rapidly becoming another China was Christianity, which is not so easily overcome. Yet, he saw no way of escape. He felt that Christianity had also become shallow, flattened out by revolution, which, as he said, was also growing shallow and had deteriorated to the bourgeois liberalism of the nineteenth century, to a conglomerated mediocrity. Referring to what Mill had stated and having in mind the downfall of ancient Rome, Herzen said, “I see the inevitable collapse of old Europe; at the portal of the old world (he meant Europe), there stands no Catiline, but death.”
With a certain justification and as one who sees much that is around him in the contemporary world yet is utterly unable to admit the sustaining concepts and ideas of spiritual science, the contemporary Russian writer, Merezhkovsky, 88 Dimitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky (1865–1941) was a renowned Russian critic and novelist who spent nearly half of his life in exile in Paris. who has learned a good deal from these two thinkers, Mill and Herzen, remarks that today the yardstick has taken the place of the scepter of earlier times, the account book has usurped the place of the Bible and the sales counter replaces the altar. His mistake lies in not going beyond the mere criticism of these things. The yardstick, the account book, and the counter do have a place in our fifth post-Atlantean epoch. We know that it must be so and that it is in accord with irrevocable world karma. What is needed is not merely to condemn these things, but to pour into this world of the yardstick, the account book, and the counter the spirit that alone is the equal of them; this is the attitude of spiritual science.
These are serious matters, and I wish to make it clear, as I always endeavor to do on such occasions, that I am not merely setting forth what I myself believe, but that what I have expressed is in agreement with those who have viewed life with open and wakeful eyes. Many people may hold views and opinions, but the important question is how these views are related to their time, whether they have roots in the soil of the time and whether these people can prove the things they assert. It is a significant fact that the age is taking on a certain character which can be seen by people who are willing to do so. It is not a question of attributing a certain character to the age in whatever way we please, but that we must really see how the spiritual evolution of humanity advances from cycle to cycle.
I have called your attention to the fact that there are occult brotherhoods that possess a knowledge of these things based on traditions handed down from ancient times and derived from atavistic occult teaching. As you know from previous discussions, these brotherhoods — especially in the West but men of the East have also become their adherents — have taken on a dubious character. This does not prevent them from preserving certain secrets of existence even though they do so in a way unsuitable for the present. The person who listens to the spiritual message for our time and communicates that portion of spiritual science that can be given publicly according to the intention of the spirit of the time, frequently meets with marked opposition that comes from dark sources. But this opposition is directed and guided everywhere by spiritual powers, which must always be taken into consideration. It will readily be understood, therefore, that today opposition is easily raised against the spiritual science that is to live within our movement, by the constantly repeated suggestion that such a spiritual science should not be created for large groups of people. All sorts of accepted powers are summoned in order to render this spiritual science innocuous. University professors travel from one country to another to declare that they are forced to oppose especially my spiritual science because people today, as they say, must look at reality — the kind of reality that they alone see — and not at such things that draw men away from it. Often there is method in such attacks because anyone who is not blind sees how these people seek out the places that are politically right for them to work most effectively through the respect felt for them as university professors, for example; these are the places where they believe they can most effectually discredit an opponent. They believe they can accomplish most when they choose the right places and use the right words; that is, words that speak to current passions.
All these things are contained within a larger relationship, however, and what causes the greatest fear of all, we might even say what horrifies these people, is the thought that a number of individuals might come to understand a little of the characteristic life of our day. The utmost desire is felt, especially by those who belong to the occult brotherhoods I have described, to prevent human beings from attaining clarity in everything connected with the real laws of life, since it is among the uninformed that the interested individual can best work. He can no longer exert an influence when people begin to know how they really stand in the contemporary world. This is dangerous for those who want to fish in troubled waters, who desire to keep their esoteric knowledge to themselves, applying it so as to shape human social relationships as they wish them to be. There are members of occult brotherhoods who, within their own ranks, are fully convinced that spiritual powers are at work everywhere in our environment and that there is a bond between the living and the dead. In fact, within their occult brotherhoods they do not talk about anything except the laws of the spiritual world. Our spiritual science, too, possesses a certain part of this knowledge, but it is soon to be made public. They talk about this truth that they have taken over from ancient atavistic tradition and then publish articles in the newspapers in which they oppose the very same things, branding them as medieval superstitions. These are often the very same persons who, in their secret association, nurture spiritual science as a traditional teaching and then come out in opposition to it in the public press, designating it as a medieval superstition, a traditional mysticism, and so forth. They consider it to be entirely proper that they should not know by what principles they are being guided. Of course, there are also all kinds of strange members of occult brotherhoods who know only as much about the world as they can touch with their noses. They too talk about the present impossibility of imparting publicly the content of mystery teachings to human beings.
Now, there are various ways of keeping human beings in a fog of ignorance as I have indicated in my Liestal lecture 89 See footnote 82. and in other public lectures. Just as true spiritual science will impart to us certain ideas and concepts that are like a key giving us access to the spiritual world, so also can certain concepts be found through which it is possible to delude that part of the population that has not arrived at the flattening out of the understanding through a scientific view of the world of which Mill and Herzen speak. Indeed, it is possible to form concepts in more than one way. If it were known how concepts are really formed publicly today in order to manipulate the souls of men in the “right” way, many a person would gradually sense an impulse to come to true spiritual science, which speaks of these things in an honest, upright way. I shall not deal today with all the lofty concepts communicated to persons as ideals, which are not intended, however, to produce what lies within these ideals but rather have an entirely different purpose, but I wish to make clear to you by means of a simple example how those who are craving satisfaction of certain mystical longings are easily deluded.
I will give a most stupid example. It might be said, for instance, that even the ancient Pythagoreans looked upon numbers as containing the laws governing the world. Much is concealed within numerical relationships. Let us take, for example, two numerical relationships:
Nicholas II of Russia:
Born in the year ........................... 1868
Ascended the throne in ................ 1894
Reigned for ................................. 22 years
His age was ................................. 48 years
Total ..... 3832
Dividing this total by 2, we get 1916, the most important year of the war. This is stated on the basis of a “most secret” numerical relationship. Let us take:
George V of England:Born in the year .......................... 1865
Has reigned since ........................ 1910
Has reigned ................................. 6 years
His age is ..................................... 52 years
Half of this is 1916.
The destinies of these two individuals are intimately connected. Here you see how the Pythagorean laws of number play a role in the world! But, to provide a surfeit, let us take also:
Born in the year .......................... 1860
Has ruled since ............................ 1913
That amounts to .......................... 3 years
His age is ......................................56 years
Total ...... 3832
Half of this is 1916.
You see how the numbers agree among these three Allies!
It is, of course, one of the dumbest examples imaginable. If I now went down into the audience and asked one of the ladies — as I shall naturally not do — when she was born, how long she has been a member of the Anthroposophical Society, how old she is — which, as I have said, I shall not ask — when she became a member of the Society, and then added these numbers and took half of the total, I would arrive at precisely the same figure. It is an ideal example and so that it may include present reality, let us select, then, any lady or gentlemen; it may just as well be a gentlemen:
XY was born in the year .......................... 1870
He entered the Anthroposophical Society.... 1912
So he was in the Society .......................... 4 years
And he is .................................................. 46 years old
Total ................... 3832
Half of this is 1916.
It is a really absurd example. I can assure you, however, that all sorts of things that have to do with searching out the secrets of numbers rest on nothing more; the problems are simply a little more concealed than those I have given. Moreover, concepts taken from other fields can just as well be shaped in the right manner and used for throwing dust into the eyes of people; by using proper methods people are hindered from seeing what is concealed behind these things and many have been taken in even by the example I have given. It is profoundly significant that destiny chooses 1916. Had we calculated for 1914, it would have been connected with the beginning of the war! Just as these numbers have been put together for these three Allies, any kind of numbers can, after all, be put together. Many things have been similarly fabricated from different concepts but they are not at all more significant or intelligent. They are less easily observed when somewhat more concealed. Then, when all sorts of numerical relationships are produced along with such expressions as “unfathomable,” and “deep as the world,” anyone can find innumerable adherents and also give the impression that he is speaking from profound depths of human knowledge. But there is really something to the methods used by certain individuals who wish to throw dust in the eyes of the people. In one place or another this or that concept is made public and other things are added, and those pronouncements go back to some occult connection which calls for the attainment of certain purposes. Then one must only become acquainted with the course these people will adopt.
If such things are to become impossible in the future, it is necessary that a number of people shall not have that constricted understanding and energy of life to which Mill refers; rather, they must have the sustaining understanding and supporting life energy that come from spiritual science. These are to work in a fructifying way upon the intellect and life energy of men so that their approach to life shall be such that no one can delude them. These things are connected with the feeling of fear and even horror which the strange news — travelling from eastern Europe to the West — aroused that an individual such as Mme. Blavatsky 90 Helena Petrowna Blavatsky (1831–91). Together with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott she founded the Theosophical Society in the year 1875 in New York. had made her appearance as if coming from nowhere. I have often pointed out 91 Steiner did this in detail in the lectures he gave in the fall of 1915. Cf. “Die okkulte Bewegung im 19. Jahrhundert und ihre Beziehung zur Weltkultur,“ Bibl.-No. 257, CE (Dornach, 1969). The Occult Movement in the Nineteenth Century, (London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973). that this was decidedly significant for the course of the nineteenth century. She appeared at the very time when the struggle was most bitter between the so-called esotericists and the so-called progressive occultists. That is, the reactionaries called themselves the esotericists. They used the word thus because they wished to keep the occult secrets to themselves. The life of Blavatsky fell into this period. There was the danger, through the special construction of this life in which truly far-reaching forces were at work from the subconscious, that spiritual secrets might be revealed through her and people might learn something in the right way. This danger really existed and people were living under it from the 1840's on — in a sense, ever since her birth or childhood. From then on, there was a constant endeavor so to arrange things that Blavatsky might be brought into the service of the Western occult brotherhoods. She would then have been able to bring to light only what they considered suitable for their own ends.
The whole affair took a strange turn, however. I have told you how the effort was made at first by the “Grand Orient” to lure Blavatsky, and how this failed because she set conditions that could not be fulfilled. She then caused mischief in an American brotherhood because her temperament always rebelled against what others wanted to do with her. I have told you how she was then expelled, and how there was no way left to deal with her other than by imposing upon her a kind of occult imprisonment, and by bringing her into the Indian occult brotherhood, whose practice of occultism was considered harmless to the so-called Western brotherhoods because it resembled that of Blavatsky. They thought, “Oh well, even if all sorts of things come to light from Indian sources, they are by no means able to disturb our circles much.” Most of the occultists who were working with serious occultism said, “Now, how can anything much result since we have surrounded Blavatsky with all those pictures that shut her out from a real knowledge of the spiritual world. She will take in only such things as the old ladies, male and female, discuss among themselves at afternoon teas (I am quoting here!) and this will not seriously disturb our circles.”
The affair became uncomfortable only after our movement appeared, which took things in a serious way and opened an access to the fountainhead of a real spiritual world. But you also see that the bases of the conflicts that then resulted lie most deep. The truth is that something of the impulses that had to come from the Eastern world actually was in Blavatsky, and there was really a certain necessity for a synthesis to take place with the Western World. But the important fact was that it had gradually come about that certain purposes and goals were striven for which, as I have already indicated, do not have truth as their objective but are really seeking quite different goals. Think about it, when it is known how human cycles take their course and what the character of the present world must be in relation to its Archai after this or that has happened in earlier evolution, it is then possible to be active in accordance with this truth. If a person possesses, on the one hand, traditional occult knowledge and, on the other, comes out in the press and public life against this occult knowledge as a medieval superstition, he can work in the dark and achieve the important things he is actually striving for. Things are interrelated in the world, but it is not always necessary that people should understand what the interrelationships are, because for many these connections can play their role in the subconscious. As I have indicated yesterday, what is important is that one knows how to direct one's perception to the right places. There something often appears to be quite insignificant, but when seen in the right connection, it explains much more than is explained by what one considers to be significant. Here the same thing may be said regarding many other things in the world, as Hamlet asserted concerning good and evil: Nothing is good or evil in itself, but man makes it so in his thoughts. So it is also with many other matters. The significance of one thing or another is not to be found in what it represents for outer maya, for the great illusion, but the significance of things must be recognized by associating the right concepts with them. I will mention an example taken from the most recent times in Europe, without thereby intending to enter any sort of partisan or political current.
There may be men here in Europe who, since they all like to think short-sightedly nowadays, look upon the outbreak of the present war as being connected with the murder of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 92 Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este (1863–1914) was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Heir Apparent to the Throne. I do not say that this is untrue or that there is no truth in it, but on the basis of this event they can explain certain occurrences that they trace back to this murder of July 1914. But there may also be other persons who stress that, in a Western newspaper of January 1913, the statement appeared that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was to be murdered in the near future for the well-being of European humanity. What I mean to say is that we may go back as far as the actual murder, but we may also go back to the notice of it that appeared in a Western newspaper in January 1913. 93 The newspaper referred to was Paris-Midi. Cf. the speeches by Jean Jaures published by Victor Schiff (Berlin, 1919). It is also possible to go back to the murder of Jaures on the last evening before the war began — probably never entirely explained, as I recently suggested. But it is equally possible to go back to the same newspaper to which I just referred, which carried the statement in 1913 saying that if conditions in Europe should lead to war, Jaures would be the first to meet his death — You may consult a certain occult almanac 94 Almanach de Mme de Thèbes [pseudonym of an alleged Mme Anne Victoire de Savigny, died in 1917), “Conseils pour etre heureux“ (Paris, 103 ff.). that was sold for forty francs and find in the issue for 1913, which was printed, of course, in 1912, the statement that he who was expected to be the ruler in Austria would not be the ruler, but rather a younger man, whom people wouldn't even now consider as the successor to the old Emperor Franz Josef. 95 Cf. “L'assassin,“ in Almanach de Mme de Thebes 1913 (Paris, 1912): “The one who is supposed to rule Austria (Franz Ferdinand) is not going to rule but rather a young man who at this time is not intended to be the ruler (Karl I).“ That was printed in a so-called occult almanac for 1913; printed, therefore, in the autumn of 1912. Moreover, in the same almanac for 1914, printed in 1913, the same remark was repeated 96 See “Més predications de l'an passé,“ Almanach de Mme de Thebes 1914 (Paris, 1913): “The tragic event that I predicted for the Austrian imperial family has not yet occurred, but it will definitely take place before the first half of the year has elapsed.“ because obviously the attempt on Emperor Franz Josef's life had miscarried in 1913. When these things are seen more clearly, the connection will someday be discovered that exists between what actually happens externally and what is cooked up by hidden, dark sources. Many will recognize the threads that lead from public life into this or that brotherhood, and how stupid it is for other brotherhoods continually to declare that silence should be maintained regarding certain mystery truths. Such people may be as innocent as children, in spite of the fact that they may be old members of this or that brotherhood of Freemasons which lay claim to secret sources. Nevertheless, they further intensify the obscurity and darkness that is already present among human beings.
I recently gave an example in St. Gallen and Zurich of an especially enlightened pastor and professor, 97 The reference is to Dr. Friedrich Mahling, Hamburg. In his lecture on October 26, 1916, in St. Gallen, Rudolf Steiner quotes from Mahling's booklet Die Gedankenwelt der Gebildeten [The World of Thought of the Educated]. Cf. Die Verbindung zwischen den Lebenden und den Toten [The Connection between the Living and the Dead], Bibl.-No. 168, CE (Dornach, 1976). who belongs to an occult brotherhood, and pointed out the discontinuity in his thinking. He is one of those people who make their presence felt through their own denseness which they acquire in their occult brotherhoods. It is the mission of many leaders in those brotherhoods to keep members like this professor in the dark, and by this a rather unfavorable influence is exerted. People must open their eyes, but these eyes must first learn how to see. The direction of one's perception is determined by the enlightenment one has received regarding the spiritual world. Judgments are continually made that seldom take human relationships into account. Thus, as I have once indicated, I, too, was at one time to be made tractable through being “appointed” to some post in the Theosophical Society at the time Alcyone (Krishnamurti) 98 Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) was proclaimed by the Theosophical Society in 1909 as an incarnation of Maitreya, the messianic Buddha. After a two-year tour of America and England with Annie Besant, Krishnamurti renounced these claims in 1929. was “appointed.” Everything that pulses through our movement might have been neatly swept away if I had fallen in with what was suggested to me; that is, to become the “reincarnated John!” Certain sources would then have announced that Alcyone is one thing and he is the reincarnated John. Then the entire movement need not have experienced what later occurred.
Vanity also belongs among the various things that stupefy people. Much can be achieved by getting hold of it in the right way, especially if the methods are known by which certain concepts are to be formed. I have already pointed out that the Theosophical Society simply worked too amateurishly. The others do these things more cleverly and practically, but it is naturally not possible to do much that is clever when it is necessary to reckon with a personality under whom those near her have groaned a good deal; when it is necessary, for example, to reckon with such a personality as Annie Besant, 99 Annie Besant (1847–1933) was elected President of the Theosophical Society in May, 1907. who is full of violent emotion. Those in her company have sighed for years because of the state into which they declared she would bring them because she also, of course, had come within the aura of a particular Indian occultism. Moreover, she also possessed curious characteristics that came from strange depths and were rather inappropriate for a number of people even in the Theosophical Society. A number of individuals, mostly men — excuse me, but no allusion is intended — groaned because they were forever trying to get Annie Besant a little more on the track so things might proceed. But there were women also who sighed, and they always gave in to her again since they always tried, above all, to practice theosophy — to be sure, in the sense in which it was there practiced, but in such a way that it should become something like a theosophical sort of conglomerated mediocrity. There was a desire to introduce into the practice of spiritual science what John Stuart Mill called conglomerated mediocrity.
I myself observed how a representative of the Theosophical Society worked in a city belonging to the section of which I was at that time the general secretary. 100 Rudolf Steiner had been secretary of the German branch of the Theosophical Society since its founding on October 20, 1902. I went to this city to deliver some lectures, having been called there by a lady representative. But she said to me, “We shall gradually give up the lectures because they do not have the right objective. We must arrange afternoon teas and invite people to become mutually acquainted.” Her idea was that this is done best along with sandwiches. “But the lectures (and she said this with a certain disparaging expression) will have a less and less important role.” It may be said that this personality was also enveloped in the right sheaths from a particular direction. There are, indeed, many individuals working as representatives who do not know at times where the wires that pull them originate. Wires are frequently not needed. Small twine will work, even packaging cord. Indeed, it is lamentable to see how humanity behaves at times even when the holiest and most serious things of mankind are at stake.
In particular, the greatest fear was that Blavatsky, provided she continued to be healthy and brought up to the surface what was in the subconscious parts of her nature, would be politically dangerous simply because of her special gifts and exceptional connection with her own Russian people. Many special efforts were made to prevent this from happening. Indeed, beginning in the sixties and seventies, if what then lived in Blavatsky could have become effective, many things of which such individuals as Mill and Herzen had a perfectly clear view would then have taken an entirely different course. But certain ahrimanic powers succeeded in eliminating a great deal. Well, we will see how things will go with our spiritual science under the present distressing conditions. Right thinking about it will be possible only for those who are capable of perceiving its significance in reference to the mission of our fifth post-Atlantean epoch. You have already been able to discover to what extent our spiritual science really takes into account only what is purely human, and I think it is also possible to perceive a distinction between these things. We have often discussed Goethe's Faust and even produced it on the stage. It does not require a national background to present Faust in all its occult depths. But I leave it up to you to decide whether it is necessary to harbor nationalistic feelings or perhaps even a peculiar nationalistic fervor, in order to call Goethe, Schiller, and Lessing spirits of mediocre rank, as Maeterlinck 101 Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949) was a Belgian writer. has most recently done, and to write long articles about the mediocrity of Goethe, Schiller, and Lessing that the important newspapers of the world are persuaded to publish. You may decide there are even deeper reasons behind this.
Just put two things together. In the course of these reflections I have pointed out to you that Ku Hung Ming, 102 Ku Hung-Ming, Der Geist des chinesischen Volkes und der Ausweg aus dem Krieg [The Spirit of the Chinese People and the Way out of the War] (1916). the Chinese, has written a truly ingenious book claiming that the only salvation for the Europeans is to apply themselves to what is the essence of China. Thus, they would be enabled, so Ku 103 pp. 168–169 in Ku Hung-Ming's book (cf. footnote 102): “Therefore, the first task must be to find some way to give the generals and politicians power, the power to make peace. The nations now waging war in Europe can achieve this only by tearing up their present Magna Cartas of Freedom and by replacing them with a new Magna Carta of Loyalty, such as we Chinese have it in our religion of the good citizen.“ with a Magna Carta of loyalty, which can come only from what is essentially Chinese. Ku Hung Ming is a discerning spirit who, from a profound knowledge of the Chinese nature, confirms what Mill and Herzen already had sensed. He is a spirit, moreover, who is not a philologist or schoolmaster, but one who came from a practical profession like Max Eyth, whom I have already mentioned; that is, he is neither a theologian, schoolmaster nor philologist, but one who originally was a merchant, has had many occupations and knows life. Ku Hung Ming represents the Chinese nature, the life of China. From Ku Hung Ming's remarkably vivid descriptions, it is possible today to gain a conception that gives us the impression that Mill and Herzen — read Herzen's book of 1864 — were entirely right when they called the teaching of Confucius and Laotze 104 Confucius, Chinese Kung Fu-tse (551–579? B.C.), a Chinese philosopher. Lao-tze (born approximately 604 B.C.) was also a Chinese philosopher and the co-founder of Taoism. He was called “the old master.“ the final consequence that must follow if Europe should be seized by the so-called positivistic realism, supported by conglomerated mediocrity, by bourgeois nothingness. The Chinese way of thinking is the final consequence of what is promulgated in the universities today and is spreading to the masses as the contemporary world view. It came from an earlier culture six hundred years before our era. Ku Hung Ming describes it clearly. Mill and Herzen described the way that will be taken by a European culture based solely upon external positivistic realism. From one side Europe will take hold of the Chinese entity; from the other, the only salvation for Europe lies in the Chinese way of thinking.
Perhaps there may be a third side and I hope you will permit me to raise this very question at the conclusion of today's considerations. How would it be if there were also a side to which it would be entirely agreeable if a Chinese should advise the Europeans to choose their only existing salvation? How would it be if it were not mere chance that this teaching of Ku Hung Ming is being introduced into Europe today? It is brilliant from the standpoint of the Chinese nature, but is it not also capable of confusing those people who do not receive it with a clear mind, with senses awakened by spiritual science and possibly designed to maneuver the people to a point where they embrace the ways of China? This is precisely what is intended, just as Mill and Herzen have already correctly seen that certain occult brotherhoods have set their sails in the direction of acquiring the essence of China, since in a Chinafied Europe it would be easiest to include what they want. Why, then, should it not be in keeping with the will of a brotherhood that a Chinese should advise the Europeans to pay heed to the beauties that might come from this Chinese way of thinking? Why may we not expect that the so-called most enlightened should be captivated by the advice of a Chinese since Europeans no longer know what to do?
Since I have said how significant that Chinese book is, I also feel obligated from the representative standpoint of spiritual science to call attention to the following: Such phenomena as the book of Ku Hung Ming — or really, the books, since two have appeared — should certainly be examined but we also must know that, under certain circumstances, far-reaching objectives are concealed behind them. It is entirely wrong not to become acquainted with them, but it is also wrong to be taken in by them. It is also most important to examine carefully everything that appears today, often from the most dubious sources, in the form of mysticism or occultism. Those of you who take into account what I have so frequently presented will endeavor also to see these things correctly. The modern world stands in the midst of all sorts of other currents, raising the question as to whether or not individuals possess the will power to see clearly and distinctly. We must, for example, be able to estimate thoroughly the difference between this current and one that still possesses more power today than is ordinarily opposed, and that proceeds from certain Roman Catholic sources. Initiation principles frequently stand behind them, though naturally those who bring them into the world are blind to what guides them. Let us now contrast certain things with others. On the one side, there is the Roman Church and, on the other, those occult brotherhoods. The Roman Church, which works in the way well-known to you, and those brotherhoods that, of course, wage a deadly war with the Church but also certainly possess and use occult knowledge; yet, before the public, they brand this as medieval superstition so that they may keep people in the right current and use them for their own purposes. Contrast this with the Roman Church. Just take the encyclical of December 8, 1864, Freedom of Conscience and of Worship, 105 This encyclical has become known as the so-called “Syllabus Pius' IX.“ that was proclaimed ex cathedra. Those principles in which men believe are mentioned there and they are then condemned: “It is stated by some people that freedom of conscience and or worship is the right of every human being. This is madness. This is an absurdity.” In the view of the Roman See, it is an absurdity, a madness, for the orthodox Catholic to lay claim to freedom of conscience and worship. This is one of the currents; the other finds that it is better not to say such things but rather to do things whereby the freedom of conscience, the freedom of one's own conviction, most of all, and the introduction of one's own conviction in human life, shall be abolished. Here you have two contrasting movements that are most significant for today; much depends on this.
The reason for my concluding today's lecture with these reflections was to admonish those who stand within our spiritual scientific movement to grasp the inner impulse of the soul and not belong among the somnolent, but among those who determine to strive for a vision of life as it is. To receive items of spiritual scientific knowledge and to believe them does not make one a spiritual scientist. Only that person is a spiritual scientist in the true sense whom the spiritual scientific truths have made into a clear-sighted human being, but also into one who possesses the will really to look in the right way at what is in his other environment, and at the right points, so as to be able to judge the situation in which one is placed in the world. If we wish to speak in a fruitful way about the karma of vocation, then this also belongs to the discussion.
We shall soon continue these reflections. The necessary light will then be cast upon what belongs more in the immediate, everyday life, the immediate karma of vocation.