19 June 1917, Berlin
Today, my task will be to contribute further to the fundamental theme in our quest to understand the problems of our time. It is justifiably required that man should be awake, and pay due heed to the many spiritual influences that affect and transform him over comparatively short periods of time, and also that he acquaint himself with what must be done to further the particular spiritual and cultural impulses at work in our time.
I have tried from various viewpoints to draw your attention to the greater post-Atlantean period, by describing wider aspects as well as details from it, because only our understanding of that period makes our own comprehensible. To allow the whole of mankind's post-Atlantean evolution to work upon us awakens understanding for our own time.
I want today to speak about that same period by bringing before you some different characteristic aspects. However, in order to understand what I want to describe I must ask you to bear in mind what has been said about humanity as such becoming ever younger and younger. I described how, immediately after the Atlantean catastrophe, mankind's age was 56 and that by now it has dropped to 27. This means that modern man develops naturally up to that age. After the age of 27 he develops further only if he cultivates impulses received directly from the spirit out of his own inner initiative. So let us turn our attention to how the 27 year old human being of today came to be as he is.
Let us look back once more to the time immediately after the great Atlantean catastrophe. I have pointed out how very different, compared with today, man's social feelings and in fact his whole social structure then were. I would like to draw special attention to the unique soul constitution of the first post-Atlantean people, particularly of those in the southern part of Asia, and also remind you of certain facts, already known to you from my writings, about that ancient Indian culture. There was at that time a complete absence of what modern man can hardly imagine a social structure without, namely the concepts of laws and rights. You will be aware of the immense importance attached to these and related concepts today. Things of this nature were never mentioned; they were unknown in the first postAtlantean epoch. It would have been impossible at that time to imagine what might be meant by laws and rights, whereas we cannot visualize society without them. When guidance was needed concerning what ought to be done or left undone, or about arrangements to be made either in public or private life, one turned to the patriarchs, i.e., to those who had reached their fifties.
It was assumed, because it was self-evident, that those who had reached their fifties were able to recognize what ought to be done. They had this ability because people remained capable of development in the natural sense like children right into their fifties, by which time they had also attained in the same natural way a certain worldly maturity. No one disputed the fact that people of that age were wise and knew how life should be arranged and human affairs conducted. It would never have occurred to anybody to doubt that people who had developed normally into their fifties would know the right answers to life's problems. When a human being today, in the course of his natural development, reaches puberty, a change takes place in his inner being. In that ancient time inner revelations came to people in their mature years, simply because natural development continued until late in life, the consequence of which were the capabilities I have indicated. Thus, when advice was needed, one consulted the natural lawgivers, the elders, the wise ones.
Why exactly did they have this extraordinary wisdom? The reason they were so wise was that they experienced themselves at one with the spirit, more particularly with the spirits that live in light. Today we sense the warmth in our environment; we are aware of the air as we breathe it in and out; we sense a force in water as it evaporates to come down again as rain, but we experience this only physically, through our senses. The people of the first post-Atlantean epoch did not experience things that way. When they were in their fifties, they felt the spirit in warmth, in currents of air, in circulating water. They did not just experience the wind blowing but the spirits of wind; not just warmth but the spirit of warmth; when they looked at water, they saw also the water spirits. This caused them, when they had reached a certain age, to listen to the revelations of these elemental spirits, though only in certain states of wakefulness. What the elemental spirits revealed to them formed the basis for the wisdom they were able to impart to others. When people who had reached that age had gone through normal development, they were geniuses; in fact, they were much more than what we understand by genius.
Today a child's soul development reveals itself gradually up to a certain age while the body's development takes place. In those days something similar happened in old age when wisdom arose from the bodily nature itself. It came about because many not only developed naturally during the body's thriving growth, but continued to do so during its decline when it became sclerotic and mineralized. The body's forces of decline, its calcification, caused the soul and spirit to develop, and this was bound up with another aspect of evolution. If you imagine vividly what I shall now describe, you will find it easy to understand. People who had reached the age when the body began to decline, clearly perceived the beings of the elements. At night the normal senses enabled man to perceive not only the stars but also imaginations. He saw the spiritual aspect of the starry sky. I have often drawn attention to old star maps with their curious figures. These figures are not as modern science would have it — creations of fantasy — but originate from direct perception.
Thus the ancients, the wise ones, were able to give counsel and regulate the social structure through what they directly perceived. They had an intimate relationship with that part of the earth they inhabited because they perceived its spiritual content. They perceived spirituality in the water that issued from it, in the air surrounding it, in the climatic conditions of warmth and so on. But these interrelationships differed from place to place. In Greece they were different from those in India and different again from those in Persia and so on. As a consequence the wise ones, the sages, had perceptions that were related to the particular section of the earth which they occupied. The ancient Indian culture developed the way it did through the relationships prevailing in that part of the earth. Likewise there arose in Greece a culture specifically related to the elements in that part. These differences were experienced quite concretely.
Today something similar is experienced only in regard to the human being. We would regard it as grotesque were it suggested that the ear could be situated where the nose is or vice versa. The whole organism is so formed that the nose could only be where it is and likewise the ear. However, the earth itself is an organism, but for that there is no longer any feeling or understanding. When a culture develops, it must of necessity have a certain physiognomy through the influence of the earth's elemental beings. What developed in ancient Greece could not have been transferred to ancient India or vice versa. What is so significant about ancient times is that cultures developed which reflected the earth's spiritual physiognomy. Nothing of this is known to man today because, when he reaches the age when he could know, his natural ability to develop ceases. People do not pause to wonder why it is that, when the white man immigrated to North America, the appearance of those who settled in the eastern part became different from that of those who settled in California. The expression in the eyes of the settlers in the east changed completely, and their hands became larger than they would have been in Europe; even the color of their skin changed. This applies only to the eastern part of America. The development of a civilization and its relationship to its part of the earth's organism is no longer taken into account. Man no longer knows what kind of spiritual entities, what kind of spiritual beings live in the elements of the earth. Man has become abstract; he no longer experiences things as they truly are.
What I have described applies to the first post-Atlantean epoch. Things changed in the following epoch, in the course of which mankind's age dropped to between 48 and 42. During this second post-Atlantean epoch the natural ability of the human being to develop lasted only into his forties. Therefore he did not attain the kind of wisdom he had attained in the first epoch. His soul-spirit being remained dependent on the bodily nature only in his forties. The ability to sense his relationship with the elements became weaker. However, the ability was still there, only weakened. People now became aware that when they were outside the body during sleep, they were in the spiritual world. They became aware of this once they had reached, their forties. They also became aware that when they awoke and plunged into the body once more, the spiritual world became dark. The teaching about Ormuzd and Ahriman, about Light and Darkness, originated from this experience. Man was aware that he was in the spiritual world during sleep, and he experienced the descent into the body as a descent into darkness. There was no longer the close dependence on the piece of land one inhabited; instead, there was an experience of participating in night and day. The constellations of stars were still seen pictorially through the faculty of imagination. This atavistic ability had remained from the time of Atlantis and enabled man to know that he had a living soul and that during sleep he was in a spiritual world which he could experience through imagination.
In the third, the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch, the ability to experience oneself so completely at one with the whole cosmos receded still further. In Persia it had been taught by Zarathustra, but had in general been known through tradition. During the Egyptian-Chaldean cultural epoch, in the course of normal evolution, man's sense perception became stronger while the old spiritual perception became weaker. As a consequence the main form of worship in the third epoch was a star cult. Earlier, in Persia there had been no star cults; the spiritual world had been experienced directly through imagination and music of the spheres. In the third epoch things were more interpreted rather than seen directly; the pictorial aspect became fainter. A proper star cult developed because the stars were clearly seen.
Then came the fourth epoch when the surrounding spiritual world had faded from man's consciousness. Only the physical aspect of the stars was perceived; the world was seen more or less as we see it. I have already described how man experienced the world in ancient Greece. That the soul lives in the body and expresses itself through the body — of this the Greeks were aware, but they no longer felt to the same extent that the cosmos was the soul's true home. I have often referred to Aristotle who, because he was not initiated, could not perceive the spiritual aspect of the stars; instead he founded a philosophy of the world of stars. He interpreted what he saw physically. His interpretation was based on his awareness that man's soul resides in the body between birth and death. He was also aware in a philosophical sense, that the soul has its home in that outermost sphere in which, for Aristotle, the highest God held sway, while lesser Gods held sway in the nearer spheres. He also evolved a philosophy of the elements, of earth, water, air, and fire or warmth; it was, however, philosophy, not experience. No philosophy of the elements had existed before when they were still directly perceived and experienced. By the fourth epoch it had all changed; mankind had been truly driven from the spiritual world. The time had come when something had to intervene: the Mystery of Golgotha.
In these lectures I have pointed to the deep significance of the Mystery of Golgotha. I explained that by the time it took place mankind's age had dropped to 33; man's natural development proceeded only up to that age, and Christ, in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, experienced just that age. A truly wondrous coincidence! As I have described, immediately after the Atlantean catastrophe man remained capable of natural development right up to the age of 56, then 55, later 54 and so on. At the beginning of the second epoch this ability lasted only up to the age of 48, then 47 and so on. At the beginning of the third, the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch it lasted only to the age of 42, receding to the age of 36. The Graeco-Latin epoch began in the year of 747 B.C. when man retained the ability of natural development only up to the age of 35, then 34 and when it receded to the age of 33 then —because this age is below 35 when the body begins to decline — man could no longer experience the cosmic spirit's union with the soul. Therefore, the spirit that is the Christ Spirit approached man from outside. You see how essential was the Christ Spirit's entry into mankind's evolution.
Let us look back once more to the patriarchs in ancient times who were, one might say, super-geniuses. They were consulted on all questions concerning the arrangement of human affairs because their natural inner development enabled them to embody the divine-spiritual element. The possibility of receiving higher counsel from human beings diminished ever more. When mankind's age receded to 33, Christ had to come from other worlds and enter the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Man had to receive from a different direction the impulse which through his natural evolution he had lost.
This allows us deep insight into the indispensable connection between mankind's evolution and the Mystery of Golgotha. Science of the spirit reveals Christ's entry into human evolution as an inherent necessity. The need for new insight and deeper understanding of the Christ Impulse can be seen at every turn.
I recommend you read the latest number of Die Tat (The Deed), for it contains much of interest. You will find an article by our revered friend Dr. Rittelmeyer 1 Friedrich Rittelmeyer, 1872–1938, professor of theology, pastor in Nurnberg and Berlin, co-founder of the Christian Community. and also one of the last articles written by our dear friend Deinhard before his death. 2 Ludwig Deinhard, 1847–1917, Das Mysterium des Menschen im Lichte der psychischen Forschung, Berlin 1910. In this same number there is also an article by Arthur Drews which is significant because here he again discusses the role of Christ Jesus in the modern world. 3 Arthur Drews, 1865–1935, see: “Ist Jesus eine historische Perstinlichkeit?” in Hat Jesus gelebt?, Berlin and Leipzig 1910, and Die Christusmythe, Jena 1910 and 1911. I have often spoken about Drews. He came to the fore in Berlin at the time when the attempt was made, from the so-called monistic viewpoint to prove, among other things, that Jesus of Nazareth could not be a historical person. Two books appeared concerned with what was called the “Christ Myth” to show that it cannot be proved historically that a Jesus of Nazareth ever lived.
This time Drews discusses Christ Jesus from an odd point of view. In the June number of Die Tat you will find an article entitled “Jesus Christ and German Piety.” He builds up the peculiar idea of a piety that is German; this is just about as clever as to speak of a German sun or a German moon. To bring national differences into these things is really as nonsensical as it would be to speak of the sun or moon being exclusively German; yet such absurdities attract large audiences these days. It is interesting that Drews, who would not dream of evoking Eckart, 4 Meister Eckart, 1260–1327, German mystic and preacher. Tauler 5 Johannes Tauler, 1300–1361, German mystic and preacher. or Jacob Boehme, 6 Jacob Boehme, 1575–1624, German pantheist mystic and philosopher. here does evoke Fichte, 7 Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762–1814, German idealist philosopher. although normally he would not do so even if philosophical matters were discussed. He takes the greatest trouble in his attempt to justify his idea of German piety, and also to show that, especially if one is German, the truth about Jesus Christ cannot be arrived at through theology or historical study, but only through what he calls German metaphysics. And says Drews, no historical Christ Jesus can be found through metaphysics.
Drews' whole approach is closely connected with what I have drawn to your attention in these lectures, that the only concept of God modern man can reach is that of the Father God. The name of Christ is interspersed in the writings of Harnack, 8 Adolf Harnack, 1851–1930, German Lutheran theologian. but what he describes is the Father God. What is usually called the inner mystical path can lead only to a general Godhead. Christ cannot be found in either Tauler or Eckart. It is a different matter when we come to Jacob Boehme, but the difference is not understood by Drews. In Boehme the Christ can be found for it is of Him that he speaks. Christ is to be found neither in Arthur Drews' writings nor in Adolf Harnack's theology, but Drews is, from the modern point of view, the more honest. He seeks the Christ and does not find Him, because that is impossible through abstract metaphysics held aloof from historical facts. But the real facts of history can, as we have seen, enable us to understand the significance even of the age of Christ Jesus in relation to the Mystery of Golgotha. Drews fails to find Christ because he remains at abstract metaphysics, which is the only standpoint acceptable today. Certainly, the healthy person can through metaphysics find a general God but not Christ. It is an outlook that is directly connected with what I explained, that atheism is really an illness, the inability to find Christ a misfortune, not to be able to find the spirit a soul blindness. Drews cannot do otherwise than say, “What is discovered through metaphysics cannot honestly be called Christ; we must therefore leave Christ out of our considerations.” Drews believes he is speaking out of the spirit of our time, and so he is inasmuch as our time rejects spiritual science. He believes he is speaking the truth when he says that religion must be based on metaphysics, and therefore cannot, if it is honest, entertain any concept of Christ.
Let us now turn to the actual words with which Drews ends his extraordinary article: “Every historical tradition”— he means traditions depicting Christ historically — “is an obstacle to religion; as soon as the great work of reformation, only just begun by Luther, is completed, the last remnant of any faith based on history will be swept away from religious consciousness.”
I have often mentioned that spiritual science seeks to establish a faith based on history because it provides a concrete impetus towards the spiritual aspect of evolution which leads as directly to Christ as abstract metaphysics leads to an undifferentiated God. Drews says, “German religion must be either a religion without Christ or no religion at all.” That expresses more or less what I have often indicated, namely that the present-day consciousness is bound to remove Christ unless it comes through spiritual science to a concrete grasp of the spiritual world and thereby rekindles understanding of Christ.
When one recognizes God and man to be essentially the same, [Imagine, to suggest, as is done here, that God and man are the same!] when every person is seen to have a natural tendency to become a “Christ”; i.e., to become a God-man, then there will be no room for a Jesus Christ. One can certainly draw attention to acts attributed to Christ in order to elucidate and illustrate certain religious procedures, as for example mystics have done. One can also refer to sayings of Christ to make one's own opinions clear, just as one can refer to words and doings of other outstanding individuals.
Here we have the peculiar situation that what is said never to have existed is yet referred to as if it had. On the one hand Drews sets out to prove that Christ never was, and on the other he says that it is permissible to refer to His words and deeds in order to elucidate one's own. He continues:
“German” religion of the God-man has no use for a historical redeemer or even for an exceptional human being who, like Jesus, haunts our liberal theologians. It needs no symbolic representative who only serves to confuse the issue. Such a symbol must be recognized as superfluous and even dangerous because it introduces into our “German” concept of religion not only an alien element which, however sublime, is nevertheless onesided, but also unacceptable Protestant ethics. It is this which has caused modern man's alienation from Christianity. Furthermore, such imposed ethics contradict the duties, so deeply felt at the present time, placed upon us by our own nature.
This is certainly a passage of which I can make no proper sense. How is one to come to terms with the way modern man thinks? That is something difficult to understand when one's own thoughts relate to reality. Drews continues:
All that is great and significant in the Gospels is not lost to mankind even if there never was a Jesus. The words attributed to him would then have come from some other source. In any case, our salvation cannot be dependent on whether there was a Jesus or not. Regarding Jesus as principle of salvation draws in its wake not only the whole dualistic metaphysics of Palestinian Judaism, which is incompatible with the modern spirit, but also makes religion inseparable from history. It introduces vague opinions and brings forward doubtful historical events as proof of external religious manifestations. The “German” religion of the God-man is not only a religion of freedom, but a religion of the most individual and deepest inwardness. It will no sooner have entered life than we shall be free both of external Church functions with their subsidiary demands, but also of Jesus Christ. As Fichte said: “It is through metaphysics, not history, that salvation is obtained! And metaphysics knows of no Jesus Christ.”
It would be well if people become conscious of the fact that without spiritual knowledge modern education leads logically to such a conclusion. To present a different result would be a compromise and therefore dishonest. If this were recognized spiritual science would not be seen as something arbitrarily introduced at the present time, but as the answer to the deepest and truest needs of the human soul.
Since the year 1413 after the Mystery of Golgotha, man has lived in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch during which through human evolution he becomes ever more estranged from the spiritual world. We can find our connection with spirituality only through impulses that are no longer provided by man's bodily nature but are innate in the soul itself. People today succumb to the kind of abstractions I have described because as yet they are not sufficiently permeated by Christianity to sense the soul's necessity of union with the spiritual world. That is why nowadays all concepts, all ideas are abstract. Truly they go together — today's unchristian attitude and the unreality and abstraction of ideas. Indeed our concepts and ideas will remain unreal unless we learn to permeate them once more with the spirit, the spirit in which Christ lives. Through Him our concepts will again become as living and real as those of the ancient Indian patriarchs who through their personalities made concrete and effective what was instituted as rights and laws. Our rights and laws are themselves abstract. When a bridge is built and it collapses, one soon realizes that its construction was based on wrong concepts. In society such connections are not so easily detected; all kinds of incompetence may be practiced. The result reveals itself only in the unhappiness people suffer in times such as ours. When a bridge collapses, one blames the engineer who built it. When misfortune overtakes mankind because the inadequate concepts of those in charge are incapable of intervening in events, then one blames all kinds of things. However, what ought to be blamed, or rather recognized, is the circumstance that we are going through a crisis in which people no longer have any true sense as to whether a concept has any connection with reality or not.
I would like to give you an example taken from external nature to illustrate once more the distinction between concepts that are connected with reality and those that are not. If you take a crystal and think of it as a hexagonal prism, closed above and below by hexagonal pyramids, then you have a concept of a quartz crystal that is connected with the reality, because that is true of the crystal's form and existence. If on the other hand you form a concept of a flower without roots, you have an unreal concept, for without roots a flower cannot live, cannot have an existence in reality. Someone who does not strive to make his thoughts correspond to reality will regard the flower torn off at the stem as just as real as the quartz crystal, but that is untrue. It is not possible for someone who thinks in accordance with reality to form a mental picture of a flower without roots. People will have to learn anew to form concepts that correspond to reality. A tree which has been uprooted is no longer a reality to which the concept tree corresponds. To feel the uprooted tree as a reality is to feel an untruth, for it cannot live, but withers and dies if not rooted in the earth. There you have the difference.
No one whose thinking corresponds to reality could suggest, as professor Dewar does, that it is possible to calculate by means of experiments how the world will end. 9 Professor Dewar, 1842–1923, chemist, lecturer at the Royal Institution in London. Such speculations are always unreal. It must become habit to train one's thinking to correspond to things as they truly are, otherwise one's thoughts about the spiritual world will be mere fantasy. One must be able to distinguish the concept of a living entity from that of a lifeless one, otherwise one cannot have true concepts of the spiritual world. One's thoughts remain unreal if a tree without roots, or a geological stratum by itself — for it can exist only if there are other strata lying below as well as above — is regarded as true reality. Those who think the way geologists or physicists and especially biologists do are not formulating real thoughts. Biologists think of a tooth, for example, as if it could exist on its own. Today, spiritual science apart, it is only in the realm of art — though not in pure realism — that one finds any understanding for the fact that the reality or unreality of something can depend on whether that to which it belongs is present or not.
These examples are taken from the external physical world, but today other spheres, such as national economy and political science in particular, suffer from unreal thoughts. I have pointed out the impossibility of the political science outlined by Kjellen in his book The State as a Form of Life. 10Rudolf Kjellen, 1864–1922, Der Staat als Lebensform, Leipzig 1916. You know that I have great respect for Kjellen. His book is both widely read and highly praised, but if some aspect of natural science had been written about in a similar way, the author would have been laughed at. One may get away with writing in that way about the state, but not about a crocodile. Not a single concept in Kjellen's book is thought through realistically.
It is essential that man develop a sense for the kind of thoughts that do relate to reality; only then will he be able to recognize the kind of concepts and ideas capable of bringing order into society. Just think how essential it is that we acquire concepts enabling us to understand people living on Russian soil. Remarkably little is done to reach such understanding. What is thought about the Russian people, whether here or in the West or in Central Europe, is very far from the truth. A few days ago I read an article which suggested that Russians still have to some extent the more mystical approach to life of the Middle Ages, whereas since then in the West and in Central Europe intellectuality has become widespread. The article makes it clear that the Russian people should begin to acquire the intellectuality which other European peoples have had the good fortune to attain. The writer concerned has not the slightest inkling that the character of the Russian people is utterly different. People nowadays are not inclined to study things as they truly are. The sense is lacking for the reality, the truth, contained in things. 11See also Lecture VI, p. 117 and Lecture VIII, p. 157.
One of our friends made the effort to bring together what I have written about Goethe in my books with what I said in a lecture concerning human and cosmic thoughts. 12Rudolf Steiner, Human and Cosmic Thought (Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1967). From this material he produced a book in Russian, a remarkable book already published. 13Boris Bugajeff (Andrej Bjelyi), 1880–1934. Rudolf Steiner and Goethe in der Weltanschauung der Gegenwart. I am convinced it will be widely read in Russia by a certain section of the public. Were it to be translated into German or any other European language, people would find it deadly boring. This is because they lack the sense for appreciating the finely chiseled thoughts, the wonderful conceptual filigree work that makes this book so striking.
What is so remarkable about the Russian character is that as it evolves something will emerge which is different from what has emerged in the rest of Europe where mysticism and intellectuality exist, as it were, apart. In Russia a mysticism will appear which is intellectual in character and an intellectuality which is based on mysticism. Thus it will be something quite new, intellectual mysticism, mystical intellectuality and, if I may put it so, quite equal to its task. This is something that is not understood at all. It is there nevertheless, though hidden within the chaos of Eastern Europe, and will emerge expressing the characteristics I have briefly indicated.
These things can be understood only if one has a feeling for the reality inherent in ideas. To acquire this sense, this feeling that ideas are realities is one of the most urgent needs of the present time. Without it abstract programs will continue to be devised, beautiful political speeches held about all kinds of measures to be taken which prove unproductive, though they need not be. Nor can there be any feeling for events in history which when followed up, can be an immense help when it comes to understanding our own time.
Let me give you a characteristic example. Concern about the problems facing mankind at the present time causes one to turn repeatedly to events that took place in the 18th century, particularly in the '60s of that century. At that time remarkable impulses were emerging in Europe. An attempt to understand them can be most instructive. As you know that was when the Seven Years War took place. England and France were deeply divided, mainly through their colonial rivalry in North America. In Europe, England and Prussia were allies; opposing them was the alliance consisting of France and Austria. In Russia a strong hostility prevailed against Prussia during the reign of Czarina Elizabeth. Therefore one should really speak of an alliance between Russia, France and Austria against Prussia and England. One could say that on a smaller scale conditions were similar to those of today; just as now there was then a danger of complete chaos in Europe. In fact, when the situation in the early 1760s is investigated, it is found to be not unlike the present one in 1917. But the remarkable incident I want to mention is the following.
I believe it was on January the fifth, 1762, that Czarina Elizabeth died; or to put it as the historians have done, her life, not very often sober, had come to an end; she had spent most of it inebriated. The Czarina Elizabeth was dead, and her nephew, her sister's son, stood before those authorized to place the crown upon his head. It was an extraordinary person who, on January the fifth 1762, prepared himself to be elevated to Czar. He was clad in his regiment's ceremonial uniform, consisting of green jacket with red collar and cuffs, yellow waistcoat and stockings, leggings to above the knee (he had already as Grand Duke made a habit of never bending the knees when walking as this, to him, seemed more dignified) long pigtail, two powdered coils, a hat with upturned brim, and as his symbol he carried a knobbed staff. As you know, his consort was Catherine, later to become Catherine the Great. History describes Czar Peter III as an immature young man. 14Peter III, Czar of Russia 1768–1762. It is extraordinarily difficult to ascertain what kind of person he actually was. Very probably he was very immature, even backward. He became Czar at a significant moment in the history of Europe. At his side was a woman who already as a seven year old girl had written in her diary that there was nothing she desired more than to become the absolute ruler of the Russian people. Her dream was to become ruler in her own right. And she seemed to be proud that for the sake of direct succession she need never bear a child that was necessarily that of her husband, the Czar. When he became ruler, the war had been going on for a long time; everybody longed for peace. Peace would be a blessing if only it could be attained.
What happened next was that already in February — that is, soon after the feeble-minded Peter III had ascended to the throne of the Czars — all the European powers received a Russian manifesto. This event was very remarkable, and I would like to read to you a literal translation. The manifesto was sent to the embassies in Austria, France, Sweden and Saxony. Saxe-Coburg was at that time part of Poland. The document reads as follows:
His Imperial Majesty, who through good fortune ascended to the throne of his forebears, regards his first duty to be promotion and increase of the welfare of his subjects. It is therefore with great sorrow that he Witnesses the present war which has already lasted six years and is an immense burden to all the countries involved. Far from showing any signs of coming to an end, it is, to the misfortune of all the nations, spreading ever further the longer it lasts. The suffering of humanity through this calamity is all the greater because of the uncertainty concerning the outcome, which shows no sign of lessening. In these circumstances, out of humanitarian feelings and compassion for the useless spilling of innocent blood, his Imperial Majesty on his part wishes to put an end to this evil. He therefore finds it necessary to turn to Russia's allies reminding them that God's first commandment to sovereigns, namely the preservation of the people entrusted to them, must take precedence over all other considerations. They on their part would wish to secure the peace so necessary and valuable to them also, and at the same time to contribute as much as is possible to see peace established in the whole of Europe. To this purpose His Majesty is prepared to sacrifice the conquests made in this war by Russian forces. His Majesty hopes that the allies on their part will consider the return of peace a greater benefit than anything they could expect to obtain through a prolonged war and further bloodshed. Out of the best and deepest feelings his Imperial Majesty advises all to devote their best forces to achieve so great and beneficial an objective. St. Petersburg, February 23, 1762.
I do wonder if anywhere today there is a true feeling for the fact that this manifesto is absolutely concrete, is based completely on reality. One should be able to sense that it is a document that carries the conviction of truth. However, the diplomatic notes sent in answer to the manifesto are all declarations written more or less in the same vein as are today's declarations concerned with the entente, especially the ones sent by Woodrow Wilson. Everything in these diplomatic notes is utterly abstract with no relation to reality, whereas what I just now read to you, written on the 23rd of February 1762, is in a style of a different order, and contains something quite remarkable, all the more so in view of the Czar's condition, which I described to you. There must have been someone with power behind the scenes, with a sense for the reality of the situation, who could cause this action to be taken. Later, when the abstract replies had reached Russia — replies containing the same kind of abstractions as those used today, like “peace, free from annexation” or “freedom for the people” — Peter, the feeble-minded, sent an answer delivered by the Russian envoy, Count Gallitzin, to the Court in Vienna on the 9th of April. Listen to what it contains:
The friendship which has existed between the Russian Imperial Court and the Prussian Royal Court ever since the time of Czar Peter I has lately suffered a setback merely through accidental changes in the constitution of Europe. The war which is a result of these changes can neither last forever nor destroy the advantage of a friendship which for many years proved to be a useful confederation and could be so again. His Imperial Majesty therefore proposes to the King of Prussia that they conclude not only a lasting peace, but a treaty of alliance in their mutual interest and to their mutual advantage.
Please note the stroke of genius in what follows:
The reason for these deliberations on the part of his Russian Imperial Majesty is obvious and needs no lengthy explanation, as it is easy enough to demonstrate that no good can come of a general peace such as was concluded in Westphalia. Peace cannot be expected to last when there is an unending shifting of arms and such variety of intentions. Such a peace necessitates all conquered territories to be protected, as is the case in Westphalia. But now the matter hinges on pretentions which have only arisen out of the war. These can hardly be reconciled due to the eagerness early in the war to mobilize as many powers as possible with little consideration for possible consequences of hastily concluded treaties and amalgamations.
One cannot imagine a more ingenious diplomatic document. Think about it — if only somebody could recognize now that the pretentions made today have only arisen because of this war! The document continues:
The Russian Imperial Court alone has always insisted that, before a general congress is arranged, it is necessary that conflicting interests and demands are reconciled. It would appear that the Sovereign Court in Vienna also recognizes this, and therefore never directly answered the Russian Imperial communique. The Sovereign Court made only brief reference to points that were in its favor, passing over others in silence preferring, it would seem, to await possible fortunes with arms. ... The war that has since broken out between England and Spain only increases the general misery. Although it engages England at sea, it does nothing to lessen the war in Germany. Sweden is without hope and is suffering losses; her glory waning, she seems to have courage neither to continue the war nor to withdraw from it. The Sovereign Courts all appear to be waiting to see who will be the first to make a decisive move towards establishing peace. His Russian Imperial Majesty alone is ready to do so, through compassion and also in view of the complaisance shown by his majesty the King of Prussia. His Imperial Majesty wishes to take the necessary steps at the earliest possible moment, especially as this intention was communicated to all the Sovereign Courts as early as the 23rd of February, soon after the start of his reign.
Peace was established, and indeed as a result of what was initiated with this concrete document based on reality. It is of the greatest importance that a sense is developed for what history conveys, a feeling for the difference between concepts and ideas that are incapable of intervening in reality, and those that are themselves rooted deeply in reality and therefore have the power to affect it. One should not imagine that words are always mere words; they can be as effective as deeds if based on reality. It must be realized that mankind is going through a crisis. It is all-important that a new path, a new connection, be found to truth and reality. People are so alienated from what is real that they have lost the sense for truth and for the right way of dealing with things. It is important to see that the crisis we are in and the untruthfulness that abounds are related. Let me give you one small example: a periodical has appeared, calling itself The Invisible Temple, obviously a publication in which those inclined towards mysticism expect to find something very deep. “The Invisible Temple” — Oh, the depth of it! Subtitle? A Monthly Magazine for the Gathering of Spirits. 15Der unsichtbare Tempel; Monatsschri ft zur Sammlung der Geister, Mtinchen 1916–1920, 5 volumes edited by the brothers Dr. Ernst and Dr. August Horneffer. I will say no more on that point, but in one issue monists and theosophists are mentioned. Various foolish things are said, including a passage I will read. The periodical is the mouthpiece for a society which is at present led by Horneffer. 16Ernst Horneffer, 1871–1954, professor in Giessen, followed Dr. Fritz Koegel as editor in the Nietzsche archives. See Nietzsches letztes Schaffen, Jena 1907. The society claims it is going to renew the world.
This is the passage:
Monists and theosophists may go in different directions; they may vigorously fight and despise one another; yet in one respect they are strangely alike. Both lay claim to the word “science.” Both insist that their pursuit is true science, and that everybody else's science is pseudo-science. You will find this stated in the writings of Haeckel as well as of Rudolf Steiner.
I request you to go through everything I have said or written and see if you can find anything of what is here maintained. But who today is prepared in a case like this to call something by its right name, and say that it is an outright lie, and a common one at that. That Horneffer should write such things comes as no surprise. When he published Nietzsche's works, I had to point out to him that he did not have the faintest understanding of Nietzsche. What he had compiled and published was rubbish. So what he writes now is no surprise. But people take such things seriously, and thus it comes about that the worst, most stupid foolishness is confused and mixed up with the earnest striving of spiritual science, and worse still, what is-truth is called lies, whereas lies are accepted as truth.
It must be learned that a new link to reality has to be found. In the first post-Atlantean cultural epoch the patriarchs when they reached their fifties, received the spirit into themselves as part of their natural development. We may ask if this has in any way remained through the Greek epoch up to our own? The answer is that all that has remained is what we call genius. When the faculty of genius appears today it is still to some extent dependent on man's natural development. However, the men of genius appearing during the fifth cultural epoch will be the last in earth evolution. It is important to know that no genius will appear in the future. We must face the fact that as a natural gift the faculty of genius will disappear. Instead, a new quality of originality will appear, a quality that no longer appears as a gift of nature but must be striven for. It will arise through man's intimate union with the spirituality that reveals itself in the outer world.
A very interesting man, a psychologist, died in March, 1917. I have often spoken about Franz Brentano. 17Franz Brentano, see note 2 to Lecture I. He was not only the most significant expert on Aristotle, but a characteristic thinker of our time. I have mentioned before that he began a work on psychology. The first volume appeared in 1874; the second was to appear that same fall and further volumes later. But neither the one expected in the fall nor any later volumes appeared. I became thoroughly familiar with Franz Brentano's characteristic way of lecturing when I lived in Vienna. I have read every published line of what he has written, so I am well acquainted with the direction of his thoughts. Because I know him so well I am convinced that Franz Brentano's innate honesty prevented him from publishing further volumes. There are clear indications already in the first volume of his struggle to reach a clear conclusion regarding immortality of the soul. However, without spiritual science — with which he would have nothing to do — he could not get beyond the first volume, let alone the fifth, in which he planned to furnish proof of the soul's immortality. There was no room for science of the spirit in his outlook. He is, in fact, the originator of the saying so much quoted by 19th-century philosophers: “Vera philosophiae methodus nulla alia nisi scientiae naturalis est” (”True science of the spirit can have no other method of research than natural science.”) 18Franz Brentano, Das Genie, a lecture held in the Center for Engineering and Architecture in Vienna, published in Leipzig, 1892. He composed this sentence for his inauguration thesis when in 1866, having left the Dominican order, he became professor at the university at Wurzburg. Philosophy was already then rather scorned. The first time he entered the auditorium, where formerly a follower of Baader 19Franz Xavier Benedikt Baader, 1765–1841, philosopher. had lectured, he was met with slogans such as “sulfur factory” written on the walls.
Franz Brentano was a gifted man, and he worked out his chosen subject as far as it was possible for him to do. The reason he came to a standstill after the first volume of his intended work was his refusal to enter into spiritual science. His later writings are fragments. But one treatise, a rendering of one of his lectures, is extremely interesting. It is entitled Genius. Although he was a keen observer he was not someone able to ascend from physical observations to spiritual ones. The treatise is basically an attack on the idea of genius. He opposes the idea that from some unconscious strata of the soul could arise what is called genius. He argues that what comes to expression is just a quicker, more commanding grasp of things than is normally attained by ordinary people. As I said, Brentano's treatise is very interesting although he did not come to a spiritual-scientific viewpoint. He was a keen observer and for that very reason could not find, when observing life today, anything to justify the claim of genius. And because he was honest he opposed the idea.
The riddle of genius, among other things, remains inexplicable till one investigates the deeper aspects of mankind's evolution, unless one knows that in the future, what has been known as “genius” will be replaced in certain people by a new way of communion with the spiritual world. When they achieve this, they will receive impulses which will come to expression in the external world in ways that will be equivalent to what was created by geniuses in the past. To recognize that things were different in the past and will be different again in the future is to understand evolution rightly.
I know full well that one is ridiculed for saying such things, but they are the result of direct observation of concrete facts. They are also a contrast to the way people nowadays base their actions not on facts but on some idea with which they have become enamored. To give an example, a man concerned with healing got the idea that movement is good for certain illnesses, which is quite true. However, someone consulted him who had a complaint which the practitioner thought would benefit from movement. He recommended that the patient take plenty of exercise, to which he got the reply: “Forgive me, but you must have forgotten that I am a postman.” One must recognize that concepts are only the tool, not the reality, and also that one must never be dogmatic. I have sometimes referred to another unreal concept, frequently acted upon when it is said: “the best man in the right place!”— whereupon it is immediately found that one's nephew or son-in-law is the best man! What matters are the facts as they truly are, not the idea one is in love with. Unless a feeling for these things is acquired one will fail to learn what is to be learned from history, and fail also to recognize the real issues in things and events around one. And the possibility to find the Christ again will elude one.
We shall continue these considerations next week.