Dornach, 25th November, 1917
To-day I want to make various comments on matters that have been mentioned lately, and to fill in certain gaps. If you follow with attention current trends, you will have noticed a feeling that the thoughts and impressions and impulses which for a long time have led to such “splendid progress” are no longer capable of helping us to cope with the immediate future. Yesterday one of our members gave me a copy of the Frankfurter Zeitung for last Wednesday, November 21st. There speaks a very learned gentleman ... he must be very learned, for he is not only a Doctor of Philosophy but also a Doctor of Theology, and also a Professor, so naturally he is a very clever man. He has written an article which deals with all sorts of spiritual needs of the present time, and in the course of it he says:
“The experience of the form of being which lies behind things does not require pious dedication or a religious evaluation, for it is itself religion. We are concerned not with feeling and grasping a particular content, but with the great Irrational which lies hidden behind all existence ... Anyone who makes contact with this, so that the divine spark leaps across, goes through an experience which is of primal character and may be called the primordial experience. Anyone who experiences this one thing, together with all that is stirred by the same flow of life, is imbued with — to use a favourite modern phrase — a feeling of cosmic existence.”
Excuse me for reading this to you: I am quoting it not in order to arouse in you any magnificent ideas, but so as to bring before you a sign of the times:
“A cosmic religiosity is coming to birth among us, and how strong is the demand for it is shown by the evident spread of the theosophical movement, which undertakes to discover and unveil the phases of this life beyond the range of the senses.”
It is really difficult to stumble through all these wishy-washy ideas, but you will agree that the article is remarkable as a symptom of the times! He goes on: “In this cosmic piety there is no question of a mysticism which turns away from the world ...” and so on.
It would be hard to discover anything intelligent in all this, but since it is written by a man with all these degrees, one must suppose that some intelligence is there! Otherwise we should have to take it as the obscure stammering of a learned man who has reached a dead end on his own path and now feels impelled to call attention to something which certainly exists and evidently appears to him as not wholly unattainable.
There is no cause for satisfaction in such remarks; we must above all take care not to let them lull us into a comfortable slumber just because it has again been noticed, from some point of view or other, that something lies behind the spiritual-scientific movement. That would be really harmful. People who write in this way are often quite satisfied with having written it. With these misty thoughts they point to something which is trying to make its way into the world, but they are far too complacent to go in for the serious study that Spiritual Science requires. Nothing less than that must lay hold of men's minds if some reality is to be brought into the trends of the times, so that healing can come of it. Of course it is easier to talk of this “surge” of “cosmic feeling” than to give serious attention to those things that are demanded by the signs of the times and must be made known to mankind. For this reason it seems to me necessary to repeat here the remarks I have made in public lectures and shall make again, with particular emphasis now on the distinction between the worn-out ideas which have led into these catastrophic times and those which must take hold of human souls if any sort of progress is to be accomplished.
The old wisdom, through which mankind has been guided up to our time, may give rise to thousands of congresses, world-congresses, people's congresses and so on; thousands and thousands of societies may be founded; but we must be clear that all these congresses and societies will accomplish nothing unless the life-blood of Spiritual Science flows through them. What is lacking among people to-day is the courage to embark on real research into the spiritual world. Strange as it may sound, it must be said — as a first step nothing else would be needed than to spread the little booklet, Human Life in the light of Anthroposophy, in the widest circles. Something would thereby be done to evoke knowledge of a connection between man and the cosmic order. The booklet calls attention precisely to this knowledge by showing in concrete terms how throughout the year the earth undergoes changes in its state of consciousness — and so on. What is said in that booklet and in this lecture is said with full consideration for the needs of our time. Acceptance of it would signify more than all this wishy-washy talk on cosmic feeling and surges and I know not what. I have just read this to you and I can't bring myself to repeat it — it is all put in such a senseless way.
This should of course not prevent us from taking note of such things: they are important and real. What I want to bring home to you is that we must not befog ourselves: we must be absolutely clear as to what we wish to do on behalf of Spiritual Science.
Now I will turn again to the fact that in this fifth post-Atlantean epoch humanity will have to find ways of dealing with great life-problems which in a certain sense were veiled by the wisdom of the past. I have already called your attention to them. One of these great problems will be concerned with finding out how to place the spiritual etheric forces at the service of practical life. I have told you that in this epoch we have to solve the problem of how the radiations from human states of mind are carried over into machines; of how human beings are to be brought into relation with an environment which must become increasingly mechanised. A week ago I pointed out how superficially this mechanisation is treated in a certain part of the world. I gave you the example of how an American way of thinking tries to extend the realm of the machine over human life itself. I told you of the rest-pauses which were used in order to enable a given number of workmen to load up to 47½ tons, instead of a much lower figure; this involves simply the application of Darwinian natural selection to human life.
Where this kind of thing goes on, the wish to yoke up human strength with the strength of machines is always involved. It would be quite mistaken merely to oppose these things. They are not going to fade away; they are on the march. The only question is whether in the course of world-history they are going to be brought on to the scene by men who are unselfishly aware of the great aims of earth-evolution and wish to shape these developments for the healing of mankind, or by groups of men who want to use them for their own or the group's selfish ends. That is the issue. The point is not what is going to happen, for it certainly will happen, but how it happens — how these things are handled. The welding together of human beings with machines will be a great and important problem for the rest of the earth-evolution.
I have often pointed out, even in public lectures, that human consciousness depends on destructive forces. During public lectures in Basle I twice said that in our nerve-system we are always in process of dying. These forces of death will become stronger and stronger, and we shall find that they are related to the forces of electricity and magnetism, and to those at work in machines. A man will be able in a certain sense to guide his intentions and his thoughts into the forces of the machines. Forces in human nature that are still unknown will be discovered — forces which will act upon external electricity and magnetism.
That is one problem: the bringing together of human beings with machines, and this is something which will exert ever-increasing influence on the future.
The other problem is concerned with calling in spiritual relationships to our aid. This can be done only when the time is ripe, and when a sufficient number of people are rightly prepared for it. But we must come to the stage when spiritual forces are brought into action for the governance of life in relation to illness and death.
Medicine will be spiritualised — very highly spiritualised. These things will be caricatured from various standpoints, but the caricatures only show what has to come. Again, the question is whether or not this problem — like the other problem I have mentioned — is handled in an egotistic way by individuals or by groups.
The third great question concerns ways of thinking about human birth and upbringing. I have told you how congresses on this subject have already been held, and how a materialistic form of science will be brought to bear in the future on procreation and the union of man and woman. These things indicate the great significance that attaches to this process of becoming. It is easy enough to ask why those who have the right knowledge in these matters do not apply it. In the future it will be clear enough what the state of affairs is regarding this application, and what are the forces which are even now opposing, for example, a more generous provision for a spiritualised medicine or a spiritualised economic life. All that can be done at present is to speak of these things, until people — I mean those who are ready to accept them selflessly — understand them sufficiently. There are many who think they have already got as far as that, but many hindrances arise from the circumstances of life to-day. These will be overcome in the right way only if understanding goes deeper and deeper, and if we actually refrain, for a time at least, from attempting practical applications on any large scale.
Things have developed in such a way that one can say: Little is known of all that lay behind the old atavistic searchings which continued up to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. People talk a great deal about the old alchemy; sometimes they call to mind the creation of Homunculus and so on. But most of this talk misses the point. If people would come to understand what can be said about the Homunculus scene in Faust, for instance, they would be better informed: the essential thing is that a mist has been spread over these subjects since the sixteenth century. They have receded into the background of human consciousness.
The law which prevails here is the same law which governs the rhythmic alternation of waking and sleeping in man. Just as a person cannot do without sleep, so mankind could not dispense with the sleep regarding spiritual knowledge which has marked the whole period since the sixteenth century. Man had to fall asleep to the spiritual, so that it could reappear in a new form. These necessities must be clearly seen, but without letting them depress us. We must realise clearly that the time for awakening has now come, that we have to play our part in it, that events often run ahead of our knowledge and that we shall not understand the events going on around us unless we are willing to receive the knowledge and to act in accordance with it.
I have repeatedly told you that certain groups are working esoterically in the direction I have indicated. It was first of all necessary that certain forms of knowledge — called nowadays by such misunderstood words as alchemy, astrology, etc. — should fall into abeyance, so that men should no longer be able to discern the soul-element in outer Nature and should rather be thrown back on themselves. And in order that they should awaken their inward forces, certain things had to appear as abstractions. Now these things must again take on a concrete spiritual form.
During the last centuries three ideas have gradually emerged in abstract guise. They were incorrectly named by Kant, and correctly by Goethe. Kant called them God, Freedom and Immortality; Goethe called them God, Virtue and Immortality. If we look into what lies behind these three words, we find that the same words are taken abstractly by modern man and were taken more concretely — but also more materially in the old atavistic sense — up to the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. Experiments in the old style were carried out: the alchemists sought to observe processes in which the working of God could be seen. And they tried to produce the Philosopher's Stone.
Something concrete lies behind all these things. The Philosopher's Stone was to enable men to become virtuous — but this was thought of in a more material sense. It was also to lead to an experience of immortality: to bring a man into such a relationship to the cosmic whole that he would experience in himself what lies beyond birth and death. All the nebulous ideas by which people nowadays try to grasp these things no longer correspond with what was really intended. It has all become abstract, and it is of abstract ideas that modern men speak. They want to understand God through an abstract theology, and virtue also as something abstract — the more abstract it is, the better people like it. And it is the same with immortality. Speculation turns on what in man could be immortal. In my first Basle lecture [23rd November, 1917. (Not translated into English.)] I said that the kind of learning which under the name of philosophy occupies itself with such questions as that of immortality is a starveling, under-nourished kind of learning. That is merely another way of describing the abstract terms in which such matters are pursued.
In certain Western brotherhoods, however, a connection with the old traditions has been retained, and endeavours are made to use it for the egotistic interests of the group. It is time to call attention to these things. Of course, if from this Western quarter anything is said about God, virtue or freedom, and immortality, the words are given an abstract sense, but in the circle of initiates it is well known that all this is not mere abstract speculation. For their own part, they look for something much more concrete behind these abstract formulae, and in their own schools these terms are accordingly translated. God is translated as gold, and an endeavour is made to arrive at what lies behind the secret of gold, as it may be called. For gold, the representative of the sun-like within the earth's crust, does in fact enshrine an important secret. Gold stands in the same material relationships to other substances as the thought of God does to other thoughts. The only question is what is made of this secret.
This is linked up with the egotistic use of the mystery of birth, and here, real cosmic understanding is sought. All such understanding has been replaced for modern men by a purely earthly understanding. If someone wants to investigate, for example, how the embryonic life-cell of animal or man develops, he studies it through a microscope and is concerned only with what lies there directly under his lens. But that is far from being the whole thing. It will be realised — and some groups are very near this already — that the forces at work are not contained in the cell but come from the cosmos and its constellations. When a seed of life arises, it does so because the living creature which harbours the seed is receiving forces, cosmic forces, from all sides of the cosmos. And when fertilisation occurs, the results depend on which cosmic forces enter actively into the process.
One thing, not yet seen, will be recognised. To-day the idea is that we have a living creature, a hen, let us say. When a new seed of life appears in the hen, the biologist investigates how the egg arises out of the hen; he looks within the hen itself for the forces which cause the seed to grow. That is nonsense. The egg does not grow out of the hen; the hen is merely the substratum for it. The growth-forces work from out of the cosmos on to the soil which has been prepared in the hen for engendering the egg. The biologist to-day believes that the relevant forces are all to be found within the field of his microscope. Actually, what he sees there depends on stellar forces which work together in a certain pattern at a given point. When we discover the cosmic at this point, then for the first time we shall have got at the reality and the truth: it is the cosmic whole which conjures up the egg in the hen.
All this is connected especially with the secret of the sun, and in earthly terms with the secret of gold. To-day I can give you only a sort of schematic indication of it; these things will become much clearer in the course of time.
When “virtue” is discussed in these same schools, they call it simply “health,” and try to learn how the cosmic constellations are connected with health and sickness in men. By this means they come to know the particular earthly substances, the juices and so on, which are in their turn connected with sickness and health. We shall see develop increasingly from a certain direction a more material form of medical knowledge, but it will rest on a spiritual foundation.
From this side also will be spread the idea that man cannot be made good by learning all sorts of ethical principles, but by ingesting copper, for example, under a certain constellation, and arsenic under another. You can well imagine how ideas of this kind can be used by egotistic groups for enhancing their own power. They need only withhold this knowledge from others, and this will be the best means of dominating large numbers of men. They will not need to talk about such things; it will be enough to bring forward some new titbit. Then they will find openings for this titbit, having first flavoured it appropriately, and they will achieve their purpose when these novelties are accepted in a materialistic sense. We have only to remember that spiritual potencies are hidden in everything material. Only he who knows that in a true sense there really is nothing material, but only the spiritual — only he will penetrate behind the secrets of life.
Similar endeavours are made from the same quarter to transpose the problem of immortality into a materialistic frame, and this, too, can be done by making use of the cosmic constellations. This method certainly does not yield the immortality that is the subject of so many speculations, but immortality of another sort. Given a brotherhood lodge, then — at least so long as life cannot be lengthened by working on the physical body — preparations are made for subjecting a soul to such experiences as will enable it to remain within the lodge after death, so that it may contribute its forces to those at the disposal of the lodge. In these circles, accordingly, immortality is called simply “lengthening of life.”
External signs of all this can indeed be seen. I don't know if some of you may have noticed a book which also came from the West and caused a little stir for a while; it was called “On the Nonsense of Death.” These things all move in the same direction. They are still at their beginnings, for everything beyond that is kept as a closely guarded esoteric secret by the egotistic groups. But these things are really possible if they are given a materialistic colouring; if the abstract ideas of God, virtue and immortality are turned into the concrete ideas of gold, health and lengthening of life, and if what I have called the great problem of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch is utilised for the purpose of an egotistic group. You see, this “cosmic feeling,” which the learned Professor and Doctor of Theology talks about, is already being widely presented to people — and often, unfortunately, in an egotistic sense — as cosmic knowledge. For centuries science has kept its eyes fixed on earthly processes, and has ignored all the most significant influences that come from beyond the earth, but it is precisely in our fifth post-Atlantean epoch that extra-terrestrial forces from the cosmos will be put to use.
And so, just as it is essential for an orthodox professor of biology to have the most powerful microscope available and the most efficient laboratory methods, so, in the future, when science has been spiritualised, it will be of the utmost importance whether certain processes are carried through in the morning or in the evening, or at midday, and whether what has been done in the morning is allowed to be further influenced by an evening activity, or whether the cosmic influences are cut out, paralysed, from the morning until the evening. Processes of this kind will of necessity come to light and will run their course. Naturally, a great deal of water will have to flow under the bridges before the professional chairs and laboratories, at present organised on purely materialistic lines, are handed over to spiritual scientists, but this replacement must come about if humanity is not to sink into utter decadence. For example, if the question is one of doing good in the immediate future, existing laboratory methods must give way to methods whereby certain processes take place in the morning and are interrupted during the day, so that the cosmic stream passes through them again in the evening and is in turn rhythmically withheld again until morning. So the processes would take their course: certain cosmic workings would always be interrupted by day, and the cosmic morning and evening processes would be brought in. All sorts of arrangements would be necessary for this. You will realise that if one is not in a position to take any public action about these things, all one can do is to speak of them.
However, just as gold, health and the prolongation of life are put in the place of God, virtue and immortality, so from the same quarter efforts will be made to work not with the morning and evening processes, but with others. Last week I told you how an attempt will be made to set aside the impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha, while for the West another impulse, a sort of Anti-Christ is introduced; and from the East an attempt will be made to paralyse the twentieth-century manifestation of the Christ Impulse by diverting attention from the coming etheric Christ.
Those concerned to present an Anti-Christ as the real Christ will try also to make use of something that works through the most material forces, but in this very way can work spiritually. Above all they will strive to make use of electricity and earth-magnetism in order to produce effects all over the world. I have shown you how earth-forces rise up into what I have called the human Double, the Doppelgänger. This secret will be opened up. An American secret will be to make use of earth-magnetism, with its north-south duality, and by this means to send over the earth guiding forces which will have spiritual effects. Look at the magnetic chart of the earth and compare it with what I am now saying. Observe where the magnetic needle deviates to East and West and where it does not deviate. I can give only hints about all this. From a certain direction in the heavens, spiritual beings are continually active, and they have only to be put into the service of the earth, and — because these beings working in from the cosmos can mediate the secret of the earth's magnetism — it will be possible for egotistic groups to get behind this secret and to accomplish a great deal in connection with gold, health and the prolongation of life. It will be necessary for them only to pluck up their faltering courage — and in certain circles that will be done readily enough!
From the East an endeavour will be made to strengthen what I have already explained: to place in the service of the earth the beings which work in from the opposite side of the cosmos. In the future there will be a great battle. Human science will stretch out to the cosmic, but will try to get there by different paths. It will be the task of good, healing science to find certain cosmic forces which can reach the earth through the co-operation of two cosmic streams, those of Pisces and Virgo. The great secret to be discovered will be how the influence which works from the direction of Pisces as a power of the sun unites itself with the influence working from the direction of Virgo. It will make for good when it is learnt how the morning and evening forces from the two sides of the cosmos can be brought into the service of humanity. (See diagram at end of lecture.)
These forces, however, will be left aside by those who try to achieve their whole purpose through the polaric duality of positive and negative forces. The forces which enable the spiritual to stream down to earth with the aid of positive and negative magnetism come from Gemini; they are the midday forces. In ancient times it was known that cosmic influences were involved in this, and to-day even exoteric scientists are aware that in some or other way positive and negative magnetism lie behind Gemini in the Zodiac. The aim will be to paralyse all that could be gained through a revelation of the true duality in the cosmos — to paralyse it in a materialistic, egotistic way by means of the forces which stream in particularly from Gemini and can be placed entirely at the service of the human “Double.”
Other brotherhoods, concerned above all to divert attention from the Mystery of Golgotha, will try to make use of the duality in human nature — the duality which in our epoch embraces man as a unity, but includes within him his lower animal nature. A human being is really a centaur in a certain sense: his humanity rests on his lower animal nature in its astral form. This working together of the duality in man gives rise to a duality of forces. This duality of forces will be utilised particularly by certain egotistic brotherhoods, chiefly from the side of India and the East, in order to mislead eastern Europe, whose task it is to prepare for the sixth post-Atlantean epoch. And this will be done with the aid of the forces which work in from Sagittarius.
Whether to conquer the cosmic for mankind in a wrong, twofold way, or rightly in a one-fold way — that is the question facing mankind. From this will come a true renewal of astrology, which in its old form is atavistic and cannot survive. The wise Beings of the cosmos will enter into the struggle; one side will use the morning and evening processes in the way I have indicated; the West will prefer the midday processes, shutting out the morning and evening ones; and the East will prefer the midnight ones. Men will no longer manufacture substances on the basis merely of chemical attraction and repulsion; they will know that different substances arise according to whether they are made with morning and evening processes, or with midday and midnight ones. It will be known that such substances act in a quite different way on the triad, God, virtue and immortality — gold, health and prolongation of life. When the forces of Pisces and Virgo act in co-operation, nothing wrongful can be brought into being. Men will achieve something through which the mechanism of life will be detached, in a certain sense, from man himself, but will not give any one group power and rulership over another. The cosmic forces drawn from this direction will create remarkable machines, but only those that will relieve man of work, because they will carry a certain power of intelligence within themselves. And a Spiritual Science which itself reaches out towards the cosmic will have to see to it that all the great temptations which come from these machine-animals, created by man himself, are not allowed to exercise any harmful influence upon him.
With regard to all this, the essential thing is that people should prepare themselves for it by not treating realities as illusions and by coming to a genuine spiritual conception and understanding of the world. To see things as they are — very much depends on that! But we can see them as they are only if we are in a position to bring the ideas of Spiritual Science to bear on reality. For the rest of the earth's existence the dead will be co-operating actively in the highest degree, and it is how they co-operate that will matter. Here, above all, a great distinction will arise. On one side the attitude of men on earth can rightly lead the co-operation of the dead in such a direction that the dead will be active out of their own impulse, an impulse coming from the spiritual world which the dead are themselves experiencing. But from the other side many endeavours will be made to introduce the dead into human existence by artificial means. Along the indirect path through Gemini the dead will be led into human life, with the result that human vibrations will pass over into the mechanism of machines and will continue to vibrate there in a quite definite way. The cosmos will impart motion to the machines by the indirect path I have indicated.
It will thus be essential, when these problems emerge, that no improper methods should be applied to them, but only those elemental forces which belong to nature on their own account, and great care will have to be taken not to introduce improper forces into the realm of machines. In this occult sphere the human element must not be related to machinery in such a way that the Darwinian natural selection theory is used to determine the working capacity of human beings, in the way of which I gave you an example last week.
I am making these remarks — obviously they cannot exhaust the subject in so short a time — in the belief that you will meditate on these things and will try to build a bridge between them and all those experiences of life which can be encountered, particularly in this difficult time. You will see how things become clear to you if you contemplate them in the light that can come from such ideas as those I have been placing before you. The real point is not that in our time powers and constellations of powers are standing opposed to each other, as we are always being told in external exoteric life. The real point is quite different. It is that a kind of veil is now meant to be spread over the true impulses at work. Certain human powers are intent on saving something for themselves — what is it? Their aim is that impulses which up to the time of the French Revolution were justified, and were represented also by certain occult schools, shall now be taken charge of in an Ahrimanic-Luciferic sense, so as to maintain a form of society which is generally thought to have been overcome since the end of the eighteenth century.
Two powers, especially, stand in opposition to each other: the power representing the principle that was overcome at the end of the eighteenth century and the power representing the new age. A great many people, of course, are instinctively supporters of the new age. Therefore the representatives of the old impulses, those of the eighteenth, seventeenth and sixteenth centuries, must be yoked by artificial means to the forces which emanate from certain brotherhoods who are working for group-egotistic ends. The most effective principle for extending power over as many men as may be needed is to-day the principle of economic dependence. But that is only an instrument: the real thing is quite different. The real issue you can gather for yourselves from all the various hints I have given. The economic principle is connected with everything which seeks to enlist a great number of men all over the world as a kind of army in the service of these principles.
These are the powers which stand opposed to each other. And this indicates what it is that is really battling in the world to-day. In the West we have the principle which is really rooted in the eighteenth, seventeenth and sixteenth centuries, but which passes unnoticed because it clothes itself in the phrases of revolution and democracy. It wears them as a mask and by this means strives to gain all possible power for itself. These endeavours are favoured if as many people as possible do not exert themselves to see things as they are, and in this field allow themselves to be lulled to sleep again and again by the illusion that to-day there is a war between the Entente and the powers of Central Europe.
In reality there is no such war; only by going behind this illusion can one get at the real struggle, but light can be thrown on it if it is approached along the lines which, for certain reasons, I only hint at. At least we should endeavour not to take illusions for realities: then gradually the illusion will be dispelled as far as it need be. Above all we must strive to see these things objectively, as they really are.
If you bring together all that I have been saying, you will see that an apparently casual remark I made in the course of these lectures was not so at all. When I quoted something that Mephistopheles said to Faust, “I see you know the Devil” (he would certainly not have said this to Woodrow Wilson), it was by no means a casual remark: it can throw a great deal of light on the present situation. We must really look at these things objectively, without sympathy or antipathy; above all, we must be able to see how much in a particular case depends on the setting and how much on the capacity of an individual, for behind an individual's capacity there often lies something quite different from what lies behind the setting. Ask yourselves without prejudice — how much would Woodrow Wilson's brain be worth if it were not throned on the Presidency of the United States? Consider how it would be if this brain had a quite different setting: then its individual capacity would be revealed! The setting is what matters.
Let me now speak abstractly and radically, of course without discussing in detail the particular case I have mentioned — in a neutral country that would not be appropriate. If you take any individual brain, it can be revealing to ask whether it is worth something because it is illuminated and activated by a particular spiritual soul-force — whether it has the kind of spiritual significance I have been speaking of here — or whether it is worth no more than its weight, measured on a pair of scales.
In the eyes of people to-day, all this is grotesque; but what seems grotesque to them must come to seem obvious, if certain things are to be diverted from an unhealthy stream into a health-giving one. And what good is it to be always talking about them? You must come to see that there is no point in wishy-washy talk about “cosmic religiosity” or “how strong the striving for it is,” or of “the movement which aims at discovering and revealing the circulation of the life behind the senses,” and so on. All this does is to spread a mist over things which must be brought out clearly in the world, and should above all be carried as practical moral-ethical impulses into human life.
I can give you only indications. I leave you to build on them in your own meditations. I have been speaking aphoristically in many respects. But you will have the possibility of drawing a great deal out of the relationships shown in this picture of the Zodiac, if you truly use it as a subject for meditation.