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Behind the Scenes of External Happenings
GA 178

Lecture I

Zürick, 6th November, 1917

Many years ago, when I was working in Berlin, the news filtered into a theatre during the performance that the Empress of Austria had been assassinated at Geneva by one of the “Propagandists by Action”—so they were being called at that time. [1] During one of the intervals I happened to be standing near a man who was then a literary critic in Berlin and has since written philosophical books which have gained a certain reputation. This man voiced his astonishment at the news in a way that still lingers in my memory. He said: “One can understand many things that happen in the world without in the least justifying or approving of them ... one can understand many things that happen ... but that a revolutionary movement should instigate the murder of a sick woman whose continued existence could have made no real difference, whose death anyhow can have no clear connection with any political idea, this”—said the man—“is incomprehensible; it just doesn't make sense.”

I am sure this man was expressing what must be the opinion of every right-minded, educated person in the modern world. We are reminded that in the life of men and the course of history, things do happen which seem senseless and purposeless not only when judged by the normal standards but even when they are attributed to some form of aberration.

But events of this very nature—and many, many others might be cited—show that what appears outwardly incomprehensible must inevitably do so because behind the scenes of world affairs—if I may use this expression—spiritual forces and spiritual deeds are playing to and fro [a phrase meaning back and forth – e.Ed], both in the good and in the bad sense. These spiritual deeds and happenings are only to be understood when the light of Spiritual Science can be shed into those regions that lie behind the scenes of life in the ordinary world of the senses. Things happen which become intelligible only when they can be illumined by ideas derived from the spiritual world and which, if viewed merely in their connection with the world of the senses, inevitably seem devoid of meaning and purpose—either good or bad. And if by what may be called chance but may also possibly have been a matter of karma in symbolic garb, one has an experience of this kind in a theatre, then it prompts the reaction that what is going on “behind the scenes” looks very different from what is happening on the stage.

I have made these preliminary remarks because I propose today to speak about matters which will be further elaborated when we are next together—matters which it is important for men at the present time to know about and which are connected with events behind the scenes of the physical plane. These things cannot be understood if we give way to the easy-going modern habit of merely generalising about the facts of the spiritual world and their connection with human affairs on the Earth; they become intelligible only when we penetrate as deeply as possible into the concrete realities of the spiritual world.

You know from many passages in the Lecture-Courses that the evolution of mankind is to be divided into certain periods: the vast periods of the Saturn-, Sun-, Moon-evolutions; the shorter periods of the Lemurian, Atlantean and our own Post-Atlantean epochs; and again within these shorter periods which, however, extend over long stretches of time, we speak of certain epochs of culture within the Post-Atlantean period: the ancient Indian, the ancient Persian, the Egypto-Chaldean, the Greco-Latin and our own Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch.

The reason for speaking of these periods is that the faculties of humanity as a whole—in this case more particularly the faculties of soul—change fundamentally from one period to another; they change because a very real evolution takes place in every such period—I am speaking now of the shortest. Every such period contains something which mankind is obliged to undergo, something which may cause either happiness or unhappiness, which has to be realised and understood, which is the source of impulses of will leading to deeds, and so forth. The tasks devolving upon the Egypto-Chaldean epoch of civilisation differed from those of the Greco-Latin epoch—and our own age, too, faces its own specific tasks.

A really true idea of the distinct tasks of the several epochs in regard to the development of certain qualities—especially those of which we shall speak today—cannot be formed without taking into account the experiences contributed by human life as a whole to the external development of which history speaks and to which the materialistic thought of today prefers to confine itself. No really adequate characterisation of the successive epochs can, however, be drawn from these experiences on the physical plane, for they, after all, constitute only one part of that cycle of human life which stretches from birth to death and from death onwards to a new birth. For in what actually happens, there is a constant interplay and interaction between the forces that come down from the world in which man lives between death and a new birth and those which are unfolded in his life here, on the physical plane. There is an unceasing interplay between the forces unfolded by human beings after death and those operating on the physical plane.

Conditions throughout the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch were such that certain things might safely be withheld from the consciousness of man. Many things in respect of which men of the Greco-Latin epoch might without harm be kept unconscious must, however, enter more and more into the consciousness of those living in the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch. During this Fifth epoch, human beings must become conscious of much that in earlier times could remain in the unconscious.

These things unfold according to certain spiritual laws, under a kind of spiritual necessity. It is part of the destiny of the human race that certain faculties of comprehension and also certain forces of will, shall unfold in a particular epoch. In this Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch humanity becomes ripe for the knowledge of certain things, just as in earlier epochs men became ripe in other respects. One thing in respect of which humanity has become sufficiently mature in the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch seems highly paradoxical to the modern mind, because public opinion moves for the most part in exactly the opposite direction, would prefer, as it were, to lead men in the opposite direction. But this will be of no avail. The spiritual forces with which men are, if I may put it so, inoculated, in the course of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, will be stronger than the wishes of certain people, stronger than the dictates of public opinion.

One of these things—and it will assert itself most powerfully—is the guiding or directing of men more deeply in line with occult principles than has ever before been possible. It lies in the general character of evolution that during this Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, certain conditions connected with the exercise of power, of influence, must pass into the hands of small groups who will wield great power over other, large masses of people.

A certain section of public opinion vehemently resists this trend; nevertheless it will assert itself and for the following reason. During the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, simply because of inner maturity and evolutionary necessity, a large portion of humanity will unfold certain spiritual faculties, a certain natural capacity to see into the spiritual world. This portion of humanity, which will indeed provide the best foundation for the future Sixth Post-Atlantean epoch—this portion of humanity, while in process of preparation during the Fifth epoch, will show little inclination to be actively concerned with the affairs of the physical plane. Such men will have little interest in physical affairs and will be engrossed in ennobling the life of soul, in regulating certain matters connected with the spiritual life. And because of this, others less spiritually inclined will be able to seize for themselves certain factors connected with the exercise of power—to get them into their own hands.

This is something that arises with a kind of necessity. Among men who were cognisant of these things it was the subject of much discussion throughout the last third of the nineteenth century, and they always stressed the vital necessity that this potential should be directed - not into evil but into good channels. During the last third of the nineteenth century, especially just before its turn, one could hear occultists on every hand insisting that precautions must be taken to ensure that such means of power come into the hands of worthy men. Naturally, with the exception of a very few groups, opinions differed as to who were really worthy; each group championed the claims of those with whom the world had brought it into contact. But the whole matter was the subject of almost day-to-day conversation among occultists and, in a certain sense, has remained so to this day.

Simply because man attains the requisite degree of maturity, other things, too, will emerge in the course of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, will become known to men and also pass into the sphere of the will. These are things which lead still further, so far indeed that they cannot but cause grave anxiety to everybody who is cognisant of them.

This Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch confronts the fact that the physical apparatus of human thinking becomes capable of understanding certain factors relating to illness and processes of healing, connections of Nature-processes with illnesses. This causes anxiety to those possessing real knowledge of these matters because their aim now must be to ensure that those who will be chosen to bring the relevant teachings and impulses to men will do so in the right and worthy way. For two possibilities exist: information about these things will either be conveyed to men in a form which does harm, or it may be imparted in a way which is for the good of the world. These things are connected with the most intimate depths of certain conditions relating to human propagation, with circumstances connected with illnesses and with the onset of death, and when knowledge concerning them spreads among mankind they give rise to thoughts and impulses of deep import and significance. And the purpose of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch is that men shall become free enough to be enlightened about certain truths hitherto kept in the more unconscious region of the human soul, and to master them.

Those who knew, concerned themselves deeply with all the implications of these things and with the steps that could be taken in one direction or the other. For everything that can arise in this way bestows a certain power, enables a hand to be taken to a very far-reaching extent in the shaping of human affairs. All these considerations, as I said, occupied an important place in spiritual-scientific movements during the nineteenth century, and still do so, to this day, in connection with the evolution of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch.

Another fact must here be considered, a fact that to anyone cognisant of it, is very significant, and must therefore be brought into relation with many others. I have mentioned it here and there in the Lecture-Courses. When, having crossed the threshold of the spiritual world, a man begins to make observations there, peculiar facts, essentially individual facts come before his soul's eye. And then a deeper scrutiny of things which at first sight seem to have nothing to do with each other, reveals that they are indeed connected, that they mutually illumine and explain each other and in doing so greatly facilitate penetration into the nature of the spiritual world.

The other fact, of which I am now going to speak, will, at first, certainly not give you the impression of being connected with what I have just said, yet the very contrary proves to be the case. This other fact is the following: When one turns to the souls of human beings who have died in our present age and learns the circumstances of their existence, one perceives souls among them who feel grave apprehension at the prospect of coming into contact with those human souls who, here on Earth, met their death as did the Empress of Austria at that time in Geneva. One discovers that human beings sent through the Gate of Death by, let us say, the “Propagandists by Action,” are a cause of grave anxiety to certain human beings who passed through death in a normal way and then have further experiences in the spiritual world. One notices, as it were, that those who died in the normal way and who may have occasion to contact these other souls, are fearful of such contact after death, and shrink from it.

I beg you, in such a case, to ignore the emotional paradox. Such innumerable possibilities of association and contact are open to souls that it would be out of place to allow oneself here to be swayed by feelings of compassion, however natural and justifiable they may be. A case like this must be viewed quite objectively. It is a fact that souls who have passed through the Gate of Death normally, feel a certain dread of those whose death was brought about by violent means resembling those adopted by anarchist propaganda.

Now there is a certain very strange connection between this last fact and the other of which I spoke previously. Closer scrutiny reveals that these souls who met their death by violent means come into possession of certain knowledge in the spiritual world after death, which the other souls do not wish to receive from them prematurely, before it is right and healthy to do so. For the very reason that here, on the physical plane, they were deprived of life in this way and sent with such violence through the Gate of Death, these souls retain a certain possibility of turning to account the powers and forces they possessed on Earth, for example, the power of intellect. From the other side, from the spiritual world, such souls can make use of the powers which were bound up with the physical body here on Earth and achieve with them something quite other than it is possible to achieve during life in the physical body. Thereby these souls are able to acquire knowledge of certain things earlier than is really conducive to the progress of human evolution.

It is very remarkable that both meaning and purpose are revealed in this way in a number of deeds hitherto seeming to lack all rhyme or reason. These deeds assume a strange aspect to one who sees things as they really are. In the physical world, all kinds of nonsense is talked; it may sound plausible but is, well just nonsense to closer observation. Here, in the physical world, it is said: people like these “Propagandists by Action” who murder others, are simply out to draw attention to misery in the world; it is a means of active agitation, etc., etc.. But one who analyses the matter and tries to bring it into line with the laws of social life will realise at once that, although such deeds appear to be senseless, their meaning suddenly becomes clear in the light of the knowledge that souls sent into the spiritual world in this violent way, acquire knowledge which they really ought not yet to possess and of which souls who died a normal death have a positive dread.

To investigate the causes underlying assassinations committed at various times, like that of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, to discover the position of these souls who come into the spiritual world with certain secrets in their keeping—with consequences of which we shall speak—to investigate these things occultly was of course the important thing. A merely external view of the series of such assassinations may ascribe them all to chance; but if one analyses the matter, if one considers who the individuals thus sent to their death really are, it becomes clear that they have been selected, as it were—not, of course from the standpoint of the physical world but from that of the spiritual world. Investigation of this aspect of many of the well-known assassinations reveals something very remarkable. In the cases of Carnot, [2] the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and certain others, the remarkable fact is revealed that although the possibility of achieving something by their assassinations certainly existed, it was, as a matter of fact, not achieved at all. It would have been achieved if souls had been found to be their “customers,” if I may put it so. If that had happened, both sides would have incurred transcendental, super-sensible guilt: those who had passed through death in the normal way would have had experiences which would have driven them into blameworthy paths, and those whose deaths had been caused by violence, by assassination, would have been guilty of divulging knowledge before the proper time.

Higher Spiritual Beings, Higher Hierarchies, prevented this from happening because of certain consequences which would have ensued and which it was necessary to frustrate for the sake of the well-being of a certain part of mankind. By the intervention of higher Spiritual Beings, the harm that might have resulted was prevented. And so there was evidence here of an attempt made with ineffective means, or rather, with means that had been deprived of their effectiveness. It was an attempt made in the spiritual world, behind the scenes of the physical world.

Probing into the deeper foundations of such matters, we discover the source of the impulses underlying them. And in the case of many of the assassinations which were news in Europe and will be known to you, the impulses—they were spiritual impulses, remember—were not really primary and original but were derivatives; they were “defence measures,” if this rather trivial expression is permissible. The purpose of these deeds was to put a stop to something else, to frustrate other deeds, or, better said, to prevent the consequences of other deeds tending in the same direction.

This is a very mysterious matter and can only be understood by scrutinising what, exactly, it was proposed to prevent, against what, exactly, these defence measures were taken. Spiritual Science penetrates here into things deeply connected with the impulses of human life in the present and in the future and of which it is extremely difficult to speak because they everywhere run counter to certain naive and even justifiable interests of men. The matter becomes comprehensible only when we take into consideration the fact that all these attempts by means of assassinations of which I have spoken up to now, were amateurishly directed, were not under “expert” guidance. They were attempts made without thorough knowledge of the occult connections; they were defence measures born of fear, and they were not under united leadership. They become intelligible only when we study the plan which they were actually intended to avert, and which was itself being pursued and staged with much greater insight. In the nineteenth century, a remarkable Order was still in existence over in the East: the Order of the “Thugs.” This Order, which flourished in a certain region of Asia, did not arise out of mere desire—the desire, I mean, of its members—to gain their ends. The members of this Order were charged with the task of murdering certain persons named by very secret and unknown superiors. It was an Order of murderers, so to speak, with the task of putting certain individuals to death. Evidence of its activity filtered through from time to time in news announcing the murder of such and such a person. The murder was committed on the orders of unknown superiors who had charged some member of this Order of the Thugs to carry it out.

In the places where this was undertaken, the aim was well understood. By arranging circumstances of the physical plane in such a way that the establishment of this Order of the Thugs was possible, and then by directing its activities as required, the plan was to bring about the violent death of such persons as would be equipped after their death with the faculty for learning certain secrets. The individuals who managed all this also organised corresponding conditions here, on the physical plane, to act as “mirrors”—“mirror events” as they are called in occultism. Such was the intention: to organise the appropriate “mirror events.” Certain events of this kind—if only a few—have actually been organised on the physical plane. It is done in this way: certain suitable personalities are trained to be mediums, put into a mediumistic condition and by certain machinations the currents from the spiritual world are directed to the medium. The medium then divulges certain secrets which can only be disclosed by this means, namely, that in yonder world a person killed by a deed of violence, turns to account here, on the Earth, those forces which owing to his violent death can still be made use of; as souls, they fathom certain secrets and then instill them into the medium. And it is possible for those interested in such research here, on the Earth, to investigate what these souls are instilling by such means.

What is investigated in this way is a sort of “premature spiritual birth”—if I may use this expression. The souls who passed through the Gate of Death in the normal way and are concerned with such things, know that they must be preparing themselves now—and they make it plain that they are engaged in this preparation—in order, later on, when humanity has sufficiently matured, to bring down many things to the Earth and inject them into the Earth by rightful means. This, indeed, is an important task devolving upon a number of human beings now passing through the Gate of Death. Having attained the requisite maturity for certain secrets at the right time—not prematurely, as is the case when forces generated by violent deaths are put into operation—the task of these souls is to use and apply the normal forces. It is actually the task of these human beings to acquire control of these forces and then to inspire them into men living on the Earth who are not mediums at all but who should experience them in the normal, legitimate way—through genuine Inspiration.

In normal life this would be a matter of waiting. But because, as the result of occult crime, these things which ought to come much later are sent as premature spiritual births along the path indicated—because of this, individuals intending evil to humanity and who in this sense are “black” or “grey” magicians, capture such secrets for their own ends.

Behind the scenes of outer happenings, such things have been proceeding during our own decades. The intention was this: to place in the hands of a certain group of men, firstly, the secret of the control of masses—I spoke of this to begin with. It is the secret of how to gain extensive control over those masses who concern themselves little with external affairs, yet possess spiritual capacities and are especially qualified to assist in the preparation of the Sixth Post-Atlantean epoch—it is the secret, too, of how the art of controlling these masses can be placed in the hands of a few individuals.

That was the one aim. The other is something that will play an important role in the future: it is a matter of acquiring the secret means whereby factors connected with processes of disease, with the process of propagation, may be given a particular turn.

Among a few friends, I have already spoken of these things. The age of materialism is striving, through the work of certain circles, to paralyse, to eliminate all spiritual development in mankind, to bring human beings to a point where simply by temperament and character they reject everything that is spiritual and regard it as folly.

This trend—and it is already perceptible in some individuals today—will intensify. People will actually long for the time when the Spiritual is universally deemed to be insanity, craziness! Attempts will be made to achieve this end by inoculations; just as viruses have been discovered as means of protection against illnesses, so certain inoculations will be used to influence the human body in such a way that it provides no place for the spiritual proclivities of the soul. Human beings will be immunised against any predisposition for spiritual ideas ... such, at least, will be the endeavour. They will try by inoculation to bring it about that even in childhood, human beings lose the urge towards the spiritual life. This is only one of the aspects of that more intimate knowledge, relating to the connection of Nature-processes and Nature-specifics with the human organism, which must arise during the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch. These things will certainly find their way into the life of mankind when the time comes. The only question is whether success will have attended those previous attempts—by means of such premature spiritual births as I have mentioned—to put knowledge into the hands of individuals who will use it for their own ends ... or whether the knowledge of these things will come in the right way, at the right time, and thus promote the well-being of humanity.

There was nothing amateurish about the methods of the organisation designed for promoting these premature spiritual births; with the help of the Order of murderers known as the Thugs, it worked very systematically, albeit in a way which horrifies anyone who has the good of humanity at heart. It worked systematically, not amateurishly, with full knowledge of the means required.

Because the effort was being made through instruments acquired prematurely from the spiritual world to place part of mankind in the egotistical possession of knowledge which, as humanity matures will be acquired in any case during the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch ... because this was being striven for, there arose in other groups of men the uneasiness and anxiety which staged this “Propaganda by Action” as a counter-blast, so to speak; it was intended to be a help but, being the child of fear, it was an amateurish attempt, a provisional attempt made with ineffective means.

These things that proceed behind the scenes of external happenings, are of deep import. Nor would they be mentioned here if it were not a necessity and a duty to bring them to the attention of people trained to some extent in Spiritual Science. It is a necessity for such things to pass into the consciousness of humanity in the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch. Only so can the goal of earthly evolution be attained.

Human beings must embark upon the unpleasant task of abandoning the mode of thinking which the universities produce in the so-called educated classes today; a time must come when a number of human beings declare themselves ready to accept this uncomfortable world-conception which takes its direction, its concepts, its ideas, from the spiritual world. For men must not, dare not, linger in the condition of sleep that is so congenial to those abstract concepts for which the age of materialism strives and then calls “noble.”

Thinking over what I have thus indicated, you will realise that a whole number of possibilities exist for making use of currents emanating from the spiritual world in order to bring evil things to pass on the Earth during this Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch. There are many, many such possibilities—today I have told you of one. And the obligation to stress the necessity that such knowledge should reach the consciousness of a certain number of souls—this is bound up with the fundamental character of our age. The second half of the nineteenth century was an extremely important period. I have often indicated to circles of friends here and there that the year 1841 was a critical time, a year of decision and crisis. This, of course, is not discovered by looking merely at the events that happened in the physical world, but only by studying these events in connection with what was going on in the spiritual world. The year 1841 was, in truth, the critical year in respect of the onset of the age of materialism, for at that time a very definite battle began in the spiritual worlds—a battle waged by certain Spirits, Spirits of Darkness as we may call them, belonging to the hierarchical rank of the Angeloi. In the spiritual worlds they fought out this battle until the autumn of 1879. They were striving for many and definite aims, only one of which shall be mentioned today. Between the years 1841 and 1879, decision was to be taken as to whether a certain store of spiritual wisdom could be made sufficiently mature to trickle gradually down to the Earth from the last third of the nineteenth century onwards, that is to say, to enter into the souls of men as a stimulus to spiritual knowledge, to the knowledge described today as that of Spiritual Science, which has only been possible since that time.

The aim of these Angeloi-Spirits between the years 1841 and 1879 was to prevent what was thus to flow down to the Earth, from coming to maturity in the spiritual world. But these Spirits of Darkness were defeated in the war they waged against the Spirits of Light during this period. In the year 1879, on a smaller scale, an event came to pass of the kind that has several times come to pass in the course of evolution, and has always been pictured symbolically as the victory of Michael, or St. George, over the Dragon. In the year 1879, too, the Dragon was overcome in a certain realm. This time the “Dragon” was the Angeloi-Spirits who were striving for but could not achieve the aim I have indicated. In 1879, therefore, they were cast out of the spiritual world into the world of men—and here, in this world, they wander among humanity. They are present here, sending their forces into men's thoughts, feelings and impulses of will, egging them on to this undertaking or another. They have not been able to prevent the onset of the age when the spiritual knowledge flows down—their defeat in the battle lies precisely in this—for the spiritual knowledge is here and will unfold increasingly; human beings will be able to acquire the faculty of seeing into the spiritual world.

But having been cast down to the Earth, these Angeloi-Spirits are intent upon doing harm with the down-flowing knowledge; they want to guide it into wrongful channels, to rob it of its power for good and lead it into paths of evil. In short, having been cast down since the year 1879, their aim is to achieve here, with the help of men, what they were unable to achieve with the help of the Spirits in yonder world. Their aim is to bring ruin to that part of the good plan for world-evolution which consists in causing the knowledge of the control of masses, the knowledge concerning birth, illness and death, among other things, to spread among men when the time is ripe. These Spirits of Darkness want to spread such knowledge too soon, by means of the premature spiritual births. Among their other objects and activities, these Spirits operate in the manner I have just indicated.

The only way to combat the influence of these Ahrimanic Beings is to realise that against certain aims of Ahriman nothing avails except to see through him, to know that he is there. I have indicated this repeatedly in the Mystery Plays; think only of the end of the last Play. The Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch must evolve to the stage where many human beings address the Ahrimanic Powers and Beings as Faust addresses Mephistopheles: “In thy Nothingness I hope to find the All.” Men must be resolved to look into that realm where materialism sees the “Nothingness” and there see ... the spiritual world! Ahriman-Mephistopheles is then obliged to speak to such men as he speaks to Faust when sending him to the “Mothers”:

“I will not grudge my praise before thou goest, For well I see that thou the Devil knowest.”

The other day, I said, jokingly, in Dornach: “Mephistopheles would not have made such a remark to Woodrow Wilson! To Woodrow Wilson he would have said: ‘The little fellows never notice the Devil, even when he has them by the collar!’” Truly, it is of the greatest importance that men shall learn to see into the realities of the spiritual world. And, believe me, it is simply the fact, that when, on the one side, there is some special necessity, the opposing forces are also especially strong—and so, today, men put up strong resistance to these things, struggle against them.

I beg you here in Zurich, in your laudable and welcome efforts to bring Spiritual Science to certain still very hostile circles, to be under no illusions! Many disappointments—and at first, nothing but disappointments—await all efforts to direct things that must come to pass, into the right paths. This, of course, should never deter us. We must be so imbued with the impulse needed for the present age, that we do what has to be done without regard to results—whether they fall out one way or the other.

This attitude alone makes achievement possible—and then it is often reached by an entirely unexpected route. I beg you to remember, too, that a great deal must often be done that yields no gratifying results. For the propaganda of Spiritual Science is a different matter from other current forms of propaganda. In these other domains, people are for the most part told things with which they are as familiar as devout ladies sitting in church are familiar with what the clergyman says from the pulpit. The programmes of most leagues and societies contain subject matter that can be imbibed very light-heartedly and superficially—it usually is, and remains, pure abstraction. Fine programmes are made—but these programmes are unrelated to and incapable of penetrating into reality. If it is our desire to cultivate spiritual strivings in this Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, we must regard them as we regard the Living. What is the nature of the Living? The Living, the Life, in the realm of Spirit has its image in the realm of the Living in Nature. I ask you: is a fish in the sea afraid of laying a number of eggs that come to nothing? Ask yourselves how many of the eggs that are actually laid, turn into fish? How many come to nothing? As it is in life, so, too, it is in the spiritual life. You may speak for long years, on countless occasions, to vast numbers of people ... and you must be satisfied if interest, at most, is awakened in a few among them—for that inheres in the nature of the Living. Achievement in any degree is only possible when one proceeds as Nature proceeds—Nature being the image of the Spirit. What would happen if Nature hesitated to allow living beings to lay the eggs that come to nothing, because a number obviously perish in the course of a year? The Nature-process continues and, moreover, achieves evolution. Considerations as to whether any particular thing can be achieved, whether it is in line with this or with that—are of no moment. What is of moment is that in the thing itself we see the impulse and that we simply cannot do otherwise than carry this impulse into the world.

And looking at the reasons—a few of which have been indicated today—why this impulse must be carried out into the world during the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch ... truly they are serious enough! Where necessity is greatest, remember, there the opposition is strongest. Men will have to learn to view all these things that come to pass here, on the physical plane, and in our time present a truly terrible aspect, in their connection with happenings behind the scenes. Only then do they become intelligible. But the historians, the sociologists, the economists, the politicians of today, who derive their rules and laws exclusively from the physical plane well, as far as the actual necessities are concerned, they act like persons who begin some important task by stretching themselves on a chaise lounge and going to sleep, believing they can achieve it in the world of dream. The majority of those who belong to the world of culture, to the several branches of science today, really do set to work like this; in their state of dream they let reality pass them by. How do men write treatises on history, on sociology? They write without a single inkling of the real forces at play behind the subject of their dreamings. The realities underlying such deeply decisive events as we are witnessing nowadays, lie around modern men of science like the walls of a room into which they have been carried during sleep, have never seen and in which they go on sleeping. This is how materialistic science acquaints itself with the world.

In my book Vom Menschenratsel (The Riddle of Man) I have described a mode of consciousness that is at the same time a “seeing” (Schauendes Bewusstsein). This must, to a certain degree, become a faculty in humanity of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch for the following reason. Certain secrets must come into the open because otherwise they would be spread among humanity by unlawful means such as those of which I have told you today. As I said, it is not easy to speak of these things, but in duty bound it is necessary to do so. Men must acquire for many things a gift of observation very different from the clumsy faculty of observation in vogue today.

In connection with what has been said, I want to add the following. Firstly, men can acquire something, even today, by trying to take things normally ascribed to chance seriously and regard them as hints for deepening the life of soul. Suppose you read that at one place or another, on this or that date, a certain man died. A great deal may light up if one asks oneself: “How would it have been if that man had died three months earlier or three months later?” reckoning, of course, merely with possibilities. But you may be sure that if such a question is put, forces are released whereby you will discern other things. Or again, while traveling in a train you may have a conversation that means a great deal to you. A materialist, naturally, would regard such a thing as a lucky stroke of chance. But those who are trying to penetrate behind the scenes of outer existence will be alert to such incidents; without forcing ideas too far but feeling that there is something in these “accidents”, they pay attention, because these things point to forces playing into and between the events—forces whose origin is neither mechanical nor mathematical. That is one of the things I wanted to say.

The other is this, and I want to reiterate it with emphasis. In spite of the materialism of our time, much that is spiritual is revealing itself to men. But it goes against the grain to speak about these spiritual experiences. When someone becomes communicative, because he trusts you, he will often speak of what he, or some other person, has done ... If he tells you honestly and genuinely why, for example, he founded some newspaper, why he did this or that, he relates a dream, or what seemed to be a dream; he tells you of an impulse from the spiritual world. Such things happen at every turn nowadays—far more often than people think. Far more deeds are prompted by spiritual impulses than is usually imagined. But people hesitate to admit such things because they are as a rule not taken seriously.

It is well to deepen contemplation in both these directions, to be alert, in these days, to any sign or experience which strikes one's attention; and also to observe—for the opportunities are there—how in the good and in the bad sense, things are revealed from the spiritual world, which impel men to act. Nowadays, above all, this is more often the case than people think.

That is what I wanted to put before you today. Next Tuesday we will continue the subject.

[1] Note by Translator: The date of the assassination was 10th September, 1898. “Propagandisten der Tat” seems to have been a phrase in current use at that time. In modern books of reference, this assassination and that of Carnot, of which mention is made later, are attributed to revolutionary anarchists.

[2] Carnot was the fourth President of the Third French Republic. He was assassinated at Lyons on 24th June, 1894.