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Historical Necessity and Freewill
GA 179

5. The Members of Man's Being and the Periods of His Life

15 December 1917, Dornach

If we wish to understand what lies at the foundation of the two impulses that penetrate so deeply into human life—that of the so-called free will and of the so-called necessity—then we must add still other thoughts to the various ideas already gained as a foundation. This I will do today, in order that tomorrow we may be in a position to draw the conclusion, or inference, in regard to the concept of free will and necessity in the social, ethical-moral, and historical processes of human life. In discussing such things it becomes more and more evident that people—especially modern people—strive to embrace the highest, most important and significant things with the most primitive kinds of thoughts. It is taken for granted (I have often mentioned this) that certain things must be known in order to understand a clock; someone who has not the slightest idea of how the wheels of a clock work together, etc., will hardly attempt to explain, on the spur of the moment, the details of a clock's mechanism. Yet we wish to be competent judges of free will and necessity in all situations of life without having learned anything fundamental about these things. We prefer to remain ignorant concerning the most important and most essential things, which can only be understood if we consider their whole relationship to human nature, and we wish to know and judge everything imaginable of our own accord. This is particularly the desire of our times. When it is shown that the human being is a complicated being, organized in manifold ways, a being that penetrates deeply, on the one hand, into all that is connected with the physical plane, and on the other, into all that is connected with the spiritual world, then people often object that such things are dry and intellectual, and that the most important and essential things must be grasped in quite another way.

The world will have to learn (perhaps just the present catastrophic events may teach us something) how much lies hidden in man and in his relationship with the course of the world's evolution. For years we have emphasized that we can differentiate roughly in man what we may call his physical nature, or his physical body; his etheric body, or the body of formatives forces, as I have called it; his astral body, which is already psychic; and the actual ego.

We have emphasized recently from the most varied points of view that—in reality—man, as he lives between waking and sleeping, in his usual waking day-consciousness, has some knowledge only of the impressions given to him by his senses, and of his thoughts; but he dreams away the real contents of his life of feeling, and sleeps away the real contents of his life of the will. Dream and sleep stretch into the world of waking life; during our usual waking consciousness, our feeling life is hardly more than a dream, and the real contents of our will reach our consciousness just as little as a dreamless sleep. Through our feelings, through the contents of our will, we dive down into the world (we have pointed this out specially during these considerations) in which we live together with the dead, in the midst of the Beings of the higher Hierarchies, the Angeloi, the Archangeloi, Archai, etc. As soon as we live in a feeling—and we live constantly in feelings—all that lives in the kingdom of the dead lives with us in the sphere, or in the realm of feeling.

Now something else must be added to this. In the life of ordinary waking consciousness we speak of our ego. But in reality we can only speak of this ego in a very unreal sense as far as our usual waking consciousness is concerned. For what is the real nature and being of this ego? The usual waking consciousness cannot gain knowledge of this. When the clairvoyant dives down consciously into the true being of the ego, he will find that the true ego of man is of a will-like nature. What man possesses in his everyday consciousness is only an idea of the ego. This is why it is so easy for the scientific psychologists to do away entirely with this ego although, on the other hand, this is really nonsense. These scientists and psychologists say that the ego develops gradually and that the human being acquires this ego in the course of his individual development. In this way he does not acquire the ego itself, but only the idea of the ego. It is easy to eliminate the ego, because for the everyday consciousness it is merely a thought, a reflection of the true, genuine ego. The real ego lives in the world in which the true reality of our will also lives. And what we call our astral body, what we designate as the actual soul life, lives in the same sphere as our life of feelings. If you bear in mind the things that we have thus considered, you will see that we dive down with our ego and our astral body into the same region that we share with the dead. When we penetrate clairvoyantly into our true ego, we are also among the egos of the dead, as well as among the egos of the so-called living.

We must realize such things quite clearly, in order to grasp to what an extent man lives, with his everyday consciousness, in the so-called world of appearance, or in Maya, as it is called by a oriental term. We are consciously awake in the world of our senses, in the world of our thoughts; but the sense impulses give us only that portion of the world that is spread out as Nature. And our world of thoughts gives us only that which is in us and corresponds to our own nature between birth and death. That which is our eternal nature remains in the world that we share with the dead. When we enter the life of the physical plane through incarnation, it remains indeed in the world in which also the dead live.

In order to understand these things fully we must grasp thoughts which are not so easy to digest (but these things must be said because they are so)—thoughts that cost us an effort to think out. Man has no such thoughts in the course of his everyday waking consciousness. He prefers to limit his knowledge to that which is stretched out in space and that which takes its course in Time. A frequent pathological symptom is this one: to imagine even the spiritual world spatially, although these thoughts may be nebulous, thin and misty; yet we somehow wish to imagine is spatially; we wish to think of souls flying about in space, and so on. We must go beyond the ideas of space and time to more complicated ideas, if we really wish to penetrate into these things. Today I wish to draw your attention to something that is very important for the understanding of the whole of human life.

Let us bear in mind once more the fact that—roughly speaking—we possess this four-fold nature—the physical body, the body of formative forces or etheric body, the astral body, and the ego.

Now, when someone speaks from the standpoint of the usual waking consciousness, he may ask:—How old is a person—How old is a certain person A? Someone may give his age, let us say 35, and he may believe that he has made an important statement. In stating that a certain person is 35 years old he has, in fact, said something of importance for the physical plane and for the usual waking consciousness; but for the spiritual world, in other words, for the etheric being of man, this implies only a part of the reality. When you say: I am 35 years old—you only say this in regard to your physical body. You must say: My physical body is 35 years old—then this will be correct. But these words express nothing at all as far as the etheric body, or the body of formative forces is concerned, and nothing at all as far as the other members of the human being are concerned. For it is an illusion, it is indeed quite fantastic to think that your ego, for instance, is 35 years old, when your physical body is 35 years old. You see, here we must bear in mind different speeds, different rapidities in the development of the various members.

The following figures will make you realize this. A human being is, let us say, 7 years old; this means nothing less than this:--his physical body has reached the age of 7 years. His etheric body, his body of formative forces, is not yet 7 years old, for his body of formative forces does not maintain the same speed as the physical body and has not yet reached this age. We are not aware of such things just because we imagine time as one continuous stream, and thus we cannot form the thought that different things maintain different speeds within the course of time. This physical body that is 7 years old has developed according to a certain speed. The etheric body develops more slowly, the astral body still more slowly, and slowest of all, the ego. The etheric body is only 5 years and 3 months old when the physical body is 7 years old, because it develops more slowly. The astral body is 3 years and 6 months old, and the ego, 1 year and 9 months. Thus you must say to yourself—when a child is 7 years old, its ego is only 1 year and 9 months old. This ego undergoes a slower development on the physical plane. On the physical plane this ego develops at a slower pace; it is a slower pace, the same pace that we find in our life with the dead. Why do we not grasp what takes place in the stream of the experiences of the dead? Because we do not grow accustomed to the slower pace of the dead, and do not admit this into our thoughts and especially into our feelings, in order to hold them fast.

Hence, if someone is 28 years old as far as his physical body is concerned, then his ego is only 7 years old. As far as your ego is concerned, which is the essential part of your being, you thus maintain a much slower pace in the course of development than that of the physical body. You see, the difficulty consists in the fact that, generally, we consider speed, or velocities, merely as outer velocities. When things move one beside another, we say that one thing moves more quickly and the other one more slowly because we use Time as a comparison. But here the speed within Time is different. Without this insight into the fact that the different members of the human being have different speeds in their development, it is impossible to grasp the connections with the true deeper being of man.

From this you will see how in everyday consciousness people simply throw together entirely different things contained in human nature.

Man consists of this four-fold being, and the four members of this being are so different from one another that they even have different ages. But man is under a great illusion in making everything depend on his physical body. He says something that has absolutely no meaning whatever for the spiritual world, in stating that his ego is 28 years old, when he is 28 according to his physical body. His statement would only have a meaning if he would say:—My ego is 7 years old—in the case of the ego, a year is naturally four times as long as in the case of the physical body. One might also say that the age of the four different members of the human being must be reckoned according to four entirely different measurements of time; for the ego, a year is simply four times as long as for the physical body.

Pictorially you might conceive this as a projection from the physical plane—for instance, one human being may normally become 28 years old, while another child may grow more slowly and after 28 years be like a child of 7. Thus the whole matter appears at first like an abstract truth. But it is a fundamental reality in man. Just consider that our ego is the bearer of what we call our understanding, or our thinking consciousness of self. When our understanding and our conscious thinking are within our ego, then this understanding and conscious thinking are really essentially younger than we ourselves apparently are, according to our physical body. This is indeed so.

But this will show you that when a human being of 28 gives the impression of one whose understanding has developed to the age of 28, only one fourth of this understanding is really his own. It cannot be helped; when we have a certain quantity of understanding at 28, only a quarter of this is our own; the rest belongs to the universe, to the world in which we are submerged through our astral body, through our etheric body, and through our physical body. But we only know directly something of these bodies through ideas, through sense perceptions, in other words, again within the ego. This means that during our development as human beings between birth and death we are indeed mere apparitions of a reality. We make the impression of being four times as clever as we really are. This is true. All we possess, in addition to this one fourth, we owe to what holds sway in the historical, social, and moral processes within that world we dream away and sleep away. Dream and sleep impulses, which we have in common with the universe, seethe up, above the horizon of our being and fructify this fourth part of our understanding and soul, and make it four times as strong as it really is.

You see at this point arises the illusion concerning the freedom of man. Man is a free being; he is, indeed. But only the real, true man is a free being. That fourth part, of which I have just spoken, is a free being. Other beings play into the remaining three fourths; these cannot be free. This gives rise to the delusion in regard to freedom so that we continually ask:—Is man free or is he not free? Man is free when he connects this idea of freedom with the one fourth of his being, in the sense in which I have just explained it. If the human being wishes to have this freedom as an impulse of his own, then he must develop this fourth part in a corresponding, independent way. In usual life, this fourth part cannot assert itself, for the simple reason that it is overpowered by the other three fourths. In the remaining three fourths is active all that man calls his desires, his appetites, his emotions and passions. These slay his freedom, for what is contained in the universe in the form of impulses works through these desires, emotions and passions.

Now the question arises:—What shall we do to make this one fourth of our soul-life, which is a reality within us, really free? We must place this one fourth in relationship with that which is independent of the remaining three fourths.

I have tried to answer this question philosophically in my The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, by attempting to show how man can only realize the impulse of freedom within himself, when he places his actions, his deeds, entirely under the influence of pure thought, when he reaches the point of transforming impulses of pure thought into impulses of action, into impulses which are not in any way dependent upon the outer world for their development. All that which is developed out of the outer world does not allow us to realize freedom. Only that which develops in our thinking, independently of the outer world, as the motive of our actions, enables us to realize freedom.

Where do such motives come from? Where does that which does not come from the outer world come from? It comes out of the spiritual world. The human being need not be clairvoyantly conscious in every situation of life of how these impulses come from the spiritual world; they may nevertheless be within him all the same. But he will necessarily conceive these impulses in a somewhat different way than they must be conceived in reality. When we rise in clairvoyant consciousness to the first stage of the spiritual world, we come to the imaginative world; the second stage is the world of inspiration, as you know; the third stage, the world of intuition. Instead of allowing the impulses of our will or of our actions to rise out of our physical body, our astral body, and etheric body, we can receive them as imaginations, behind which stand inspirations and intuitions. That is, if we receive no impulses from our bodies, but only from the spiritual world. This does not need to be the conscious clairvoyant perception: “Now I will something and behind this stand intuition, inspiration, and imagination.”—but, instead, the result appears as an idea, as a pure thought, and has the appearance of an idea created within the element of fantasy. Because this is so, because such an idea, which lies at the foundation of free actions must appear to everyday consciousness as an idea created out of the element of fantasy, I call it moral fantasy in my The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. (That which lies at the foundation of free actions.) What, then, is this moral fantasy? This moral fantasy is the reverse of a mirrored reflection. What lies spread out around us as the outer physical reality is a mirrored reflection; physical reality sends us reflections of things. Moral fantasy is the image, through which we do not see. For this reason, things appear to us as fantasy. Behind them, however, stand the real impulses—imagination, inspiration, intuition—which are active. When we do not know that they are active, but only receive the influences into our usual consciousness, then this appears as fantasy. And these results of moral fantasy, these incentives to action, which do not lie in desires, passions and emotions—are free. But how can we attain them?

Moral fantasy can also be developed by a human being who is not clairvoyant. Everything that implies a real progress for humanity has always been born out of moral fantasy, insofar as this progress lay within the ethical sphere. The point in question is that man first develops a feeling, and then an enhanced feeling (we shall hear immediately, what is to be understood exactly by “enhanced feeling”)—that he is not merely here on this earth in order to accomplish things which concern him personally, or individually, but in order to accomplish things through which the will of the Time Spirits can be realized.

It appears as if something quite special were implied when one says: Man must realize the will of the Time Spirits. But a time will come when people will understand this much better than now. And a time will come when the contents of human teaching will not be that of the present. At present only ideas dealing with nature can be conveyed even to the most educated people; for what is imparted to people in regard to ethical and social life is in most cases an unreal, schematic abstraction; indeed, the greatest abstraction.

In this connection we have not yet attained what earlier ages already possessed. Only with great difficulty can a modern man immerse himself in earlier times. Earlier times possessed myths—myths that were connected with the vital life of the people, myths that penetrated into poetry, into art, into all manner of things. In Greece one spoke of Oedipus, of Hercules, and of other heroes, one tried to emulate those who had done things which were exemplary deeds, and first deeds, and one wished to tread in their footprints. Everyone wished to tread in these footprints. The thread of ideas, the thread of thought and feeling, led backwards. One felt at one with those long dead. What went out as an impulse from those who had died was told in myths; and these men lived in experiencing, in becoming one with the impulses of these myths.

Something similar must again be created and will be created if the impulses of spiritual science are rightly understood. Except that, in the future, souls will gaze forward much more than backward. The contents of public teaching must be that which binds human beings together with the creative activity of the Time, and above all, with the impulses of the Time Spirit, the corresponding Being from the Hierarchy of the Archai, concerning whom I have said, in an earlier description, that the so-called dead, as well as the living, are connected with him. People will learn in the public teaching of the future the meaning of such a period of culture as the one that began in the 15th century and closed the Greco-Latin period; in this fifth post-Atlantean period people will learn to know the real intentions of the universal World-All. They will take up the impulses of this fifth post-Atlantean period and they will know:—This must be realized between the 15th century and one of the centuries in a coming millennium. They will know: We belong to our period of culture in such a way that the impulses of this coming age stream through us. In future, even the children, as they learn to name the flowers and the stars (they do this less today—but it is at least something outwardly real) will learn to take up the real, spiritual impulses of the period. First they must be educated to do this. What is told as “history” today must first cease to be called “history.” In not too distant a future, instead of speaking of all the things contained in history as it is told today, people will speak of the spiritual impulses standing behind the historical evolution, impulses which are dreamed by human beings. These are the spiritual impulses that call man to freedom, and make him free, because they raise him to the world from which intuition, inspiration, and imagination come. For what happens outwardly on the physical plane, what constitutes outer history (I have explained this even in public lectures) loses its meaning as soon as it has occurred; in reality it does not justify our saying that the former event is always the cause of the latter. There is nothing more senseless than to recount history by describing, for instance, the deeds of Napoleon at the beginning of the 19th century, and then assuming that the events after Napoleon's exile are the consequence of Napoleon's actions. Nothing is more senseless than this! Descriptions of Napoleon imply exactly the same, as far as reality is concerned, as the description of a human corpse three days after death, as far as the dead man's life is concerned. What is now called “history” is a “corpse-history” compared with reality, even though this “corpse-history” has a great importance in the minds of many people.

What happens outwardly becomes a reality only when it is revealed in its development from spiritual impulses. Then it will be seen clearly that a human being's deeds, let us say, in a certain decade of a certain century, are the consequence of what he experienced before entering into his incarnation on earth; they are in no sense the consequence of events that occurred in the course of decades of physical experience on the earth, and so on. Spiritual Science, in the meaning of Anthroposophy, will have to bring more depth and more life—especially in regard to historical, social, and moral life—into the sphere of history above all. When this knowledge of the spiritual impulses will have become one of the essential demands of our time—it will then correspond to the living reality of the myths in ancient times—it will permeate human beings with impulses leading them to deeds and actions that will make them free. These things must first be understood; they will indeed influence real life when this understanding spreads over an ever-wider sphere.

But these considerations will show you something else besides. You will realize that the impulses of feeling, the impulses of will, which place us within the same sphere of life as the so-called dead, are a higher and more intensive reality than the one we know through our waking consciousness, in the form of ideas and sense impressions. For this reason, what has just been brought forward as a demand of our age, as something that must become an object of public teaching, can only be truly fruitful when it is grasped not merely with the understanding, but goes over into the impulses of feeling and into the impulses of will.

This can only come about when spiritual science is really seen as a reality, and not simply as a teaching. spiritual science is easily looked upon merely as a teaching, as a theory; but spiritual science is not a mere teaching, a mere theory, spiritual science is a living Word. For what is given out as spiritual science is the revelation from the world which we share with the higher Hierarchies and with the so-called dead. This very world speaks to us through spiritual science. And he who really understands spiritual science knows that the soul music of the spiritual world continues to resound in spiritual science. What we read, not from the dead letters, but from the real happenings in the spiritual world, can indeed permeate our feeling with true life, when we grasp spiritual science in this sense, as something which speaks to our inner being from out the spiritual world. I have emphasized at different times how the matter stands, when I described how, on the one hand, since 1879, spiritual life has the opportunity of streaming down to the physical plane in an entirely new way, and how, on the other hand, it must indeed face an opponent in the Spirits of Darkness, of whom we have spoken. Everything must still be achieved, before the content of spiritual science really enters the life of our feeling and will. And this can be achieved when certain things change fundamentally, in regard to which modern man has reached a cultural blind alley.

Something else must also work its way through; namely, evolution must develop in such a way that, on the one hand, the events of history may be compared to a growing tree (I have already used this picture during these considerations): but when the leaves have grown as far as the periphery, the tree ceases to grow. Here the dying process begins. It is the same with historical events. A certain group of events takes shape—let us describe it quite schematically:—Certain historical events have their roots. A definitive group of historical events may have their roots in the last third of the 18th century. I shall speak of this more clearly tomorrow. Other influences are added to these in the course of the 19th century, and so on. But you see, these historical events expand and reach their extreme boundaries. In this case the boundary is not the same as in the case of a tree or a plant, which does not grow beyond its periphery; but here a new root of historical events must begin. For decades, already, we have been living in a time in which such new historical events must spring out of direct intuition. But in the historical life of man, illusion can easily spread also over these things. To be sure, you can watch the growth of a plant, which grows according to its inner laws until it reaches a certain periphery and cannot grow beyond it. But now you can call forth an illusion—you can take wires, hang paper leaves on them, and give yourself the illusion that the plant continues to grow up to this point.

Such wires do indeed exist where historical events are concerned. While historical events should long ago have adopted another course, such wires are there instead; except that in historical evolution these wires are human prejudices, human indolence, which continue to maintain, on dead wires, what has died long ago. Certain people place themselves at the ends of these dead wires—in other words, at the outermost ends of human prejudice—and these people are often considered historical personalities; indeed, the true historical personalities. And people do not realize to what an extent these personalities sit on the wires of human prejudice. One of the most important tasks of the present is to begin to understand how certain personalities who are looked upon as “great” are, in reality, merely hanging on the wires of human prejudice; this is indeed one of the chief tasks of the present.