The Fundamental Social Demand of Our Times
IV. The New Revelation of the Spirit
20 December 1918, Christiania
My dear friends,
In our studies here during the last few weeks we have considered from most varied points of view the great social demand of our age. We have tried to see this requirement of the age against a spiritual-scientific background. In this way alone is it possible for us to gain a true and clear direction, realizing all that lies hidden beneath the outward demand. I shall return to this subject again tomorrow. Today I will insert a kind of interlude, continuing to some extent what we touched upon the other day, and showing how the Spiritual Science which is here represented will relate itself to the inner state of consciousness of our own time and of the near future.
At the end of the last lecture I gave you a few of the main points in this connection. I said: Anyone who has the will to apply that healthy human intelligence which has in fact evolved up till our time, in testing what is brought forward in anthroposophical Spiritual Science, will find this Spiritual Science really able to reckon with the scientific conscience, and with the whole way of thinking of the present age. And this appears so especially when we consider the social questions.
Whenever we deal with one subject or another in this Spiritual Science, we are therefore always in a position to point out that everything that is here brought forward can be subsequently tested, by anyone who wishes to do so, with the thinking — and notably with the scientific thinking — of the present time. We may even go so far as to say that a large number of the attacks to which this Spiritual Science is exposed are due to the very fact that it lends itself so evidently to subsequent corroboration by the scientific conscience of the present and of the near future. This is a fact unpleasant and uncomfortable to many people. Opposition arises just because these things are in agreement with all the scientific requirements of our age. For there is a certain antipathy in many heads, and notably in many hearts, against a spiritual knowledge of this kind. To many people it is inconvenient that something of this kind should arise, capable in all its branches of being subsequently tested and confirmed by the scientific standard of our time. But at the same time, this Spiritual Science reckons with an inner spiritual fact in human evolution at the present time, to wit, that beginning in our time, and more and more distinctly towards the future, new revelations are breaking through the veil of world-phenomena and world events. For a long time mankind has lived in ideas according purely to the senses. Whatever mankind possessed, over and above these ideas, consisted in the last resort of ancient revelations handed down from a time when they had still been endowed with an atavistic clairvoyance — when Wisdom-treasures entered into mankind by quite another path than they will enter in the future. From the Wisdom-treasures corresponding to the ages of the past, one thing and another was preserved; and this was the only wisdom which mankind possessed, and it is so to this day for many people. Indeed, it is so for the Natural Scientists of the present time. If we look more closely we shall find that it is so. But the time is long past when there was any direct and elemental Revelation of such Wisdom-treasures. A certain dimness and darkness entered the earthly evolution of mankind. Direct spiritual revelations ceased. Now, however, a time is beginning when new Revelations are breaking through into the spiritual horizon of mankind — through the veil of outward events. Hence there must be a renewal of many things in our time; in this connection especially we may point to the most important earthly event of all, the Mystery of Golgotha. True it is that the Mystery of Golgotha first gave earthly evolution its real meaning. In soul and spirit, the Earth planet would not be what it is if the Mystery of Golgotha had not taken place upon it. But, my dear friends, it is one thing to speak of the Mystery of Golgotha as a real event that took place, and it is another to speak of the doctrines, the so-called Christian doctrines, that have held sway about it through the centuries. Anyone who fails to see this difference will scarcely find his way into the fundamental requirements of our time.
You may take a thing of ordinary life for comparison. An event that takes place before your eyes is one thing; and what is narrated by two or three people who witnessed it is quite another. That is a familiar fact. So it is, though in a higher, spiritual sense, in this case. Nothing else has become known to man about it through the course of the centuries. But all that has been said about this spiritual event (for such is the Mystery of Golgotha, even though it took place on the physical plane) has still been said from the standpoint of an ancient Wisdom. Even the Gospels, as you may know from my Christianity as Mystical Fact, are written from the standpoint of an ancient Wisdom. That is to say: Men had certain conceptions, derived from ancient Mysteries. More generally speaking, they had certain ideas inherited from very ancient times. In the language of these ideas they clothed what had taken place on Golgotha. Now these ideas belonged to the atavistic period of humanity. To be understood at all, the Mystery of Golgotha had to be clothed in such language. But we today are living in a time when that spiritual way of looking out on the world, which was quite right in ancient times, has become antiquated. New revelations of a spiritual kind are breaking in upon us, albeit men are not yet willing to admit them. The new revelations will gradually become equal in value to the old atavistic conceptions. Hence if we would do justice to the requirements of the age we must be able to speak of the Mystery of Golgotha as a spiritual fact, in the language of the new conceptions. The Christian conceptions too will have to reckon with what is now entering into the evolution of mankind. For Christianity would otherwise remain a collection of ancient, traditional ideas. All that is living in the human being today as the living demands of the age, would pine and die away and find no nourishment if it had to content itself with the old traditional ideas. This is the fundamental requirement to which anthroposophical Spiritual Science wishes to do justice; the new revelations of the Spirit must be made intelligible, and the greatest event on Earth — the Mystery of Golgotha — must be stated in terms of these new revelations.
Now it may be asked — and the question is exceedingly important: — Who are the Beings of the Spiritual World who stand behind the revelations that are breaking newly into human history through the veil of outward phenomena? You know, my dear friends, the succession of the Hierarchies as I have described them in my writings. You know, therefore, how the so-called “Spirits of Personality” stand within the Hierarchies, within the order of the Spiritual Beings. The Spirits of Personality are one stage lower in the hierarchical order than those other Spirits among whom Jahve, for example, is included — namely, the so-called Spirits of Form.
The fact is this: — To the revelations which have come to humanity through the Spirits of Form hitherto, the revelations of the Spirits of Personality are now about to be added, albeit this is taking place as yet only in a preparatory way, not with the mighty power with which the Spirits of Form revealed themselves. If we would seek for a word to describe what the Spirits of Form really are, we can hold to the good old word “Creators.” The Biblical word “Creator” very nearly circumscribes all that we must associate with the Spirits of Form when we bear in mind their influence on man from ancient Lemurian times until today, and on into the future. (For their actions will by no means cease; they will only have to perform them as it were upon another plane.)
Bearing in mind all that we know from Spiritual Science in this direction, we can call the Spirits of Form creative Spirits. To them above all, man as he is, as earthly man, owes his existence. Now hitherto the Spirits of Personality were not creative Spirits. They were Spirits who ordered various matters, working from the spiritual realms. You may read about their activities in my Occult Science. But the time is now beginning when they will have to play their part creatively, in human evolution to begin with. Subsequently, they will also have to play a creative part in the other kingdoms. Evolution does indeed take place among the Hierarchies. The Spirits of Personality are rising to a creative activity. Indeed this points us to a very important secret in the evolution of mankind. Anyone who seeks to comprehend the evolution of mankind, not in the customary, superficial Nature-study of today, but with inner spiritual, scientific impulses of seership, knows that since the beginning of the fifth Post-Atlantean age (of which we have spoken recently from so many points of view) something has begun to die out in man. And with this death — this gradual maiming of something in our human nature — all our progress even in soul and spirit is fundamentally connected.
We, my dear friends, are no longer living human beings, if I may put it bluntly, in the same sense as were the human beings of centuries or thousands of years ago. They had a stronger inner vitality, a stronger force proceeding simply from their bodily nature. In ordinary life man is only aware of death when it appears in its most radical form, in the cessation of earthly life. But as you know from your studies of Spiritual Science, something is continually dying in us, and if this were not so we should have no consciousness. Consciousness is connected with the death of something in our nature. Now this death-process is stronger within us than it was in the first centuries A.D. or in the pre-Christian centuries. That in man which proceeded from the Spirits of Form as the creative Spirits, is beginning to die, if I may put it so, with some intensity a new creative principle must now be instilled into human nature — a creative principle which must now take its start from the Spiritual. The fact is that from our age onwards, creative forces are coming towards us out of the Spirit provided we ourselves do not resist their entry. These are creative forces Spiritual Science seeks to understand. In thought and spiritual vision it seeks to take hold of that which is penetrating towards us from worlds, whose spiritual impulses did not hitherto flow into human evolution. In thought and vision it seeks to take hold of what is entering as a new spiritual essence into the evolution of the age. Such is the Spiritual Science which is oriented in the truly modern sense. It does not come forward like a “programme”— scientific, learned or of whatever kind. No! It comes forward at this moment because the heavens are sending new revelations down to men, and these have to be understood.
Anyone who fails to understand in this sense the task of anthroposophical Spiritual Science would have nothing at all to say if it did not have to herald and proclaim new things — things only now breaking in upon us, revealing themselves from the heavens to mankind.
What then is it that is revealing itself through the veil of phenomena? It is the expression of a new creative principle, brought into the world by the Spirits of Personality. In this connection we must recognize it as the essential characteristic of our age (which began in the fifteenth century A.D.) to develop impulses of personality. The personality, if I may use this trite expression, wants to stand on its own feet, does so more and more as we go forward into the third millennium, when other impulses for the fulfillment of personality will enter in.
Consider carefully, my dear friends, what I have just told you. There, coming towards humanity, is the new revelation from the Spirits of Light, the Spirits of Personality. But over against this, especially since the beginning of the fifth Post-Atlantean age, there stand certain Spirits of Darkness. For as soon as we look behind the veil of the phenomena we see at once how certain ranks of spiritual Beings are confronted by other ones, opposing ones. On the one hand we turn our gaze to the Spirits of Personality revealing themselves as I described them just now; on the other hand we see over against them certain Spirits of Darkness, making themselves manifest, Spirits whose interest it is not to allow that which is to come — the new revelation of the Spirit of Personality — to become effective in mankind. These new Spirits of Darkness find an opportunity to realize their intentions in a certain phenomenon of modern life which I mentioned a few weeks ago, a phenomenon which is unfortunately far too little heeded by present-day mankind.
If in our time we ask, how many men are there on Earth? — the answer generally is: Approximately fifteen hundred millions. The logical consequence would be that only so much work is done by these fifteen hundred millions. But that is not the case. On the contrary, since the beginning of the fifth Post-Atlantean age a new possibility has arisen; for today, beside the fifteen hundred millions of men on Earth of which we generally speak, there are five hundred millions more, reckoned in terms of labor-power.
Through the machines it is so. And if all the machine labor of today were done by men, there would have to be five hundred million men to do it.
You see therefore that human labor on Earth has found, so to speak, a substitute. Something is here that works like human beings and yet does not consist of human beings in flesh and blood. This fact is extremely important for the evolution of mankind, and it is connected with other facts in the evolution of the present time. The five hundred million men who are really not there as men of flesh and blood — all the work that is done by the machines just as though men were doing it — all this machine work gives opportunity for the Spirits of Darkness to realize themselves within our human evolution. And these very Spirits of Darkness are the opponents of the Spirits of Personality who bring with them the new revelations of the heavens breaking in upon us with a new clairvoyance, while on the other hand, arising out of the sub-earthly realms, we have the embodiment provided for the adversaries. For these very adversaries are demonic Spirits, Spirits of Darkness, who can now actualize themselves — albeit not through human beings of flesh and blood; they live and move among us none the less, inasmuch as human forces are being replaced by mechanisms, by machines.
This too lies at the basis of all disharmony in the social life of our time. Not only so, my dear friends, it lies also at the basis of certain errors, certain aberrations of human thinking in our time, which in their turn provide once more the starting-point for social aberrations. For in the course of the last few centuries, human thinking has in a certain respect adapted itself to the mechanistic order. It is permeated, impregnated by conceptions adapted purely to a mechanistic order. In many spheres of natural science — but not only there, in many spheres of actual life, of the social and socialistic life of today — no other ideas are applied than those that are of use to understand the working of machines, but they are really useless for all that goes beyond machines and mechanism. And yet, my dear friends, in the world of manifestation everything has a twofold aspect, and you must not therefore conclude that the mechanistic ideas have slunk into human evolution as an evil thing that ought to be avoided. No, that would be altogether wrong. Dangerous as these ideas are because they give certain Spirits of Darkness the opportunity to arise against the Spirits of Personality who are revealing themselves today; dangerous, above all, as is the mechanistic order from which these ideas are derived, yet on the other hand the very thinking which takes its start from mechanistic ideas is beneficial. For this, my dear friends, is the task of modern time: — Our powers of soul must be equipped with the ideas that live in modern scientific thought and altogether in modern thought. This is the necessary task of modern time. We must permeate ourselves with these ideas and then place them in the service of the new revelation of the heavens. In other words, the mechanical ideas have taught mankind to think in these mechanical conceptions. The ideas of former times always had vaguer outlines. Anyone who traces spiritual history through the course of time will know that it is so. Even when we study keen thinkers like Plato, we find that their concepts have vague, undefined outlines. Man has only been able to educate himself to think in sharp outlines of thought by falling into the one-sided habit of conceiving the world mechanically. These one-sided, mechanical ideas are exceedingly poor in world-content; for at bottom they contain no more than what is dead. Yet they are a remarkable means of education, and this, indeed, we can observe in our time. The truth is that nowadays, only those can think in really sharp outlines who have made certain ideas of Natural Science their own. All other people think more or less vaguely.
Thus mankind has passed through a certain education in sharply outlined thinking. But from this point onward it is necessary to turn to the new revelation of the Spirit, and to conceive the spiritual worlds with the same clarity with which we have grown accustomed to conceive the world of Natural Science. This is what the modern intellectual conscience requires, nor will mankind be able to dispense with this. Without this, mankind will never be able to solve the all-important questions that will arise in the present and in the near future. Clear and sharp thinking trained in the modern, scientific ideas and then applied to the spiritual world as it reveals itself anew; such is the configuration, fundamentally speaking, of anthroposophical Spiritual Science. Such is the character which anthroposophical Spiritual Science wants to have, therefore it reckons with the most necessary requirements of our time. Moreover, for this very reason, it is able to descend from spiritual heights, to grasp what is necessary to the everyday life of man. My dear friends, we must again and again repeat that Spiritual Science wishes to bring new help to human work and human tasks of outer life.
Of the old traditions, things that have come down to us from former times, you may take, for instance, the various religious faiths. True, they still suffice for a number of people in our time; they suffice in fact for those who desire a certain “edification.” Out of the heart of the old religious confessions such people are told about the Divine Kingdoms of Heaven; they are told about what lies hidden behind the veil of sense-phenomena, and they descend thus far: — they preach to men telling them that they should be good, that they should love one another, and so forth. The religious faiths come down into the everyday life just far enough to voice certain moral requirements.
On the other side, men try to gain a vision of the demands of everyday life, which constitutes as it were the other pole of life. They try to gain knowledge of Nature. Well, as you know, it is only in the rarest cases that the parsons or preachers in their Sunday afternoon addresses proclaim Botany or Zoology to mankind from the realms of higher revelation. What they proclaim about the Heavenly Kingdoms does not reach down to Earth. But not only in matters of Science; for other things, too, the immediate demands which surround us every hour, every minute — information is sought in what I called just now “the other pole of life;” hence, there has arisen at this pole a kind of natural scientific thinking concerning the social demands of our time. Think, my dear friends, how the thoughts that men conceive about the needs of everyday life, and the things the parsons proclaim out of the Kingdom of Heaven — think how these two stand outwardly side by side. They are two different worlds; they have no point of contact. Men want to work (or so we may assume), want to have thoughts about their work; and then, when their work is done, they want to hear what there is to be said about Death and Immortality and things Divine. But these are two distinct and separated realms. They do not realize the need to unite them. They want to think about money, capital, credit, labor-power, etc., from one side, and about etherical [ethereal?] ideals from the other side. They do not summon the force of thought to speak out of the sources of what is said about the Spirit, about the life of everyday affairs where God, or the gods, are revealed after all no less than in the other realms. This is the great evil of the present time; this, above all, we must clearly see if we would understand why the present catastrophic time has broken in upon mankind. We need once more a Science which, while speaking of the highest things of the Divine, is able to enter simultaneously into the needs of everyday. For otherwise the needs of everyday will remain in that chaotic order in which you see the Lenins and the Trotskys in our time; while the doctrines which proclaim the secrets of Heaven remain unfruitful for external life, however much they may warm the selfish inner feeling of the heart.
In the future this must not be so. In the future men must not have Sunday afternoon addresses in which they try to get beyond the everyday, seeking mere “edification” or warmth and comfort for their selfish religious needs, and then go out again into the everyday which they regard in a God-empty way, conceiving it not spiritually but with inadequate and superficial thought. The demands which our time is making of us lie indeed within the spiritual realm; and order will not come into our time till men admit that these things which I have now characterized must be taken into account.
A host of other important impulses of our time must be seen in this connection. We are standing in the very midst — not at the end, but I say with full consciousness, in the very midst — of a time of conflict, a time when chaotic events are taking place in human evolution, events from which as I have often said, men ought to learn. Alas! There are so many who have learnt nothing yet from the events of the last four and a half years, whose thinking is still the very same in form as it was four and a half years ago. Events are taking place, my dear friends, which reveal outward humanity — or the life of outward humanity — in conflict and in warfare. True, there was conflict in other epochs of time as well, but the conflict in our epoch has its own peculiar character of which we become aware when we look not merely on the surface but in the depths. For there we see that many things are taking place in the outer world which should really be going on in the inner life of men. You will readily believe that the receiving of the new revelations from the heavens must go hand in hand with a deepened inwardness of human nature. This deepened inwardness will bring with it certain inner conflicts into the souls of men. But the prospect of inner conflicts for the human soul must not give us pessimistic feelings. For it is only out of their conflicts of the soul that men will grow strong toward the future. The man of today who is not yet prepared for this desires his parsons, the representatives of his religious faith, somehow to cloud his vision of what is nonetheless already there subconsciously in his own soul. Let them but warm his soul, let them comfort him, telling him beautiful things of what the Divine Beneficence intends for man — without man's doing anything with real activity himself! My dear friends, in the near future the gods will intend for man that alone for which man himself will lend a hand. Man must pass through inner conflicts of the soul, conflicts that will strengthen him. We have not to look towards a future more comfortable than the past or the present. Specious ideals — which in reality are nothing but modern narcotics — are not the truth. They are more Wilsonism. To speak of ushering in an altogether new age by twice seven points (I know not if the number be mystically intended; if so it is mystical in a bad sense) — that, my dear friends, is a strange form of modern superstition.
For the future, my dear friends, things will by no means be more comfortable in the outer life. For the remainder of earthly evolution mankind will yet have to shoulder far greater discomforts than they dream of yet. Nevertheless, they will shoulder them, for they will be strengthened by inner conflicts of soul — every individual man in his own soul. Looking through the veil of outward phenomena, we behold not a world in which the gods sleep a sleep of legendary peace, each in his bed, or lead a peaceful, happy life such as men have dreamed of— which is indeed none other than a form of laziness!
No! It is not so. When we pierce the veil of phenomena we behold a life of Divine Spiritual, Hierarchical labor; the thing that strikes us first is the great battle which is taking place behind the scene of the physical world of sense — the battle between Wisdom and Love. And man is placed in the midst of this battle. For a long time he has been unconscious of it, in future he must take part more and more consciously in this conflict which is taking place in the world between Wisdom and Love. For Man himself shall be the outcome when Wisdom and Love beat like an eternal pendulum, now towards the side of Wisdom and now towards the side of Love. Only through the rhythmic swinging of the pendulum, not through a sleepy peace, will the future shape itself aright.
In ancient, atavistic times, and hitherto, this battle between Wisdom and Love was being waged in the subconscious depths of the human soul. Down in the depths, my dear friends, where the unconscious instincts are pulsating, there stands the Spirit of Wisdom against the Spirit of Love, and the Spirit of Love against the Spirit of Wisdom. But from our time onward — from the time of evolution of the Spiritual Soul of Consciousness — all this is rising into the conscious life. Man must fight this battle out within himself. Stronger and stronger become the forces which play in human nature on the foundation of this inner conflict of the soul. Today, however, men are still resisting this inner evolution. They divine its coming but they are afraid of it; they have not the courage for this inner conflict. All that is written in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment is meant to lead men to fight this inner battle out victoriously. But people find it inconvenient; they shrink in fear; they have not the courage to go through the inner fight. And this, my dear friends, is a characteristic phenomenon of our time. Men will not go through this inner fight; they flee from it; they do not want it yet. And because they will not have it inwardly, it is projected outward. In one of the Mystery Plays I hinted at this fact. This passage, as you know, was written long before the outbreak of the present world-catastrophe of war, but the latter still bears witness to its truth. In it I showed how all the outer conflicts of today are conflicts which have been thrust out of the inner life of man. Conflicts in other ages had a different character, for all these things are changing and undergoing metamorphosis. Now this is what must come: men must receive into their inner life the battles which they now believe themselves obliged to fight externally. A battlefield in the inner life of human souls will be the remedy, the healing for what appears today among men so ruinously. Not till this inner battlefield enters the souls of men can the dread catastrophe which has come among them today be brought to rest. For the outward conflict is simply that which men project outside themselves, because they are unwilling to bring it into their own inner life. All other aspects are a mere semblance; this is the reality.
Here, my dear friends, once more we have a circumstance with which anthroposophical Spiritual Science reckons. It reckons with it inasmuch as it does not merely absorb some antiquated, ancient doctrines, but seeks to bring among men what is making itself felt in the spirit of the present time and of the future — the new revelations from the Heavens. This distinction we must see, otherwise we shall continue to confuse the Spiritual Science here intended with other things to which it by no means belongs. Anthroposophical Spiritual Science cannot be proclaimed in the same way as many things today which in reality belong to the past. Anthroposophical Spiritual Science must speak to the full, clear consciousness of mankind. But in the very moment when we say this we wound the vanity of many people. Do not the people of today believe that they possess extraordinarily clear and enlightened thoughts? Yet in reality they need only look and see what they are doing, especially in spiritual matters, and they would find that their “clear and enlightened thought” is not much to be proud of. The social problem — if you will, the war-problem — of the present time can be solved in no other way than by clear thoughts trained in the way of modern thinking, and then directed to the Spiritual World that reveals itself anew, the world that is coming to us from the good Spirits of Personality. Because this Spiritual Science is so new in this respect, therefore it has for its opponents all those who will not summon up the activity to penetrate into this inner activity of soul; good-will is essentially required.
You see, the very nerve of this Spiritual Science is different from that of earlier spiritual revelations. As I have often said, people in our time who desire knowledge of the secrets of existence will often turn to some antiquated volume containing the teachings of old, atavistic clairvoyance. How blissful many a person is today if he comes across some old book which — unrelated to the modern, scientific consciousness — claims to give information about those things which are essentially unknown to the people of today, but which were known in olden times to those who spoke, for example, of Salt, Mercury and Sulphur. Needless to say, my dear friends, sublime and venerable truths are contained in these antiquated books; but there is evolution in the world, and what was good for former epochs is not good for our own. Former epochs were able to take possession in their own way of what is clothed in such words as “Salt,” “Mercury,” and “Sulphur.” The present time must seek for something new. Spiritual Beings are bringing a new gift towards it, for the healing of mankind. Therefore this new thing must not be left unheeded. And it must be of quite a different kind from the old. There is a fundamental difference between the New and the Old. The Old brought forth a magnificent understanding of the Wisdom of the Universe — an understanding of all that is outside Man. Even the ancient Wisdom-treasure that came down to such spirits as Paracelsus and Jacob Boehme was an understanding of the Universe — deep and penetrating. This understanding of the Universe was then applied in order to understand Man too. Man himself was conceived in terms of the Universe. That is the fundamental character of the ancient Wisdom. How the Spiritual revealed itself in external Nature — how Spiritual Beings in their varied stages revealed themselves through the different elements — all this was seen and understood by the atavistic clairvoyance in a way that is no longer possible to man today. And this was then applied to Man. In great and all-embracing Nature they recognized first of all the life of Planets and Stars, and then the elemental life that lives through the elements through “Salt,” “Mercury,” and “Sulphur.” Thereafter they could ask themselves: How does all this appear in Man? Beginning from the Universe they came to Man.
This is no longer the way for man to find his further evolution in the present and in the near future. Even Jacob Boehme could still speak of Salt, Mercury and Sulphur. We must speak differently; we must take the opposite path, the path of the future. We take our start from Man; we understand first Man, then go on from this understanding of Man to an understanding of the Universe. This is the path I took, for a certain domain of knowledge, in my Occult Science. This is the path which must be taken altogether in the future. We speak not of “Salt;” we speak of that which lives as the retrogressive element of evolution in the human organism — in the nerves and senses system. We understand the nerves and senses system as a descending, retrogressive development. The man of ancient times looked out into external Nature and beheld all that is brought about in the element of “Salt.” Thus he beheld in the world outside what we behold when we contemplate the life of nerves and senses from the standpoint of our Spiritual Science. To understand the outer Universe, the man of olden times beheld in it the world of “Mercury.” We look into the human organism and we find the Rhythm. For all the rhythmic life, as we have often said, is that in man which outwardly is “Mercury.” We look to Man, we look for an understanding of Man, and from this starting point, an understanding of the Universe.
Such is the mighty revelation according to which we have to live in our conception of all spiritual things. In the ancient revelation which proceeded from an understanding of the Universe to an understanding of Man — all the old religions and traditions had their source. They are preserved to this day in antiquated systems, but they can no longer be fruitful for mankind, save by way of historic study, when they enable us to feel this ancient Wisdom with true reverence. In the last resort even the religious faiths of today have the same source. But we are at the beginning of the New, i.e., of the understanding of Man which must expand into an understanding of the world.
Such must be the new path, my dear friends, and it is connected with many things. Take one example: — the way in which we have attempted this building of the Goetheanum. You know how sharply I have said on one occasion or another: It is a calumny to speak of this building as representing symbolically this or that truth. Though indeed in many cases it is not badly meant, nevertheless it is an objective calumny, and after all, those who do not understand our building ought not to speak of it. Look for a symbol in this building — you will not find a single one. Nowhere will you find one. The attempt has been made to create — directly out of the spiritual world — not anything symbolic, but the spiritual Reality itself, insofar as it has hitherto been able to reveal itself. Symbolism is the language in which mankind was spoken to in former times. It lies inherent in the very progress of human evolution, that the old vision through symbols, which worked upon the instincts, should be raised into the full consciousness, where the Reality — the spiritual Reality — is seen.
But this vision of the Reality of the Spirit requires a certain spiritual activity. The contemplation of symbols enabled men to fall asleep, as it were. Thus, as I told you recently, there are freemasons nowadays who say they are very glad that their symbols are not explained to them, for everyone can then think what he likes — a liberty which most of them interpret by thinking nothing at all, and letting the symbols work on them unconsciously. All this has remained over from olden times, and must be transformed into the new way. Symbolism, as you know, plays no essential part in what is here called Anthroposophical Spiritual Science. For in this science we must speak a new language, in a certain sense. Even if, from time to time, we have referred to one symbol or another, these symbols were only borrowed, as it were, to exemplify this or that, or to bring out the agreement between the truths newly discovered which are to serve the new humanity, and those that still survive in an antiquated form from times long past.
Now it lies inherent as it were (what I say will lead us back again tomorrow to our studies of the social life) — it lies inherent in human nature that men invariably rebel at first against what appears as a new thing. And those who consider themselves, so to speak, the guardians and protectors of the old are the greatest resisters. Hence the new, anthroposophically oriented Spiritual Science finds its predestined center of opposition among these who look upon themselves as guardians of the old traditions. But this cannot prevent it from going forward on its way which is the necessary and natural way for modern humanity.
There are a certain number of you, my dear friends, who know that in our circles too we have by no means hesitated to set forth the life of symbolism and ritual that has remained from olden times. But we have always done so in a very different spirit. Generally the greatest value is attached, in an antiquated spirit, to the symbolism and ritual itself. To maintain the continuity of human evolution, it is still necessary to establish a connection, as it were, with symbolism and ritual. But in our circles symbolism and ritual have never been presented in any other way than as something that should lead us to the spiritual reality itself and to its immediate incorporation into the living values of our time. Hence it is just in anthroposophical Spiritual Science that we find the explanation of many, nay, in fact, of all the principles of ritual and symbolism, from the past.
We can show by them how mankind received by other paths a Wisdom which in our time is antiquated and out of date. This Wisdom brought man, in a certain sense, into an unfree condition. Today we must set out on new paths of Wisdom. These new paths are inconvenient to many people, and most of all to those who are only anxious to preserve the old and lull mankind to sleep in the old Wisdom-treasures. It is useless to say to a man of forty: “You can become intelligent; you can regain the faculty to learn, but to this end you must return to the age of twenty!” True, if he could return to the age of twenty, he would be capable of learning. But it is impossible. Humanity cannot be screwed back to a former stage. We cannot recommend them to do what was only right and normal for former epochs of the Earth. Yet this is the very thing which many adherents of religious communities and of certain other societies are desirous of spreading in our time. Thus the Old is set up in opposition to that which is really seeking to come among mankind and which alone can lead to its salvation. Therein lies much of what is leading to the catastrophic events of our time.
It is immensely important, my dear friends, to bear this in mind. To be able to be, in the deepest sense of the word, a man who unites himself with that which the new revelations of the Heavens are wanting from the Earth — this is the thing that matters. And if the outer exoteric problems of mankind are not to suffer shipwreck, we simply must have a Spiritual Science in our time, equipped with concepts strong and penetrating enough to bring to consciousness even in the everyday life what is moving the souls of men all the Earth over — albeit in the differentiated ways which I have described.
In future it will no longer do to live on the one hand in the everyday life, conceiving it as a life profane and poor in spiritual content, thereafter to withdraw into the Church or Masonic Temple, letting the two worlds be altogether separate, so that the Church or Masonic Temple has no idea how the outer social life should be ordered, while on the other hand the social life goes on its way without the help of what is striving in the inner life of men, and is kept in the subconsciousness of man by ritual and symbols. In future it will be necessary to speak to the consciousness of men. This fact alone is more important than all our sympathies and antipathies with the old or with the new. For that which must be done must be done out of real insight — it must not proceed from our sympathies and antipathies
You see, my dear friends, the central nerve in the comprehension of the spiritual world today is this: All that comes to us from ancient times must be “inwarded.” The outward must become inward. For it is thereby raised into full human consciousness as something no less holy than it was in former times. This tendency must take place in the modern evolution of mankind. This tendency alone, my dear friends, is the true Christianity of the twentieth century. Against it — against the intentions that are here indicated — all who would merely preserve the Old quite naturally stand opposed. A large proportion of mankind is attached with certain habits of thought and feeling to the Old. They find it more comfortable, for it does not demand a conscious understanding. People find Spiritual Science inconvenient. For they are called upon to understand it, and it can only be understood by making use of healthy, wide-awake, human intelligence, but people would rather not understand. In many respects nowadays there is a striving not for understanding but for non-understanding. Hence it will go on for a long time: — Spiritual Science, such as is here intended, will meet with opposition after opposition. Many of these oppositions are quite well meant, but even they can frequently reverse into the very opposite of a good meaning. And above all, as I have often told you, my dear friends, this Spiritual Science, which wants to tell humanity of highest spiritual things while speaking openly and freely in modern terms of thought, time and again there will arise in opposition those who adhere to the old tendencies — those who incline to the old creeds and Churches, or to ancient Masonic or similar societies of whatsoever kind. These are the natural opponents. as it were. We can understand this opposition, for in this sphere, too, clear understanding is the only right and true aim of Spiritual Science. Here too, there must be no dark and cloudy non-understanding. Indeed modern anthroposophical Spiritual Science need not appeal at all as forming a Society in the old sense of the word, nor need it occasion any surprise that it does not. It has no need to adopt the methods that were taken and are still being taken by the old secret Societies. These old methods are the very ones of which modern humanity is wanting to rid itself. In outer exoteric spheres there is much talk today of getting rid of secret diplomacy — and rightly so, as I believe, altogether rightly. Anyone who has studied history in these domains knows that this very secret diplomacy is none other than the last remains of the methods and ideas of the old secret Societies. Many another thing will have to be transcended. It is strange, my dear friends, what misunderstandings one can experience in this sphere. As you are well aware, I have written an Occult Science. A man whom I have often mentioned to you sent me a manuscript about this Occult Science which began somewhat as follows: — “There can be no such thing as an ‘Occult Science,’ for a Science must necessarily be public. It is a misuse of terms to speak of ‘Occult Science.’ ” — That, of course, is perfect nonsense. For when we speak of “Natural Science” we do not mean a science that is natural but a science of Nature, which has to be achieved of course by mental work. So it is when we speak of Occult Science, we do not mean a science that is perpetually hidden. There is such a thing as a published “Occult Science,” namely, a science of those things which may be called intimate or occult. It is simply an absurd way of picking up words. Nor need we imagine that with the mere publication everything is given. Many a thing which has been exoterically spoken will remain esoteric for a long time yet. Indeed, my dear friends, there are many exoteric books which you can buy anywhere today which are very esoteric for many people (for the sake of politeness I will not say “for most!”). Many a little volume which you can buy for a few pence in a popular edition will represent for a large number of people something extremely esoteric. That therefore is not the point, the thing that matters is the kind of inner union which the human soul has, or is ready to enter into, with these things.
That, my dear friends, is only in parenthesis. The point I really wish to make is that the old and antiquated motif of secrecy must be replaced by something altogether different. The life of Spiritual Science in mankind will indeed be different from what has frequently been cultivated by secret societies and leagues of one kind of another. These “secret” societies can of course be seen through, to the very bottom of their souls; they are by no means secret nowadays for anyone who cares to go into such matters. Nevertheless they maintain the principle of secrecy in a wrongful way. They uphold it in their customs, manner, and conduct. And that is more important than many another aspect. You, all of you, are aware that there are secret societies of one kind or another — Societies arising out of religious faiths, Societies, too, of other kinds — which instruct their members to shape the intercourse of man to man in a special way, and by mysterious methods to carry this or that element into the life of men. Well, my dear friends, it is quite natural that in course of time the most varied shades and colorings of such secret Societies have arisen. Frequently they are at war with one another to the knife, and without doubt they now and then contain features which can justly be attacked. Be that as it may! The thing that lives in a society of human beings who adhere to anthroposophical Spiritual Science does not require to be defended by any such means as are sometimes needed to defend what is connected with secret Societies and with their secret usages. There is absolutely no need to defend by any special art or artifice that which emerges in the anthroposophical Spiritual Movement. I can tell you the very simplest method of defending it. No one need do any more for its defense than to tell the truth and to refrain from lying. Whoever tells the truth about anthroposophical Spiritual Science (and after all, it is the duty of every man to speak the truth) — he is defending it. That I know; this statement can be made. Other defense is necessary for anthroposophical Spiritual Science. For it is the obvious duty of every human being to repudiate what is untrue.
Herein I have drawn your attention to a most important point, for it concerns the very principle of anthroposophical Spiritual Science. This Spiritual Science does not proceed by any tortuous paths. It speaks to man in the same spirit in which Science speaks during our time. Only within the scientific customs of our time it tells what — if I may use the word — the heavens are now and henceforth revealing to mankind. This must be clearly seen, my dear friends, for it implies that Spiritual Science as such, and not the life of the Society, is placed in the foreground. It places the objective truths in the foreground, making the life of the Society only the vehicle to hear them.
A week ago I said that it is necessary to distinguish clearly between anthroposophical Spiritual Science and other things. We must be fully conscious of the distinction, otherwise we shall fall short of a most important element in the present evolution of mankind, and this we must not do, if we honestly wish to devote ourselves to the most needful impulses — these impulses which can bring healing into the catastrophes of the present and of the near future.
One would fain give oneself up to this hope, my dear friends, that a new way of judgment might be found among us — a new power of discrimination for what is now obliged to enter as a quite new thing into the evolution of mankind. We must not confound the antiquated things with that which is endeavoring, out of the fundamental demands of earthly evolution, to bring forth in the present and in the near future what must be brought forward, so that all that which has arisen under the influence of the old things may be replaced by the new.
Take only this one thing: the old Christianity has had nearly 2000 years to evolve. In the first centuries A.D. it was different from what it is today, as everybody knows who studies it. And what Christianity shall now become — that again must be different. Study the last four and a half years: you may take them as an example which shows how the past relics — not of Christianity itself but of a certain Christian conception — have stood the test, or rather, have failed to stand the test in this catastrophic time. So long as we remain in abstract generalizations we can say what we like. That is the characteristic of abstract world-conceptions. They can clothe anything they like in their abstract formulae. It is a very different matter when we come to concepts and ideas such as I explained to you recently; the fundamental Social idea of the future, the three-fold idea — this idea is adapted, as I showed last Sunday, to the reality itself. It is capable of manifold configuration, it expands over the realities of life, for it is adapted to them. With an abstract idea you can no doubt comprise all things; but in relation to a real idea, my dear friends, you can speak as I myself have done to many people to whom I have explained the threefold conception, albeit not as one who is convinced of his own dogmatic system and says: “This is what you must accept, or else everything will go wrong.” Where real ideas are concerned, there can be no such thing as that. I spoke to them quite differently; I said: “You need not believe in these ideas as dogmas at all. Set to work anywhere in the world of reality, and you will see; whenever you introduce these ideas into the world of reality, it will be mastered with their help. Perhaps, when you have done — or even when you have only worked on a small portion of the reality with these ideas — the outcome will be quite different.” I should not be at all surprised if in the execution of these ideas insofar as they refer to the realities, not the one stone were left upon another of the indications originally given. If we do not proceed dogmatically, then we do not hold fast to our programmes like so many people do when they elaborate statutes and programmes for Societies. We only point out what is already seeking to take shape in the reality itself. This, then, is applicable in the reality. Set to work, and it may well be that ideas will emerge quite different from those which were at first set forth. This is the very characteristic of ideas which are true to reality; they change with life itself and life is changing continually. It is not a question of having fine ideas, but ideas according to the reality. These ideas we cannot and should not express in abstract terms; we should try to express them so that they are living and enter livingly into the reality of life. Naturally, then, they are most liable to be attacked by those who love abstractions. This too, my dear friends, is new in anthroposophical Spiritual Science. In Anthroposophy we do not only think new things, but we think in a new way. That is why so many people cannot approach it, they cannot get into this “thinking in a new way.” Yet this is the thing that matters; in this new thinking, we may say, the thought dives down into the reality and we live with the reality. You can prove anything you like with abstractions; with an abstraction, be it even of a God, you can declare as a good and loyal monarchist subject: “The King is appointed by the grace of God.” The present moment has its own teaching, for now he is in turn deposed by the grace of God! With your abstractions you can include the black and the white under the same abstraction. With your abstractions you can say that God is leading to battle the armies of the one side and of the other.
In the striving for reality which lies at the very foundation of anthroposophical Spiritual Science, the point is to replace such abstract life and abstract talk — ruinous as it is for life itself— by true thinking, which accords with the reality, and by a way of speaking which lovingly dives down into the reality of life, and speaks out of the reality itself. We need a thinking which not only thinks different things, but differently than heretofore. Such thinking strives towards the ideal of “not I, but Christ in me,” after the words of St. Paul. For Christ himself sought for the harmony between the outer-human and the inner-human. This must become an ideal in all our human striving.