Polarities in the Evolution of Mankind
November 8, 1920
Today we shall base ourselves on facts relating to the nature of human beings and then make the transition to certain guiding principles in world history.
We have already considered the rhythmical alternation between sleeping and waking that human beings experience within a twenty-four hour period and have done so from many different points of view. Today I want to take a point of view that has so far been used less frequently in considering this alternation between sleeping and waking.
We know that there are three main aspects to a human being. One aspect is the head organization. Here, we have first of all the sensory organism which faces the outside world. The actual brain organism lies more on the inside. We know of course that this is only an approximate way of looking at these things. We cannot simply divide the human being into sections according to the space occupied. We have to be clear in our minds that the nerves and senses merely have their main concentration in the head and that they are in fact present everywhere in the human being. Everything said in this respect applies to the whole human being. We base our characterization on the part where the main concentration lies, i.e. the head. So we have the sensory organism facing the outside and the brain organism situated inside.
The question is, what happens to the sensory organism and the brain organism when a human being changes from the waking state — which you are familiar with, perhaps not in depth but at least in outer terms — to the sleeping state? As you know, the sensory organism ceases to be active. The brain organism can be observed in so far as our dream life shines into our souls, in a way. If you consider this dream life you will be able to say that it presents you with a kind of surrounding scenery that in some respects is similar to the outside world you Perceive with the senses. It contains images from the outside world you perceive with the senses. Human beings know very well when they are awake, that dream life presents them with images that, in a way, derive from the outside world we perceive with the senses. When we then take a closer look at the dream world, considering it in an unbiased way, we find that the dream images are connected—that they relate to each other; they interrelate in a way that is as definite as the interrelations and connections that exist in our waking thoughts, though these tend to be more imageless. It may be said, however, that whereas human beings have full control of the way thoughts are connected in the imageless thinking of their waking life, and are able to use their will to connect one thought with another, this does not apply in the interplay of dream images. Dream images have their own order. Human beings are passive where they are concerned. If we then reflect on the way in which dream images follow each other we find that it is as if the phenomena of ordinary thinking proceed in a watered-down way, as if they lack drive and will. Residues of sensory and also of thought life can still be traced in dream life. It will be evident from everything we discover as we consider our dream life — and spiritual science will be able to establish this beyond all doubt — that the human brain, which in a way is the physical basis of our life of ideas, must have undergone a change from the way it was in the waking state. In the waking state the situation is that our will gives us control of the way thoughts follow each other. In our dream life we have no such control. What is more, our senses have ceased to act and our dream life only contains images that echo the life of the senses. The life of the senses has therefore also been watered down.
The question we want to ask ourselves today is what kind of changes the human brain had undergone. If you take an unbiased view you will have to agree that spiritual science is right when it says that the brain acts like a sense organ when we dream. A sense organ receives impressions of the outside world and immediately processes them, at least to some extent. The way a sense organ faces the outside world does not involve an element of will, however. If you consider the way the sense organs face the outside world and compare this with the dream state you will find that when the brain acts as the physical basis of dreaming — take it as a working hypothesis, if you like, that it provides the physical basis for dreaming — it has come to resemble a sense organ. It has become more of a sense organ than it is in the waking state; or we may also say that it is not a sense organ when we are awake for it shows none of the properties of a sense organ in that state.
Now we do not have far to go to understand what happens in dreamless sleep. Dreams hold a middle position between waking and sleeping. If the brain becomes more like a sense organ even when we are dreaming, it must do so to an even greater extent when we are fully asleep. The way we are constituted as human beings today we are not in a position to make use of this sense organ in normal life. There was, however, a time in the history of humankind when human beings were able to use the brain as a sense organ to a very considerable degree. In a way, however, the brain always becomes a sense organ between going to sleep and waking up. We know that, between going to sleep and waking up again, the real human being — the human soul and spirit — is in the outside world. We will not take time at this point to consider the nature of this outside world; we merely need to understand clearly that the essential soul and spirit of the human being is then in an outside world of soul and spirit. The physical world we see around us between waking up and going to sleep does not reveal its spiritual and soul ingredients. In the state which pertains between going to sleep and waking up, the human being is in the outside world which has its soul and spirit aspect. Today the constitution of human beings is such that they experience themselves unconsciously in the outside world of soul and spirit.
This soul and spirit environment in which we find ourselves during sleep was the actual world in those far distant times where the original wisdom of humankind had its origin. An echo of those times is still to be found in the Vedic writings, in Vedanta philosophy — in short in the wisdom that was revealed in the ancient Orient. Looking back to those times we find exactly what those early people of the ancient Orient experienced in the outside world between going to sleep and waking up. For them, the brain was still very much a sense organ when they were asleep. It was a sense organ, however, which did not permit them to think at the same time as they made sensory perceptions. When the people of the ancient Orient were in the world of soul and spirit they were actually able to perceive what they experienced between going to sleep and waking up. In a way this was reflected in their brains, which had become sense organs. They were however unable to think whilst they were in that condition. They had to wait until they were awake, as it were, before they were able to think the things that they had perceived. We actually have outer evidence that things were the way I have just described. You only need to try and enter into anything that still remains of ancient oriental culture and you will find that the wisdom of that culture took the form of representing the universe perceptible to the senses from a spiritual point of view. Astrology, now a mere caricature, was living wisdom in those times. Most of that ancient wisdom was based on the revelations of the stars, the revelations of the night sky, i.e. on things hidden from view between waking up and going to sleep. Human beings experienced these things between going to sleep and waking up. They found themselves in the outer world and their souls and spirits experienced their relationship with the heavenly bodies. When they woke up, their brains changed from being sense organs to a state partly similar to that of our own brains — except that their brains were constituted in such a way that when they were awake they were able to remember what they had experienced during sleep. The things they remembered lit up in their minds as instinctive Imaginations. As people went through their daily lives in the ancient Orient they were able to deflect their inner attention from the sense-perceptible world around them and focus it on the great illuminating pictures their souls perceived as a memory of their night-time experiences. Those were the original oriental Imaginations. Echoes of them are to be found in the Veda and in Vedanta philosophy and literature.
What image did the people of those times have of themselves? It certainly was not the kind of description of the human being that is given in anatomy or physiology today, which is based on the evidence of the senses concerning outer form. At that time human beings experienced themselves as soul and spirit among all the other things they experienced in the outside world between going to sleep and waking up. They experienced a cosmos that was soul and spirit, and themselves as soul and spirit within that cosmos. Exactly how did they experience themselves? They perceived themselves as their own ideal model. Please pay particular attention to these words. When an individual living in those times had an illuminating Imagination of what he had experienced in his sleep, he saw himself as the ideal model of himself and was able to say to himself: ‘My ideal model looks like this. This model contains specific models, as it were, of the inside of my head, of my lungs, liver and so on.’ People did not have the experience of themselves that we are given on the basis of modern anatomy and physiology, i.e. in terms of organs perceptible to the outer senses. They had experience of the ideal model, the idea out of which the organs perceptible to the senses are created. Human beings had the experience of being heavenly and divine spirits — the heavenly and divine ideal of an earthly human being. They were therefore less interested in the earthly human being than they were in the heavenly and divine ideal.
This whole complex of experiences also led to something else. It helped people to realize that they had, in fact, been those heavenly and divine ideals before they were conceived or born as physical human beings. In ancient oriental times human beings were so constituted that they had the experience of being divine and heavenly human beings, and at the same time experienced themselves as they had been before they became earthly. That is the essential point of ancient oriental cultures. Human beings experienced what they had been before they entered into physical existence on earth. Their conviction of this was only instinctive, but it did give them the firm conviction that they had existed before they came to earth and had descended from a spiritual world into the world of the physical senses. It is a forgotten characteristic of the ancient oriental religions that they were very much concerned with life before birth, and presented life on earth as a continuation of life in heaven.
I have already said on another occasion, and from another point of view, that on the whole our time no longer has the kind of awareness that belonged to those times. We have a word we use to express that death is not the end of life, the word 'immortality', deathlessness. We do not have a word to express that the beginning of an earth life is not the beginning of life altogether. There is no word similar to `immortality' that refers to the time before birth. We ought to have the term ‘unbornness’. If we had that word, and if it were as alive to us as the word 'immortality', we would be able to enter into the state of soul that people had in the ancient Orient.
If you were to put yourself in the state of soul of someone living in the ancient Orient you would be able to say: For him, life on earth did not merit much attention, for it was merely an image of life in the realm of the spirit. Nor did the people of the ancient Orient take themselves very seriously as physical human beings. The human being walking around on this earth was merely the image of a heavenly human being and it was this which largely occupied people's minds. The eternal aspect of the human being was a fact that was immediately apparent to those orientals, for it came to them as an illumination, as I have said. In daytime life, during their waking hours, they had the memory of their night-time life. To gain a mental image of such a state of soul we have to go back to the ancient Orient.
The great culture of the ancient Orient goes back to far distant times. Any of it still to be found in books, even in the glorious Veda, in Vedanta philosophy, is merely a faint echo. To see the contents of that ancient oriental wisdom in their pure original form we would have to go a long way back to a much earlier period than that of the Veda. This can only be done with the aid of spiritual science. In that ancient oriental culture the whole of life on earth was illumined by insight into the spiritual world—an insight that, whilst it may have been instinctive, was also sublime. This culture then fell into decadence. If you take a good look at oriental culture as it essentially is today you will find that the underlying impulse is still to focus attention on the divine human being. Echoes of this underlying trend are to be found even in Rabindranath Tagore's superficialities. Tagore is entirely immersed in a later, decadent culture but, as I said, the underlying trend is still there in his writings, which in part are of tremendous interest and significance though basically completely superficial. An example are the essays collected in his book on nationalism. 62Tagore, Sir Rabindranath, Nationalism (also translated into German). When we look to the Orient, therefore, we see an ancient, sublime, instinctive culture with a marked emphasis on life before birth. And we also see the gradual decline of what originally was a sublime culture. The decline reveals an inability to take up the mission of modern humanity, to enter properly into the existence we have between birth and death. In ancient times the people of the Orient were given the ideal image of the human being. They saw life in the physical, sense-perceptible world as a reflection of that ideal. This heavenly and divine ideal had been full of life and luminosity. Gradually it darkened and became obscured and all that was left was a shadow image. By now it has faded completely. A shadow image remained of something that once presented itself to the soul as alight and alive, the ideal image the human being had of himself as soul and spirit, part of a whole cosmos of soul and spirit.
A certain impotence also formed part of oriental nature. This is something of which we must take special note if we want to live in accord with our age. Orientals were left with a certain inability to observe the human being whose image is perceived during the time between birth and death. Orientals had no real interest in this in the past, not even when what they came face to face with was not a substitute but something quite different—a human being who was both heavenly and physical. Even today they are not really interested in human beings the way they are between birth and death. It was left to another culture to consider the true nature of the human being here in the world of the senses between birth and death. It was left to a culture which I should like to call the culture of the Middle. Historically this culture of the Middle first appeared during the latter part of the ancient Greek period. Original Greek antiquity still echoed ancient oriental wisdom. Later the element began to appear which I am now going to characterize as the culture of the ‘Middle’ or the ‘Centre’.
The culture of the Middle came up from a southerly direction and spread through the late Greek and then, particularly, the Roman world. Vision was the characteristic of the oriental culture I have described. The element that came up from the south, spreading through the late Greek world and assuming its true form in the Roman world — finally becoming the culture of Middle — came to be a culture based on law, dialectics and intellectual thinking. It came to be a culture not of visionaries but of thinkers. This intellectual culture has a particular capacity for considering the human being between birth and death. It went through preliminary stages in the late Greek period, grew tough and indeed brutal in the Roman Empire, and was kept alive in the language of ancient Rome; the Latin language, the language used by scientists right into the Middle Ages. This dialectical and intellectual culture reached its high point at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century. That was the time of Schiller, Goethe, Herder and also the philosophers Fichte, Schelling and Hegel. Consider the characteristic nature of those great minds and you will see that I am right in what I am saying.
Take Fichte, Schelling, even Goethe. What made them great? Their greatness and significance has to do with perception of the human being between birth and death. They demanded that the human being must be perceived and understood as a whole. Take Hegelian philosophy, for example. You will find that great emphasis is put on the spiritual nature of the human being. The spirit is however only considered in so far as the human being lives between birth and death-Hegel never considered the pre-birth existence of a heavenly and divine human being. He presented a historical approach to everything that happened among human beings here on earth, always in so far as they were human beings living between birth and death. You will find nothing about the intervention of powers from the world in which human beings live between death and rebirth. It is as if all this had been erased from that great culture, for its mission was to emphasize very clearly that here, in the life between birth and death, human beings have soul and spirit as well as a physical body. That culture had its limits, however, in that it was not possible to look up to a life in the spirit. The soul principle that goes beyond birth and death, the eternal element, was given tremendous emphasis particularly by Hegel, but also by all other great thinkers, especially in Germany. Yet they only took account of it in so far as it came to revelation between birth and death; they completely lacked the ability to see into life eternal as it comes to revelation before birth and again after death. When people spoke of a human being independent of the body, they were using an original tradition that had not welled up from their own perception. It was mere tradition. In the intellectual life of Central Europe at that time, tremendous perceptive powers had been developed that focused on the soul and spirit of human beings, but at the same time also on their physical bodies. These tremendous powers did not however extend beyond the life between birth and death.
In the West all kinds of new beginnings were emerging for a different kind of life that will evolve in times to come, when a spiritual Principle that is free of the body will come into life in a different way. Let us recall — how did the people of the ancient Orient let the spiritual element enter into their lives? They remembered in the daytime the things they had experienced at night, when they had been outside their bodies, between going to sleep and waking up. This will be different in times to come. Today we have merely the early signs, the preliminary stages of this. Between waking up and going to sleep human beings do not merely have experience of the things of which they are conscious. Little of what we actually experience is at present coming to conscious awareness. The truth is that down below In our human nature we experience immeasurably more than we are able to hold in awareness. Some people already have an idea of this, particularly in the West. Thus William James 63James, William, American psychologist and pragmatic philosopher. was speaking of a ‘subconscious’ or ‘unconscious’ because he had an inkling of this, but none of these people have so far been able to achieve full insight. Everything said on the subject is like the babbling of infants, but the idea is there. In the ancient Orient experience of the cosmic soul and spirit entered into awareness that had been gained when free of the body. The time will come when the unconscious contents — experienced in the depth of human nature — will rise up into awareness for the people of the Western world. Imaginations will also arise. Association psychology as it is practised today is a nonsense, but anyone who has studied the different psychologies of the Western world, today, can see that it is a preparatory stage.
In time to come something that came to the people of the Middle only as a revelation of human experience between birth and death, will reveal its eternal aspect through the special faculties developed in the West.
Down below we have the element that will live in the spiritual world after death. Remember what I have told you about these things on different occasions and from different points of view. I have said that the human head is the outcome of the previous life on earth. The other parts of the human being will be the head in the next life on earth. Those other parts of the human being may be flesh and blood, muscle, skin and bone as we see them today, but in essence they contain the germ of what will be the head during the next incarnation. They therefore relate to the time after death. This connection with the time after death will be revealed and brought to conscious awareness in the humanity of the future. The early, primitive stages of such a humanity are already present in the West. In future the inner soul and spirit will be imaginatively perceived, just as the soul and spirit in the world outside human beings were perceived at an instinctively imaginative level in prehistoric times. The difference will be that the revelation of these inner aspects will come to full awareness, whereas the people of the ancient Orient received revelations that were more instinctive and came only dimly to awareness.
What are the early signs to be seen today? The first signs are that in these Western regions people are very much inclined towards materialism. In time to come, the spirit will be revealed out of physical human substance. Because of this the Western world is tending to become extremely materialistic. That is the source of the materialism that is predominantly a Western product and, coming from the West, has overrun the Middle and is spreading to the East.
The culture of the Middle is not materialistic by nature. We might nature call it physical and spiritual, because the view taken of the of the human being is such that a balance is maintained between turning the eye to the physical aspect and turning it to the spiritual aspect. German philosophers, Goethe and Schiller have always given equal validity to body and spirit, as it were. In the West the spirit is a matter for the future; at present attention focuses on the body. Yet everything is in a state of flux in human evolution and this understanding of the body, this materialism, will one day become spiritualism. Only this spiritualism will have quite a different source than the spiritualism of the ancient Orient, and above all it will be conscious.
So you see the peculiar distribution of the three different human configurations over the world — I have discussed other aspects of this before. In the East, human beings once saw their own heavenly and spiritual image in themselves. In the Middle, human beings see themselves as inhabitants of the earth endowed with soul and spirit as well as a physical body. In the West today, human beings see themselves as merely physical; it is to be their mission, however, to develop faculties out of this physical human body that will be the spiritual content of human awareness in time to come. The early signs of this are already apparent.
The human beings of the Middle are held as in a vice between East and West. The East originally had a very advanced culture but it has fallen into decadence. In the West a great culture is to come, and the first signs are there, but at present people are still entirely caught up in the material world. In the Middle a culture has evolved that, I think I can say, holds the balance between the two. On the one hand we have the clear dialectical thinking of Schiller's letters on aesthetic education, for instance. This way of thinking goes to a point where it does not yet become subject to the superficiality of modern science but still retains a personal human element. On the other hand we have pictures of human social life like those in Goethe's Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. 64‘Das Märchen von der griinen Schlange und der Lilie’ (Tale of the green Snake and the Lily) in Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten 1795, Weimarer Ausgabe, 18. Bd., S. 225 ff. This approach does achieve pictures or images, but it does not take them to a point where they become perceptions.
The people of the Middle have therefore also been given the mission to take the insights that their particular faculties have given them into the nature of the human being between birth and death, and to extend them through direct perception. The human being is thus seen as soul and spirit as well as a physical body, but this is then extended by immediately ascending to the wisdom of the mysteries. By developing the same faculties that have rescued soul and spirit, accepting their existence as well as that of the physical body, and by letting clear thinking develop into Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, human beings rise again to the spiritual world in which they live between death and rebirth. Here in the physical world we will only come to experience the total illumination those faculties can give, once they have been developed, if we consider the problem of freedom. In my Philosophy of Freedom I have therefore concentrated entirely on that particular problem. There it was of course necessary to use this faculty, though merely to deal with earthly problems. If it is developed further, however, it will raise our horizons to include the world that lies beyond birth and death.
You see that in a sense the world also shows three stages of evolution: in the ancient Orient an instinctive wisdom, in the Middle a certain dialectical and intellectual life, and in the West today still materialism with the spiritualism of the future to be born out of it. In the ancient Orient everything depended on that instinctive wisdom. Political life as we know it did not yet exist. The people who presided over the mysteries also set the tone for political and economic life. Greatness for the people of the ancient Orient lay in life of the spirit that developed instinctively. Political and economic life depended on this life in the spirit. The life style of the European Middle did, of course, originally come from the South; its first beginnings go back as far as Egypt. The life style that evolved in the Middle reached the point where the state, the political element, was thought through dialectically. Political life — the state — really developed in this culture of the Middle. The life of the spirit became mere tradition. In the West, finally, in Puritanism, for instance, the spiritual element became something entirely abstract, something that could become sectarian, and people let this illumine their ordinary everyday physical lives.
The European Middle therefore provided the soil where above all political ideas were developed further by Wilhelm von Humboldt 65Humboldt, Karl Wilhelm von, Ideen zu einen Versuch, die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staates zu bestimmen (Ideas for an attempt to determine the limits of effectiveness for a political state) 1792. for instance and even took such marvellous form as the 'social community' in Schiller's letters on aesthetic education. They were presented to human minds in the grandiose pictures created by Goethe; his ‘Tale’ of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily basically presents the idea of the state.
In the West, ideas that have so far developed only in relation to material things, to economics, will one day have to evolve into the threefold social order. The idea of the state has merely been inherited from the culture of the Middle. Woodrow Wilson, who used to be very famous, has written a large volume on the subject of the state. 66Wilson, Thomas Woodrow, The State. Elements of Historic and Practical Politics (also translated into German). This contains nothing that has originated in the West; all it does is repeat the theories relating to the body politic that have been developed in the Middle, including specific ideas. The book has even been translated into German, because in Germany, too, Woodrow Wilson was considered a great man for a time.
It may therefore be said that the idea of a threefold social organism which is present in our minds has evolved in three historical stages. In the ancient Orient instinctive ideals became the life of the spirit. The culture of the Middle was partly instinctive — the idea of the state developed by Humboldt, Schiller, Herder and others who were to follow is half instinctive and half intellectual — with the emphasis on the sphere of rights and on political life. Economic life, as such, really is in the first instance the business of the West. It is the business of the West to such an extent that even the philosophers of the West are really out-of-place economists. Spencer would have done a great deal better to have established factories, rather than philosophies. The specific configuration of the West really fits the structure of a factory. There you will find all all the things that Spencer was considering.
There is also another way of putting it: In the ancient Orient human beings ascended to the divine aspect of man. For them, man was in a way the son of the deity, the issue of the divine principle. The divine was in a way reaching down, as the ancient orientals saw it. It had a downward extension that was then merely reproduced: the human being on earth was a continuation of the divine model. They saw the divine and spiritual human being above, and the physical human being—as the image of that divine being — in the world below. They merely saw something of the heavenly human being hanging down, as it were, reaching down into the physical world. Later the heavenly human being came to be forgotten, only a faint idea remained in a culture grown decadent, and people no longer had any feeling for something of the divine human being reaching down into the human being on earth.
The people of the Middle are organized in such a way that the aspect of the heavenly human being reaching down from the heights of the spirit has condensed into a kind of closed semicircle, with the physical human being joined on to this. A being of divine spirit and physical, bodily nature, a being the mind could entirely encompass, was the result. This is beautifully shown in Hegel's philosophy and Goethe had it beautifully present in his mind.
In the culture of the West attention focuses on the animal world, on animal nature. Darwin presented a magnificent view of its evolution. At the top is a kind of rounded peak. This is difficult to grasp. It is merely considered the highest product of evolution: the human being. In reality the West considers only animal nature, just as the East only considered the heavenly aspect, the god finding continuation in man. In the West attention focuses on the animal world. This comes to a rounded peak in a creature seen as a continuation of the evolutionary sequence of animals, a kind of super-animal extending beyond animal nature. That is as far as the West has got. The point which has been reached is reflected in Western philosophy. It will develop further and the people of the Occident will one day give form and substance to the spiritual element from below, just as the people of the Orient received it from above. But in the West it will be done in full conscious awareness. The Middle represents the transition between the two.
When one is considering real things it feels wrong to speak of an age of transition. Every age is one of transition of course, because there will always be something that went before and something that follows. Yet in a plant the calyx is in a definite place for instance, with the flowers above and the leaves below. One does get clear divisions. In the same way there are clear divisions in human evolution. We can certainly call the time when the great slaughter was in progress, from 1914 onwards, a time of transition, a time that stands out in the historical evolution of humankind. It also was a time when the destiny of the people of the Middle developed in a way that is full of inner tragedy in certain respects. The people of the Middle were faced with a great question: 'How do we find the way from physical life between birth and death on this earth to life between death and rebirth?' Hegel's philosophy immediately turned into materialism afterwards. The first half of the 19th century was unable to answer the question: ‘How do we extend the insight we have gained into the spiritual element present here on earth to the spheres beyond this earth?’ That indeed is the great question specifically facing us, the question put to the culture of the Middle. Goetheanism must be developed further. It must develop in the direction of soul and spirit. It must grow out of merely physical human concerns and become cosmic. Spiritual science working towards Anthroposophy is attempting to do this. It is a continuation of Goetheanism, extending into the spiritual realm. Goetheanism must be extended to become mystery wisdom. It has to be developed to grow into mystery wisdom.
That is the significant aspect of the signature of the present time. We must understand it before we can consciously take our place in the life of the present, in the work that has to be done at the present time. The Central European element has been severely put to the test. If it does not falter, its task will be to deepen its perception of human existence in the physical, sense-perceptible world; a perception in which the spirit is still present in the physical, sense-perceptible world. That will have to be the basis on which a mystery wisdom is developed, using the same clear intellect as that used to gain understanding of the physical, sense-perceptible world. The European Middle therefore must, or ought to, come to understand very clearly how a balance is achieved between the three spheres of culture, politics and the economy. The others will then simply follow suit. Here in the Middle people would be utterly remiss, however, if they refused to wake up and ignored the great necessity that has arisen—to grasp and put into effect the impulse for a threefold order of the social organism.
The European Middle is held as in a vice between East and West. Today it lies prostrate. Out of the very darkness of despair it has to find its way to the light.
In the next lecture we will talk about what is to happen before the middle of this century. I shall speak to you about the Christ appearing before the middle of the 20th century. This reappearance of the Christ is something I hinted at in my first mystery play. For the moment let me just say that this reappearance of the Christ is closely bound up with our understanding of the threefold nature of the whole of the cosmos. It will come about in so far as the Middle will have to turn its attention on the one hand to the instinctive spiritual culture of the East, a culture grown old, and on the other hand to the West. It must turn its attention to the West with a thorough understanding of what is in preparation there in a culture that is still materialistic today, but whose materialism holds the seed of a spirituality of the future. The culture of the Middle must take its place in the middle; it must find the energy and the strength to take its place there and point the way.
It causes me great pain and my heart feels sore because souls are not open today to receive the words that speak of the necessities of which I have spoken. It causes me pain that people want to stay asleep, want to let themselves go; that they shrink from the great tasks that have to be done today. We must look to the East and look to the West and understand what is in progress there.
It has to be clearly understood that Western culture is in its initial stages. We can see that this is most immediately apparent at the point where economic processes sprout from technological processes, if I may put it like this. A very typical example is the ideal once conceived by an American, an ideal that is bound to come to realization in the West one day. It is a purely ahrimanic ideal but one of high ideality. It consists of using the vibrations generated in the human organism, studying them in great detail and applying them to machines to the effect that if someone stood by a machine even his smallest vibrations would be intensified in that machine. The vibrations of human nerves would be transferred to the machine. Think of the Keely engine. 67Keely, John Worrell. See also lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach on 1 Dec. 1918 in Die soziale Grundforderung unserer Zeit/In gednderter Zeitlage GA 186 S. 70 ff. English translation in In the Changed Conditions of the Times. O.D. Wannamaker tr. New York/London: Anthroposophic Press/Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co. 1941. It did not succeed at the first attempt because it had been largely developed from instinct, but it is something that will certainly be realized one day. Here something arises from the crude mechanistic material world that points to what is to come — material mechanics linking up with immaterial, spiritual elements.
In the East, on the other hand, the old spirituality is increasingly falling into decadence, into decay. It is rotting away. The experience we have of the East is such that we may certainly say: The human being once perceived as a heavenly, spiritual being has come to look like a senile old person. This human being still has no understanding for the things of the earth, for the things in which human beings, too, are clothed on this earth. The West understands earthly things only, the East has no understanding of them. Because of this, the heavenly element has grown completely senile. It is always a great mistake not to pay proper attention to the way in which the spiritual element still has to be won from the mechanical genius, the mechanistic materialism of the West. The spirit will have to be intuitively gathered out of a science that is also still very much subject to Western materialism. In the same way it is a great mistake to cast sidelong glances at the East and to try and bring the spiritual life of the East to the West, in this day and age. The Theosophical Society based at Adyar used to do this and perhaps still does in its antiquated ways. Looking across to the East, nothing one finds there has anything in it that relates to present life; it is something grown old, and has to be studied as something historical that has grown old — something of no significance for the present.
In the West, if I may put it like this, we have Keely and his engine as a rough, crude mechanistic forerunner of a future culture. The final upshot of the East's spiritual senility on the other hand may be seen in the work of Tolstoy. There we see a concentrated form of something that has once been great and is now completely decadent. This is an interesting phenomenon but it does not have the least significance for the present. Much has been wiped out with the events that happened from 1914 onwards, and this includes that last flame of Eastern senility flickering up in Tolstoy. Before the war it was still possible to speak of Tolstoy as relating to the present time. The war has put an end to this and Tolstoy is no longer of significance. It is definitely out of date to speak of Tolstoy as though he were of significance today. And we must take care not to cast any kind of sidelong glance in the direction of the East, of the ancient East, and at the things that have in a way grown senile and come to a final concentration once again in an individual such as Tolstoy. We must take our stand on the mission that belongs to the present time. We can only do so if we grasp the impulse for a threefold order of the social organism out of what lies in ourselves. The decaying East has created a symbol, as it were, in world history — or we might say a symptom—in making Tolstoy a kind of final upshot, full of inner activity, and yet impotent. The West on the other hand has produced Keely with his engine as a first forerunner. Tolstoy showed how the old oriental culture had grown completely luciferic; Western culture is still entirely under the sign of the ahrimanic element.
This is what we must grasp in the present age. On the one hand we must be wary of past elements reaching across from the East, be wary of past elements from the East in someone living in this century and on the other hand we must be wary of what is only in its beginnings in the West. If we fail to grasp this and fail to perceive the true nature of these things we do not belong to the present age. Someone belonging to the present age may of course be English, French, American or Russian — humanity must extend beyond geographical boundaries today. It is important however to consider the old geographical limits because of their role in the historical evolution of humankind. Behind us lies a history of humankind that went in three stages — Orient, Middle, West. Before us — and this is something spiritual science working towards Anthroposophy must really stress — lies the time when we will be purely human beings, holding the East, the Middle and the West within us at one and the same time. Anyone born to be truly alive today — and this includes anyone who is Asian — is capable of holding all three within him or her. The people of the Middle need not limit themselves to holding the Middle within them. They must gain inner experience of the historical East in its decadence and the historical West which is in the ascendant. And Americans can hold East, Middle and West within themselves if they give thought to mystery wisdom — they actually need it more than most — and raise their thinking from being concerned entirely with the economy to include the spheres of politics and the life of the spirit.
That is what we must say today when we want to define the tasks which human individuals should come to realize are the tasks given to the innermost soul. We will recognize these tasks if we consider the great needs of the present age.