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Knowledge as a Source of Healing
GA 198

Lecture II

21 March 1920, Dornach

It behoves me today to link certain aspects of the knowledge gained from earlier studies—with which most of our friends are already acquainted—to what I said yesterday. But once again I want to draw your attention to the essential content of what was then said, namely, that the knowledge, the passive kind of knowledge cultivated todays is in reality a comparatively recent production. This indifferent knowledge, shown for instance when medicine is set down as just one science among many, has been developed only in course of the last three or four centuries; whereas in olden times the aim of all knowledge was to heal. Knowledge and the firding of means to heal mankind were, in the sense intended yesterday, one and the same.

Now from various indications in my lectures you mill know that in the last third of the nineteenth century an event of spiritual importance took place; that during the seventies of that century, behind the scenes of world-history, of outer, physical world-history, something of great significance happened. We have some name for it but another name might do just as well—we have called it the victory of the archangelic Being, Michael, over opposing spiritual forces. We will look upon this as an event taking place in the spiritual World and connected with mankind's history. It is in the spiritual world that such events are prepared. This particular one could be said to be in preparation already it 1842. It reached a certain climax in the spiritual world about 1879, and from 1914 on the necessity arose for men on earth to establish a harmonious relation with this spiritual event. What has been happening since 1914 is essentially a struggle on the part of narrow-minded humanity against what, in the opinion of the spiritual powers concerned with the guidance of mankind, should come about. Thus we may say: In the second half of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth, behind the scenes of human evolution, there was taking place something significant—a challenge to men to submit themselves to the will of those spiritual beings. This would entail a change of direction and the bringing about of a new kind of civilisation, a new conception of social life, of the life of art and all spiritual life on earth. In the course of human evolution there have repeatedly been such events, of which external history takes little account. For external history is indeed a fabrication. Things of this kind have nevertheless definitely happened—one of them taking place 300 years, another in the middle of the third millennium, before the birth of Christ.


300 B.C.

Middle of the 3rd Millennium

Regarding mankind, however, there was a great difference between the experiencing of these two events and that of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of you have at least partly experienced the events of the second half of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth, and will know that small notice was taken of how a change should actually come about in the spiritual life.

Hardship will compel mankind to realise the neceesity for this. There will be no end to hardship until a sufficient number of human beings have realised this necessity—even in the organising of public affairs. We may indeed ask why no notice has been taken, and whether it was the same in the case of those other experiences, the third millennium and the third century.—But no, it was quite different then. Cculd people only interpret to history of the Greek soul rightly, even that of the more coarse-grained Romans, they would understand that actually both Greeks and Romans were fully aware that something calling for notice was taking place in the spiritual world. Indeed precisely in the case of the event 300 years before Christ's birth, we can quite well see its gradual preparation, how it then reached a climax and lived itself out. The men of the third, fourth century before Christ's birth were clearly conscious: In the world of spirit something is happening that has an echo in the world of men.—What they thus perceived can today be called the birth of human phantasy—man's faculty or imagination.

You see, human beings, as they are constituted today, consider the way they think: and the way they feel to be the same as thinking and feeling have always been. But that is not so. Indeed in the course of time our sense-perceptions have changed—as I showed yesterday. Naturally, three or four centuries before the birth of Christ creative art was already in existence; it did not arise, however, out of what today is called imagination but out of imagination that was clairvoyant. There who were artists could perceive how the spiritual revealed itself, and they simply copied what was thus revealed. The old atavistic clairvoyance, the old imagination, was inherent in the artist. The phantasy which then arose and was developed till, having come to the climax in the works of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, it started to degenerate—this phantasy did not create as if the spiritual appeared in imaginations, but as if something were ordered from within a man, formed from within him. The gift of this phantasy was ascribed by people at that time to strife among the divine beings ruling over them, at whose orders they carried out their earthly deeds.

In the middle of that third millennium, about 2,500 years before Christ's birth, people perceived as something of still greater significance how their whole being was involved in the events which, out of the spiritual world t, made an impact on physical events. About that time, still in the third millennium before our era, it would have been deemed very foolish to speak of man's earthly pilgrimage without referring to the spiritual beings around him. This would have seemed noneenee to everyone, for then the earth was thought to be peopled by beings both physical and spiritual.

The life of soul that became habitual in the course of the nineteenth century is certainly different from the of those olden days. Men perceived the ordinary secular events on earth but not the underlying, significantv spiritual strife. How came it that this was not perceived?—It was the result of the special character of our present age, the age which began it the middle of the fifteenth century and is called by us the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. In our present epoch the most outstanding, significant force of which a man can avail himself is intellect, and since the fifteenth century people have attained to great heights as intelligent beings. Today they still take pride in this. It should not be thought, however, that in earlier times there was no kind of intelligence—it was a different kind, it is true, but it arose at the same time as a certain perception. This intelligence was endowed, too, with a spiritual content. We, on the other hand, have an intelligence devoid of spiritual content, a formal intelligence; for in themselves our concepts and ideas are empty—they merely reflect something. Our whole understanding is just a mass of reflected images. It is indeed in the nature of this intelligence, which has been particularly developed since the middle of the fifteenth century, to be simply a reflecting apparatus. What is thus merely reflected does not act within man as a force; it is simply passive. And it is characteristic of this intellect—of which we are so proud—to be passive; we just let it work upon us, give ourselves up to it. Very little force of will is developed in it thus. The most outstanding trait in men now is their hatred of intellect that is active. In face of a situation where thinking is required of them—well, they find that very boring. Whel it is a question of real thinking there is a general dropping off to sleep—at any rate for the soul. On the other hand, with a film, a cinematograph, when there is ne need to think and it is thiaking that can go to sleep, when all one has to do is to gaze and passively to give oneself up to what is reeled off, so that thoughts run on of themselves, then there is general satisfaction. It is a passive understanding to which men have grown accustomed, an understanding devoid of force. And what in fact is that? We realise its nature when looking back at the distinction made in human knowledge in the old Mystery schools. There were three categories: first, the knowledge that came from men's physical life, arising out of their common physical experience of the world. Perhaps we could say: First, physical knowledge; secondly, intellectual knowledge, developed by man himself, chiefly in mathematics, knowledge, in effect, in which a man immerses himself—intellectual knowledge; and thirdly, spiritual knowledge, coming from the spiritual and not from the physical. Today, of these three it is intellectual knowledge which is especially cultivated and most in favour. It has become quite an ideal to approach the spiritual life with the passive, unconcerned attitude usually adopted towards mathematics. It is not admitted but all the same true that our present men of learning, for instance our university professors, on leaving the lecture-room like to turn as soon as they can to something quite unconnected with their particular subject. That betrays an abstract relation to knowledge which goes extremely deep.

When I was lecturing in Zurich a few days ago, a workman broke into the discussion. As the Waldorf School and the timetable we have put in place of the usual soul-destroying one had been mentioned, he said: “Your timetable gives too long a stretch for one subject; there should be more change. For when children have gone on with a subject from eight to nine, if they are not to be bored there ought to be something else from nine to ten.” Naturally I could but reply: “It is not the business of the Waldorf School to deal with boredom but to take care that the children's interest is kept alive—and that is the concern of the School pedagogics and didactics.” Thus the idea is very deeply-rooted in people that spiritual life is boring, and easily becomes tiresome as a subject. This is entirely because our intellectual life, consisting as it does merely of pictures, of reflected images, can provide no substance for our spiritual life. And a spiritual life devoid of substance is in a state of isolation—cut off not only from the spiritual world but also from the physical. Actually in the age we live in very little is known either of the physical world or that of the spirit. All that a man knows about is his own imaginings. As a result of intellectuality being just so many reflected images, the man of the nineteenth century was debarred from any knowledge of what was going on spiritually behind the scenes of world-history. He had no share in the experience of that great, momentous change which, behind external world history, came about in the spiritual world during the second half of the nineteenth century. It is through hiP own endeavours that he has to learn how the physical world should follow the lead of the spiritual world. This lesson is forced upon him, for, if not learnt, increasing hardship will prevail and all present civilisation will go down into barbarism. To avoid this it is necessary for people to be aware inwardly that they must experience something in the same way that, 300 years before Christ's birth, the birth of phantasy was experienced. In our day we have to experience the birth of active intelligence—at that time the active force of imagination arose. At that time it became possible to give imaginative shape to what was created in accordance with external form; now, people must turn to the inward, vicsorous creation of ideas, through which everyone makes for himself a picture of his own being—setting it before him as a goal. Human beings must acquire self-knowledge in its widest sense, not just by brooding over what they had for dinner, but ,a self-knowledge which sets their whole being in action. That is the kind of self-knowledge demanded for the evolution of those men whose present task is the bringing to birth of an active intelligence.

Now, it will happen that human beings in ordinary recollection, in their ordinary memory, will discover something very peculiar. Because people today have become rather insensitive and do not notice what is already in their souls, on looking back over their life they still perceive only memories of their ordinary experiences. But that is not the whole picture; actually a certain change has taken place and more and more people are met with who are having a new experience. When these men look back ten or twenty years they come not only to what they have experienced, but out of that, like an independent entity, there rises something they have not experienced. Psycho-analysis, in its foolishness, examines what thus, lies hidden in the soul examines it without realising the nature of our present age. What these foolish psycho-analysts are unable to find, spiritual science must propound, namely, that when we look back—say from our 45th year—and watch our experiences surging past like a stream (see diagram), within them there is not only our past experience; it was so once and even today is all that most of our rather thick-skinned generation perceive. But anyone sensitive to such things will realise that in a backward survey of his life he sees not only the ordinary events but something (red in diagram) he has not experienced, arising from the past experiences of his soul in an almost demoniacal way. And this will increase in intensity. If people do not learn to observe such things they will lose the power to understand them.

Therein lies the danger for future evolution, and deluding oneself is of no avail for it is indeed so. Among the experiences lived through by a man something new will appear, only to be grasped by active intelligence. This is extraordinarily important. Just as in the individual human being something new arises after the change of teeth, then again at puberty, and so on, after a certain period the same kind of metamorphosis occurs in mankind as a whole. This present metamorphosis can be described as follows—if we look back occasionally on our life (and this can also be done in the backward survey over our day) we do not only remember the most obvious experiences, but out of these surge up demonic forms. It almost causes us to say: I have had certain experiences out of which daydreams arise.—This will be quite normal but we have to be alive to it. It will cell for much more inward activity on men's part and the overcoming of that passive attitude which promotes despair in face of the great demands of the age. That passivity must be overcome. People's sleepiness, their inability to rouse themselves and to take things with dignity and in earnest, is certainly terrifying. I have already spoken here of how in our day many people cannot even be angry. Anyone incapable of getting angry over what is bad is incapable of enthusiasm over what is good. When, however, active intelligence takes possession of human beings there will be a change. We may indeed say that they are still afraid of the discovery they will then make. For with the coming of active intelligence they will recognise their cherished intellectuality for what it is—recognise the real nature of these arising images. This can be understood only if we remember something I have often mentioned here—that we can feel, we can will, just being alive; but just being alive does not enable us to think. That, we cannot do. We are able to think only by bearing permanently within us the principle of death.

This great secret about mankind lies in there being a never-ending stream, as it were, flowing from the sense—let us take the eye as representing them (see diagram). Through what we know as nerve, the senses carry into a man something destructive. It is as if—by way of the nerve-fibres—men were filled through their senses with a crumbling material. When you see, when you hear, even when you are conscious of warmth, there is taking place what like the crumbling of some material on its way inward from the senses. This crumbling material has to be taken hold of by what streams out from within a man; it must be, as it were, burnt up. Our thinking necessitates a continual struggle against the forces of death in us. Indeed, because he is conscious of his thinking merely in its reflecting capacity, a man does not realise that, strictly speaking, he is alive only in what has nothing to do with his head, his head actually being an organ always in the throes of death. We should be in constant danger of death were merely that to happen which goes on in our head. This permanent dying is checked by the head being united to the rest of the organism, upon which it draws for its vitality. When the human being will have possessed himself of active intelligeace as he did of active phantasy in the days of the Greeks and Romans—whereas the imagination of the old atavistic clairvoyance was a passive phantasy—with this active intelligence he will be able to perceive how part of his being is always dying. And this will be important. For just today we have to progress to a state of consciousness enabling us to perceive this permanent dying, so mankind in a past age, even up to the time of the Greeks, perceived what was living in the principle of vitality, in the will and its associated metabolism. What fights against the principle of death, what in a man is continuously disabling that principle of death, is living there, it might be said that in this respect the people of old were superior to those who followed them. They perceived the vitality with their instinctive clairvoyance, perceived the life with which the principle of healing is connected. Indeed, we do not die because our head has the will to die, but, owing to our head being the organ of thinking, we permanently carry within us the germs of sickness. Thus it is necessary for us to pay the price of our thinking by setting counter to the head, with its tendency to disease, the healing forces lying in the rest of our organism. Today it is still little noticed, but forms of disease are beaming to appear—as you know, they change—in which the constant process of death coming from the head will be more easily noticed than many of our present illnesses. Then it will be found that in reality the whole healing process in human beings is to counteract the harmful effects of our intellectual life. Whereas people of old could claim healing to be in their science, their knowledge, in future it will have to be admitted that what we are now making of our intellect, what is becoming of this intellect, of which today we are so proud, should it alone be held valid, will show us in future the gradual fall of mankind into complete decadence. To avert this, science will have to become able to carry within it the forces of healing.—I indicated this yesterday from another point of view; today I do so more from the standpoint of the way in which man is constituted. We must reeognise that spiritual science is needed as bearer of a new healing process. For if there be a further development of the intellect of which modern man is so proud, intellect which lives merely in images, then by reason of its predominance all men will become disease-ridden. Measures must be taken to prevent such a thing. I can well imagine some people replying: “But if we discourage this intellectual cleverness, if we do away with intellect”,—and there are indeed those who would like to see the intellect left undeveloped—“then there would be no need to repair the damage it does.”—The true progress of mankind, however, has nothing in common with this Jesuitical principle; rather is it a question of human evolution beinz such that the healing element developing out of man's soul-forces can have effect on the intellect—otherwise thie intellect will take a decadent trend and bring about the downfall of mankind. (See diagram)

As counter-measure to this, what arises from knowledge of spiritual science, and can permanently hinder the forces of decline in the one-sided intellect, must become effectual.

We come here to a point where once again I have to draw your attention to a very special matter. You will certainly realise that during the nineteenth century, when all I am telling you about today—and have frequently pointed out in the past—was taking place, intellectual materialism was assuming great proportions. Men came to the fore—I need only remind you of Moleschott, Vogt, Gifford—upholding, for instance, the proposition: All thinking consists in a metabolism going on in the brain.—They spoke of phosphorescenceopf the brain, and said without phosphorus in the brain there is no thinking. According to this thinking is just a byproduct of a certain digestive process in the brain. And the men saying this cannot be written off as being the stupid ones among their contemporaries. We may think how we like about the theory of these materialists but we can just as well do something else: that is, measure their capacity by that of their contemporaries and ask: Were such people as Moleschott and Gifford the cleverer or those who opposed them out of old religious prejudice and without spiritual science? Was Haeckel the cleverer or his opponents? This question may still be asked today. And when it is not answered in accordance with personal opinion, but with regard to spiritual capacity, naturally it cannot be said that Haeckel's opponents were cleverer than he nor that the opponents of Moleschott and Gifford were cleverer than they. The materialists were very clever people, and what they said was certainly not devoid of significance. How then did all this come about? What was behind it? We must indeed find the answer.

Certainly quite well-intentioned opponents of materialism arose at the time, for example Moriz Carriere whom I have often mentioned. Now he said: If everything man thinks and experiences is merely concocted by the brain, what is propounded by one party is just as much a concoction as what the opposite party says. As far as the truth is concerned there is no difference between a statement of Moleschott or Gifford and what is maintained by the Pope. There is no difference because in both cases they are concoctions of the human brain. There is no way of distinguishing the true from the false. Yet the materialists fight for what appears to them as the truth. They are not justified in doing so but they are astute—capable of a certain quickness of spirit. What then is in question here? You see, these materialists have had to arise in an age when thinking is made up merely of images, lives merely in images. But images are not there without something to act as reflector—which in this case is the brain. Indeed, where ordinary thinking is concerned—the thinking that grew to such heights in the nineteenth century—materialists have right on their side; that is a fact. They are no longer right, however, if they want to maintain that the thinking which transcends that of the intellect is also nothing but images dependent on the body, for that is not so. What transcends the intellect can be acquired only in course of a manes evolution: only by his becoming free of what has to do with the body. The thinking that has come to the fore in the nineteenth century must be explained materialistically. Though composed of images it is entirely dependent on the instrument of the brain, and the remarkable thing is that, for the most part, in face of the life of spirit in the nineteenth century, materialism is actually justified. That life of spirit is bound up with the bodily and material. It is precisely this life of spirit which must be transcended. The human being must rise above it and learn once more to pour spiritual substance into the images. This can be done not only by becoming clairvoyant—as I constantly emphasise there is no necessity for everyone to be so: for spiritual substance can be made to flow into a man's thinking when he reflects upon what another has already investi€ated spiritually,„ This must not be accepted blindfold; once there, it can be judged. Commonsense will suffice for the understanding of what has, been investigated through spiritual science. The denial of this means that commonsense is not given its due; and anyone who denies it is thinking: Commonsense—civilised people have been developing a great deal of that for a long time. Indeed these civilised people are developing a “very assured” judgment! And if this assured judgment is refuted by the facts they take no notice, refuse to take notice. At the suitable motrent such matters—which speak volumes symptomatically—are forgotten.

I will give you just one nice little example. In 1866, at the time of the Prussian victory over Austria, it was said that this was a proof of the superiority of Prussian schools. It gave rise to the saying:1First said in 1866 by Oskar Peschel—a professor at Leipzig University. “It was the Prussian schoolmasters who won the 1866 victory.” This has been constantly repeated, and it would be interesting to count the times, between 1870 and 1914, that it was said by the qualified and unqualified—mostly the unqualified: “The Prussian victory was won by the schoolmaster.”—I imagine that people today will no longer be so ready to speak anywhere in such a fashion, any more than the truth of this other assertion will be insisted upon in the light of present events. But in this intellectual age, when people are so clever, they are not willing to notice the contradictions to be found in life. Facts play very little part in the intellectual life, but they must do so if the intellect is to be permeated with fresh spiritual content. Then, indeed, it will be manifest that a paralysing process, a decadent process, is appearing in men, which must be overcome by new spiritual knowledge. In the past: men must be said to have sensed, experienced, something of a healing nature in the knowledge surging up from the physical body. In future they will have to learn to see in the development of intellect the cause of disease, and to look to the spirit for healing. The source of healing must indeed be found again in science. This necessity, however, will arise from an opposite direction, when it can be been how external life, even when proficient in knowledge, makes for sickness in men and must be counteracted by the healing principle.

Matters such as these afford us insight into the course of human evolution—in so far as this is a reality. Today history does not give us a real picture of human evolution but merely worthless abstractions. Man today is deficient in a sense of reality, having indeed very little. During the nineteenth century, people in mid-Europe became very proficient at giving out what of a spiritual nature was already there. One of the most arresting examples of this is the case of Herman Grimm who, as a writer about the works of Goethe—such as Tasso or Iphigenie ranks very high. He was, however, quite unable to portray Goethe the man. Although he wrote a biography of him, in it Goethe seems a mere shadow. Spiritual force was not there in the nineteenth oentury; people were living in images.; and images have no power to enforce the reality which is so necessary for the future. We must understand not only what human beings create, but above all the human being himself, and through him nature, in a more all-embracing sense than hitherto. I believe it to be possible for such things to work in all seriousness upon the human heart and soul. It is likely to be some time before a sufficient number of people allow themselves to be fired by the knowledge that, if not permeated by the spirit, mankind will be overcome by disease. At least those should accept this knowledge who have come nearer to an understanding of anthroposophy.

There is one thing which must be recognised—that many who have accepted anthroposophy have come to our Movement out of what I might call subtle egoistic tendencies, wishing to have something for the comfort of their souls. They want the satisfaction of gaining certain knowledge about the spiritual world. But that will not do. This is not a matter of basking in the personal satisfaction of participating in the spiritual. What people need is actively to intervene in tilt) affairs of the material world from out the spirit—through the spirit to gain mastery, over the material world. There will be no end to all the misery that has come upon mankind till people understand this and, understanding, allow it to influence their will.

One would so gladly uee—at least among anthroposophists—this kind of insight, this kind of will, taking effect. Certainly it may be asked: What can a mere handful of human beings do against the blindness of the whole world?—But that is not right. To speak in that way has absolutely no justification. For in saying this there is no thought that what concerns us here is first to strengthen the will-power—then we can await what will come. Let everyone from his own sphere in life do what lies in him; he may then await what is done by others. But at least let him do it—do it above all so that as many people as possible in the world may be moved by the urgent need for spiritual renewal.

Only if we are watchful, and take a firm stand where anthroposophy has placed us, can we ourselves make any progress or set our will to work on what is necessary to ensure the progress of all mankind.