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Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy
GA 204

Lecture XIV

13 May 1921, Dornach

The lectures I have just given on the nature of color and the lecture last Thursday preceding the ones on color1Lectures of May 6, 7, and 8, 1921 in Colour, RSE 623, Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1977. may have served to show that we can approach the true nature of man only if we consider the human being in connection with the whole universe. Yet, when asking about the nature of the human being, we must at length learn to look up from the earth to what is extraterrestrial. Our age in particular stands in need of this. For, as we have seen, the human intellect has grown more and more shadowlike. Particularly since the developments of the nineteenth century it is no longer rooted in reality.

All this indicates to us that human beings absolutely have to think of receiving new impulses into their soul life. All this will become even clearer to us as we turn our minds today again to certain incisive cosmic events; having studied them already from outer points of view, we shall bring these cosmic events once more before our souls.

You will no doubt remember and probably also know from your reading of my Occult Science that one of those mighty events that intervened in the earth's evolution was the moon's withdrawal from the earth being. The moon we see shining down upon us from the cosmos was once united with the earth. It separated from the earth and has been circling it ever since as its satellite.

We know of the profound changes in human evolution that are connected with this separation of the moon from the earth. You know that we have to go far back—far beyond the Atlantean flood—to reach that time when the moon departed from earth existence.

Today, we will only consider what became manifest on earth with respect to the human being and the surrounding kingdoms of nature through the moon's separation from the earth. We have already seen that the variously colored minerals basically derive their colors from this relationship of the moon to the earth. This insight has enabled us to bring these cosmic events together with an artistic conception of existence. Very important other things are also connected with this. The human being, as we know, has brought his nature with him from the preceding metamorphoses of earth existence, from the Saturn, Sun, and Moon nature. Now, while he evolved as a Saturn, Sun, and Moon being, no mineral kingdom existed as yet in his environment. The mineral kingdom and everything of a mineral nature appeared only during earth evolution. Hence, what is now considered mineral matter permeated the human being only during the earth age. During the ancient Saturn, Sun, and Moon age, the human being contained nothing of a mineral element. Nor was he as yet a being who depended on spending his existence on earth. On the contrary, he was a being who, through his very constitution, belonged to the whole cosmos.

Prior to the moon leaving the earth, before the mineral kingdom in its multicolored nature developed within the earth, the human being was as yet not adapted at all to the earth. And, if we may so express ourselves, the question of what to do with man was indeed a very real one for the spiritual beings guiding this earth evolution. Should he be placed upon the earth or should he spend his existence outside and beyond it? We can actually call it a decision on the part of the beings who guide the evolution of mankind that the moon was separated and that the whole earth and man along with it were changed. For through the fact that the crude moon substance was separated from the earth the human being acquired the organization that enabled him to become an earth being. Hence, through this event—through the moon separation and the incorporation of the mineral kingdom into earth—the human being became an earthly being. Basically, it was this that gave man his earthly weight. On the other hand, he would never have become a being capable of inner freedom if he had not received this earthly weight. Earlier, he was not a personality in the proper sense. He became a personality due to the fact that the forces intended to form his body drew together. This densification took place because of the moon separation and the incorporation of the mineral kingdom. The human being became a personality and thus accessible to freedom.

This evolution of man on earth since the departure of the moon has gone through the most diverse stages. One can say that as long as nothing else had occurred except that the moon had left the earth, it was always possible for the human being to receive images of ancient clairvoyance due to his whole organization and nature of body and soul.

The human being was not deprived of this faculty of having clairvoyant images by the moon's separation. He beheld the world in images, something we have often described. If nothing else had taken place, human beings would be living in that world of images to this day. But as we know, evolution went still further. The human being did not remain in a condition that merely fetters him to the earth. He was in turn induced to a regressive development, as it were, and the nineteenth century was the culmination point of this development. I have characterized this repeatedly in my recent lectures. Already in ancient times it had come about that although in a sense man was earth-bound, weighted down in his metabolic system, in his head system he was enabled to cosmic existence. Human beings developed their intellect. The images of ancient clairvoyance condensed into this intellect, something that continued up until the fourth century A.D. It was only then, and particularly after the fifteenth century, that the human intellect became more and more shadowy. Though it is something entirely spiritual, this human intellect has no real existence at all; basically, it possesses only what would have to be described as a picturelike existence. When a person thinks today merely by means of his intellect, his thoughts are not rooted in reality. Human thoughts only move about in a shadowy existence and this is becoming more and more the case. This development reached an extreme in the nineteenth century and today human beings altogether lack a sense of reality. They live in a spiritual element but are materialists. With their spiritual thoughts that are, however, only shadow thoughts, they think only in terms of material existence.

Thus this second event came to pass. The human being has again become more spiritual, but the spiritual contents bestowed on him by matter in earlier times no longer ensoul him. He has become more spiritual; yet, with what is spiritual he merely thinks of things material.

Now you know that one day the moon will reunite with the earth. The point in time when this reunion of moon and earth will occur is placed by astronomers and geologists who live in abstractions, many, many thousands of years in the future; that, however, is an illusion. In reality, we are not so very far away from that point in time. As you know, humanity as such is becoming younger and younger. It is becoming more and more the case that the development of body and soul only continues up to a certain point in life. At the time of the death of the Christ when the event of Golgotha took place, mankind in general was capable of physical and soul development until age thirty-three. Today, people are able to develop only until age twenty-seven. In the fourth millennium A.D., a time will come when human beings will be capable of development only until age twenty-one. Again, in the seventh millennium, a time will come when their bodily nature will be capable of development only until the fourteenth year of life. Then, women will cease to be fertile; an entirely different form of living on earth will come about. That will be the time when the moon will again approach the earth and will be incorporated into it.

You see, my dear friends, human beings must now begin to pay attention to such extraterrestrial events. They must not go on dreaming, vaguely and abstractly, of something divine. They must begin to focus on the events connected with their evolution. They must know: The moon once separated from the earth; the moon will reunite with the earth again. And just as this moon separation had a tremendous impact, so will the moon's reentry. It is true that we will still be inhabiting the earth then as human beings, but we shall no longer be born in the ordinary way. We shall be connected with the earth in a way other than through birth. We shall have evolved in a certain manner by the time this point is reached. We must now learn to connect what is happening today—the increasing shadowiness of the intellect—with what will occur one day in earth evolution as an incisive event, namely, the moon's whirling back into earth's matter.

Our intellect is becoming more and more shadowy. If this were to go on, if men were never to make up their minds to receive what can come to them from spiritual worlds, the human being would gradually become completely absorbed in the shadowy cast of his intellect.

Try to realize what this shadowlike intellect actually contains. It cannot really understand the human being himself; it comprehends the minerals. That, after all, is the only thing the shadowy intellect can understand to a certain degree. Already the life of the plant remains a riddle for it; this is true even more so of the life of the animals, and its own life becomes completely obscure for it. Thus people go on evolving views of the world that, in reality, are but questions, because all they contain is unable to approach the nature of plant and animal, least of all that of the human being. Yet, this forming of pictures will increase more and more unless we make up our minds to receive what is being given us by way of new Imaginations in which the existence of the world is described. Into our shadowy intellectual concepts the living wisdom that spiritual science is able to give must be received. The shadow images of the intellect must in this way be called to life.

This calling to life of the shadow images of the intellect is not only a human event, it is a cosmic event. Remember what I described in my Occult Science—how once upon a time human souls migrated up to the planets and afterward returned to earth existence. I outlined in my Occult Science how the human beings of Mars, Jupiter, and so on came down again to earth. Now, a most important event took place—it can only be described from the facts that are confirmed as truths in the spiritual world—a very important event occurred at the end of the seventies of the nineteenth century. Whereas in ancient Atlantean times these human beings descended to earth from Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and the other planets—and it was therefore a matter of human soul beings entering the earth existence then—now a time is beginning when beings who are not human are coming down to earth from cosmic regions beyond. These beings are not human but depend for the further development of their existence on coming to earth and on entering here into relationships with men.

Thus, since the eighties of the nineteenth century, heavenly beings are seeking to enter this earth existence. Just as the Vulcan men were the last to come down to earth,T1This occurred during the Atlantean age. so Vulcan beings are now actually entering this earth existence. Heavenly beings are already here in our earth existence. And it is thanks to the fact that beings from beyond the earth are bringing messages down into this earthly existence that it is possible at all to have a comprehensive spiritual science today.

Taken as a whole, however, how does the human race behave? If I may say so, the human race behaves in a cosmically rude way toward the beings who are appearing from the cosmos on earth, albeit, to begin with, only slowly. Humanity takes no notice of them, ignores them. It is this that will lead the earth into increasingly tragic conditions. For in the course of the next few centuries, more and more spirit beings will move among us whose language we ought to understand. We shall understand it only if we seek to comprehend what comes from them, namely, the contents of spiritual science. This is what they wish to bestow on us. They want us to act according to spiritual science; they want this spiritual science to be translated into social action and the conduct of earthly life.

Since the last third of the nineteenth century, we are actually dealing with the influx of spirit beings from the universe. Initially, these were beings dwelling in the sphere between moon and Mercury, but they are closing in upon earth, so to say, seeking to gain a foothold in earthly life through human beings imbuing themselves with thoughts of spiritual beings in the cosmos. This is another way of describing what I outlined earlier when I said that we must call our shadowy intellect to life with the pictures of spiritual science. That is the abstract way of describing it. The description is concrete when we say: Spirit beings are seeking to come down into earth existence and must be received. Upheaval upon upheaval will ensue, and earth existence will at length arrive at social chaos if these beings descended and human existence were to consist only of opposition against them. For these beings wish to be nothing less than the advance guard of what will happen to earth existence when the moon reunites once again with earth.

Nowadays it may appear comparatively harmless to people when they think only those automatic, lifeless thoughts that arise through comprehension of the mineral world itself and the mineral element's effects in plant, animal, and man. Yes, indeed, people revel in these thoughts; as materialists, they feel good about them, for only such thoughts are conceived today. But imagine that people were to continue thinking in this way, unfolding nothing but such thoughts until the eighth millennium when moon existence will once more unite with the life of the earth. What would come about then? The beings I have spoken about will descend gradually to the earth. Vulcan beings, Vulcan supermen, Venus supermen, Mercury supermen, sun supermen, and so on will unite themselves with earth existence. Yet, if human beings persist in their opposition to them, this earth existence will pass over into chaos in the course of the next few thousand years. People will indeed be capable of developing their intellect in an automatic way; it can develop even in the midst of barbaric conditions. The fullness of human potential, however, will not be included in this intellect and people will have no relationship to the beings who wish graciously to come down to them into earthly life.

All the beings presently conceived so incorrectly in people's thoughts—incorrectly because the mere shadowy intellect can only conceive of the mineral, the crudely material element, be it in the mineral, plant, animal or even human kingdom—these thoughts of human beings that have no reality all of a sudden will become realities when the moon and the earth will unite again. From the earth, there will spring forth a horrible brood of beings. In character they will be in between the mineral and plant kingdoms. They will be beings resembling automatons, with an over-abundant intellect of great intensity. Along with this development, which will spread over the earth, the latter will be covered as if by a network or web of ghastly spiders possessing tremendous wisdom. Yet their organization will not even reach up to the level of the plants. They will be horrible spiders who will be entangled with one another. In their outward movements they will imitate everything human beings have thought up with their shadowy intellect, which did not allow itself to be stimulated by what is to come through new Imagination and through spiritual science in general.

All these unreal thoughts people are thinking will be endowed with being. As it is covered with layers of air today, or occasionally with swarms of locusts, the earth will be covered with hideous mineral-plant-like spiders that intertwine with one another most cleverly but in a frighteningly evil manner. To the extent that human beings have not enlivened their shadowy, intellectual concepts, they will have to unite their being, not with the entities who are seeking to descend since the last third of the nineteenth century, but instead with these ghastly mineral-plant-like spidery creatures. They will have to dwell together with these spiders; they will have to seek their further progress in cosmic evolution in the evolutionary stream that this spider brood will then assume.

You see, this is something that is very much a reality of earth humanity's evolution. It is known today by a large number of those human beings who hold mankind back from receiving spiritual scientific knowledge. For there are those who are actually conscious allies of this spidery entangling of human earth existence. Today, we must no longer recoil from descriptions such as these. For descriptions of this kind are behind what is said to this day by many people who, based on ancient traditions, still have some awareness of things like these, and who would like to surround these ancient traditions with a certain veil of secrecy. The evolution of earthly humanity is not such that it can be veiled in secrecy any longer. However great the resistance in hostile quarters, these things must be said; for, as I have stated again and again, the acceptance or rejection of spiritual scientific knowledge is a serious matter facing mankind. It is not something that can be decided on the basis of more or less indifferent sympathies or antipathies; we are dealing with something that definitely affects the whole configuration of the cosmos.

We are dealing with the question of whether humanity at the present time will resolve to grow gradually into what benevolent spirits, wishing to ally themselves with human beings, bring down from the universe, or whether mankind will seek its continued cosmic existence in the gradual entanglement, in the spider-brood of its own, merely shadowy thoughts. It does not suffice today to set down in abstract formulas the need for spiritual scientific knowledge. It is necessary to show how thoughts become realities. This is what is so dreadful about all abstract theosophists who appear on the scene and place abstractions before people, for example: Thoughts will become realities in the future. But it does not occur to them to present the full and actual implications of these matters. For the concrete implication is that the intellectual, shadow-like thoughts, spun inwardly by human beings today, will one day cover the earth like a spider's web. Human beings will become entangled in it if they are not willing to rise above these shadowy thoughts.

The path of the ascent, my dear friends, is indeed outlined. We must take profoundly serious thoughts such as the one with which I concluded my lectures on color last Sunday where I said: The point is to lift the comprehension of color out of the abstractions of physics into a region where the creative fancy, the feeling of the artist who understands the being of color, will harmonize effectively with a spiritual scientific insight into the world. We have seen how the beings and nature of color can be taken hold of, how the artistic element, which physics with its dreadful diagrams lets slide down into the ahrimanic sphere, can be lifted up. Thus, a theory of color can be founded; it would be remote from the established thought habits of modern science, yet can provide a basis for artistic creativity, if we will only imbue ourselves with its insight. Such thoughts must certainly be taken seriously.

Another thought must be earnestly considered. What do we witness today throughout the civilized world? Our young people are sent into the hospitals and to the scientific faculties of the universities; there the human being is explained to them. They become acquainted with the human skeleton and with the human organism by studying the corpse. They learn to put together the human being logically in abstract thoughts.

Yet, my dear friends, this is no way to comprehend the human being; in this way, one only gets to know the mineral aspect of man. What we learn about the human being through such a science is something that simply and solely has significance from the moon's separation until its return, something that out of the spider thoughts of today will then turn into spider beings. A knowledge must be prepared that takes hold of the human being quite differently, and this can be done only if science is lifted into artistic vision. We must admit that science in the present-day sense of the word can reach only to a certain level. It reaches only as far as the mineral element in the mineral, plant, and human kingdoms. Already in the plant kingdom science must change into art; still more so in the animal. It is sheer nonsense to try to understand the animal form in the way the anatomists and physiologists do. And as long as we do not admit that it is nonsense, the shadowy intellect cannot really be transformed into a living, spiritual grasp of the world.

What our young people are taught in so wretchedly abstract a form in the universities must everywhere turn into an artistic comprehension of the world. For nature around us creates artistically. Unless it is understood that nature around us is an artistic creation and can be grasped only with artistic concepts, no good will come of our world conceptions. The idea should take hold that the torture chambers in medieval castles, where people were locked into the “Iron Maiden,” for instance, and them pierced through with spears, remind us of a procedure that, though more physical and concrete, is the same as the one that occurs when young people today are introduced to anatomy and physiology and told that this will make them understand something of human nature. No, they comprehend nothing but what has been produced by a soul-spiritual element of torture: The human being torn limb from limb, the mineralized human being—that part of man that one day will be woven into the spider-cover of the earth.

Is it not sad that the power of civilization belongs now to those who consider the thoughts of truth itself, which most inwardly and intimately relate to the salvation and whole mission of mankind's development in the world, nonsense! It is tragic and we must be mindful of this tragedy. For only if we place this clearly and objectively before our soul's eye, shall we perhaps bestir ourselves to resolve to do what we can so that the intellect, shadowy as it has become, may find the way to admit the spiritual world that is approaching from the heavenly realms. Then, this shadowy intellect will be made fit for the potential it is to achieve. After all, this shadowy intellect should not be cast back into the realm beneath the plant kingdom, into a spider brood that will spread over the earth. No, it is intended that the human being shall be lifted up, in that time when women will no longer be fertile, when the eighth millennium will have arrived and the moon will unite again with the earth. The earthly shall then remain behind, and the human being only direct it from outside—like a foot stool. It will be something he is not supposed to take along with him into his cosmic existence. Human beings should prepare themselves so that they need not become one with what will someday have to develop on the surface of this earth in the manner described above.

Mankind entered from a pre-earthly existence into this physical existence. At the time of the departure of the moon, physical birth commenced. The human being began to be born of woman. Just as this came to pass, so in the future the human being will no longer be born of woman. For that is only a passing episode in the whole of cosmic evolution. It is the episode that is to bring to man the feeling of freedom, the consciousness of freedom, the integrated wholeness of individuality and personality. It is an episode that must not be disdained, an episode that was necessary in the whole cosmic process, but it must not be retained. Human beings must not give themselves up to the indolence of merely looking up to an abstract divine principle; they must concretely behold everything connected with their evolution. For they can attain a true inner revitalization of the whole soul-spirit being only if they comprehend that great period of time—but in its concrete evolutionary configuration—through which they will live in successive earth incarnations.

This is what a true spiritual science tells us today. Yet, such a spiritual science encounters opposition. We are threatened by a conscious will that would exclude us from spirituality and unite us with the spider web of the earth. This conscious will dwells in some people, for they believe that it will be to their advantage if they train only themselves spiritually and leave the others to live in ignorance. In most cases, however, this is done in ignorance; basically, people do not have the remotest idea of the appalling earthly destiny they are approaching by uniting themselves with what an ancient spiritual knowledge called the sixteen paths of human perdition. For, my dear friends, just as there are many ways in which we can turn with the shadowy intellect toward what can come to us as a message from the spiritual worlds, so there are variations of the shadowy intellect itself, various ways of uniting ourselves through this intellectual activity with the elements of spidery incrustation that will be spun over the whole earth in the future. In that time, the intellect will hold sway objectively in the manifold limbs these spider creatures will possess. They will entwine and wind themselves around one another; in doing so, in these convolutions reminiscent of the caduceus, they will produce the most marvelous, clever, the most ingenious formations—ingenious in todays's sense of the word. However, by again acquiring an understanding of the artistic from within, human beings will be able to show understanding for what goes beyond the mineral and is expressed in the formation of the plant.

It is symptomatic that in the course of mankind's evolution it was Goethe who discovered the teaching of metamorphosis—Goethe, who was artistically inclined. All the pedants around him considered it to be dilettantism, and they think so even today. In Goethe, however, the artistic conception of the world and his clarity of mind in general combined with the power of vision that recognizes, even in nature herself, nature as the artist. He was not yet capable of seeing the animal kingdom in the same way, except for the formation of the vertebra and the skull. That wondrous transmutation of a previous existence of man, where the present shape of the head develops from the form of the earlier remainder of the body, that marvelously artistic transformation of the long bones of the limbs into the spherical bones of the skull—only when this will truly be perceived will a real inner comprehension of the difference between the head and the whole remaining human form result. Such is the insight we must attain if we would plastically connect the head with the remainder of the human organism.

Yet, as art, this is at the same time true science, for all science that does not rise to the level of art is a deceptive science, a science casting humanity into cosmic misfortune. Thus, we see, on the one hand, that a true spiritual science shows us the way to an artistic grasp of things. Like a great hymn, I might say, this dwelled in Goethe's soul, when, as early as 1780, he wrote “Nature” his hymn in prose: “Nature, we are surrounded and encompassed by her ...” The whole hymn weaves a tapestry of thoughts such that one would like to say: It is like the unfolding of a mighty longing to receive spirit beings from the whole universe. Indeed, to pursue and develop further the thoughts living in Goethe's hymn "Nature" would be to provide a dwelling place for those beings who are seeking to descend from the cosmos to the earth. On the other hand, the torturous concepts developed in the nineteenth century concerning human physiology, biology, the system of plants, and so on, actually have nothing to do with the true being of the plants, something we had occasion to point out during our reflections on color. These inartistic concepts neither provide real insight nor do they penetrate to the human level. Therefore, what is held to be science today is essentially a product of Ahriman; it leads mankind to earthly doom and does not allow the human being to reach the sphere that, if I may say so, is brought toward him since the last third of the nineteenth century by beings from the cosmos.

The cultivation of spiritual science, my dear friends, is no abstract pursuit. It implies opening doors to cosmic influences that have been trying to enter upon the earth since the last third of the nineteenth century. It is a real, cosmic event to cultivate spiritual science. We need to become conscious of this fact.

Thus we may say, we overlook the whole span of time from the moon's departure until its return. This moon, which reflects the sunlight to us, has indeed a profound connection to our existence. It separated from the earth in order that the human being might become free. Humanity, however, must make use of this period so as not to provide for the moon, when the latter will have returned again, the material that can be bound up with the moon existence in the earth in that new kingdom of nature, of which I have now told you a little in a more or less graphic form.

We can say that now and then there arises in human beings some kind of forboding of what is to come. I do not know what meaning has been attached by readers to what Nietzsche describes in the chapter on the ugliest man in the valley of death in his Zarathustra. It is a touching, tragic description. Of course, Nietzsche had no vision of the valley of death into which earth existence will be transformed when the above-mentioned spider brood will cover the earth. Nevertheless, at the time when this fantasy of the valley of death arose in Nietzsche, there lived in him subconsciously something of this picture of the future. Therefore, he placed the ugliest of human beings into this vale of death. It was indeed some sort of foreboding of the time to come when human beings will be carried along in the most hideous shapes by the moon existence as it sinks down upon the earth, if they continue to cultivate only their shadowy thoughts. As the ugliest of men, they will fall into this swarm of spiders and be united with it.

What would be the use of keeping these things secret today, as many people would have us do? It would mean pulling the wool over people's eyes. After all, a large part of what is disseminated as spirituality today is nothing else but throwing dust in people's eyes. Occasionally one encounters people who realize what this means, namely, not to comprehend a single historical event as it is in reality. How many people are there today who know that events of fundamental importance are taking place in our days? I have already drawn attention to these things. How few are prepared really to enter into them? People would like to close their eyes to them. They would like to say: Well, these things are really not of so much importance. Yet, the signs of the times are there, and should be understood by human beings.

This is what I wished to add to my considerations on the world of color and man's relationship with the cosmos beyond the earth. We shall continue with these studies in the future.