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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Cosmosophy I
GA 207

Lecture XI

16 October 1921, Dornach

Our last explorations have shown us the fundamental difference between man's whole view here, between birth and death, and in the spiritual world, between death and a new birth. We explained yesterday that in our present era, since the middle of the fifteenth century, man may gain freedom between birth and death; everything on earth that he fulfills out of the impulse of freedom gives his being in the life between death and a new birth weight, as it were, reality, existence. When we emancipate ourselves from the necessities of earthly existence, when we ascend to the point where our will is guided by free motives—that is, when our will is not founded on anything in earthly life—then we create the possibility of being an independent being also between death and a new birth. In our age this capacity to preserve our own independent existence after death is connected with something we may call the relationship to the Mystery of Golgotha. This Mystery of Golgotha may be studied from the most varied viewpoints. In the course of the past years, we have already studied a great number of these viewpoints; today we shall view the Mystery of Golgotha from the standpoint arising out of the study of the value of freedom for the human being.

Here on earth, between birth and death, the human being really does not have any view of himself in his ordinary consciousness. He cannot look into himself. It is an illusion, of course, to believe, as outer science does, that it is possible to obtain an inner knowledge of the human organization by studying what is dead in the human being, indeed sometimes by studying only the corpse. This is altogether an illusion, a deception. Here, between birth and death, the human being has only a view of the outer world. What kind of view is this, however? It is one that we have frequently called the view of “appearance” (Schein) and yesterday I again emphasized this strongly.

When our senses are directed toward our surroundings between birth and death, the world appears to us as appearance, as semblance. We can take this appearance into our I—being. We can, for example, preserve it in our memory, making it therefore in a certain sense our own. Insofar as it stands in front of us when we look out into the world, however, it is an appearance that manifests itself particularly—as I already explained to you yesterday—by disappearing with death and reappearing in another form; that is, it is no longer experienced in us but is experienced in front of or around us.

If, however, in the present age the human being between birth and death were not to perceive the world as appearance, if he could not perceive the appearance, he could not be free. The development of freedom is possible only in the world of appearance. I have mentioned this in my book, The Riddle of Man (vom Menschenratsel), pointing out that in reality the world that we experience may be compared with the images that look out at us from a mirror. These pictures that look out at us from a mirror cannot force us to do anything, for they are only pictures, they are appearance. Similarly man's world of perception is also appearance. The human being is not completely woven into the appearance of the world. He is woven into a world of appearance only with his perceiving, which fills his waking consciousness. If man views his impulses, instincts, passions, and temperament, and everything that surges up from the human being, without being able to bring them into clear mental images, at least into waking mental images, then all this is not appearance; it is reality, but a reality that does not rise up in man's present consciousness.

Between birth and death, the human being lives in a true world that he does not know, one that cannot ever really give him freedom. It may implant in him instincts that make him unfree; it may call forth inner necessities, but it can never enable the human being to experience freedom. Freedom can be experienced only within a world of pictures, of appearance. When we awaken we must enter a perceptive life of appearance, so that freedom can develop.

This life of appearance, which constitutes our waking life of perception, did not always exist in this way within humanity's historical evolution. If we go back into ancient times, to which we have so often looked back in our lectures, to times when there still existed a certain instinctive vision, or remnants of this instinctive vision (which lasted until the middle of the fifteenth century), we cannot say in the same sense that the human being in his waking condition was surrounded only by a world of appearance. Everything that the human being saw in his own way as the world's spiritual background spoke through the appearance. He also saw this appearance, but in a different way. For him this appearance was an expression, a manifestation, of a spiritual world. This spiritual world then vanished behind the appearance, and only the appearance remained. The essential thing in the progressive development of humanity is that in more ancient times the appearance was experienced as the manifestation of a divine-spiritual world, but the divine-spiritual vanished from this appearance, so that before man's eyes lies only appearance, in order that he might discover his freedom within this world of appearance. The human being therefore must find his freedom in a world of appearance; he does not find freedom in the true world, which completely withdrew to the dull experiences of his inner being; there, he can find only a necessity. We may therefore say that mans world of perception between birth and death—everything that I say applies only to our age—is a world of appearance. Man perceives the world, but he perceives it as appearance.

How, then, do matters stand between death and a new birth? In our last studies we suggested that after death the human being does not perceive this outer world that he sees here, between birth and death, but between death and a new birth man essentially perceives the human being himself, the inner being of man. The human being is then the world for man. What is concealed here on earth becomes manifest in the spiritual world. Between death and a new birth, man gains insight into the entire connection between the soul life and the organic life of the human being, between the activity of the single organs, and in short, everything that, symbolically speaking, lies enclosed within the human skin.

We find, however, that in the present age it is again the case that the human being cannot live in appearance after death. The life in appearance is actually valid for him only between birth and death. The human being has come to the point today that between death and a new birth he cannot live in appearance. When he passes through death, he is imprisoned, as it were, by necessity. The human being feels that he is free in his perceiving here on earth, where he may turn his eyes where he wishes; he may combine what he perceives into concepts so as to experience his freedom of action in these concepts; between death and a new birth, however, he feels unfree regarding the world of perceptions. He is overpowered, as it were, by the world. It is just as if the human being perceived in the same way as he would perceive here on earth if he were to be hypnotized by every single sense perception, if he were to be overpowered by every single sense perception so that he would be unable to liberate himself from them out of free will.

This has been the course of man's development since the middle of the fifteenth century. The divine-spiritual worlds vanished from the appearance of the earth, but between death and a new birth, these divine spiritual worlds imprison him, so that he cannot maintain his independence. I said that only if the human being really develops freedom on earth, that is, if he takes an interest with his entire being in the appearance in life, is it possible for him to carry his own being through the portal of death.

We can see what is necessary in order to develop freedom also by looking into yet another difference between the way of viewing things today and more ancient human views.

Whether we consider humanity in general or the initiates and the mysteries in ancient times, we find that the whole view of the world had another orientation from that of today. If the human being remains standing by what he has acquired since the middle of the fifteenth century, through the kind of cognition that has arisen since that time, one finds that the human being had mental images of the evolution of the earth, of the evolution of the human race; he lost track, however, of the mental images that might have given him satisfactory indications concerning the beginning and end of the earth. We might say that the human being was able to survey a certain line of evolution; he looked back historically, he looked back geologically. When he went back still further, however, he began to construct hypotheses. He imagined that the beginning of the world was a primordial mist, which appeared to be a physical formation. Out of it evolved—that is to say, not really, but people imagined that this was so—the higher beings of the realms of nature, plants, animals, and so on. In accordance with conceptions of modern physics, people thought that earthly existence disintegrates in the end (see drawing below) by heat—again a hypothesis. Man thus saw only a segment, as it were, between the beginning and end of the earth. Beginning and end became a hazy, unsatisfactory picture to present-day human beings.

This was not the case in more ancient times. In ancient times people had very precise notions of the beginning and end of the earth, because they still saw the self-revelation of the divine-spiritual in the appearance. We can call to mind the Old Testament, for example, or other religious teachings of the past. In the Old Testament we find conceptions that are connected with the beginning of the world, and they are described in a form accessible to the human being, enabling him to grasp his own existence upon the earth. The Kant-Laplace nebula or primordial mist does not enable anyone to grasp human life on earth.

If you take the wonderful cosmogonies of the various pagan peoples, you will again find something that enabled man to grasp his earthly existence. The human being thus directed his gaze toward the beginning of the earth and came to conceptions that encompassed man. Conceptions of the end of the earth remained for a longer time in human consciousness. In Michelangelo's “Last Judgment,” for example, and other “Last Judgments,” we come across conceptions about the end of the earth, which were handed down as far as our own era and which encompass the human being; and although the ideas of sin and atonement are difficult, these conceptions do not do away with the human being.

Take the modern hypothetical conception of the end of the earth, that everything will end in a uniform heat. The entire human essence dissolves. There is no place for man in the world. In addition to the disappearance of divine-spiritual existence from the appearance of perception, the human being therefore lost, in the course of time, his conceptions of the world's beginning and end. Within these ideas he could still find his own value and see himself within the cosmos as a being connected with the beginning and end of the earth.

How did the people of past eras view history? No matter in what form they saw it, history was something that moved from the beginning to the end of the earth, receiving its meaning through the conceptions of the beginning and end of the earth. Take any of the pagan cosmologies, and they will enable you to conceive of humanity's historical development. They reach back to ages in which earthly life arises in a divine-spiritual weaving. History has a meaning. If we turn to the beginning and also the end of the earth, history has a meaning. Whereas the conception of the end of the earth, as a pictorial view contained in religious feeling, continued to exist even in more recent eras, the conception of the end of the earth lived on in historical considerations, as a kind of straggler, even in more recent times. In enlightened historical works, such as Rotteck's history of the world,16Karl Wenzeslaus Rodecker von Rotteck, historian, 1775–1840, General History, 1813–1818, 6 volumes. you may still find the influence of this conception of the earth's beginning, which gives a meaning to history. Even if only a shadow remains of this conception of the beginning of the earth in Rotteck's history, which was written at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it still gives historical development a meaning. The significant, peculiar fact is that at the same time in which the human being entered a world of perception of appearance, perceiving outer nature, therefore, as appearance, history began to lose its meaning and became inaccessible to direct human knowledge, because he no longer had any notion of the earth's beginning and end.

You must take this matter quite seriously. Take the primordial mist at the beginning of the earth's evolution, from which indefinite forms first condensed themselves, and then all the beings, ascending as far as man; and consider the death by heat at the end of the earth's evolution, in which everything perishes. In between lies what we tell about Moses, abut the great individuals of ancient China, about the great individuals of ancient India, Persia, Egypt—and further on, of Greece and Rome, as far as our present time. In thought we may add all that is still to come. All this takes place on the earth, however, like an episode, with no beginning and no end. History thus appears to have no meaning. This must be realized.

Nature may be surveyed, even if we cannot survey its inner being. It rises up before the human being as appearance in that man experiences nature between birth and death. History becomes meaningless. Man simply lacks courage enough in our time to admit that history has no meaning; it is meaningless, because man has lost track of the beginning and end of the earth. Man should really sense that humanity's historical development is the greatest of riddles. He should say to himself that this historical development has no meaning.

Individuals have had inklings of this. Read what Schopenhauer wrote on the absence of meaning in history that emerges out of occidental beliefs. You will see, then, that Schopenhauer really sensed this absence of meaning in history. We should be filled with the longing to rediscover the meaning of history in another way. Out of the world of appearance we can develop a satisfactory knowledge of nature, particularly in Goethe's sense, if we give up hypotheses and remain in the phenomenology, that is, in the teachings of appearance, of semblance. Natural science can be satisfying if we eliminate all the disturbing hypotheses about the beginning and end of the earth. We are then as it were imprisoned, however, in our earthly cave, and we do not look out of it. The Kant-Laplace theory and the end of the world by heat block our view into the distant past and the distant future.

This is basically the situation of present-day humanity from the standpoint of general consciousness; consequently humanity is threatened by a certain danger. It cannot quite enter into the mere world of phenomena, into the world of appearance. Above all it is unable to enter with the inner life into this world of appearance. Humanity wishes to submit to the necessity, the inner necessity of the instincts, drives, and passions. Today we do not see much of everything that may be realized on the basis of free impulses born out of pure thinking. Just as much, however, as the human being lacks freedom here in his life between birth and death, so he is overcome, with the hypnotizing compulsion between death and a new birth, by lack of freedom, by the necessity in perception. Man is therefore threatened by the danger of passing through the portal of death without taking with him his own being and without entering into something free regarding the world of perception, but rather into something that submerges him into a state of compulsion, which makes him grow rigid, as it were, in the outer world.

The impulse that in the future must break into the life of humanity is the appearance of the divine-spiritual to the human being in a way different from the way in which it appeared to him in ancient times. In past ages the human being could imagine a spiritual element within the physical at the beginning and end of the earth, with which he knew he was united and that did not exclude him. The human being must take up this permeation with the spiritual more and more from the center, instead of from the beginning and end. Even as in the Old Testament the beginning of the earth was looked upon as a genesis of the human being, within which his existence was ensured, even as the pagan cosmogonies spoke of humanity's evolution out of divine-spiritual existence, even as the contemplation of the end of the earth, which—as was stated—was still contained in the views of the decline of the world, which do not deprive man of his own self, so modern times must find in a right view of the Mystery of Golgotha, at the center of the earth's evolution, that which again enables the human being to find divine life and earthly life interwoven.

Man must understand in the right way how God passed through the human being with the Mystery of Golgotha. This will replace what we lost regarding the beginning and end of the earth. There is an essential difference, however, between the way in which we should now look upon the Mystery of Golgotha and the earlier way of looking at the beginning and end of the earth.

Try to penetrate into the way in which a pagan cosmogony arose. Today we often come across conceptions stating that these pagan cosmogonies were fabrications of the people. This conception holds that just as today man freely joins thought to thought and disconnects them again, so at one time people devised their cosmogonies. This, however, is an erroneous university view, which has no reasonable foundation. We find instead that in the past the human being gave himself up entirely to the contemplation of the world; he could see the beginning of the world only in the way in which it appeared to him in the cosmogony, in the myths. There was no freedom in this; it was altogether something that yielded itself to man by necessity. The human being had to look into the beginning of the earth; he could not refrain from doing so, he could do nothing else. Today we no longer picture in the right way how in the past man's soul pictured the beginning of the earth and, in a certain respect, also the end of the earth, through an instinctive knowledge.

Today it is impossible for the human soul to picture the Mystery of Golgotha in this way. This constitutes the great difference between Christianity and the ancient teachings of the gods. If the human being wishes to fmd Christ, he must find Him in freedom. He must freely acknowledge the Mystery of Golgotha. The content of the ancient cosmogonies was forced upon man, whereas the Mystery of Golgotha does not force itself upon him. He must approach the Mystery of Golgotha in a certain resurrection of his being, in freedom.

The human being is led to such freedom by an activity that I have recently designated in anthroposophical spiritual science as the activity of knowing. If a theologian believes that he may gain knowledge of the Akashic Chronicle in a special illustrated edition, that is to say, without needing to exert any inner activity to grasp what must appear before his soul in concepts and must become images—such a theologian would simply show that he is predisposed to grasp the world only in a pagan way, not in a Christian way; for the human being must come to Christ in inner freedom. Particularly the way in which the human being must face the Mystery of Golgotha constitutes his most intimate means of an education toward freedom.

The human being is in a certain sense torn away from the world by the Mystery of Golgotha if it is experienced rightly. What arises in that case? In the first place, the human being now can live in a world of perception, of appearance, and in this world surges up something that leads him to the spiritual existence that is guaranteed in the Mystery of Golgotha. This is one thing. The other thing, however, is that history has ceased to have meaning, because beginning and end were lost; it receives meaning again because it is given this meaning from the center. We learn to recognize how everything before the Mystery of Golgotha leads toward the Mystery of Golgotha and how everything after the Mystery of Golgotha sets out from this mystery.

History thus once more acquires meaning, whereas otherwise it is an illusory episode without beginning and without end. The outer world of perception faces the human being as appearance for the sake of his freedom, changing history into something it should not be—an episode of appearance without any center of gravity. It dissolves into fog and mist which basically we already find theoretically in Schopenhauer's writings.

Through the inclination toward the Mystery of Golgotha, all that was once otherwise historical appearance receives inner life, historical soul, connected with everything that modern man requires through the fact that he must develop freedom in life. When he passes through the portal of death, he will have developed here the great teaching of freedom. Avowal of the Mystery of Golgotha cast into life the light that must fall on everything that is free in the human being. The human being has the possibility of saving himself from the danger that he has here by virtue of the predisposition for freedom that he has in appearance but does not develop, because he surrenders himself to instincts and drives and therefore falls prey to necessity after death. By accepting as his own a religious faith that is totally different from more ancient religious faith, in filling his entire soul only with a religious faith living in freedom, he transforms himself for the experience of freedom.

In today's civilization, basically only a small number of people have really grasped that only a knowledge gained in freedom, an active knowledge, is able to lead us to Christ, to the Mystery of Golgotha. The Bible gave man a historical account so that he might have a message of the Mystery of Golgotha for the time when he could not yet take in spiritual science.

To be sure, the Gospel will never lose its value. It will acquire an ever-greater value, but to the Gospel must be added the direct knowledge of the essence of the Mystery of Golgotha. Christ must be able to be sensed, felt, known through one's own human force, not only through the forces working out of the Gospel. This is what spiritual science strives for regarding Christianity Spiritual science seeks to explain the Gospels, but it is not based upon the Gospels. It is able to appreciate the Gospels so fully just because it discovered afterward, as it were, all that lies concealed in them, all that has already been lost in the course of humanity's outer evolution.

The whole modern evolution of humanity is thus connected on the one hand with freedom, the appearance of perception, and on the other with the Mystery of Golgotha and the meaning of historical development. This sequence of many episodes which constitutes history as it is generally described and accepted today acquires its true significance only if the Mystery of Golgotha can be inserted into historical evolution.

Many people experienced this in the right way and they used the right images for it. They said to themselves: once upon a time, man looked out into the heavenly expanses; he saw the sun, but not the sun as we see it today. Today there are physicists who believe that out there in the universe there floats a large sphere of gaseous matter. I have frequently said that physicists would be astonished if they could build a cosmic balloon and reach the sun, for where they suppose the existence of a gaseous sphere, they would find negative space, which would transport them in a moment not only into nothingness but beyond nothingness, far beyond the sphere of nothingness. The modern materialistic cosmologies developed today are pure fantasy. In more ancient times, people did not picture the sun as a gaseous sphere floating in heavenly space; .the sun in their view, was a spiritual being. Even today the sun is a spiritual being to those who contemplate the world in a real way; it is a spiritual being manifesting itself only outwardly in the way in which the eye is able to perceive the sun. This central spiritual being was experienced by a more ancient humanity as one with the Christ. When speaking of Christ, the ancients pointed to the sun. More recent humanity must now not point away from the earth but rather toward the earth when it speaks of the Christ. It must search for the sun in the Man of Golgotha.

By recognizing the sun as a spiritual being, it was possible to connect a conception worthy of the human being with the beginning and end of the earth. The conception of Jesus, in whom Christ dwelt, renders possible a conception worthy of the human being regarding the middle of the earth's evolution; from there will ray out toward beginning and end that which will once more make the whole cosmos appear in a light that gives man his place in the universe. We should therefore live toward a time in which hypotheses concerning the world's beginning and end will not be constructed on the basis of materialistic, natural scientific conceptions, but which will proceed from the knowledge of the Mystery of Golgotha. This will also enable us to survey all of cosmic evolution. In the outwardly luminous sun, the ancient human being sensed the Christ of the outer world. The true knowledge of the Mystery of Golgotha enables man to see in the historical evolution of the earth the sun of this earthly evolution through Christ. The sun shines outside in the world and also in history—it shines physically outside and spiritually in history; sun here and sun there.

This indicates the path to the Mystery of Golgotha from the viewpoint of freedom. Modern humanity must find it, if it wishes to transcend the forces of decline and enter the forces of ascent. This should be realized deeply and thoroughly. This knowledge will not be abstract, not merely theoretical, but one that fills the whole human being. It will be a knowledge that must be felt, must be experienced in feeling. The Christianity about which anthroposophy must speak will not be a looking to Christ but a being filled with Christ.

People would always like to know the difference between anthroposophy and what lived as the older theosophy. Is this difference not evident? The older theosophy has warmed up the pagan cosmologies. In the theosophical literature you will discover everywhere warmed-up pagan cosmologies, which are no longer suited to modern human beings; although theosophy speaks of the earth's beginning and end, this no longer means what it meant in the past. What is missing in these writings? The center is missing, the Mystery of Golgotha is missing throughout. It is missing to an even greater extent than in outer natural science.

Anthroposophy has a continuing cosmology that does not extinguish the Mystery of Golgotha but accepts it, so that this Mystery is contained within it. The whole evolution, reaching back as far as Saturn and forward as far as Vulcan, is seen in such a way that this light enabling us to see will ray out from the knowledge of the Mystery of Golgotha. If we but recognize this principal contrast, we shall no longer have any doubt as to the difference between the older theosophy and anthroposophy.

Particularly when so-called Christian theologians again and again lump together anthroposophy and theosophy, this is due to the fact that they do not really understand much about Christianity. It is deeply significant that Nietzsche's friend, Overbeck,17Franz Overbeck, Protestant theologian, 1837–1905. the truly significant theologian of Basel, wrote a book on the Christianity of modern theology, in which he tried to prove that modern theology—including Christian theology—is no longer Christian. One may therefore say that even here outer science has already drawn attention to the fact that modern Christian theology does not understand or know anything about Christianity.

One should thoroughly understand everything that is unchristian. Modern theology, in any case, is not truly Christian; it is unchristian. Yet people prefer to ignore these things due to their love of ease. They should not be ignored, however, for to the extent to which they are ignored, man will lose the possibility of inwardly experiencing Christianity. This must be experienced, for it is the opposite pole to the experience of freedom, which must emerge. Freedom must be experienced, but the experience of freedom alone would lead human beings into the abyss. Only the Mystery of Golgotha can lead humanity across this abyss.

We shall speak of this more next time.