Old and New Methods of Initiation
19 February 1922, Dornach
We have once more pointed out in these lectures that in the most recent cultural period of human evolution, the fifth post-Atlantean period, the main force governing human soul life is the force of the intellect, the force of ideas living in thoughts. To this we had to add the statement that the force of thoughts is actually the corpse of our life of spirit and soul as it was before birth. More and more strongly in recent times this force of thought has emancipated itself from the other forces of the human being, and this was clearly felt by those spirits who wanted to attain a full understanding of the Christian impulse.
Yesterday I endeavoured to describe this, using the example of Calderón's Cyprianus. That drama depicts, on the one hand, the struggles which arise out of the old ideas of a nature filled with soul and, on the other, the strong sense of helplessness encountered by the human being who distances himself from this old view and is forced to seek shelter in mere thoughts. We saw how Cyprianus had to seek the assistance of Satan in order to win Justina — whose significance I endeavoured to explain. But in consequence of the new soul principle, which is now dominant, all he could receive from Satan was a phantom of Justina.
All these things show forcefully how human beings, striving for the spirit, felt in this new age, how they felt the deadness of mere thought life and how, at the same time, they felt that it would be impossible to enter with these mere thoughts into the living realm of the Christ concept. I then went on yesterday to show that the phase depicted in Calderon's Cyprianus drama is followed by another, which we find in Goethe's Faust. Goethe is a personality who stands fully in the cultural life of the eighteenth century, which was actually far more international than were later times, and which also had a really strong feeling for the intellectual realm, the realm of thoughts. We can certainly say that in his young days Goethe explored all the different sciences much as did the Faust he depicts in his drama. For in what the intellectual realm had to offer, Goethe did not seek what most people habitually seek; he was searching for a genuine connection with the world to which the eternal nature of man belongs. We can certainly say that Goethe sought true knowledge. But he could not find it through the various sciences at his disposal. Perhaps Goethe approached the figure of Faust in an external way to start with. But because of his own special inclinations he sensed in this Faust figure the struggling human being about whom we spoke yesterday. And in a certain sense he identified with this struggling human being.
Goethe worked on Faust in three stages. The first stage leads us back to his early youth when he felt utterly dissatisfied with his university studies and longed to escape from it all and find a true union of soul with the whole of cultural life. Faust was depicted as the struggling human being, the human being striving to escape from mere intellect into a full comprehension of the cosmic origins of man. So this early figure of Faust takes his place beside the other characters simply as the striving human being. Then Goethe underwent those stages of his development during which he submerged himself in the art of the South which he saw as giving form on a higher plane to the essence of nature. He increasingly sought the spirit in nature, for he could not find it in the cultural life that at first presented itself to him. A deep longing led him to the art of the South, which he regarded as the last remnant of Greek art. There, in the way the secrets of nature were depicted artistically out of the Greek world view, he believed he would discover the spirituality of nature.
And then everything he had experienced in Italy underwent a transformation within his soul. We see this transformation given living expression in the intimate form of his fairy-tale 1 Floris Books, Edinburgh 1979. See, for instance, Rudolf Steiner, The Portal of Initiation & The Character of Goethe's Spirit as Shown in the Fairy Story (incl. a translation of the Fairy Story by Thomas Carlyle), Rudolf Steiner Press, New Jersey 1961. about the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, in which, out of certain traditional concepts of beauty, wisdom, virtue and strength, he created the temple with the four Kings.
Then, at the end of the eighteenth century, we see how, encouraged by Schiller, he returns to Faust, enriched with this world of ideas. This second stage of his work on Faust is marked particularly by the appearance of the ‘Prologue in Heaven’, that wonderful poem which begins with the words: ‘The sun makes music as of old, Amid the rival spheres of heaven.’ 2 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Part One, ‘Prologue in Heaven’. The English versions of the quotations from Faust are taken from the translation by Bayard Taylor, with the exception of these lines from the ‘Prologue in Heaven’, which are translated by Shelley. (Tr.) In the drama as Goethe now conceives it, Faust no longer stands there as a solitary figure concerned solely with himself. Now we have the cosmos with all the forces of the universe ascending and descending, and within this cosmos the human being whom the powers of good and evil do battle to possess. Faust takes his place within the cosmos as a whole. Goethe has expanded the material from a question of man alone to a question encompassing the whole of the universe.
The third stage begins in the twenties of the nineteenth century, when Goethe sets about completing the drama. Once again quite new thoughts live in his soul, very different from those with which he was concerned at the end of the eighteenth century when he composed the ‘Prologue in Heaven’, using ancient ideas about nature, ideas of the spirit in nature, in order to raise the question of Faust to the level of a question of the cosmos. In the twenties, working to bring the second part of the drama to a conclusion, Goethe has returned once more to the human soul out of which he now wants to draw everything, expanding the soul-being once more into a cosmic being.
Of course he has to make use of external representations, but we see how he depicts dramatically the inner journeyings of the soul. Consider the ‘Classical Walpurgis-Night’ or the reappearance of the Helena scene, which had been there earlier, though merely in the form of an episode. And consider how, in the great final tableau, he endeavours to bring to a concluding climax the soul's inner experience, which is at the same time a cosmic experience when it becomes spiritual. Finally the drama flows over into a Christian element. But, as I said yesterday, this Christian element is not developed out of Faust's experiences of soul but is merely tacked on to the end. Goethe made a study of the Catholic cultus and then tacked this Christianizing element on to the end of Faust. There is only an external connection between Faust's inner struggles and the way in which the drama finally leads into this Christian tableau of the universe. This is not intended to belittle the Faust drama. But it has to be said that Goethe, who wrestled in the deepest sense of the word to depict how the spiritual world should be found in earthly life, did not, in fact, succeed in discovering a way of depicting this finding of spirituality in earthly life. To do so, he would have had to come to a full comprehension of the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha. He would have had to understand how the Christ-being came from the expanses of the cosmos and descended into the human being, Jesus of Nazareth, and how he united himself with the earth, so that ever since then, when seeking the spirit which ebbs and flows in the stormy deeds of man, one ought to find the Christ-impulse in earthly life.
Goethe was never able to make the link between the spirit of the earth, ebbing and flowing in stormy deeds, in the weaving of time, and the Christ-impulse. In a way this may be felt to be a tragedy. But it came about of necessity, because the period of human evolution in which Goethe stood did not yet provide the ground on which the full significance of the Mystery of Golgotha could be comprehended. Indeed, this Mystery of Golgotha can only be fully comprehended if human beings learn to give new life to the dead thoughts which are a part of them in this fifth post-Atlantean period. Today there is a tremendous amount of prejudice, in thought, in feeling and in will, against the re-enlivening of the world of thought. But mankind must solve this problem. Mankind must learn to give new life to this world of thought which enters human nature at birth and conception as the corpse of spirit and soul; this corpse of thoughts and ideas must be made to live again. But this can only happen when thoughts are transformed — first into Imaginations, and then the Imaginations transformed into Inspirations and Intuitions. What is needed is a full understanding of the human being. Not until this becomes a reality, will what I told you yesterday be fully understood: That the world around us must come to be seen as a tremendous question to which the human being himself provides the answer. This is what was to have been given to mankind with the Mystery of Golgotha. It will not be understood until the human being is understood.
Let us look at a diagram of threefold man once more: the human being of the head or of the nerves and senses as discussed yesterday;
the human being of the rhythmic system or of the chest; and the human being of the metabolism and limbs.
Looking at the human being today, we accept him as the external form in which he appears to us. Someone dissecting a body on the dissecting table has no special feeling that the human head, for instance, is in any way very different from, say, a finger. A finger muscle is considered in the same way as is a muscle in the head. But it ought to be known that the head is, in the main, a metamorphosis of the system of limbs and metabolism from the preceding incarnation; in other words, the head occupies a place in evolution which is quite different from that of the system of limbs that goes with it.
Having at last struggled through to a view of the inner aspect of threefold man, we shall then be in a position to come to a view of what is linked from the cosmos with this threefold human being. As far as our external being is concerned, we are in fact only incarnated in the solid, earthly realm through our head organization. We should never be approachable as a creature of the solid earth if we did not possess our head organization, which is, however, an echo of the limb organization of our previous incarnation. The fact that we have solid parts also in our hands and feet is the result of what rays down from the head. But it is our head which makes us solid. Everything solid and earthly in us derives from our head, as far as the forces in it are concerned.
In our head the solid earth is in us. And whatever is solid anywhere else in our body rays down through us from our head. The origin of our solid bones lies in our head. But there is also in our head a transition to the watery element. All the solid parts of our brain are embedded in the cerebral fluid. In our head there is a constant inter-mingling vibration of the solid parts of our brain with the cerebral fluid which is linked to the rest of the body by way of the spinal fluid. So, looking at the human being of nerves and senses, we can say that here is the transition from the earthly element (blue) to the watery element. We can say that the human being of nerves and senses lives in the earthy-watery element. And in accordance with this, our brain consists of an intercorrespondence between the earthy and watery elements.
Now let us turn to the chest organism, the rhythmic organism. This rhythmic organism lives in the interrelationship between the watery and the airy element (yellow). In the lungs you can see the watery element making contact with the airy element. The rhythmic life is anintermingling of the watery with the airy element, of water with air. So I could say: The rhythmical human being lives in the watery-airy element.
And the human being of metabolism and limbs then lives in the transition from the airy element to the warmth element, in the fiery element (red, next diagram). It is a constant dissolving of the airy element in the warmth, the fiery element, which then seeps through the whole human being as his body heat. What happens in our metabolism and in our movements is a reorganization of the airy, gaseous element up into the warm, fiery element. As we move about, we constantly burn up those elements of the food we have eaten which have become airy. Even when we do not move about, the foods we eat are transformed airy elements which we constantly burn up in the warmth element. So the human being of limbs and metabolism lives in the airy-fiery element.
Human being of nerves and senses: earthy-watery element
Rhythmical human being: watery-airy element
Human being of limbs and metabolism: airy-fiery element
From here we go up even further into the etheric parts, into the light element, into the etheric body of the human being. When the organism of metabolism and limbs has transferred everything into warmth, it then goes up into the etheric body. Here the human being joins up with the etheric realm which fills the whole world; here he makes the link with the cosmos.
Ideas like this, which I have shown you only as diagrams, can be transformed into artistic and poetic form by someone who has an inner sense for sculpture and music. In a work of poetry such as the drama of Faust such things can certainly be expressed in artistic form, in the way certain cosmic secrets are expressed, for instance, in the seventh scene of my first Mystery Drama. 3 The Portal of Initiation. A Rosicrucian Mystery through Rudolf Steiner, transl. Ruth and Hans Pusch, Steiner Book Centre, Toronto, 1973. This leads to the possibility of seeing the human being linked once more with the cosmos. But for this we cannot apply to the human being what our intellect teaches us about external nature. You must understand that if you study external nature, and then study your head in the same way as you would external nature, you are then studying something which simply does not belong to external nature as it now is, but something that comes from your former incarnation. You are studying something as though it had arisen at the present moment; but it is not something that has arisen out of the present moment, nor could it ever arise out of the present moment. For a human head could not possibly arise out of the forces of nature which exist. So the human head must not be studied in the same way as objects are studied with the intellect. It must be studied with the knowledge given by Imagination. The human head will not be understood until it is studied with the knowledge given by Imagination.
In the rhythmical human being everything comes into movement. Here we have to do with the watery and the airy elements. Everything
is in surging movement. The external, solid parts of our breast organization are only what our head sends down into this surging motion. To study the rhythmical human being we have to say that in this rhythmical surging the watery element and the airy element mingle together (see diagram, green, yellow). Into this, the head sends the possibility for the solid parts, such as those in the lungs, to be present (white). This surging, which is the real rhythmical human being, can only be studied with the knowledge given by Inspiration. So the rhythmical human being can only be studied with the knowledge given by Inspiration.
And the human being of limbs and metabolism — this is the continuous burning of the air in us. You stand within it, in your warmth you feel yourself to be a human being, but this is a very obscure idea. It can only be studied properly with the knowledge given by Intuition, in which the soul stands within the object. Only the knowledge given by Intuition can lead to the human being of metabolism and limbs.
The human being will remain forever unknown if he is not studied with the knowledge given by Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition. He will forever remain the external shell which is all that is recognized today, both in general and in science. This situation must not be allowed to remain. The human being must come once more to be recognized for what he is. If you study only the solid parts of the human being, the parts which are shown in the illustrations in anatomy textbooks, then, right from the start, you are studying wrongly. Your study ought to be in the realm of Imagination, because all these illustrations of the solid parts of the human organism ought to be taken as images brought over from the previous incarnation. This is the first thing. Then come the even more delicate parts which live in the physical constituents. These can only be studied with the knowledge given by Inspiration. And the airy-watery element can only be studied with the knowledge given by Intuition. These things must be taken into European consciousness, indeed into the whole of modern civilization. If we fail to place them in the mainstream of culture, our civilization will only go downhill instead of upwards.
When you understand what Goethe intended with his Faust, you sense that he was endeavouring to pass through a certain gateway. Everywhere he is struggling with the question: What is it that we need to know about this human being? As a very young man he began to study the human form. Read his discourse on the intermaxillary bone and also what I wrote about it in my edition of his scientific writings. 4 Rudolf Steiner Goethes Naturwissenschaftliche Schriften, mit Einleitungen, Fussnoten und Erlauterungen im Text (Goethe's Natural Scientific Writings) in Kürschners Deutsche National-Litteratur. On the intermaxillary bone see Volume 1. He is endeavouring so hard to come to an understanding of man. First he tried by way of anatomy and physiology. Then in the nineties he explored the aspect of moral ideas which we find in the fairy tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. Then, in Faust, he wants to depict the human being as he stands in the world. He is trying to pass through a gateway in order to discover how the human being does, in fact, stand in the world. But he lacks the necessary prerequisites; he cannot do it.
When Calderón wrote his drama about Cyprianus, the struggle was still taking place at a previous level. We see how Justina tears herself free of Satan's clutches, how Cyprianus goes mad, how they find one another in death, and how their salvation comes as they meet their end on the scaffold. Above them the serpent appears — on it rides the demon who is forced to announce their salvation.
We see that at the time when Calderon was writing his Cyprianus drama the message to be clearly stated was: You cannot find the divine, spiritual realm here on earth. First you must die and go through the portal of death; then you will discover the divine spiritual world, that salvation which you can find through Christ. They were still far from understanding the Mystery of Golgotha through which Christ had descended to earth, where it now ought to be possible to find him. Calderon still has too many heathen and Jewish elements in his ideas for him to have a fully developed sense for Christianity.
After that, a good deal of time passed before Goethe started to work on his Faust. He sensed that it was necessary for Faust to find his salvation here on earth. The question he should therefore have asked was: How can Faust discover the truth of Paul's words: ‘Not I, but Christ in me’? 5 Galatians 2, 20 Goethe should have let his Faust say not only, to ‘Stand on free soil among a people free’, 6 Part Two, Act 5, Great Outer Court of the Palace. but also: to ‘stand on free soil with Christ in one's soul leading the human being in earthly life to the spirit’. Goethe should have let Faust say something like this. But Goethe is honest; he does not say it because he has not yet fully understood it. But he is striving to understand it. He is striving for something which can only be achieved when it is possible to say: Learn to know man through Imagination, Inspiration, Intuition. That he is striving in this way gives us the feeling that there is much more in his struggle and in his endeavour than he ever managed to express or than has filtered through into today's culture. Perhaps he can only be fully recognized by doing what I did in my early writings when I endeavoured to express the ‘world view which lived almost unconsciously in him. However, on the whole, his search has met with little understanding amongst the people of today.
When I look at this whole situation in connection with modern civilization, I am constantly reminded of my old teacher and friend, Karl Julius Schröer. 7Karl Julius Schröer, 1825-1900. On his booklet Goethe und die Liebe (Goethe and Love) see Rudolf Steiner's collected essays 1921-1925 in Der Goetheanumgedanke inmitten der Kulturkrisis der Gegenwart, p.111. GA 36. I think particularly of how, in the eighties of the last century, Schröer was working on Faust and on Goethe's other plays, writing commentaries, introductions and so on. He was not in the least concerned to speak about Goethe in clearly defined concepts but merely gave general indications. Yet he was at pains to make people understand that what lived most profoundly in Goethe must enter into mainstream modern culture. On the fiftieth anniversary of Goethe's death, in 1882, Schröer gave an address: ‘How the future will see Goethe’. He lived with the dream that the time had already come for a kind of resurrection of Goethe. Then we wrote a short essay in Die Neue Freie Presse which was reprinted in the booklet ‘Goethe and Love’. This and other of his writings have now been acquired by our publisher, Der Kommende Tag, so remaindered copies can be acquired there, and there will also be new editions eventually. This essay ‘Goethe after 50 Years’ is a brief extract from that lecture, at which I was present. It contains a good deal of what Schröer felt at that time regarding the need for Goethe to be assimilated into modern culture. And then in this booklet ‘Goethe and Love’ he endeavoured to show in the notes how Goethe could be made to come alive, for to bring Goethe to life is, in a sense, to bring the world of abstract thoughts to life. In the recent number of Das Goetheanum I referred to a beautiful passage about this in the booklet ‘Goethe and Love’. Schröer says: ‘Schiller recognized him. When an intuitive genius searches for the character of necessity in the empirical realm, he will always produce individuals even though these may have a generic aspect. With his intuitive method of seeing the eternal idea, the primeval type, in the mortal individual, Goethe is perhaps not as alone as one might assume.’
While Schröer was writing this booklet in 1882 I visited him a number of times. He was filled to the brim with an impression he had had. He had heard somewhere how Oppolzer, a physician in Vienna, used a rather vague intuitive faculty when making his diagnoses. Instead of examining the patient in the usual way, he allowed the type of the patient to make an impression on him, and from the type of the patient he deduced something of the type of the illness. This made a strong impression on Schröer, and he used this phenomenon to enlarge on what he was trying to explain: ‘In medicine we extol the ability of great diagnosticians to fathom the disease by intuitively discerning the individual patient's type, his habitude. They are not helped by chemical or anatomical knowledge but by an intuitive sense for the living creature as a whole being. They are creative spirits who see the sun because their eyeis sunlike. Others do not see the sun. What these diagnosticians are doing unconsciously is to follow the intuitive method which Goethe consciously applied as a means of scientific study. The results he achieved are no longer disputed, though the method is not yet generally recognized.’
Out of a conspectus which included Oppolzer's intuitive bedside method, Schröer even then was pointing out that the different sciences, for example, medicine, needed fructifying by a method which worked together with the spirit.
It is rather tragic to look back and see in Schröer one of the last of those who still sensed what was most profound in Goethe. At the beginning of the eighties of the last century Schroer believed that there would have to be a Goethe revival, but soon after that Goethe was truly nailed into his coffin and buried with sweeping finality. His grave, we could say, was in Central Europe, in the Goethe-Gesellschaft, whose English branch was called the Goethe Society. This is where the living Goethe was buried. But now it is necessary to bring this living element, which was in Goethe, back into our culture. Karl Julius Schroer's instinct was good. In his day he was unable to fulfil it because his contemporaries continued to worship the dead Goethe. ‘He who would study organic existence, first drives out the soul with rigid persistence.’ 8 Faust Part One. The Study.
This became the motto, and in some very wide circles this motto has intensified into a hatred against any talk of spiritual things — as you can see in the way Anthroposophy is received by many people.
Today's culture, which all of you have as your background, urgently needs this element of revival. It is quite extraordinary how much talk there is today of Goethe's Faust, which after all simply represents a new stage in the struggle for the spirit which we saw in Calderón's Cyprianus drama. So much is said about Faust, yet there is no understanding for the task of the present time, which is to bring fully to life what Goethe brought to life in his Faust, especially in the second part. Goethe brought it to life in a vague, intuitive sensing, though not with full spiritual insight. We ought to turn our full attention to this, for indeed it is not only a matter of a world view. It is a matter of our whole culture and civilization. There are many symptoms, if only we can see them in the right light.
Here is an essay by Ruedorffer 9 J.J. Ruedorffer, Die drei Krisen. Eine Untersuchung fiber den gegenwartigen politischen Weltzustand (The Three Crises. A consideration of the present state of world politics.) Stuttgart/Berlin 1920. entitled ‘The Three Crises’. Every page gives us a painful knock. The writer played important roles in the diplomatic and political life of Europe before the war and on into the war. Now, with his intimate knowledge of the highways and byways of European-life, and because he was able to observe things from vantage points not open to most, he is seeking an explanation of what is actually going on. I need only read you a few passages. He wants to be a realist, not an idealist. During the course of his diplomatic career he has developed a sober view of life. And despite the fact that he has written such things as the passages I am going to read to you he remains that much appreciated character, a bourgeois philistine.
He deals with three things in his essay. Firstly he says that the countries and nations of Europe no longer have any relationship with one another. Then he says that the governing circles, the leaders of the different nations, have no relationship with the population. And thirdly he says that those people in particular who want to work out and found a new age by radical means most certainly have no relationship with reality.
So a person who played his part in bringing about the situation that now exists writes: ‘This sickness of the state organism snatches leadership away from good sense and hands responsibility for decisions of state to all sorts of minor influences and secondary considerations. It inhibits freedom of movement, fragments the national will and usually also leads to a dangerous instability of governments. The period of unruly nationalism that preceded the war, the war itself, and the situation in Europe since the war, have made monstrous demands on the good sense of all the states, and on their peace and their freedom to manoevre. The loss of wealth brought about by necessary measures has completed the catastrophe. The crisis of the state and the crisis in world-wide organization have mutually exacerbated the situation, each magnifying the destructive effect of the other.’ These are not the words of an idealist, or of some artistic spirit who watched from the sidelines, but of someone who shared in creating the situation. He says, for instance: ‘If democracy is to endure, it must be honest and courageous enough to call a spade a spade, even if it means bearing witness against itself. Europe faces ruin.’
So it is not only pessimistic idealists who say that Europe is faced with ruin. The same is said especially by those who stood in the midst of practical life. One of these very people says:
‘Europe faces ruin. There is no time to waste by covering up mistakes for party political reasons, instead of setting about putting them to rights. It is for this reason alone, and not to set myself up as laudator temporis acti, that I have to stress that democracy must, and will, destroy itself if it cannot free the state from this snare of minor influences and secondary considerations. Pre-war Europe collapsed because all the countries of the continent — the monarchies as well as the democracies and, above all, autocratic Russia — succumbed to demagogy, partly voluntarily, partly unconsciously, partly with reluctance because their hand was forced. In the confusion of mind, for which they had only themselves to thank, they were incapable of recognizing good sense, and even if they had recognized it they would have been incapable of acting on it freely and decisively. The higher social strata of the old states of Europe — who, in the last century, were certainly the bearers of European culture and rich in personalities of statesmanlike quality and much world experience — would not have been so easily thrown from the saddle, rotten and expended, if they had grown with the problems and tasks of new times, if they had not lost their statesmanlike spirit, and if they had preserved any more worthwhile tradition than that of the most trivial diplomatic routine. If monarchs claim the ability to select statesmen more proficiently and expertly than governments, then they and their courts must be the centre and epitome of culture, insight and understanding. Long before the war this ceased to be the case. But indictment of the monarchs’ failures does not exonerate the democracies from recognizing the causes of their own inadequacies or from doing everything possible to eliminate them. Before Europe can recover, before any attempt can be made to replace its hopeless disorganization with a durable political structure, the individual countries will have to tidy up their internal affairs to an extent which will free their governments for long-term serious work. Otherwise, the best will in the world and the greatest capability will be paralysed, tied down by the web of the disaster which is the same wherever we look.’
I would not bother to read all this to you if it had been written by an idealist, instead of by someone who considers his feet to be firmly on the ground of reality because he played a part in bringing the current situation about.
‘The drama is deeply tragic. Every attempt at improvement, every word of change, becomes entangled in this web, throttled by a thousand threads, until it falls to the ground without effect. The citizens of Europe — thoughtlessly clutching the contemporary erroneous belief in the constant progress of mankind, or, with loud lamentations trotting along in the same old rut — fail to see, and do not want to see, that they are living off the stored-up labour of earlier years; they are barely capable of recognizing the present broken-down state of the world order, and are certainly incapable of bringing a new one to birth. On the other hand, the workers, treading a radical path in almost every country and convinced of the untenability of the present situation, believe themselves to be the bringers of salvation through a new order of things; but in reality this belief has made them into nothing more than an unconscious tool of destruction and decline, their own included. The new parasites of economic disorganization, the complaining rich of yester-year, the petit bourgeois descending to the level of the proletariat, the gullible worker believing himself to be the founder of a new world — all of them seem to be engulfed by the same disaster, all of them are blind men digging their own grave.’
Remember, this is not written by an idealist, but by one who shared in bringing about this situation!
‘But every political factor today — the recent peace treaties of the Entente, the Polish invasion of the Ukraine, the blindness or helplessness of the Entente with regard to developments in Germany and Austria — proves to the politician who depends on reality that although idealistic demands for a pan-European, constructive revision of the Paris peace treaties can be made, although the most urgent warnings can be shockingly justified, nevertheless, both demands and warnings can but die away unnoticed while everything rolls on unchanged towards the inevitable end — the abyss.’
The whole book is written in order to prove that Europe has come to the brink of the abyss and that we are currently employed in digging the grave of European civilization. But all this is only an introduction to what I now find it necessary to say to you. What I have to say is something different. Here we have a man who was himself an occupant of crucial seats of office, a man who realizes that Europe is on the brink of the abyss. And yet — as we can see in the whole of his book — all he has to say is: If all that happens is only a continuation of older impulses, then civilization will perish; it will definitely perish. Something new must come.
So now let me search for this new thing to which he wants to point. Yes, here it is, on page 67; here it is, in three lines: ‘Only a change of heart in the world, a change of will by the major powers, can lead to the creation of a supreme council of European good sense.’
Yes, this is the decision that faces these people. They point out that only if a change of heart comes about, if something entirely new is brought into being, can the situation be saved. This whole book is written to show that without this there can be no salvation. There is a good deal of truth in this. For, in truth, salvation for our collapsing civilization can only come from a spiritual life drawn from the real sources of the spirit. There is no other salvation. Without it, modern civilization, in so far as it is founded in Europe and reaches across to America, is drawing towards its close. Decay is the most important phenomenon of our time. There is no help in reaching compromises with decay. Help can only come from turning to something that can flourish above the grave, because it is more powerful than death. And that is spiritual life. But people like the writer of this book have only the most abstract notion of what this entails. They say an international change of heart must take place. If anything is said about a real, new blossoming of spiritual life, this is branded as ‘useless mysticism’. All people can say is: Look at them, bringing up all kinds of occult and mystical things; we must have nothing to do with them.
Those who are digging the grave of modern civilization most busily are those who actually have the insight to see that the digging is going on. But the only real way of taking up a stance with regard to these things is to look at them squarely, with great earnestness — to meditate earnestly on the fact that a new spiritual life is what is needed and that it is necessary to search for this spiritual life, so that at last a way may be found of finding Christ within earthly life, and of finding Him as He has become since the Mystery of Golgotha. For He descended in order to unite with the conditions of the earth.
The strongest battle against real Christian truth is being fought today by a certain kind of theology which raises its hands in horror at any mention of the cosmic Christ. It is necessary to be reminded again and again that even in the days when Schröer was pointing to Goethe as a source for a regeneration of civilization, a book appeared by a professor in Basel — a friend of Nietzsche — about modern Christian theology. Overbeck 10Franz Overbeck, 1837-1905. considered at that time that theology was the most un-Christian thing, and as a historian of theology he sought to prove this. So there was at that time in Basel a professor of theological history who set out to prove that theology is un-Christian!
Mankind has drifted inevitably towards catastrophe because it failed to hear the isolated calls, which did exist but which were, it must be said, still very unclear. Today there is no longer any time to lose.
Today mankind must know that descriptions such as that given by Ruedorffer are most definitely true and that it is most definitely necessary to realize how everything is collapsing because of the continuation of the old impulses. There is only one course to follow: We must turn towards what can grow out of the grave, out of the living spirit.
This is what must be pointed out ever and again, especially in connection with the things with which we are concerned.