Man's Being, His Destiny and World Evolution
6. Man's Being, His Destiny and World Evolution, Part 3
21 May 1923, Oslo
In looking back at the considerations set forth here during the last few days, we shall see, on the one hand, standing there before our soul the relations existing between the individual man and the universe, and, on the other, the relations existing between a single human being living at a certain time and mankind's whole earthly development.
Today I should like to round out these considerations by adding a few thoughts. You will have inferred from what was said that the human being, in ancient times preceding the Mystery of Golgotha, stood much closer than we do today to outward nature, to the external world. This statement goes counter to the present-day belief that we, by means of our science, stand extremely close to nature. We do nothing of the kind. We have intellectual thoughts on nature drawn only from external observation, but we no longer experience nature.
Had the human being remained dependent on the spiritual element in nature, he would not have become the free being into which he developed during the recent stages of historical evolution. He would not have attained his full ego-consciousness.
If today we look into our own self, into that which we carry within us as the memory images of things experienced by us previously, what do we find in ourselves (and rightfully so)? We find our ego with all its experiences. When ancient man, living several millennia before the Mystery of Golgotha, looked into himself, he did not find his ego. He did not say: “I have experienced this or that ten or twenty years ago.” Just by means of his memory, it was clear to him that he had to say: “the Gods let me have this or that experience.” And he did not say: “the ego within me had this or that experience,” but: “the God within me had the experience.” It was just because the human being participated spiritually, by means of his physical body, his etheric body, his astral body, in the processes of nature outside of himself, just because he stood in a closer, more intimate relationship to nature, he could say: “The God within me experiences the world.”
Today man acquires a knowledge of nature by means of his intellect. His knowledge is concerned exclusively with dead nature. Thus he has become able to speak of himself, out of his innermost feeling, as an ego; to be a free ego-being.
This was felt with especial strength by Paul when passing through the event of Damascus. For Paul, before passing through the event of Damascus, was an initiate in the sense of ancient initiation. He had learned in the Semitic wisdom-schools of those days that the God Whom one might justifiably call the Christ could be seen only in pre-earthly existence. This he had been told in the wisdom-schools.
The disciples and pupils of the Christ, however, whom he came to know, made the following assertion: “The Christ has dwelt among us within the man Jesus of Nazareth. He was here on earth. While we were His contemporaries, we experienced Him not only in our memory going back to a pre-earthly existence, but here on earth itself.” And Paul answered out of his initiatory knowledge: “That is impossible, for the Christ can be seen only in pre-earthly existence.”
And he was an unbeliever persecuting Christianity until the vision, the imagination of Damascus revealed this to him: The Christ lives now in connection with the earth. Then he, Paul, coined the expression which has since become so significant for inner Christianity: “Not I, but the Christ in me.”
Man can recognize his ego in a natural way. He simply needs to look into himself. But in order to reach God anew, he must unite himself, in full consciousness, with the Mystery of Golgotha and say to himself: “the Christ in me.”
The men of ancient times have said: “We were together with the Christ, and hence with God the Father, before descending to earth.” Now they had to say: “the Christ is on earth.” Physically, Christ was on earth during the Mystery of Golgotha. Spiritually He has, since the Mystery of Golgotha, remained united with all men on earth.
Such knowledge is also contained in Christianity. We are told that the Christ revealed to man that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. Yet just the interpretation of this word shows clearly that the human beings, although outwardly believing, are inwardly unbelieving. You need only consider what many modern theologians have to say about this coming near of the Kingdom of Heaven. They say: “Well, in this respect the Christ depended on the judgment of his age. Then people believed that the earth would become more spiritual at a certain time. Here the Christ was mistaken.”
It is not the Christ, however, Who was mistaken. Human beings were mistaken. They have interpreted these words in such a way as though the Kingdom of Heaven, by coming near, would make the grapes grow ten times larger and let the earth overflow with milk and honey. Such was not the meaning of what the Christ said. The Christ spoke of the Kingdom of the Spirit which He had brought near. It is not allowable to say: “What the Christ told us was a mistake. Today we must think differently.” Instead of this we should ask ourselves: “How can I understand what the Christ has said?”
Since the Mystery of Golgotha, it has indeed become more and more necessary for us to find the spiritual within the earthly and perceive the truth of the saying: “The spiritual worlds are descended to the earth.” They are descended. We need only to look for the path upon which they can be found. In order that we find something of that which leads towards this path, I would like to discuss once more certain points that are apt to bring about a better comprehension of these matters.
In those ancient times when men, in their fifties, felt the paralysis of their physical bodies setting in, it was still possible to recognize individual destinies by means of the stars. Since then, every sort of astrological calculation has become the practice of amateurs. The ancient human being felt himself related to the transformation of his physical body into the earthly element. But this transformation of the physical body into the earthly element, this perception of the earth by means of the physical body enabled him to recognize, in the course of the stars, the spiritual element within destiny. Thus, thousands of years before the Mystery of Golgotha, the wisdom of the stars was highly estimated.
Then came the age during which, as I have told you, the human being acquired a greater feeling for his surroundings. After reaching the forties, he felt language in such a way that he could say: “Within me the folk spirit, the folk genius is speaking.” Man learned to regard language as something objective.
In connection with this feeling, the human being experienced that which rotated around him, as it were, in a circle. At a later time, he still experienced the daily sunrise, the daily sunset. To a certain extent, he arranged his life in accord with these phenomena. The course of the year, however, was no longer really understood by him.
Yet there was a time, during the sixth, fifth and fourth millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha, when men lived in unison not only with day and night, but also with the year. This unison with the year has been partly preserved, especially up here in the North. For instance, a relic of this past unison can still be felt in the Olaf-Saga, where Olaf experiences the course of the year in such a way that around and after Christmas he enters the life of the spiritual world. Here appears a memory of the unison between human life and the course of the year as it came to flower in very ancient times in the Orient, which was the scene of mankind's loftiest civilization.
At that time, human beings understood what later became known to them only by means of tradition, namely, how to arrange their festivals in accord with the course of the year. They took part in the course of the year. In what way was this accomplished?
Today we have no immediate experience of the fact that we breathe in and breathe out; that the air is alternately within and without us. The present-day human being would be hardly aware of these things were he not told by science. He does not experience, so vividly as did the people of ancient times, the process of inspiration and expiration.
Yet it is not only man that breathes, but also, even though in a different way, our earth. Just as man possesses a soul element, so does the earth possess a soul element. In the course of one year, the earth first breathes in, and then breathes out her soul element. And the wintry days, during which the Christmas Festival takes place, approach at a time when the earth's breathing-in process is at its height; when the earth-soul is entirely within the earth. Then the earth has the greatest amount of soul-life within herself. Hence, at this time, the spirit and soul element becomes visible in the earth.
If we can inwardly experience how the earth, having concluded this breathing-in process, is now inhabited by her whole soul and thereby lets come out of the earth-element the elemental beings, who live with the snow-covered trees, who live with the earth's surface where the water congeals at a time when the earth covers herself with a blanket of ice — if we can inwardly experience all this, then the spiritual beings within the earth begin to stir. The mere naturalist would say: The husbandman scatters the seed, which lies in the earth all winter and sprouts forth in the spring. This, however, could not happen unless the elemental beings preserved, during the winter, the spiritual force of the seeds. The spiritual beings, the spirits of nature, are most wakeful when the earth has breathed in during the winter-time, during the Christmas-time, her whole soul. Thus the birth of Jesus could be best understood through the fact that it took place at Christmas, when the earth is inhabited by her entire soul.
Yet, even at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, there were very few people who had been able to retain an understanding of this spirit and soul element contained in the earth during winter.
Men of earlier ages, however, knew that in mid-summer — around the Day of St. John, on the twenty-fourth of June — the state of the earth is just the opposite to her wintry state. In midsummer, the process of exhaling is at its height. Then the earth has given her soul to the extra-terrestrial cosmos. From Christmas until the Day of St. John, this breathing out of the soul-element into the vast universe is perceived more and more. The soul of the earth is striving towards the stars. The soul of the earth wishes to know something about the life of the stars. And, in its own way, the soul of the earth is most firmly united through the light of the summer sun with the star movements at the season of St. John's Day.
All this could be recognized, thousands of years before the Mystery of Golgotha, in certain parts of the world. And out of this knowledge arose the inception of Summer Mysteries.
In the mid-summer mysteries, the mysteries of St. John that were celebrated especially in the North, the pupils of initiates under the guidance of these initiates, tried to accompany the earth-soul to the vast expanse of the stars, in order to read out of the stars what spiritual happenings and facts are connected with the earth. And, during the time between Christmas and the Day of St. John, they pursued this soaring of the earth-soul towards the world of the stars, this striving of the earth-soul towards the stars. And an echo — but only a traditional echo — of this striving of the earth-soul towards the stars is still to be found in the way the date for the Easter Festival is set.
The Easter Festival is set for the first Sunday following the vernal full moon and thus takes place in conformity with the stars. The reason for this must be sought in ancient times, when it was said: the soul of man desires to follow the earth-soul on her path to the stars and consider the star-wisdom as something whereby man may be guided.
Thus the Spring Festival, the Easter Festival, was set not according to earthly calculation, but according to heavenly calculation, to star calculation.
Especially in the span of time between the eighth pre-Christian century and the fourth post-Christian century, the feeling prevailed in the folk souls of civilized people that human beings were saddened by mankind's cosmic destiny. For there still existed the longing to follow the earth-soul, which desired to soar up to the stars in springtime. But the human soul, which was tied to the body, could do so no longer. There was no possibility of gaining from nature the ability to soar upward to the world of stars, such as it had existed in ancient times.
Human beings, therefore, could easily comprehend why the Easter Festival, which was to celebrate the Christ's death and resurrection, should occur just in springtime.
And the Deity came to their aid, by letting the death of Christ Jesus occur in the spring. Even the setting of the Easter Festival, however, revealed the fact that it was not permissible to use earthly calculations. The Christmas Festival could be computed by earthly means; for then the world-soul was inhabiting the earth. Thus the Christmas Festival had to be set for a definite day.
This setting of the Easter Festival contains profound wisdom. Yet the modern age thinks differently. About twenty-four years ago, I had weekly meetings with a well-known astronomer. Our meetings took place in a small circle of friends. This astronomer could reason only in the following way: All the account books of the earth are thrown into disorder by having the Easter Festival take place on different days. According to his opinion, the least one could do was to set the Easter Festival for the first Sunday in April, or regulate the date in some abstract way. As you know, a movement exists in the world which strives for such an abstract regulation of the Easter Festival. People want to have order in their debits and credits, which play such an important part in modern life. And now the Easter Festival, whose celebration, after all, requires several days, causes a great deal of disorder. It would be much more efficient to set one definite day of the year for its observance!
These things are an outward symbol of the fact that people want to banish from the world all that conforms to spiritual standards. Here is preeminently shown that we have become materialists who want to banish the spiritual more and more from human existence.
Formerly, however, the human being experienced the course of the year in such a way that, by accompanying the earth-soul into the cosmos in springtime and around the time of St. John's Day, he also learned every year how to follow the spiritual entities of the higher Hierarchies and, above all, the human souls who had passed out of this world.
In ancient times, people were conscious of the fact that, by experiencing the course of the year, they learnt how to follow the souls of the dead; learnt to find out, as it were, how their dead kinfolk were faring. And people felt that springtime not only brought them the first blossoms, but also the opportunity of discovering how their kinfolk were faring. Something spiritual was united, in a very concrete way, with this experiencing of the seasons.
And people in ancient times were much concerned with that which is connected with the earthly element, to the degree that the earthly is influenced by the stars. All this, however, has been outgrown by modern man. When we observe St. John's Day — the time when we could accompany the earth-soul soaring upward to unite itself with the stars — the antipodes celebrate Christmas. Thus, in that part of the world, the earth-soul retires into the earth.
You must consider that human beings during ancient, spiritualized times knew so little of the antipodes that the earth was thought of as a disk. Therefore it was impossible to have any relation to the antipodes.
By learning to think of the earth as a rounded body, one became independent of the course of the year. As long as one lived in a restricted region, the course of the seasons was an absolute fact. Today, when one travels across the globe without hindrance and, entering different localities, minimizes the incidents of the seasons, one is unable to experience their course. One also lacks the former intensive relation to the Festivals. You will realize how much less concrete and much more abstract our Festivals have become. People know by tradition that Christmas is the time for exchanging presents — and, besides, children enjoy their few days' vacation. At Easter, one or the other ritual may be witnessed. But in what way do present-day people concretely experience the spiritual world by means of the seasons? Today we are unable to understand the connection between our Festivals of the year and the course of the seasons.
Not only the human being has, in regard to his own person, become an Ego-being, a free being, but also the earth has emancipated herself from the universe. In modern times, the earth stands no longer in so close a relation to the universe as was formerly the case, at least as far as mankind's evolution is concerned. Hence man has become increasingly obliged to seek in his inner being what he cannot find outside.
As men became more and more intellectual, they acquired a natural science concerned with all that is outside of man. What I have in mind is not physics or chemistry which, in a purely external sense, are concerned only with what lies outside of man. I am speaking of biology. This science occupies itself in an intensive way with the lower, and also the higher animals, right up to the very highest species. And we have attained to a marvelous, admirable science in regard to the animal form, so that we are able today to have conceptions of how one animal form has developed out of another. Out of this grew the Darwin-Haeckel conception that the human form has developed out of the animal form. Yet this theory teaches us extraordinarily little about our own nature. It only marks the end of a zoological line. The human being does not attain a knowledge of himself as man, but only as the highest animal. This is a great scientific accomplishment, but it must be interpreted in the right way. People must learn to concede that science can only teach us what man is not.
As soon as it has become general knowledge that science must concern itself not with what man is, but with what man is not, then science will become enlightened. Then we shall be able to study all the forms living in the animal kingdom, as well as those in the plant kingdom.
Then we shall be able to say: “There outside, we have all the animal shapes. These we had to leave behind in the outer world; for, if they were still within us, we could never have become men. Natural science tells us of the things that we had to conquer within ourselves. We evolved by discarding, more and more, the natural forms, by ejecting them and retaining that which is not nature, but which pertains to spirit and soul.”
Man must come to the point where he can address science in the following way: “You are great, for you have taught me what man is not. Hence I must look for man's being in a sphere totally different from external, physical science. I can become a true scientist only by recognizing that man is not a product of nature, topping the line of animals, but that the animals are formations cast off and left behind by man. Only thus can I attain a correct relation to science.” In order to speak such words, man will be compelled to recognize things, now not through external observation, but out of his inner nature. And at the moment when man is able to say to himself: “Science, in the modern sense, does not inform us about man, but it only informs us concerning what man is not” — at this moment it will be recognized how much the world has need of spiritual science. For there is nothing else that gives us the possibility of recognizing man as Man. Without spiritual science, we can come to know only the external sheath of man as the final product of the animal kingdom.
Just by standing correctly on natural-scientific ground, we may fully appreciate natural science as something lying outside of man. To attain a knowledge of man — also with regard to his physical attributes — we must pursue a different path.
Anthroposophy has to strive for this spiritual observation. I shall demonstrate this fact by a few concrete examples.
Because we are influenced by the materialistic spirit of the age, there is a tendency in our schools to educate children by pointing to their bodily nature. Nowadays people make experiments involving the memory, even the faculties of willing and thinking. I do not object to such things, which may be quite interesting, inasmuch as science is concerned. It is, nevertheless, terrible to apply such experiments in a pedagogical way. If we can approach the child only by means of external experiments, this proves how completely estranged we have become from man's real being. Anyone inwardly connected with the child does not need external experiments. I wish, however, to emphasize once more that I am not opposed to experimental psychology. Yet we must acquire the faculty to enter man's being by the inward means of spirit and soul.
For instance, we are told: “A child's memory, his power of remembering, may be exerted too much or too little in his ninth or tenth year.” The clamor against over-exerting the memory can lead to the result of exerting it too little. We must always try to find the middle course. For instance, we may make too great demands on a nine or ten-year-old's memory. The real consequences will not appear before the person in question has reached the age of thirty or forty, or perhaps still later. Then this person may develop rheumatism or diabetes. By overexerting a child's memory at the wrong time — let us say between the ninth and tenth year — we cause during this youthful stage an exaggerated depositing of faulty metabolic products. These connections, lasting during a man's entire earth-life, go generally unnoticed.
On the other hand, by exercising the memory too little — that is, by letting a child's memory remain idle — we bring forth a tendency to all kinds of inflammations appearing in later years.
What is important to know is the following: that the bodily states of a certain life-period are the consequences of the soul and spirit states of another.
Or let us mention something else. We make experiments as to how quickly eight, nine, or ten-year old children in the grammar school tire during a reading lesson. We can work our graphs which show that the pupils tire after a certain length of time when doing arithmetic, and again after a certain length of time when doing gymnastics. Then the lessons are arranged according to these charts.
Of course, these charts are very interesting for purely objective science, to which I pay all due respect. I have no quarrel with such methods; but, with regard to education, they are of no use whatsoever. For between the change of teeth and puberty — that is, just at the grammar school age — we can educate and teach in the right way only by not over-exerting either the head or the limbs, but by stressing the use of the respiratory and circulatory system, the rhythmical system. Above all, we should inject into gymnastic exercises rhythm and time-beat: an element of art should be introduced.
Hence the art of eurythmy is so well adapted to educational purposes. Here the artistic element enters into the child's movements. Similarly, we should relieve the child's head by keeping him away from too much thinking; but teach him instead in a pictorial, imaginative way, present things to the child pictorially. For then he is not made to exert either his nervous-sensuous or his motor system, but mostly his rhythmic system. And this system does not become tired.
You only need to consider that our hearts must beat all night long, even when we are tired and want to rest. We must ceaselessly breathe between our birth and death. It is only the motor and sensuous-nervous systems that tire. The rhythmic system never tires. Therefore the child's schooling, at a time when he must take into his soul things of the greatest importance, should be organized in such a way that those of the child's faculties are called forth which never tire. If we calculate, however, that some subject exhausts the child in a stated period, and then employ charts of this kind, the educational methods are worked out in a wrong way, and not in a correct way. We must realize one thing: What experimental psychology makes clear is essentially the non-human. The human must be inwardly recognized.
In this way, medicine too will be penetrated by thoughts pertaining to spirit and soul. In ancient times, medicine was dominated by such thoughts, and the activities of healing and educating were designated by the same word. When the human being entered the world, he was considered of being in need of healing. Education was tantamount to healing. This will again be possible once the knowledge given by spirit and soul will have advanced to a point where the deeper connections of these things can be discerned. As I said before: Too little exertion of the memory causes subsequent inflammations; too great exertion causes deposits of metabolic products.
By looking at the effect of the action of spirit and soul on the physical, the spiritual element can be found in every single illness. And, conversely, we learn to recognize the cosmos; to recognize the spiritual state of matter within the cosmos. Then therapy may be added to pathology. And here we are filled with the thought that since the Mystery of Golgotha we are obliged to appeal to the soul's inner essence. We can no longer draw the spirit-soul element out of our external surroundings. By considering, in the lecture-halls of anatomy, merely the physical-sensible, we shall call forth a cry such as was uttered during a recent medical Congress. Impelled by the misery of the age, a medical scientist called out: “Give us corpses! Then we shall be able to advance in medicine. Give us corpses!” — Certainly, this cry is perfectly valid today; and, again, I do not fight against this demand for corpses. All this, however, can develop in the right way only if, on the other hand, the cry is uttered: “Give us the possibility of looking into spirit and soul, so that we may recognize how they continually build up the body, and continually destroy it.”
All this is connected with the right comprehension of the Mystery of Golgotha. For the Christ wanted us to comprehend again how to heal out of our inner being. Because of this, He sent the Healing Spirit. What He wanted to implant into mankind will bring us physical knowledge, but a physical knowledge permeated by the spirit.
Thus we comprehend the Christ correctly by grasping, in the right way, this word of the Gospel: “Whoever utters incessantly the cry: Lord, Lord! or Christ, Christ! should not, therefore, be considered a true Christian.” Anthroposophy is often reproached for speaking less of the Christ than does external religion. Then I often say to those who blame Anthroposophy: “Is there not an ancient Commandment recognized also by Christians, but forgotten in this eternal mentioning of the Christ: `Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain?' This is one of the ten Commandments.”
Whoever speaks ceaselessly of the Christ; whoever has the Christ's name constantly on his lips, sins against the sacredness of His name. Anthroposophy wants to be Christian in all it does and is. Therefore it cannot be reproached for speaking too little of the Christ. The consciousness that the Christ is living permeates everything brought forth by Anthroposophy. And thus it does not want to have Lord, Lord! incessantly on its lips. The less it speaks of the name “Christ,” the more truly does it desire to be Christian.