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Karmic Relationships III
GA 237

10. Evolution of the Michael Principle Throughout the Ages
The Split of Cosmic Intelligence

4 August 1924, Dornach

The fundamental feeling which I have wanted to call forth is this:—The individual who finds himself within the Anthroposophical Movement should begin to feel something of the peculiar karmic position which the impulse to Anthroposophy gives to a man. We cannot but confess that in the ordinary course of life man feels very little of his karma. He confronts his life as though the things that become his life's experience happened by fortuitous concatenations of circumstance. He pays little heed to the fact that the things that meet him in earthly life from birth till death contain the inner, karmic relationships of destiny. Or, if he does not consider this, he is all too prone to believe that a kind of fatalism is herein expressed,—and that human freedom is thereby called into question, and the like.

I have often said that the more intensely we penetrate the karmic connections, the more do we see the true essence of freedom. We need not therefore fear that by entering into the karmic relationships more accurately we shall lose our open and unimpaired vision of the essence of human freedom. I have described the matters connected with the former earthly lives of those who come into the Michael community, and with their lives between death and a new birth. You will have seen that with all such human beings, that is to say, in the last resort, with all of you—it is of the greatest importance, that the Spiritual plays a deep and significant part in the whole inner configuration of the soul.

In our materialistic age with all its conditions of life, of education and upbringing, a man can only come sincerely to a thing like Anthroposophy (otherwise his coming to it is insincere)—he can only come to it sincerely through the fact that he bears within him a karmic impulse impelling him towards the Spiritual. In this karmic impulse are summed up all those experiences which he underwent in the way I have described before he came down into the present earthly life.

Now, my dear friends, when a man is thus strongly united with spiritual impulses which work immediately upon his soul, he will as he descends from the spiritual into the physical worlds, enter less deeply, unite himself less strongly with the external, bodily nature. All those who have grown into the Michael stream as above described, were thus predestined to enter into this physical body with a certain reservation, if I may put it so. This too lies deep in the karma of the souls of anthroposophists.

In those, on the other hand, who out of an inner impulse quite consciously and anxiously hold themselves at a distance from things anthroposophical, we shall always find that they are fully and firmly established in the physical bodily nature. In the men of today who turn to that spiritual life which Anthroposophy would give, we find a looser relationship at any rate of the astral body and Ego-organisation with the physical and etheric organisation.

Now this means that such a man will less easily come to terms with his life. He will find life less easy to deal with, for the simple reason that he has more possibilities to choose from than other men. And he easily grows out of the very things that other men easily grow into. Think only, my dear friends, to what an intense degree many a human being of today is what the connections of outer life have made of him. No one can doubt that he fits into these connections, however questionable the thing may sometimes be in other respects. We see him as a clerk, a City man, a Builder, a Contractor, a Captain of industry and so forth. He is what he is as an absolute matter of course. There is no question about it. True, such a man will sometimes say he feels he was born for a better, or at any rate a different kind of life; but such a saying is not taken so very seriously. And now compare the infinite difficulties we find in those who are drawn by an inner impulse into the spiritual life of Anthroposophy. Perhaps we see it nowhere with such remarkable intensity as in the youth, and notably the youngest of the youth.

Take for instance the older pupils of the Waldorf School, those in the top classes of the school. We find, both in our boy and girl pupils, that they progress comparatively quickly in their development of soul and mind and spirit. But this does not make life any easier to take hold of for the young people. On the contrary, it generally becomes more difficult—being, as it is, more complicated. The possibilities become wider and more far-reaching. In the ordinary course of modern life, (certain exceptions being omitted) it is not overwhelmingly difficult for those who stand as teachers or educators beside the growing adolescent, to find the ways and means of giving sound advice. But when we bring our children on as we do in the Waldorf School, it becomes far more difficult to give advice, for the simple reason that the universal humanity is more developed in them. The wide horizon which the boy or girl acquires in the Waldorf School, places before their inner vision a greater number of possibilities.

Hence it is so necessary for Waldorf teachers—who again have been guided to this calling by their karma—to acquire a wide horizon and a broad outlook, a knowledge of the world and a sound feeling of what is going on in the world. At this point all the detailed educational principles and methods are far less important than wideness of outlook. Here again, in the karma of such a teacher, we see how large the number of possibilities becomes; far, far greater than in ordinary life. The child or adolescent confronts the Waldorf teacher, once again, not with definite and defined, but with manifold riddles,—differentiated in all conceivable directions.

The real karmic conditions and pre-disposing causes of all that impels a man to Anthroposophy will best be understood if we speak not in pedantic outline and definition, but rather hint at the things in one way or another, characterising more the atmosphere in which, if I may put it so, anthroposophists unfold their lives.

All this makes it necessary for the anthroposophist to pay heed to one condition of his karma—a condition that is sure to be present in him to a high degree. Much can be said,—and we shall still have to say many things—about the reasons why one or another character or temperament is drawn to Anthroposophy after the events of the spiritual world which I have described. But all these impulses, which bring the single anthroposophists to Anthroposophy, have as it were one counterpart, which the Spirit of the World has made more strong in them than in other men. All the many possibilities that are there with respect to the most manifold things in life, demand from the anthroposophist initiative—inner initiative of soul. We must become aware of this. For the anthroposophist this proverb must hold good. He must say to himself: “Now that I have become an anthroposophist through my karma, the impulses which have been able to draw me to Anthroposophy require me to be attentive and alert. For somehow or somewhere, more or less deeply in my soul, there will emerge the necessity for me to find inner initiative in life,—initiative of soul which will enable me to undertake something or to make some judgment or decision out of my own inmost being.” Verily, this is written in the karma of every single anthroposophist: “Be a man of initiative, and beware lest through hindrances of your own body, or hindrances that otherwise come in your way, you do not find the centre of your being, where is the source of your initiative. Observe that in your life all joy and sorrow, all happiness and pain will depend on the finding or not finding of your own individual initiative.” This should stand written as though in golden letters, constantly before the soul of the anthroposophist. Initiative lies in his karma, and much of what meets him in this life will depend on the extent to which he can become willingly, actively conscious of it.

You must realise that very, very much has been said in these few words. For in our time there is extraordinarily much that can lead one astray with respect to all that guides and directs one's judgment; and without clear judgment on the conditions of life, initiative will not find its way forth from the deep foundations of the soul. Now what is it that can bring us to clear judgment on the things of life, especially in this our age? My dear friends, let us here consider one of the most important and characteristic features of our time. Let us then answer the question: How can we come to a certain clarity of judgment in face of it?

You will see presently that in what I am now going to tell you we have a kind of “egg of Columbus.” With the egg of Columbus the point was to have the happy idea—how to set it up so that it would stand. In what I shall now tell you the point will also be to have the happy idea.

We live in the age of materialism. All that is taking place, by forces of destiny around us and within us, stands in the sign of materialism on the one hand, and of the intellectualism that is already so widespread, on the other. I characterised this intellectualism yesterday when I spoke of journalism and of the impulse everywhere to expatiate on the affairs of the world in public meetings, mass meetings and the like. We must become aware, to what an extent the man of today is subject to the influences of these two currents of the time. For it is almost as impossible to escape from these two, from intellectualism and materialism, as it is to avoid getting wet if you go out in the rain without an umbrella. These things are around us everywhere. After all, there are certain things we simply cannot know (and yet we have to know),—which we cannot know unless we read them in the papers. There are certain things we cannot learn (and we have to learn them) unless we learn them in the sense of materialism. How is one to become a doctor today, unless he is willing to consume a goodly portion of materialism? He can do no other than take the materialism too. He must do so as a matter of course, and if he is unwilling to do so he cannot become a proper doctor in the sense of the present age. Thus we are perpetually exposed to these things. This surely enters very strongly indeed into our karma.

Now all these things are as though created purposely to undermine initiative in the souls of men. Every public meeting, every mass meeting to which we go, only fulfils its purpose as such, if the initiative of the individual human being, with the exception of the speakers and leaders, is undermined. Nor does any newspaper fulfil its purpose if it does not create an atmosphere of opinion, thus undermining the individual's initiative.

These things must be seen. Moreover, we must remember that this ordinary consciousness of man is a very tiny chamber in the soul, while all that is going on around him, in the forms which I have just described, has a gigantic influence on his sub-conscious life. And after all, we have no alternative. Beside the fact that we are human beings pure and simple, we must be “contemporaries” of our age. Some people think it is possible in a given age to be a human being pure and simple, but this too would lead to our downfall. We must also be men and women of our age. Of course it is bad if we are no more than this; but we must be contemporaries of our age, that is to say, we must have a feeling of what is going on in our own time.

Now it is true that many anthroposophists let their minds be carried away from a living feeling of what is present in their time. For they prefer to paddle in the Timeless. In this respect one has the strangest experiences in conversation with anthroposophists. They are very well aware, for instance, who Lycurgus was, but their ignorance of their contemporaries, every now and then, is simply touching.

This too is due to the fact that such a man is pre-disposed to the unfolding of inner initiative. His karma having placed him in the world with this quality, he is always in the position (forgive the comparison) of a bee that has a sting but is afraid to use it at the right moment. The sting is the initiative, but the man is afraid to use it. He is afraid, above all, of stinging into the Ahrimanic realm. Not that he fears that he will thereby hurt the Ahrimanic. No, he is afraid that the sting will recoil into his own body. This, to some extent, is what his fear is like. Thus through an undetermined fear of life the initiative remains inactive.

These are the things which we must see through. On all hands, theoretically and practically, we meet with the materialism of our time. It is powerful, and we let our initiative be put off by it. If an anthroposophist has a sense for these things, he will perceive how he is being confused, put off, thrown back on every hand by materialism theoretical and practical, even in the deepest impulses of his will. Now this gives a peculiar form to his karma. If you will observe yourselves truly, you will discover it in your lives day by day, from morning until evening. And out of all this there naturally arises as a prevalent feeling of life: How shall I prove, theoretically and practically, the falsehood of materialism? This impulse lives in the hearts and minds of many anthroposophists. Somehow or other they want to convict materialism of falsehood. It is the riddle of life, the riddle that life has set so many of us in theory and practice: How shall we contrive to prove the falsehood of materialism?

Here is one who has been through the schools and has become a learned man. You will find many an example in the Anthroposophical Society. Now he is awakened to be an anthroposophist. He feels a tremendous impulse to refute materialism, to fight it, to say all manner of things against it. So he begins to attack and refute materialism, and maybe he thinks that in this very act he stands most thoroughly within the stream of Michael. But as a rule he meets with little success, and we cannot but admit: these things that are said against materialism, though they often proceed from a thoroughly good will, do not succeed. They make no impression upon the materialist in theory or practice. Why not?

This is the very thing that hinders our clarity of judgment. Here stands the anthroposophist. In order not to be hampered in his initiative, he wants to be clear what it is that confronts him in materialism. He wants to probe the wrongness of materialism to its foundations. But as a rule he finds little success. He thinks he is refuting materialism, but it is ever on its legs again. Why is this so?

Now comes what I have called the egg of Columbus. Why is it so, my dear friends? It is due to the simple fact that materialism is true. I have said this many times. Materialism is not wrong, it is quite right. Here lies the reason. And the anthroposophist should learn in a very special way the lesson that materialism is right. He should learn it in this way:—Materialism is right, but it holds good of the outer physical body only. The others, who are materialists, know the physical only,—or at least they think they know it. Here lies the error, not in the materialism itself. When we learn anatomy or physiology or practical outer life in the materialistic way we learn the truth, but it holds good in the physical alone. This confession must be made out of the inmost depths of our human being. I mean, the confession that materialism is right in its own domain—nay more, that it is the splendid achievement of our age to have discovered what is right and true in the domain of materialism. But the thing also has its practical, its karmically practical aspect.

This is what will happen in the karma of many an anthroposophist. He will come to have the feeling: Here am I living with human beings with whom indeed karma has united me. (I spoke of this yesterday). Here am I living with human beings who know materialism only. They only know what is true of the physical life, and they cannot approach Anthroposophy because they are put off by the very correctness of the knowledge that they have.

Now, my dear friends, we live in the age of Michael, and in our souls is the Intellectuality that fell from Michael. When Michael himself administered the Cosmic Intelligence, these things were different. From the materialism of that time, the Cosmic Intelligence was ever and again tearing his soul away. There were of course materialists even in former ages, but not as in our age. In former ages a man might be a materialist. Then with his Ego and astral body he was implanted in his physical and etheric body. He felt his physical body. But the Cosmic Intelligence, that Michael administered, tore his soul away from it ever and again. Today we are side by side—indeed we are often karmically united—with men in whom it is as follows. They too have the physical body; but the Cosmic Intelligence has fallen away from Michael and is living individually,—personally, as it were,—in the human being. Hence the Ego—all that is soul and spirit—remains in the physical body. Thus there are standing, side by side with us, men whose soul and spirit has dived deep down into their physical body.

When we stand side by side with non-spiritual human beings, we must see these things according to the truth. Our standing beside them must not merely call forth in us sympathy or antipathy in the ordinary sense. It must be an experience that moves our soul deeply, and it can indeed be a shattering experience, my dear friends.

To realise how tragic, how deeply moving an experience it must be, to stand thus side by side with materialists (who, as I said before, are right in their own way) we need only look at those among them who are often highly gifted and who out of certain instincts may have very good impulses indeed; yet they cannot come to spirituality. We see the tragedy of it when we come to consider the great gifts and noble qualities of many of those who are materialists. For after all, there can be no question but that they who in this time of great decisions do not find their way to the Spirit, will suffer harm in their soul-life for the next incarnation. Great as their qualities may be, they will suffer harm. And when we see how through their karma a number of human beings today have the inner impulse to spirituality while others cannot come near to it,—when we behold this contrast—our karmic living-together with such as I have here described should find a deep response within our souls. It should touch us and move us with a sense of tragedy. Until it does so, we shall never come to terms with our own karma. For if we sum up all that I have said of Michaelism, (if I may now so call it) then we shall find: the Michaelites are indeed taken hold of in their souls by a power that is seeking to work from the Spiritual into the full human being, even down into the Physical. I described it yesterday as follows. I said: these human beings will put aside the element of race,—the element which, from natural foundations of existence, gives the human being such or such a stamp. If a man is taken hold of by the Spirit in this earthly incarnation inasmuch as he now becomes an anthroposophist he is thereby prepared in future to become a man no longer distinguished by such external features but distinguished rather by what he was in the present incarnation. Let us be conscious of this in all humility: The time will come when in these human beings the Spirit will reveal its own power to form the physiognomy,—to shape the whole form of man.

Such a thing has never yet been revealed in the history of the world. Hitherto the physiognomies of men have been formed on the basis of their nationality, out of the Physical. Today we can still tell by the physiognomy of men, where they hail from,—especially when they are young, when the cares of life or the joys and divine enthusiasms of life have not yet left their mark. But in the time to come there will be human beings by whose physiognomy and features alone one will be able to tell what they were in their past incarnation. One will know that in their past incarnation they penetrated to the things of the Spirit. Then will the others stand beside them, and what will their karma then signify? It will have cast aside the ordinary karmic affinities.

My dear friends, in this respect he above all who knows how to take life in real earnest will tell you: One has been karmically united, or is still karmically united, with many who cannot find their way into this spirituality. And however many a kinship may still be left in life, one feels a more or less deep estrangement, a justified estrangement. The karmic connection, as it would work itself out in ordinary life, falls away; it goes. But it remains for something different. I would put it in this way:—From the one who stands outside in the field of materialism to the one who stands in the field of spirituality, nothing else will remain of karma; but this one thing will remain, that he must see him. He will become attentive to him. We can look to a time in the future, when those who in the course of the 20th century are coming ever more into the things of the Spirit, will stand side by side with others who were karmically united with them in the former life on earth. In that future time the karmic affinities, the karmic relationships, will make themselves felt far less. But of all the karmic relationships this will have remained: Those who are standing in the field of materialism will have to see and witness those who stand in the field of spirituality. Those who were materialists today will in the future have to look continually upon those who came to the things of the Spirit. This will have been left of karma.

Once again a shattering, a deeply moving act, my dear friends. And to what end? Truly it lies in a far-reaching Divine cosmic plan. For how will the materialists of today let anything be proved to them? By having it before their eyes—by being able to touch it with their hands. Those who stand in the field of materialism will be able to see with their eyes and touch with their hands those with whom they once were karmically united, perceiving in their physiognomy, in their whole expression, what the Spirit really is, for it will have become creative in outer form and feature. In such human beings it will thus be proved, visibly for the eyes of man, what the Spirit is as a creative power in the world. And it will be part of the karma of anthroposophists to demonstrate, for those who stand in the field of materialism today, that the Spirit truly is, and proves itself in man himself, through the wise councils of the Gods.

But to come to this, it is necessary for us to confront intellectualism, not in a vague and nebulous and ill-advised way, but truly. We must not go out, my dear friends, without an umbrella. I mean, we are exposed to all that I described above as the two streams—all the writing in the papers, all the talking in public meetings. As we cannot escape becoming wet if we go out without umbrellas, so these things too come over us, we cannot escape them. In the tenderest age of childhood,—when we are twenty to twenty-four years old—we have to pursue our studies (whatever they may be) through materialistic books. Yes, in this tender age of childhood—the age of twenty to twenty-four—they take good care to saturate and well prepare our inner life. For, as we study what is there put before us, we are trained in materialism by the very structure and configuration of the sentences. We are utterly defenseless. There is no help for it.

Such a thing cannot be countered by merely formal arguments. We cannot keep a man of today from being exposed to intellectual materialism. To write non-materialistic text-books on botany or anatomy today, simply would not do. The connections of life will not permit of it. The point is, my dear friends, that we should take hold of these things in no merely formal sense but in their reality. We must understand that since Michael no longer draws out the soul-and-spirit from the physical bodily nature as in times past, Ahriman can play his game with the soul-and-spirit as it lives within the body. Above all when the soul-spiritual is highly gifted and is yet firmly fastened in the body, then especially it can be exposed to Ahriman. Precisely in the most gifted of men does Ahriman find his prey,—so as to tear the Intelligence from Michael, remove it far from Michael. At this point something happens which plays a far greater part in our time than is generally thought. The Ahrimanic spirits, though they cannot incarnate, can incorporate themselves; temporarily they can penetrate human souls, permeate human bodies. In such moments the brilliant and overpowering spirit of an Ahrimanic Intelligence is stronger than anything that the individual being possesses,—far, far stronger. Then, however intelligent he may be, however much he may have learned, and especially if his physical body is thoroughly taken hold of by all his learning, an Ahrimanic spirit can for a time incorporate itself in him. Then it is Ahriman who looks out of his eyes, Ahriman who moves his fingers, Ahriman who blows his nose, Ahriman who walks.

Anthroposophists must not recoil from knowledge such as this. For such a thing alone can bring the realities of intellectualism before our souls. Ahriman is a great and outstanding Intelligence, and Ahriman's purpose with earthly evolution is overwhelming and thorough. He makes use of every opportunity. If the Spiritual has implanted itself so strongly in the bodily nature of a human being,—if the bodily nature is taken hold of by the Spirit to such an extent that the consciousness is thereby in a measure stunned or lowered or impaired,—Ahriman uses his opportunity. And then it happens (for in our age this has become possible) then it happens that a brilliant spirit takes possession of the human being, overpowering the human personality; and such a spirit, dwelling within a human personality and overpowering him, is able to work upon earth—able to work just like a human being.

This is the immediate striving of Ahriman, and it is strong. I have told you, my dear friends, of what will be fulfilled at the end of this century, with those who now come to the things of the Spirit and take them in full earnestness and sincerity. This is the time above all, which the Ahrimanic spirits wish to use most strongly. This is the time they want to use, because human beings are so completely wrapped up in the Intelligence that has come over them. They have become so unbelievably clever. Why, we are quite nervous today about the cleverness of the people we shall meet! We can scarcely ever escape from this anxiety, for nearly all of them are clever. Really we cannot escape from this anxiety about the cleverness of men. But of a truth the cleverness which is thus cultivated is used by Ahriman. And when moreover the bodies are especially adapted to a possible lowering or diminution of consciousness, it may happen that Ahriman himself emerges, incorporated in human form. Twice already it can be demonstrated that Ahriman has thus appeared as an author. And for those who desire as anthroposophists to have a clear and true vision of life, it will be a question of making no mistakes, even in such a case.

For what is the use of it, my dear friends, if someone finds a book somewhere and writes his name on it and he is not the author? The true author is confused with another. And if Ahriman is the author of a book, how can it be of any benefit if we do not perceive who is the true author, but hold a human being to be the author? For Ahriman by his brilliant gifts can find his way into everything—he can slip into the very style of a man. He has a way of approach to all things. What good can come of it if Ahriman is the real author, and we mistake it for a human work? To acquire the power of discrimination in this sphere too, is absolutely necessary, my dear friends.

I wanted to lead up to this point, describing thus in general a phenomenon which is also playing its part in our present age. In next Friday's lecture I shall have to speak of such phenomena in greater detail.