Anthroposophic Movement (1938)
III. Critical Judgment and Colour of the Times
Dornach, 12 June, 1923
In my attempt to describe the career of the various societies, or associations, with which the Anthroposophical Society has a certain connection (though one, which at the present day is much misunderstood), I was led yesterday to allude to the phenomenal appearance of H. P. Blavatsky, and I tried to give some idea of the manner in which this personality entered into the spiritual life of the closing nineteenth century. I was obliged to go back to this particular personality, because, after all, the impulse which, at the end of the nineteenth century, led to the association of the people, whom I classed two days ago under the name ‘homeless souls’, came from those works of which Blavatsky was the author.
Although Anthroposophy, and its appearance on the scene, has in reality scarcely anything to do with the works of Blavatsky, still I do not merely want in these lectures to describe the historic aspect of the anthroposophic movement only; I want also to point out its associative features, as we have them before us in the anthroposophic movement to-day. And this makes it necessary to take such points to start from, as I have selected in the past two days.
Now of course, as regards everything that may be said about Blavatsky, it is very easy to-day, if one wants to discredit the kind of spiritual aspirations that manifested themselves, say, in the ‘Theosophical Society’, — it is easy enough to dismiss a phenomenon like Blavatsky by pointing out the very dubious character of what one finds in this individual's personal biography.
I might instance a great number of things. I only need allude to the notions, which arose amongst the society that had gathered round Blavatsky and her spiritual life, that certain information about the spiritual world had been made known through the transmission of physical letters, physical communications, — by means, that is, of writings on paper, — from a quarter not situated within the physical world. They used to call these documents ‘Masters' Letters’, — used to exhibit them, and declare them not to have been written in the ordinary way, or at least not conveyed in the ordinary way to the place from which they were then produced. It was therefore an affair which made a considerable stir, when subsequently, in the house in which these letters had been exhibited under H. P. Blavatsky's leadership, a whole conjuror's apparatus of sliding doors was disclosed, by means of which the letters could simply be pushed in, through these doors, in the ordinary physical way, but fraudulently, into the room where they then turned up as magic documents; and other things of the sort.
It is, of course, exceedingly easy for people in our times to point to such things, and to find in them plain evidence that such a personality as Blavatsky's can be simply settled with the words: ‘She was just a swindler’. — Well, as to this aspect of the phenomena that. played around Blavatsky, we shall still have several things to say. But, for the moment, there is another standpoint still that we may take, namely, of not troubling ourselves for the moment with all that went on on the external side of the affair.
Certainly, there are things in it which have raised objection. But let us just neglect these objections for a while; say that we don't trouble ourselves about all the things which went on on the exterior, and simply consider the written works themselves. And, if one does so, one will then come to the conclusion which I described to you recently, — to the conclusion, namely, that in Blavatsky's works one is largely dealing with a mass of chaotic, dilettante stuff, which has been scribbled down amongst the rest; but that, along with all this, there are things which unmistakably, when they come to be tested by proper methods, are in every way to be regarded as reproductions — by some means or other — of a very extensive knowledge of the spiritual world, or from the spiritual world. This is something which cannot be denied, despite any objections that may be raised.
And here then arises the exceedingly important and, as I think, crucial question for the inner history of civilized evolution: How and from what cause could it happen that, at the end of the nineteenth century, from — let us say so far — a questionable quarter, there could come actual tidings from a spiritual world? that there could come revelations of a spiritual world, which at the least, when taken as occasions for examining into the state of the facts, do show themselves, even to a spiritual observation of the objective and scientific kind, to be in every way deserving of most studious attention? — revelations which, about the fundamental laws of the world, the fundamental forces of the world, have more to tell, than everything which in modern times has been brought to light about the world's secrets, either by philosophy, or by any other of the different tendencies of world-conception. The question may well seem a crucial one,
And then, to face this, there is another problem again in civilized evolution, which must not be forgotten when speaking of the life-conditions of anything such as the Anthroposophical Society, or indeed in connection with any endeavours to find a way into the spiritual world. And this phenomenon of civilized evolution is: that the capacity for judgment, the power of conviction in any judgment, has altogether suffered very greatly in our age, — has gone back.
People allow themselves to be deceived in this respect by the great steps that have been made in progress. But if one considers these very steps of progress, and what the connection has been between these great steps forwards, that have been made in our day, and the course followed by its spiritual life, in so far as the individual human personalities have intervened as judgmatic persons in this spiritual life's course, — then one gets a background, so to speak, for observing with what capacity our age approaches phenomena of any kind, that appeal to the human powers of judgment.
There is really uncommonly much that might be mentioned. I will only pick out just a few instances. I would ask, for instance, those who have had anything to do with applied electricity, whether as professionals or amateurs, — I would ask them, what the so-called Ohm's Law means to-day for applied electricity? The answer would be, of course, that Ohm's Law forms one of the fundaments on which the whole system of applied electricity is built up. — When Ohm produced his first work, which was the basis for his later, so-called Ohm's Law, this work was rejected as ‘unusable’ by a distinguished learned faculty at one of the universities. Had things gone according to this learned faculty, there could be no applied electricity to-day.
Again, to take perhaps something more directly obvious to you: — you all know what the telephone means for us to-day in the whole of our civilized life. When Reis, who was outside the ring of official science, put on paper for the first time his idea of the telephone, and sent in his manuscript to one of the best-known periodicals of the day, the Poggendorff Annals, the work was returned as unusable.
So great, you see, is the power of conviction residing in people's judgment to-day, — and one might multiply such instances indefinitely. Great is the judgment of our times in its powers of conviction. One must simply look at these things with perfect objectivity.
One may pick out anything, lying, so to speak, on our top-peaks of civilization, and one will find everywhere the same kind of thing. Or, if one goes more into the hidden corners, well, there too very pretty examples may often be found, to illustrate the capacity of judgment in those quarters which have the leading voice to-day in all that may be termed the management of spiritual life.
And the public again, the mass of the public, who follow along the broad high-road of which I spoke two days ago, — they are entirely under the impress of all this, which is accepted as the recognized thing to-day. — Well, civilization is common to all countries; in no country is it better nor worse than in another.
Take an illustration such as this: Adalbert Stifter is a poet of some distinction. I don't, however, want now to go into his distinction as a poet, but to tell something out of his life. He passed, — extremely well indeed, — through the classical side of the secondary school, and then studied natural science, with the intention of qualifying as a secondary school teacher. But he was judged to be quite unsuit-able for a secondary school teacher. His talents were not judged adequate for a secondary school teacher. In the judgment of the authorities he was not talented enough to become a teacher at a secondary school.
Now strangely enough it happened, that a certain Baroness Muenk, who had nothing whatever to do with judging the qualifications of secondary school teachers, heard of the poet, Adalbert Stifter, made him read to her the poems which he had so far written, and to which he himself attached no great value, and downright compelled. him to publish them. They made at once a great sensation. And the authorities now said: We can have no better man to make school inspector for the whole country. And so it came about, that the very person, who but a little while before had been deemed incompetent to be himself a teacher, was now appointed chief superintendent over the whole of these teachers.
It would be extremely interesting, some time or other, to describe a series of such things, collected from all the various departments of spiritual life, beginning with a phenomenon like that of Julius Robert Mayer. The law connected with his name, that of the conservation of energy, is one, as you know, which I am obliged to contest in certain of its fields of application. Modern physics, however, does not contest it; it upholds it indeed in every particular, and is altogether built up on this law of the conservation of energy. Julius Robert Mayer, who to-day figures as a hero (you have heard me mention others before, such as Gregory Mendel, who had a similar fate), — Julius Robert Mayer, born at Heilbronn on the Neckar, was always at the bottom of his class; and at the University, to which he went on, — it was Tuebingen, — he one fine day was advised, on account of his performances, that it would be better for him to with-draw from the university. It is certainly no merit of the university's, that he came upon his discoveries; for, at the university, they wanted to turn him out, before ever he had a chance to take his degree and become a doctor.
Beginning with such things, down to the vast tragedy attending the name of that man, to whose immense desert it is owing, that puerperal fever, — which simply swept its people away until Semmelweiss appeared, — is to-day reduced to a minimum, — down to this whole vast tragedy of Semmelweiss, which finally resulted, as in the case of Julius Robert Mayer, in Semmelweiss' ending his days in a mad-house, despite the fact that he is one of mankind's greatest benefactors ... if one were to put all these things together, one would have an extremely important element in the history of civilization in recent times, and would thence be able to judge, how little power this externally progressive age had for hitting the facts, in its estimation of spiritual phenomena, — how little readiness there was, really, to enter into any signs that showed themselves on the horizon of its spiritual life.
Such things as these have to be taken into account, if one wishes to form a true picture of the antagonistic forces opposed to the intervention of any spiritual movement. And then one learns to know, what capacity there is for any sort of judgment in this, our present age, which is so specially proud of these powers of judgment that it does not possess.
Now it is really a remarkably symptomatic phenomenon, that what otherwise had only existed traditionally, hoarded up in all manner of secret societies, who had no intention whatever of letting it become public, — that all this hoarded store, or a great part of it, should suddenly appear openly published in the book of a woman, Blavatsky, — in a book bearing the title Isis Unveiled.
Naturally, it gave alarm to all the people who said to themselves: ‘This book contains a whole mass of things, that we have always kept under lock and key.’ And these societies, I may say, paid more heed to their locks and keys than our present Anthroposophical Society does.
In the Anthroposophical Society there most certainly was never any intention of keeping the contents of the cycles totally and absolutely secret; but what happened was, that, at a particular time, I found myself required to let those things, which otherwise I give by word of mouth, he made accessible to a larger circle. And since there was no time to go through the things and edit them, one simply let them be printed as ‘manuscript’ in the form they were in, which was not that in which one would otherwise have published them, — not, however, because one did not want to publish the material, but because one didn't want to publish the material in this form, and also because, after all, one wanted to see that these things should he read by people who have the preparatory training, for otherwise they are inevitably misunderstood.
But in spite of this, every one of the cycles is to be had to-day by anyone who requires it for antagonistic purposes. Those societies I am speaking of, who kept a certain spiritual treasure under lock and key, and put their people under oath to betray no word of it, they knew better how to take care of things. And they knew, that something very particular must be behind it, when a book suddenly appears, which this time really gave something of importance, such as I indicated. As for the things which have no importance, you need only go down a side-street in Paris to pick up basketfuls of the writings of the secret societies on sale; but the publication of these writings will occasion no alarm to the people who have kept the traditional knowledge locked up in their secret societies; for as a rule they are very valueless things that one finds published in this way.
Isis Unveiled, however, was not something valueless. This Isis Unveiled, indeed, delivered itself with a certain substantiality, that made the knowledge seem original which it imparted, and which had been so carefully preserved over from an ancient wisdom until now.
Well, as I said, those people, who were alarmed, could but think that there was something very particular behind it, — a betrayal from some quarter. I do not so much want now, in these lectures, to emphasize the inner side of the affair, which I have repeatedly discussed at one time or another in previous lectures from this or that aspect. I want more to-day to deal with the outer side of it, as the world judged it, which is of special importance for the history of the movement, — to describe how the world judged it, rather than what went on as facts behind the scenes. — This, then, the people could tell: namely, that somebody or other, who was initiated in these things, who had received traditional knowledge of them, must for some reason, — not necessarily a particularly good one — have given hints to Blavatsky. This, it was very easy to tell, without being wide of the truth, that somewhere or other, from some secret society, or group of societies, there had been a betrayal; and that then Blavatsky had been the means of making the thing public.
There would quite well, though, have been other ways of giving such things to the public, than by employing a lady of Blavatsky's kind as the means of publication.
There was, however, a reason, of which again I will only give the outer aspect, for employing this particular lady. And here I come to a chapter in our spiritual history, which is really a very curious one. At that time, when Blavatsky and her books came on the scene, there was but very little talk of what is in everybody's mouth to-day, namely, of Psycho-Analysis. But I can assure you, my dear friends, that the people, who had any powers of judgment, — that these people experienced in living truth, through this same phenomenon of Blavatsky, something, compared with which all that ever yet was written by any of the leading lights of Psycho-Analysis is really — as I said lately in another connection — a dilettanteism to the second degree. — For what does Psycho-Analysis propose to show?
In the point wherein Psycho-Analysis is in a sense right, it shows, that down below, at the bottom of the human being, there lives something, which, — whatever this ‘down below’ may be, — can be brought up to consciousness, and, when brought up, extends beyond what man has in his conscious-ness originally. So that one may say, if you like, that, hidden in the corporeal body, there is something which, when brought up into consciousness, looks like spirit. Through the corporeal body runs a rumble of spirit. — It is of course extremely elementary for the psycho-analyst in this way to fish up a few fragmentary leavings of life-experience from the bottom of the human being, — leavings, that is, remnants of life-realizations, which have not been lived through with quite sufficient intensity for the emotional requirements of the person in question, — which, as it were, have deposited themselves, form dregs in the man, and thereby bring him into a state of unstable, instead of stable equilibrium; and that then, what has thus collected during a man's life should be fished up, although it rumbles down below in unconsciousness, and when fished up into consciousness proves to be something spiritual, something which simply is not, so to speak, properly assimilated to the human being, and therefore rumbles in a disagreeable manner. When it becomes conscious, however, it can then be dispelled by the proper reaction, and so the man gets rid of the disagreeable rumbling.
It is interesting, though, what a point this psycho-analytic, dilettante method of investigation has reached to-day. With Jung, particularly, it is extremely interesting. Jung has found out, that down below, — the ‘down below’ can't, of course, be very exactly determined, but somewhere down below (its whole being is after all very indeterminate!), — that somewhere then, man has within his being everything in the nature of undigested experience that he may have lived through since his birth; that there, down below, within his human being, he has all sorts of things, that go back to his early forefathers, that may take us back indeed all the way through the life-experiences of the various races, and further back still. So that it seems to the psycho-specialists to-day by no means improbable, for instance, that some experience which they met with, like the OEdipus problem say, in Greece, left an impression on the people; and that then it was transmitted by heredity, on and on. And to-day some poor devil comes to the psycho-analyst's clinic, and he psycho-analyses him, and gets up something that is seated so deep down in the patient, that it doesn't come out of his own, present life, but from his father and forefather and fore-forefather, and so on, away back to the time of the ancient Greeks who lived in the days of the OEdipus problem. And so it has run down through the whole blood-stream, and can be psycho-analysed out again to-day. There are the OEdipus sensations, rumbling about in the man, and can be psycho-analyzed out of him. And then they think that they will come on really very interesting trains of connection, and on something that will lead back far into the races, if they psycho-analyse it out.
Only, — you see, — these are altogether dilettante methods of investigating. For you only need a little acquaintance with Anthroposophy to know, that it is possible to bring up a very great many things out of the under depths of man's life: his pre-natal life to begin with, his pre-earthly life, what the man went through before he came down into the physical world; that one can bring up out of him what he went through in previous earth-lives. There one comes out of dilettanteism and into actual reality!
And there, too, one comes to recognize, that in Man the whole secret of the Universe is contained, involved, rolled up together, as it were, in him. It was the view, after all, of ancient times as well, that the secret of the Universe is un-rolled, when Man brings up from within him all that lies hid in his own inner depths. That was why they called Man a Microcosm, not for the sake of a fine phrase, such as people are so fond of to-day, but because it was a fact of actual experience, that from the bottom depths of Man every conceivable thing can be fetched up whatsoever, that lies spread as a secret through the width and breadth of the Cosmos.
It is in reality the merest elementary dilettanteism, which one finds to-day as psycho-analysis. For, firstly, it is psychologic dilettanteism, — they don't know, that, when you get to a certain depth, physical and spiritual life are one. They merely regard the soul-life swimming on the top, and apply abstract notions to this surface soul-life; they never get down to those lower depths, where the soul-life lives creative, weaving, pulsing in blood and in breathing, where it is one, in fact, with the so-called material functions. They study the soul's life in a dilettante way. And again, they study the physical life in a dilettante way, inasmuch as they study it merely in its external appearance to the senses, and don't know that everywhere, in all sense-life, and above all in the human organism, there is hidden spirit.
And when two dilettanteisms are so interwoven, that the one is used to throw light on the other, as is done in psycho-analysis, then the dilettanteisms do not merely add, but they multiply together, and one gets dilettanteism squared.
Well, what displays itself in the form of this squared dilettanteism, was, in a way, to be seen unmistakably in the psychologic problem of Blavatsky. From some quarter or other there may have been something betrayed, which gave an incentment; and this incentment worked practically in the same way as though an invisible psycho-analyst — but a wise one this time! — had fetched up out of Blavatsky, by means, namely, of a sudden jerk, a whole mass of knowledge; which this time came from the actual person herself, and not from old writings that had been handed down by tradition from olden times. Something had here been brought to light out of the actual human being itself, by what I might call the invisible psycho-analyst. For, whether there was any traitor in the question, he, at any rate, was not the psycho-analyst; he only gave the jerk. The circumstances, however, themselves gave the jerk. — And what were the circumstances?
Look back at the evolution of the ages, to about the fifteenth century, and you will find, my dear friends, that it still, indeed frequently, happened, if people were stirred and roused by something or other (it merely needed to be some external phenomenon, that specially struck them), that then out of their own inner being there rose up before them some revelation of world-secrets. Later on, this has become something mystical and legendary; and the story told by Jacob Boehme, of how he had a marvellous revelation from gazing at a pewter plate, is thought very wonderful, simply because people do not know how things were in earlier times, and that down even into the fifteenth century it was still possible, through a comparatively, to all appearance trifling occasion, to call forth out of the inner man stupendous revelations of world-secrets, which the man then saw in a vision.
But ever more and more has the possibility decreased for men to have inner revelations through incentments of such a kind. This comes, you see, from the increasing ascendancy of intellectualism. Intellectualism, is of course, involved with a definite form of development in the brain; the brain becomes ... one cannot, of course, prove it physiologically in externals, by anatomic means, but one can prove it nevertheless spiritually ... the brain becomes in a way calcified, stiver. And, in matter of fact, the brains of civilized mankind have grown considerably stiver since the fifteenth century. And this stiff brain does not allow man's inner revelations to come to the surface in his consciousness. And now I must say something exceedingly paradoxical, but which nevertheless is true. This greater stiffness of brain showed itself, as a fact, mostly in male humanity; — which I do not say as a special ground of rejoicing for any particular female brain, for towards the last half of the nineteenth century the women's brains too began to be stiff enough; — still, the vantage in respect of intellectuality and stiffness of brain lay with the men. And with this is connected the decrease in judgment.
Now this was the very time, when the practice of keeping secret the old knowledge was still very largely maintained. And the case then turned out to be, that the men were not much affected by this knowledge; for they learnt it by memory, in grades, and it did not much affect them; — besides, they kept it under lock and key. Supposing, how-ever, there were someone, who in some way wanted to set this old knowledge working once more with peculiar activity, then he might quite well make the peculiar experiment of administering this old knowledge (which he himself need not perhaps even understand), just in a small dose maybe, to a woman, — and to one moreover, whose brain was very specially prepared; for the Blavatsky brain was, after all, somewhat different from other woman-brains of the nineteenth century. And then it might be, that, — just from the contrast of it with everything else that was there as education in these woman-brains, — what was otherwise old, dried-up knowledge might catch fire and so, — just as the psycho-analyst gives some particular lead, that stirs up the whole human being, — so it might stir up the peculiar personality of Blavatsky. And. then, through this stir, she out of her-self discovered what had been altogether forgotten by the whole of mankind, except those who were in secret societies, and by the others, who were in secret societies, had been kept carefully under lock and key, — to a great extent indeed not even understood. In this way it could all come out, as though, one might say, through a cultural vent-hole.
But at the same time there was no sort of foundation there, for the things to have been worked up in a reasonable form. For Madame Blavatsky was certainly anything but a logical reasoner. In logic she was exceedingly weak; and whilst in actual fact she could produce out of her total human being revelations of world-secrets, she was by no means also adequate to describing these things in a form for which one could be answerable to the scientific conscience, say, of the modern age.
And now, consider for a moment. Seeing the scant measure of judgment that was brought to hear upon spiritual phenomena, what possibility was there for a thing such as this, — which only showed itself again one might say, twenty years later, in a quite primitive, dilettante fashion at most, in psycho-analysis, and then only in a very tiny field, — how was it possible for a thing such as this, that could grow to a living experience of gigantic size and grandeur, such as psycho-analysis will only one day be able to rise to, when it has been purified, clarified, when it is placed on a reasonable basis and conducted really scientifically, when people no longer psycho-analyse out of the blood, that comes from men who lived in the days of the OEdipus problem and has run through the veins down into our present generation, but when they really understand how the web of the world is woven ... yes, indeed, how could such a living experience, which, in the face of to-day's degenerate psycho-analysing, displays what I might call its grand, gigantic counterpart, freed of all its caricature, — how, at a time when the capacity for judgment was what I have described to you, how could this thing hope, in any wide circle of people, to meet with an adequate measure of under-standing?
In this respect, one could really make many experiences as regards the comprehension to be met with in our days, when one made the least attempt to appeal to a somewhat larger measure of judgment.
To give an instance as illustration. These illustrations are necessary, and you will see as the lectures go on, how necessary it is that I should enter into these seemingly quite personal matters. I should like to tell you an example of how hard it is in these modern times to make oneself at all understandable, directly there is some point about which one desires to appeal to a somewhat larger measured, larger hearted judgment.
There was a time, about the turn of the century, in Berlin, where I was then living, when Giordano Bruno Associations used to be founded, and amongst others was a ‘Giordano Bruno League’. There were other Giordano Bruno Associations, but this, that was founded, was a ‘Giordano Bruno League’. It had in it truly admirable people, according to the fashion and notions of the time, — people really with a profound interest in every sort of thing in which one could possibly take an interest in those days, and round which one could centre the whole range of one's thoughts and feelings and will. Indeed, in the abstract fashion which is usual in modern times, there was even reference made in this Giordano Bruno League to the Spirit. A notable personage in this Giordano Bruno League prefaced its foundation with an introductory lecture on, ‘Matter is never without Spirit.’ But it was all so hopeless! For this ‘Spirit’, and all that went on there, was at bottom a pure abstraction, nothing which could ever get near any actual reality in the world. The whole way of thinking was terribly abstract! — What in particular seemed to me very irritating, was the way in which the people every moment, on every possible occasion, dragged in the word monoism: One must worship the one-and-only reasonable and man-befitting Monoism; and Dualism is a thing of the past. And then came always a reference to the way in which in these modern times we had emancipated ourselves from the Dualism of the Middle Ages.
These, you see, were things which at the time I found uncommonly irritating. I found them irritating for the reason ... in the first place, all this gassing about monoism, and dilettante rejection of any dualism ... and then I found it irritating to talk about the Spirit in this general, pantheistic way, — that the Spirit is ... well, that there is, after all Spirit too everywhere, — until nothing was left of Spirit but the word. I found all this considerably irritating.
As a matter of fact, after the delivery of the very first lecture on ‘Matter never without Spirit’, I came to words with the man who had delivered the lecture; which brought me already at the time into very bad odour. But this whole monistic business went on ever further, and grew more and more irritating, — interesting, but irritating, — until I decided once for all to lay hold of the people at a salient point, and so at least, as I hoped, shake up their powers of judgment a little. And after a whole series of lectures, through which the tirades had gone on about the darkness of the Middle Ages and the horrible dualism of the Scholastics, I determined, — it was just at the time, in which people now declare, at that very time, that I was a rabid Haeckelite! — I determined for once to do something which should give the people's judgment a little shaking-up. And so I held a lecture on Thomas Aquinas, in which — to put now into a couple of sentences what I then expounded at length — I said somewhat as follows: There was absolutely xiii justification, — I said, — as regards the spiritual life of the past and its ideas, for talking of the darkness of the Middle Ages and in particular of the Dualism of Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics; for that, if Monoism was the order of the day, I would undertake to show that Thomas Aquinas was a thorough monoist. Only then one must not give the name of Monoism only to what the present age understands by it, as materialistic Monoism; but one must give the name of Monoist to everyone, who looks on the Universal Principle as residing in a Monon, in a Unity. And that — I said — Thomas Aquinas most certainly did; for he obviously saw in the Unity of the Godhead the Monon underlying everything that exists as creation in the universe. Here — said I you have a basis of the purest Monoism. Only that Aquinas according to the method of those times, drew this distinction: that the one half could be comprehended by ordinary human knowledge, through the senses and the understanding, — the other half by means of another kind. of knowledge, which in those days was called Belief. But what the Scholastics still understood by Belief, is not understood by mankind to-day at all. And so one must be clear, I said, that Thomas Aquinas wanted to approach the Universe on its one side by this investigation and knowledge of the understanding but that, on its other side, he wanted to supplement and complete this investigated knowledge of the understanding by the displayed truths of revelation. And it was precisely by this means that he sought to penetrate to the Monon of the Universe. He only sought to proceed by two roads. And it was all the worse for the present age, I said, that this present age had. not sufficiently large-hearted ideas to look round about it a little in history.
In short, I wanted to assist the dried-up brains to a little moisture. Rut it was all in vain; for the effect was a most extraordinarily curious one. The people could make nothing at all of the matter to begin with. They were all thorough-going evangelical protestants, and thought: here was an attempt to smuggle in Catholicism. It's a defence of Catholicism, — they thought, — with its horrible Dualism! It is really dreadful! — they said: — Here are we, taking every possible pains to deal Catholicism its death-blow; and now comes a member of this very Giordano Bruno League, and takes Catholicism into defence!
Really, the people didn't know at the time, whether I had not gone mad in the night, when I gave this lecture. They could make nothing at all of the affair. And. they were really people of the most enlightened brains, at that time. In fact, there was only one, really, who afterwards came forward as a sort of apologist. It was the poet Wolfgang Kirchbach. He was the only one, who then devised a formula, under which the lecture could enjoy civic rights in the Giordano Bruno League. And this was the formula he devised: He said: What Steiner wanted, was not by any means to smuggle in Catholicism; but he wanted to show, that in that ancient scholastic wisdom of Catholicism there still lay something much weightier, than all that we have ourselves to-day in our superficial ideas. That was what he wanted to show. He wanted to show us, that the reason why Catholicism is such a powerful enemy, is because we are such weak opponents, that we must furnish ourselves with stronger weapons. That was what his lecture was intended to show.
And this was the only formula, under which the lecture then, by one-third, by a minority, so far managed to obtain civic rights, that I was at any rate not excluded from the Giordano Bruno League. But with the majority I passed for a man, who had had his brain turned by Catholicism.
Well, you see, this is just an episode out of the same period, at which I am now said. to have been a rabid disciple of Haeckel. Through such things, however, one gained practical experience as to the capacity of judgment, namely as to the largeness of judgment, with which anything was welcomed, which was not bent in the first place upon theoretic formulas, but was bent on actually pursuing the road to the spirit, on actually getting into the spiritual world.
For, getting into the spiritual world really does not depend on what particular theory one has about Spirit or Matter, but on whether one is in a position to bring about an actual living experience of the spiritual world. As I have often pointed out before, the Spiritualists most certainly believe that all their proceedings make for the spirit; but their theories all the same are so empty of spirit! — they certainly do not lead men spiritwards. One may be a materialist even, and yet inspired with a great deal of spirit; it is real spirit, too, even though it be spirit mistaken in error. One need not of course set up self-mistaken spirit as something very valuable; but self-mistaken spirit, spirit which cheats itself by taking Matter to be the one and only reality, can at any rate be much richer in spirit, than that spiritual poverty which seeks the spirit after a material fashion, because it can find no spirit whatever within itself.
In looking back, then, to its first beginnings, which must be rightly grasped in order to understand the whole meaning and life-conditions of the movement, one must know, in the lit st place, in what an exceedingly problematic manner the spiritual world's revelations made their entrance at first — if I may use the expression — into the earth-world, in the last third of the nineteenth century, and how little people's judgment in general was ripe for the reception of these spiritual revelations, — and then, above all, how strong the determination was in certain definite circles, that nothing whatever which really leads to the spirit should be allowed to get out amongst the people. Most undoubtedly, there were a large number of by no means negligible persons, on whom the apparition of Blavatsky could not fail to act with rousing effect.
And that is what it did do at first. The attitude of the people who still preserved some judgment, was, that they said to themselves: This, after all, is something that speaks for itself: It is strange that it should come into the world just in the way it has now; but it is a thing that speaks for itself. One need only apply sound ordinary understanding to it, and it speaks for itself.
There were, however, many people, as I said, whose interest it was, that just this kind of arousing influence should on no account be allowed to come into the world.
And now the thing was there; there, in a person such as Blavatsky, who in a certain sense again was quite naive and helpless in the face of her own internal revelation. This can be seen from the very style of her writings. — The thing was there, then: and this was how she herself stood towards it: naive and helpless in a sort of way, and at the mercy of much that afterwards took place in her surroundings. For do you think it was especially difficult, — especially with H. P. Blavatsky it was not very difficult, — for people, whose desire it now was, so to manipulate the world that it should be proof against every sort of spirituality, — for these people to get at Blavatsky and form her surroundings. Just because she was so naive and helpless before her own internal revelations, she was in a way credulous. In the affair of the sliding-doors, for instance, through which were shoved letters ostensibly from the Masters, but which some person outside — whether B ... or another — had written and shoved in, it is by no means a necessary assumption that Blavatsky had said in the first instance to B ... : You shove them in! — but rather, she was again, in a way, native, and believed, herself, in letters of the kind. The same person, who shoved them in, deceived Blavatsky, It was then of course very easy to say before the world: The woman is a swindler. But don't you see, my dear friends, Blavatsky herself might very well be swindled. For there was a certain capacity in her for quite uncommon credulity, as a consequence just of this peculiar, let me say, non-hardness of her brain. The problem therefore is altogether an extremely complicated one; and really demands, — as everything genuinely spiritual does, which comes into the world to-day, — really calls for power of judgment, for a certain soundness of human understanding. — It is not exactly sound human understanding, when people first judge Adalbert Stifter not even competent to be a teacher, and then afterwards ... in this case again it was a woman, — probably one again with a softer brain than those committee-men all had in the government offices, or the school-boards, ... afterwards, when a hint came from this quarter, they then declared him qualified to inspect all the very people to whose ranks he might not even belong.
To perceive the truth in such matters does, you see, amongst other things, require sound human understanding. About this sound human understanding, however, there are peculiar notions. Last year, when I was holding a fairly big course of lectures in Germany, I made frequent use of the expression ‘sound human understanding’, and said, that everything which Anthroposophy has to say from the spiritual world can be tested by sound human understanding. One of the critics, and by no means the worst of them, caught this up, and made the following criticism. He said, almost word for word: To talk of sound human understanding was, after all, bait for gudgeons; for everybody to-day, who has had any sort of scientific training, knows very well, that the human understanding, when it is sound, knows next to nothing; and when it fancies that it knows something, then it is not sound. — This was the sub-stance of a critical judgment, written with no lack of esprit.
Put more into general words, then, this means, that anyone, who to-day is as clever as he should be, after all the steps that have been made in human progress, is aware that one can know nothing: if he thinks that he knows anything, he is mad. — So far have we come already in our reception of the gifts of the spirit.
And now that I have given you some instances, before the anthroposophic movement began, of the capacity for apprehending a spiritual manifestation, and have given you now the judgment of an at any rate standard critic only a year ago, you have a tolerable picture of how this disposition of the age has pursued the whole movement. For, after all, seeing the general atmosphere of the age, and especially that a personage so hard to understand as Blavatsky was there in addition, to point to as an illustration, — there could but proceed from this atmosphere of the age the one judgment, which is simply the same as is repeated to-day in all manner of variations, — only that one person says it in one way, another in another: Everyone to-day, who is clever, who has sound human understanding, says, Ignorabimus. Everyone, who doesn't say Ignorabimus, is either mad, or a swindler.
One must not look on this as simply proceeding from ill-will. In order to be able to take one's place rightly in the age, in order to perceive a few of the necessary life-conditions of the anthroposophic movement, or e must not see in all this merely the ill-will of private individuals, but one must recognize it as something that belongs to the colour of the times in all countries, amongst the whole of modern mankind, and that must be recognized for what it is.
Then, it is true, in the whole stand which one takes up, — and which one must take up vigorously and boldly! — one will then also be able to mingle what must be there besides, when speaking about the age from the anthroposophic standpoint, — what, after all, must be present in all refutation, however sharp — sharp in soul, — of our opponents: and that is, compassion. One must, nevertheless, have com-passion, because the judgment of the age is clouded.
How things now went with the anthroposophic movement, and were bound to go, circumstances being as they are, — of this we will speak more to-morrow.