Spiritual Scientific Notes on Goethe's Faust, Vol. II
9. Goethe's Life of the Soul from the Standpoint of Spiritual Science
29 September 1918, Dornach
From our considerations of yesterday and the day before, we have been able to see how Goethe's creative work is steeped through by a certain outlook suggestive of that of spiritual science — although this outlook may be but dimly foreshadowed. And it is indeed very important that we should make ourselves thoroughly acquainted with the character of Goethe's spiritual life. It is only by shedding before the soul the light of a deepened observation upon all that such a life of spirit contains that this life appears in the right connection with the whole evolution of mankind. But I wish to add something here to all that has been said. I should like, that is, to point out how really it is only possible rightly to comprehend the whole structure, the whole manner, of Goethe's spiritual life if this is done from the standpoint of spiritual science. It is not merely that from an unspiritual standpoint we can naturally never find in Goethe's work all that yesterday and the previous day we were able to discover by considering it anthroposiphically, but also it only becomes clear how such a life of soul is possible within the course of human development, when we look at it from the point of view of spiritual Science.
In various connections I have called your attention to other manifestations of Goethe's soul-life, manifestations that, for ordinary human life, may perhaps seem — but only seem — to be more remote than what is represented in the all-embracing Faust poem,that should indeed be of the greatest interest to every man. I have spoken to you of the special mind of natural science which Goethe cultivated. And it is particularly important and significant that he should have done so. It may be said that Goethe's individual way of thinking where natural science is concerned is precisely what in most spheres at present still meets with complete lack of understanding. Nevertheless, it appears to me of quite special importance for the various branches of present day spiritual life — and not least for the religious life — that an insight should be gained into this particular form, this individual way, in which Goethe looked upon nature. You know how he sought to establish for the inanimate world a natural science founded on his own interpretation of the primal phenomena, and how he built up a botany on the basis of metamorphoses.
So far as all this is a matter of general knowledge I should like today to give you a brief description of the primal phenomena and metamorphoses.
What was Goethe's intention when he turned not to hypotheses and theories but to the so-called primal phenomena for his explanation of nature? Since the eighties of the last century I have been doing my best to give mankind, from various aspects, an idea of the true basic character of the primal phenomenon. But it cannot be claimed that so far there has really been a very wide understanding of the matter. Perhaps we can get the best view of what Goethe understood by the primal phenomenon in inanimate nature when we consider how he came to build up his special Theory of Colors. He tells of this himself. I know that what I now have to say is an abomination and a heresy for the present day scientific conception of physics. That, however, is of no consequence. What physics does not recognize today, my dear firends, the physics of tomorrow will find itself obliged to accept. In reality, present day physics is not yet ripe for Goethe's theory of colors.
As I said, Goethe himself tells us that up to the beginning of the nineties of the eighteenth century he believed, as did other men, in the so-called Newtonian theory of colors — in that theory built up by Newton on a certain hypothesis. This theory declared that something imperceptible lay at the basis of light — we need not go into that now. In essentials it is immaterial whether it is represented, as it was by Newton himself; as currents of matter, or as oscillations, or as some kind of electrical impulse. The arising of colors was conceived as follows — that the light in some way contains the various colors unseparated as if naturalized in a kind of supersensible entity, and that by means of the prism or other devices, the colors were made to issue forth from the unified white light.
One day Goethe found himself obliged to abandon this conception that he shared with others, and he did so in a way that, naturally, must appear to modern physics both primitive and foolish. He studied this Newtonian physics, this Newtonian optics, and accepted it as one does as a matter of course when knowing of nothing better. But he found that when wishing to apply this optics, this theory of colors, in order to think out anything that had to do with art, with painting, he could do nothing with it. This Newtonian physics serves for a materialistic physical representation, but is useless when it comes to art. This increasingly disturbed Goethe and incited him at least to look into what happens in the appearance of colors from the point of view of physics. So, from Councillor Buttner who was a professor at Jena, he managed to procure the apparatus to see, through his own investigations and experiements, what views he could form concerning the appearance of colors. It goes without saying that Professer Buttner promptly placed all the apparatus at the disposal of His Excellency von Goethe. But, once in his house, it served, to begin with, only to collect the dust. It was long before he made his investigations — not indeed until Councillor Buttner expressed his need of the apparatus, and the desire for its return. Goethe put the things together for dispatch. However, he thought he would first have a quick glance through a prism, believing that if he looked through it at the white of the wall, so this white would then be broken up into seven colors, he would assuredly see them. (This would, as has been said, appear to the modern physicist both foolish and primitive). But — nothing! The wall remained white! This puzzled him. According to customary notions this was foolish but, my dear firends, it was sound thinking. He took a peep through the prism; the wall was still white. That made him appeal to Councillor Buttner to let him keep the instruments, the apparatus, and he then set up his further investigations. And from these investigations there now grew first his science of colors, and, secondly, his whole outlook on physics, that is to say, on inanimate, natural phenomena. It was an outlook that rejected all hypotheses and theories, that never thought out anything about natural phenomena, but traced back one set of natural phenomena to another, traced them merely to primal appearances, primal phenomena. 1In Man or Matter by Dr. Ernst Lehrs the words “light” and “dark” have been reserved for referring to the primary polarity, “lightness” and “darkness” being used to express their visible effects. The same principle has been followed here.
Thus he became clear that, when color is perceived, at the basis of this lies some kind of working together of super imposed lightness and darkness. If darkness laps over lightness, the bright colors appear; if lightness laps over darkenss, then there appear the deep colors, blue, violet and so forth. If over brightness, lightness any form of darkness is projeatd, such as dark material and so forth,or the actual prism, the bright colors appear, red, yellow and so on. Here it is not a matter of any theory. Darkness and lightness are working through immediate perception. It is simply perceived that if darkness and lightness work together, colors arise. No hypothesis is expressed here nor any theory — merely something that is simple fact, something that can be perceived.
Now it did not concern him merely to invent hypotheses like the wave theory perhaps, or the Emission theory, and so on, hypotheses that would say that colors arise in such and such a way; it was simply a putting together, as lightness and darkness had to be put together for yellow or red, blue or violet, to appear. Goethe's way was not to add to phenomena hypotheses and theories in thought, but to keep strictly to letting the phenomena speak for themselves. In this way Goethe brought a theory of colors into existence that led in a wonderfully beautiful way to the grasping of what has to do with color in the realm of art. For the chapter on the effect of color with reference to moral associations, in which are found so many significant indications for the artist, belongs to the most beautiful part of Goethe's theory of colors.
This then was the basis of Goethe's whole understanding of inanimate nature — never to seek for theories or hypotheses. According to him these can be set up as scaffolding. But, as when the building is finished, the scaffolding is not left but removed, so one uses hypotheses merely to show the way in which things may be put together. They are discarded as soon as the primal phenomenon, the simplest phenomenon, is reached.
It was this that Goethe also tried at any rate to outline for the whole of physics. And in the large Weimar edition, in the volume where I have published Goethe's general scientific essays, you will find a chart in which Goethe has detched out a complete scheme for physics from this point of view. In this chart the acoustics of particular interest, that, like his theory of colors, is indeed merely given in outline. Some day it would be interesting, however, to set up an acoustics that would fit in with music in the same way as Goethe's theory of colors does with painting. Naturally this could not be done yet, for modern natural science has taken a different path from that founded on Goethe's world conception and on his conception of nature.
It was this that he was trying to do where inanimate nature is concerned. And he was looking for something of the same kind in the life of the living plant in the theory of metamorphoses, where, without setting up any hypotheses, he followed up how the stem leaf was transformed, metamorphosed, and took on various forms, growing afterwards into the petal, so that the blossom is simply transformed stem leaf. Again this is an outlook that will have nothing to do with hypotheses but keeps to what is offered to the perception. What we need here is not fixed concepts but concepts that are as much on the move as is nature herself while creating; that is, she does not hold fast to forms but in ever transforming them. We must have such concepts, therefore, that the majority of mankind is too lazy to develop, concepts in a state of inward transformation, so that we are able livingly to follow them in their forms that change as they do in nature. But then, free from hypotheses and theories, one confines oneself to pure percept.
This is what is characteristic of Goethe, my dear friends, that he rejects all theory where natural phenomena are concerned, and really is willing to apply thinking only for assembling phenomena in the right way, so that they express themselves according to their essential nature. One can indeed put this in a paradox. I beg you to keep this well in mind. It was precisely through this that, as we have seen in the last two days, Goethe was driven along the right path into the sphere of the spiritual, that, for the phenomena of external nature, he did not destroy their integrity by all kinds of theories and hypotheses but grasped them just as they were offered to the life of the senses.
This, my dear friends, has a further consequence. If we form theories, such as those of Newton or spencer, that is to say, if we cloud by theories and hypotheses what nature herself offers, we may think about nature in the way that is possible during human physical life, but the matter is not then taken up into the etheric body. And they become overdone, all these theories that do not arise from pure nature and from the simple observation of nature; all these theories and hypotheses make indeed a caricature of the human etheric body and also of the astral body, thereby having a disturbing effect on man's life in spiritual worlds.
Goethe's sound nature turned against the destruction of the forms demanded for itself by the etheric body. This is exactly what is so significant about Goethe, and why I tell you he can only be understood anthroposophically — that he had an instinct for what did not originate in immediate reality, and perceived that, when he formed concepts like those of Newton, the etheric body was nipped and tweaked. This did not happen to others because they were less finely organized. Goethe's organization was such that while looking into things thus his etheric body was nipped and tweaked. And neither theory nor the most beautiful hypothesis prevented this, when only the white appears and he has to realize: The wall is still white in spite of the fact that all the seven graded colors are supposed to appear. This has not happened. And Goethe's way of experiencing this is indeed a proof of his thoroughly sound nature and of how he, as microcosm, was in harmony with the macrocosm.
Yet another side of the matter may be brought to your notice. We know, my dear friends, that man is not only the being who lives between birth and death; he is also the being who lives between death and a new birth. Into this life between death and a new birth he takes the sun of inner forces developed by him when in his physical body. Now when, after a few days, he is parted from his etheric body, he looks back upon it; and it is important that this etheric body should have been so used by him that in looking at it thus he is not deluded by a caricature. Now this is what we have particularly to note. If we look at nature in its purely natural aspect, as did Goethe, rejecting theories and hypotheses, and allowing only primal phenomena to have weight, then this understanding and regarding the primal phenomena thus, is of such a nature that it sets free within us sound, healthy experiencec and feelings of the kind that Goethe described in his chapter on the effect of color with reference to moral associations. It goes without saying that the perception of sense phenomena ceases with life. And what remains in our soul and spirit from pure perception, the only thing Goethe allowed to hold good as natural science is thoroughly sound and in harmony to do with the world of soul and spirit. Thus, we may say that Goethe's natural science is in accordance with the spiritual, in spite of his keeping to the phenomenal and physically perceptible. This is because it does not sully through theories the purity of its outlook on nature by influencing the spirit either ahrimanically or luciferically. Theories of this kind darken for the soul and spirit the purity of outlook upon what is earthly.
Now I told you yesterday that man has not lived only on the earth, but before he trod the earth he went through successive developments on Saturn, Sun and Moon. After he will have left the earth, or rather when the earth has left him, he will continue his development on Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan. But I told you that scientific concepts are possible only in relation to the earth evolution. In actual fact, if we cultivate a sound natural science, we then have the impulse not to represent the earth evolution so that everything is mixed up in it that is in keeping with Saturn, Sun and Moon — though naturally this is in reality connected with the earth evolution — but a sound natural science will take the earth as earth and represent it in its conformity with law. This is what Goethe did. And, why man is so little able to rise to a sound understanding of the Moon, Sun and Saturn evolution, is because his earth evolution is not sound. Even though Goethe himself never arrived at this conception of the evolutions on Moon, Sun and Saturn, anyone going deeply into his natural science — a science free from anything else and concerned merely with the earth — just through this prepares his spirit to separate what is earthly by means of a sound knowledge of the earth, and prepares himself as well to form a sound conception of what can be seen only in the supersensible, that is to say, the evolution of Saturn, Sun and moon, and all that is spiritual. It is possible, therefore, to say that it was just by his outlook being directed so exclusively towards the supersensible, that Goethe had the necessary qualifications to work in his Faust upon all we have been witnessing these last two days. Goethe lived thus in the spirit where spiritual comprehension is concerned, because he did not apply to natural phenomena any confused theories or hypotheses out of the spirit. The one thing determines the other.
What finally I called your attention to yesterday is that Goethe was not idealist on the one side, realist on the other but took the outer phenomena realistically, and in an idealistic way what was to be understood idealistically. He did not, however believe it possible to found a world-conception either through the one or the other, but allowed both to be mirrored in his soul as they are reflected also in external reality. Though Goethe himself did not entirely follow this out, yet it led in a wholesome way — if his ideas are really absorbed — to the possibility of a right representation of the two kinds of life that man has to experience. And it may be asked why then is it that mankind's usual outlook today is so little inclined towards the spiritual, and, although concepts of the spiritual world are formed, they are so abstract that with them external nature cannot be understood? How is it that for present day man idealism and realism so fall apart that, either they found a half-hearted monism of little significance, or they do not arrive at any world outlook at all — how is this? This comes about because man wishes today to found his world outlook in a quite definite way. He either becomes a scientist, learning to know nature and trying to instill into her all manner of theories and hpotheses — for in the realm of thinking today the heritage of the natural scientist is not primal phenomena but theories and hypotheses — and seeking to permeate natural phenomena with these; or, he becomes a theologian or philosopher, trying to acquire from tradition certain concepts, ideas, about the spiritual. These are so thin, so shadowy, that with their inadequate power it is impossible to comprehend nature.
Just look around at what is given out by the theologians and phiolsophers today; where do you find any firm ground from which rightly to throw light on nature? And among the real adherents of modern natural science, when they are not monistic garbage, where do you find any serious possibility of rising from natural science to the reality of divine spiritual forms and realms of existence? Even if sound thinking is developed, it is not possible today to unite the two spheres in their present guise. The two spheres are only united when we have the faculty of devoting ourselves in Goethe's way to science and the observation of nature. That means directing the gaze to the phenomenon to what appears, without intermixing useless theories unless these build up the phenomena; it means making merely a useful servant of thinking, but not letting it interfere in results. Where nature is concerned we have to allow her the power of interpreting herself. Not to weave fantastic ideas about nature, but to be completely materialistic, letting the material phenomena speak for themselves — that is our task when it comes to sound natural science. Should we really come to a natural science of this kind, we shall then understand human life between birth — or shall we say conception — and death. And by looking on one side into nature thus, we must also be able to look into the spirit without the light of impossible theories and hypotheses. We shall not then be confined to abstract theologies or philophies but give ourselves up to spiritual perceptions. And it is precisely through the power that sets free in us a direct observation of nature — Goethe's observation — that spiritual perception, perception of the pure spirit, can be induced. Upon the man who confusedly mixes his concepts and ideas about natural phenomena, these concepts take their revenge, preventing his perceiving the spirit. He who looks simply at nature sees her in his own soul in such a way that he can look upon the spirit too with reality. In this respect, Goethe's world outlook can be a good educator for modern humanity.
But in this case, outlook on nature and outlook on spirit must be independent of one another. We must, however, be conscious that we can do nothing with either by itself. If you wish to remain pure theologian or pure phiksopher, my dear friends, then it is exactly as if you had something with two different sides and chose to photograph the one side only; and it is the same if you want to be purely a scientist. You should be able to make the two into one whole, letting the one be reflected in the other; that is to say, instead of seeking to unite them through abstract concepts, having first developed pure perception in each separate sphere, you let the things unite themselves. They are then mirrored in one another. And then too, my dear friends, by means of what this reflection is able to do, you get a sound outlook upon human life as a whole. Then you see natural phenomena external to man according to the way of Goethe's natural science. But when you observe man you see that what exists for external nature does not go far enough to explain him. For that way you only come to a ‘Homunculus’ not to a ‘Homo’.
You see how, for the understanding of man, it is necessary to approach him from two opposite directions; with natural science and with spiritual science, letting the two reflect one another. Thus, they may be suitably applied to man. Then in the human being the life between birth, or conception, and death, is reflected in what appears to one as life between death and a new birth; and vice versa, the life between death and a new birth is reflected in the life between birth and death. We are not here inventing any theory supposed to explain the one or the other, but we let not theories but two perceptions, two things perceived and not united by concepts be mutually reflected in the perception.
It proves that Goethe was definitely on the way to the new spiritual science that, through the sound development of his soul, he should have come to such perception of the mutual reflection of what was essential in external reality. And if Goethe was still to some extent uncertain, even for his own time, because, as I am always having to emphasize, his knowledge of Spiritual Science was but a premonition, nevertheless his judgment was sound in much concerning the spiritual life — and this can be followed in our time up to the regions where Goethe never actually arrived but for which he had prepared.
It is regrettable that everything in connection with Goethe is so little understood. I am not finding fault, my dear friends, for everyone able to look right into things neither blames nor criticises, realizing he must speak only positiviely; I do not find fault with what has happened, I only set forth what is demanded for the future. And the demand for the future is that mankind should go more deeply into the ideas that were already being prepared in Goethe's way of thinking — whatever name you give all this. And Goethe's way of thinking works with tremendous reality and in accordance with reality. It is of great importance to take heed of this.
I have to draw your attention to this so as to point you to a right understanding of man's usual procedure when he wants to explain some phenomena of nature or of life. Let us look at a perfectly average man who is clever — nowadays the clever man is average — thus, we are going to observe an average man. The average man lives, does he not, from birth to death.
In his 35th year, let us say, or 45th or 42nd — in some year of his life perhaps even earlier — he wants to discover something, possibly to form a world-outlook, enlighten himself about some matter; what does he do? He ferrets among the stock of ideas that we may take it he has when 42 years old. Let us assume he wishes to be really clear about, let us say, the Copernican world-outlook; he gathers together, then, all the concepts and ideas he can find. If he looks about in his soul life and can find something that suits him, when he has assembled a whole series of the kind of concepts in which he finds nothing contradictory, then he has finished, and understands the whole matter. This is the way with the average man. Not so with Goethe, my dear friends. Goethe's soul worked in a completely different fashion. Those who are ready to write his biography never take this into consideration, and some kind of person makes his appearance who was born in Frankfurt in 1749 and died in 1832 in Weimar — but it is not Goethe. For his soul worked differently. If in his 42nd year any phenomenon confronted him, there did not work in him merely the abstract image arising from the gathering up of all kinds of concepts into a suitable outlook. When Goethe in his 42nd year contemplated a plant, or anything else about which he sought enlightenment, there worked in him with reality the whole of his soul-life, not merely abstract concepts but all his real life of soul. Thus, at the age of 42, when Goethe wished to reflect upon the life of a plant, there worked in him in part unconsciously those impulses that he had not merely gathered together but which had been working in him since his childhood. It was always his entire life of soul that was active. That is what never happens in modern man; he wants to arrive at an unprejudcied conception, but this does not go tyond snatching up a few concepts that can be perceived easily and with little effort. This is exactly the reason why we can make such great discoveries about Goethe when we reconsider the various phases of his life all together.
For example, I have tried to understand what comes latest in Goethe's point of view by always returning to Nature, the hymn in prose that he wrote during the eighties of the 18th century, in which is contained in embryo what belongs to a later period. What at that time existed in an unripe state was nevertheless active. And I have often referred before to how Goethe as a seven year old, collected minerals, piled them up on a reading desk he took of his father's, placed a candle on top, and then went through a kind of divine service in which, however, he sought to make a sacrifice to the ‘Great God’ who worked through natural phenomena. In the morning — fancy! a lad of seven he caught a ray of the sun with a burning glass, making it light his candle. He kindled nature's fire above his minerals. Here in childish fashion is already pictured forth all that afterwards worked in his most mature conceptions. We understand Goethe only when we are in a position to grasp him rightly in this way, out of his being as a whole. Also, when he is thus understood, we first arrive at a notion of the spiritual world that we are able to discover in the light of Goethe's world outlook, which then, however, with the ideas of his time he himself could but slightly develop. For consider, if we think, really think, about nature in Goethe's way, in the sense of the theory of phenomena, primal phenomena, and in the sense of the theory of metamorphoses through thinking of this kind we cannot help releasing in our souls forces that lead to perception of the spiritual world. And at length they lead us also to the perception of man's life after he has passed the gate of death. It is just with such a concentrated perception of nature, of pure nature, as Goethe's that a true and comprehensible idea of immortality is established.
It is precisely through this that power is gathered for these opposite representations needed for perceiving the supersensible that man experiences between death and a new birth. Man gains the power for this perception by first developing a keener insight into pure nature, nature unspoilt by theories and hypotheses. Where the external world is concerned man makes the greatest mistake in believing that everything must go in one line, in one stream. If any man speaks thus of Monism to one who sees right into the matter — as, having founded an abstract Monism, many speak today — when an abstract Monism of this kind is put before one who can see into things, it seems just as though a man were standing there with left and right side properly developed and another were to tell him that it was an illusion, a false dualism, and that man has to be built monistically. It is not the proper thing he would say, to have a right and a left side, something here is wrong.
Our world outlook must be just like that. And as there is nothing wrong about our having two hands, and the right one be aided by the left, there is nothing wrong either in having two world outlooks that reciprocally reflect and enlighten each other. And those who declare it a mistake when two world outlooks are demanded, should also declare that some sort of artificial arrangement ought to be devised so that the right and left hands and the right and left legs would not move and be active in the world in such a shockingly separate fashion and that right and left should be forcibly dovetailed into one another and man should be a monism and, thus handicapped, continue his way through life.
For those who have penetration and see the reality instead of distorted abstract theories, the striving for an abstract idealism on the one side and a material realism on the other, as Monism, is as onesided as the grotesque comparison I have just made. And it is really in the spirit of Goethe's world outlook that I have pointed again and again, in a way that today arouses much antagonism, on the one hand to a pure and direct perception of nature, free from hypotheses, a perception that is alive and not thought out, thinking being applied simply to introduce the perception; and on the other hand to a phenomenon of the spirit where again thinking is applied merely as introduction to the perception, the spiritual perception, that leads us into the realm where we have to seek man on the other side of his life, that is between death and a new birth.
Now, if among people today you put forward the outlook of Spiritual Science, you are met with theories to refute it that sound really logical, clever theories. I have often said that it is very easy to think out arguments against Spiritual Science. In two successive public lectures in Prague 2Given 19.3.11 and 25.3.11 made the attempt to oppose Spiritual Science in one, in the other to show its foundations — lectures not too well received in some quarters. But at least I made the attempt to hold them. It goes without saying that one can quite easily find counter arguments to Spiritual Science; this is possible. How should it be otherwise? Whoever believes that it is not possible takes approximately the same view as anyone who says he cannot prick his left hand with the needle he holds in his right. Of course it is possible, but it does not get us anywhere. It may be said that at the basis of this opposition, that works with such apparently perfectly logical theories, right within it, there lies something entirely different. One speaks indeed, my dear friends, of the unconscious and the sub-conscious. What really is significant for man in the sub-conscious soul life, the sub-conscious spiritual life, is misunderstood, particularly by the psycho-analysts, but also in other quarters. I have often spoken of this here. In reality the analytical psychologist of today speaks of the unconscious life of the spirit in the same way as the blind speak of color. They are forced to do so by the requirements of modern science, but their science has not sufficient to go upon — it works with inadequate means. (I referred to this last year in Zurich and also here).3Given 5.11.17 For the capacity must really be there always to discover rightly what is in the subconscious beneath what is going on in the conscious.
You see, we may say the matter stands thus. The conscious is here, the subconscious lies beneath it (see diagram). Now how stands the matter today? since about the 16th century very strong ahrimanic influences have made themselves felt in man and in man's whole thinking. This has its good and bad sides. Above all it has the effect that natural science has developed in a particularly ahrimanic way. To this ahrimanic science Goethe opposed his science that I have described to you. And from the lectures I gave you a week ago you can gather that nothing takes place in the human soul nor in be human spirit without something happening in the subconscious also. By evolving the present form of thinking about nature, two quite distinct feelings have been developed in the subconscious — fear of and lack of interest in the spiritual. If Goethe's natural science is not developed, natural science cannot be cultivated at all in the sense of modern thinking without there developing at the same time subconscious fear and indifference towards the spiritual world. People are afraid of the spiritual; that is the necessary consequence of the impression made by modern natural science. But it is a subconscious fear of which men know nothing and this subconscious fear dresses itself up, and in all kinds of bespangled theatrical garments appears in man's consciousness. It clothes itself, for instance, in logical reasons. Fear transforms itself into logical reasons, with which logical reasons men are now going around.
|consciousness||logical reason||belief in limits of knowledge|
|subconscious||fear||lack of interest in the spiritual|
Those with penetration note what clever logical reasons man brings forward; however, they know also how beneath, in the subconscious, there sits fear of the spiritual — as the unknown always brings fear in its train, the hydrophobia of dogs can be traced to it. And lack of interest in the spiritual is also there, and this is particularly evident, because when man develops a right knowledge to nature, the spiritual can be quite palpable to him. For I should like to challenge any man wanting exhaustive knowledge to say out of what earthly natural phenomena, without recourse to the spiritual, he can explain the shape of the human head. The obvious correct scientific explanation of the human head leads back to what is known only scientifically as I have made clear. If we take interest in what is actually there in the nature of man, this leads naturally and of necessity to the spirit. It is mere lack of interest that induces us to say: nothing here points to the spirit! This is only when it has been excluded. We pay no attention to it but begin by building for ourselves empty theories, well prepared hypotheses and theories which soon fail us when put to the test, however carefully they have been prepared. In the main, the modern natural scientist behaves like someone who carefully cleans the scales from a fish, afterwards declaring it has none. So the modern scientist cleans phenomena of all that points to the spirit, because it does not interest him. But he is as ignorant of his lack of interest as he is of his fear. Therefore the lack of interest, too, dons disguising garments, and these are beliefs in limits to knowledge, quite consciously these limits are spoken of — ignorabimus. But what is referred to here is really immaterial; we could at will invent a quite different collection of words for what du Bois-Reymond, for instance, spoke of in his lecture about the limits to knowledge of nature, and they would be worth just as much. For what we wish is completely immaterial. It would be caused by our lack of interest, like the fish bereftaf its scales with which we have just compared it.
In an article called “Der Internationale Kitt” (International Cement) are found the-following: “It is one of the greatest disillusionments of world history that even this spiritual power — the spiritual power of Christianity — has failed where war is concerned, and has set up no dam against the onsweeping tide of hatred and destruction. Indeed, during this division between the peoples, in Christianity itself particularly ugly phenomena have come to light as, for example, the way theology with its attempt to drag down the highest absolute values into the relativity of world events. By trying to rationalize this and bring it into some kind of formula man has even gone so far as to try to justify through the ethical God of Love, what is dreadful and profoundly evil. This is instead of humbly remaining, in face of the frightful submergence of love and life, by Luther's ‘Deus absconditus’, the hidden God, that also comes to appearance in the world dynamics that is indifferent to ethics. Through this ethical and religious glorification of war, political aims were thrust upon the God of Love — aims that appear depressingly like those of rulers and cabinet ministers.”
Those who follow contemporary literature will know that this is perfectly correct — that on all sides the intentions of those in power are foisted as divine intentions upon God. So that this man is justified in thus describing many of the regrettable things happening today.
He goes on to say: “This is not all. Even the mutual tension among the Christian Churches has become accentuated. The historical opposition has been re-revived between the followers of Luther and those of Calvin. The extreme Anglicans have become alienated from continental Protestantism to such a degree that they will hardly allow it the name of Christianity; not to mention the breach among the international Christians in the mission field. Thus, a popular ideal limited by national feeling again to have gained the day over the international, communal ideal of Christianity.
“But where that has happened Christianity has shown itself a traitor to the Gospels — a Judas who betrayed Christ. For the true being of Christianity points to an all-embracing human society, and only in this form can it develop.”
And so on.
My dear friends, this man says a great deal that is clever, but he does not go so far as to ask: If Christianity has been followed for nearly two thousand years, how is it that although by its nature it should make the conditions we have at present an impossibility, it has not done so? It means nothing, my dear friends, just to say that men are bad Christians and should be better ones, if what is meant by this is that they should live up to the Christian example. I could give you hundreds of quotations from what has been said recently by seriously minded men, from which you could see that already in various places there is arising a definite but subconscious impulse that something like a new world outlook is needed. But the moment men should really come to what is necessary, that is, to a world outlook that is anthroposophical, they obscure their own concepts and these concepts immediately degenerate into fear and lack of interest. Men are afraid of Spiritual Science. This may be seen very clearly in individual personalities and in what they say and how they live. Or they show indifference to Spiritual Science; they are not capable of it in any way; it does not appeal to them. One then comes to astonishing contradictions, naturally not seen by the modern reader, for modern reading is done in the way I pictured yesterday and on other occasions. This writer of the article, a man who as we said is to be taken seriously, is justified in writing as he did. But, listen to this; he says something else must happen for Christianity to be able to develop its international significance and activity. He then makes all kinds of suggestions, for instance: Why should it not be possible for Christianity to encourage the international impulse to prevent hate and destruction? And he then goes on: in August, 1914, the Free Chuches in Britain could still write to Professor Harnack — “With the exception of the English — speaking peoples, no people stand so high in our affections and esteem as the Germans. We are all immeasurably indebted to German theology, philosophy and literature.”
There we have something — he continues — that is quite delightful. We have British theologians paying compliments to German theologians in the most wonderful way; could it not be like this in future? —
That is all very well, my dear friends, but when your thinking accords with reality you notice that this is written in August 1914, at the very moment of the outbreak of hostilities. In the light of facts the conclusion would be that inspite of British theologians writing this, it could do nothing to prevent the holocaust. You see, therefore, instead of from left to right man thinks from right to left, or the other way round, according to how the matter stands. Whereas the result of thinking according to reality is that we must investigate what, in spite of people making each other polite speeches, is really wrong and what is lacking. The writer says that if we but do what was done in August, 1914, we shall go forward. But we can begin all over again for, as the reality proved, that did nothing to help. Correct thinking would run like this — something is not right, Christianity must have been out of its calculations. What it failed to take into consideration was that Christianity has no part in what the times of necessity demand. It is this that such men lack - willingness to enter into what is demanded by the impulse of the age. Thus,it can be seen that people are recognizing that the old way of looking at the world has come to grief. But they do not want anything new, they want the old again, once more to be able to suffer disaster. That however, naturally remains in their subconscious. They wish for the best as a matter of course, but they are too fond of comfort seriously to look for what is necessary.
This, my dear friends, is what is ever and again in the background when we have to speak of the significance for the present time of all that is connected with the name of Goethe, or also of what is naturally greater than this, of the whole spiritual world and the knowledge of it. There too one need not be critical. We do not need to say how thoroughly bad those men are who neglect to do what should now be done, but confine ourselves to finding out what ought to happen. We should look to what is positive. Perhaps then we may say: “If only there were not so dreadfully little that I can do — I can do so terribly little, what indeed can be done by one person alone.” my dear friends, such questions are often asked under the impression that it would be possible in my lectures to give a definite concrete programme for individual people; but by being given in a general way this would naturally become abstract and empty. Today it is our common concern that many people should realize how, among those to whom control is given in some particular sphere, there will be many failures. This is because the leaders of our time are striving against something they ought not to resist. And it is important that we should not be eaten up by a false feeling towards authority, nor stand in great awe of anything because we have no real knowledge of it. For as today it is not a matter of accepting historical authority without question. But there is need for observation and attention, and the ability to form a judgment concerning how, in the various spheres of life today, this life is often given a wrong lead by those in authority. This is done with insufficient insight, above all, often with insufficient thought. For it should be the result of reflection, not of the lack of reflection. It is tremendously important to examine in our subconscious how much perverted belief in authority we still carry in us — to realize also that it is Spiritual Science itself that actually leads us away from belief in authority, and if its judgments are allowed livingly to permeate us has the power to make us free men with independent judgment. It is always thought that the world must run its course as if it had but one meaning and ran on one track. Then we accustom ourselves to look upon nature in the way of science, then we shall look upon everything in the same manner; when we accustom ourselves to look upon the world in accordance with abstract theories — or, as we often say, idealistically — we shall see everything in that light. But life does not take its course with only one meaning and on only one track; it demands of us in our thinking flexibility, change of form, multiplicity. This is something that fundamentally we can make our own only by cultivating Spiritual Science aright, something that is at present of great importance for finding our right path. For that reason I should like in this lecture to enlarge upon something in connection with Goethe. It is nothing very special I want to say about him — that as you have seen has appeared as though of itself — but I just want to touch on important truths of Spiritual Science that may fitly be connected with what we find treated artistically by Goethe in the actual scene to be represented. Many turn away from Goethe in scorn because they find him unscientific, just as they find Spiritual Science. But many would profit if only they would go deeply into such a spirit, such a soul, as Goethe's. For it frees us from the false belief — really a superstition — that we can make progress with concepts having only one meaning, with life that has only one meaning. There is no development, my dear friends, without its reverse, an opposite development and where there is reversed development there will also be development. When you direct your mind whole heartedly to the primal phenomena and metamorphoses in nature, without obscuring your vision by theories, this leads not to a mere onesided conception of nature, but to a development in the soul of that other conception which turns towards the spirit. And when you develop this conception correctly, you can no longer approach nature with false theories but are induced to let nature, through her material phenomena, be her own and only interpreter.
Thus it is, too, when in the sphere of Spiritual Science, one has to express in words anything as serious as what was put before you yesterday concerning the evil connected with the appearance of the Phorkyades; or what it was necessary to say about man having in his subsconscious much that does not enter his consciousness. Through misunderstanding such things are often taken ill. Just think! when with real knowledge it is said that certain things are in the subconscious how the hearer jumps to the conclusion: this man is no friend of mine, even though he allows that these things are unconscious; he imagines that in my subconscious I am doing all kinds of things sub rosa. So also may our contemporaries think: This anthroposophist insults us by saying we have subconscious fear and apathy — he is running us down. But, my dear friends, the world has not only one meaning. I do not confine myself to saying people have fear and apathy in their subconscious. I say also that in your subconsicies you have the whole spiritual world — but you have to realize it. That, too, is in the subconscious; it is the reverse side. In Spiritual Science one does not make any assertion that does not involve a second. And those to who I say: You have subconscious fear, subconscious lack of interest, should remember that I also say: It is true that you are not conscious of your fear and apathy; you disguise them by all kinds of untruth and by your belief in limits to knowledge. You have, however, the whole world of your subconscious about which to make discoveries if you will only take the plunge. I am not only accusing these people as they think, but telling them besides something good about their subconscious. This is what can make you see that life is not one-sided, nor can it be so represented in Spiritual Science.
Thus indeed, on the one side, we speak in the way we often have to speak. When we have to show aversion, fear and apathy as having been instilled into man, we have also to warn him of the dangers he has to overcome if he wants to make his way to the spiritual world — how he must overcome certain disagreeable things — that is certainly one side we have to make clear. But, my dear friends, just consider what a fund of experiences that give happiness to the soul lie in the conceptions of Spiritual Science being able to open our eyes to the life among our fellows which we lead here between birth and death; what experiences that bring joy to the world are opened out to,us when we know we can live more intimately ith those who have passed through the gate of death. And imagine, when once this idea of two-sidedness is really grasped, when once the world is looked upon rightly in the sense of Spiritual Science, what Spiritual Science has to say will not demand of us only a hard struggle to enter the worlds of the spirit, but over the hearts of men it will be able to pour a whole host of experiences that give comfort. It will have a whole host of other experiences that bring joy to the soul of man so that it grasps that it will become increasingly capable of living not only with those who surround man in the perceptible world, but also to lie with all those with whom he has entered into some kind of connection in this life, after they have passed through the gate of death. My dear friends, could we with reason even desire that the knowledge carrying our souls in full consciousness beyond the gate of death should be easily acquired? No, indeed; if we are intelligent and reasonable, that is something for which we could not even ask. men of the future will be obliged to undergo hardship to find their world happiness. To this end they will have to make up their minds to seek knowledge of the spiritual worlds.
This is what I wished to say to you today.