Foundation Course: Spiritual Discernment, Religious Feeling, Sacramental Action
III. Theoretical Thinking and Living in the Spirit
27 September 1921 p.m., Dornach
Emil Bock: I would like to open the hour of our discussion with my immediate task in asking Dr Steiner to give answers regarding the letter of Dr Rittelmeyer. This letter has indeed grown out of various wishes for guidelines regarding possible answers to those who made these objections.
Rudolf Steiner: If we have to start with it, please permit me to make a few points. I ask you however, to link your remarks to those comments I will be making, because obviously some of you here can approach what Dr Rittelmeyer has formulated, from another point of view.
Firstly, I think there is a feeling for many today that some kind of impact is needed in religious life, that religious life needs a kind of renewal in the most diverse areas. Dr Rittelmeyer has formulated the experience which he indicates is present with those familiar with it and I have to admit, something similar has at times confronted me. Already in relation to his first point presented here, one expects unified thoughts, a soul-powerful feeling — and this is summarised in the words "one thing is necessary" — while one finds in Anthroposophy a sum, even perhaps a very large sum of declarations regarding the world content and so for a person, who knows no sure approach, has to say: it appears to me through this experience that in many respects it has already been there for such a long time and has now contributed a lot to the fact that we in our current western civilisation have entered into a dead end.
Just think how vague, how uncertain an experience would be to presume it could perhaps be more succinctly formulated in order to solve the problem. One could even make references to this in our domain. In our domain another kind of domain has arisen out of Anthroposophic foundations where something similar has happened as what is meant with this point, if I understand it correctly. This is in the domain of social thinking. Something like a unified thought has come about, I could say, in the domain of the Threefold social organism. Firstly, I only want to make characteristic comparisons. I must confess this example doesn't show anything significant when it appears publicly in such a short formulation. In life such short formulations don't prove to be really effective; having a decisive importance. I always encounter an objection for instance when someone says: You want to tell me something about the human organism, and instead of giving me a uniform idea, you present an entire physiology. — One must try and understand how the doubt-free comfortable thoughts of modern time have contributed largely to our unhappiness and inner and outer relationships, and what we are suffering from is based on the vague manner of our desire to understand everything in a summary. One has to say to oneself: precisely because such ideas arise, proves that something must change when things happen, which many expect in a vague way. In particular, when it is then said, instead of such "uniform ideas." instead of "mighty soul feelings," a number of exercises are given, some of them could be of a moral nature — and others — they are called "occult" in the letter, which makes an unusual, thoughtful impression on others — yes, it must even be said: What can one then actually expect? — One can expect that there will simply be a debate about what current humanity is missing. I'm speaking firstly in this way, how in the anthroposophical domain it is by all means necessary; we will soon address the particular religious questions given in the letter itself.
You see, the moral exercises, which are mentioned here as familiar, are such that according to their wording, they certainly would be known if they were moral instructions. Firstly, according to the anthroposophic context, this is not what they are. In an anthroposophic context they are indications for the attainment of higher knowledge. It is certainly presented in such a way that it must be clear: they are indication for the attainment of a higher, supersensible knowledge. One must after all admit: If I would say a person necessarily longs for the attainment of supersensible knowledge, as opposed to if I say, that a kind of tranquillity in relation to "exulting to the skies, grieving to death" provides humanity with a moral stand, there is certainly a more radical difference between them. By me expressing something like the demand for serenity, I'm expressing something which could perhaps be quite well known, and which could initially sound like an obvious moral instruction, but which is not a discussion based on the demand for serenity. Is it said in my book 'Knowledge of the higher Worlds and its attainment' that for the purpose of morality, for the purpose of obtaining moral support it is necessary to develop serenity? No! Something quite different is said. It is said that an exercise needs to be done, it is said that this exercise needs to be repeated, in this way the exercise should be done in a certain rhythm in such a way that one could describe it as done in tranquillity. To repeat a certain exercise is quite different to a moral action. Above all you need to consider what is given in my book Knowledge of the higher Worlds and its attainment.
You see, it is actually the most natural thing that one person can say to another: you need to make an effort to search for the truth. That is a self-evident fact. Here the important thing is that within the rhythmic sequence of thoughts, thoughts are rendered to the truth, in relation of human beings to the truth. This exercise, this making-oneself-conscious-in-the-present within such a content, this repeated rhythmic making-oneself-conscious-in-the-present is what is involved. It is about applying quite a particular mood for spiritual knowledge. I want to explain this attitude to you in more detail. I will deviate from the strict formulation of the letter but maybe this will make some things much clearer.
Let's see, take for example a professor, lecturer or some scholar who gives lectures. Very often it happens that he prepares his lecture, then memorises it and then delivers it. This is indeed not possible if one really allows spiritual science to live within it. If you lived within spiritual science, this would be unworthy of you. Preparation can only be that a certain inner accumulation regarding the subject matter comes about. As a result of this inner assembly you do indeed step — even though you have a been connecting with the subject matter a thousand times — each time again with a new approach regarding the subject matter, so that you gradually grasp it clearly and speak out of the direct observation of it once again. You see, when you learn about something, for example a chapter in geography — good, you learn it, you have it, and then you retain in your thoughts. This doesn't happen in spiritual science at all if it is to be alive. Whoever wants to be a spiritual scientist in reality, must just again and again allow the most elementary things to draw through the soul. What I have written for example in my book Theosophy doesn't have a conclusive meaning. What it contains, I had to repeatedly allow to be drawn through my soul for it to have meaning. It can't be said: The book Theosophy is there, I know its contents. — It would, on the basis of spiritual science, be the same if one would say: I don't believe that there is a person who could say: I have eaten for 8 days so now I don't need to repeat it. — Every day we sit down to eat and do the same thing. Why? Because it is Life, it is not something which can be merely stored in thought form. The life in spiritual science is Life, and it declines if it is not ever and again lived through. This is what needs to be considered.
If you have through spiritual science approached life you would have become acquainted with the possibility for instance, that you can help those who have passed through the gate of death, by giving them a kind of meditative content based on the spiritual world which they have entered through the gate of death. This doesn't mean that one, for example, reads something to them once and now recon: now they understand it — no, it involves repeating it ever and again, this living-yourself-into the content, each time, as something new. This is far too seldom respected. People are used to observe everything as theory. Spiritual science is no theory, it is Life; but if one treats it by thinking one can learn it, like you learn about other things, then you make it into a theory. Obviously one can make it into a theory but then if you take it up this way, it is only a theory. Every serious spiritual scientist knows that one must live in it; the exercises are not exhausted by knowing their contents.
These are things which have disappeared from Western consciousness. What this Western consciousness is, shows also in other things. People have come to me who say: There's something awful about the Buddha speeches, they contain mere repetitions; one should surely produce a publication with only the contents of the speeches and leave out the repetitions. — Yet, no one really understands the Buddha-speeches who can make such a statement because the essence of the Buddha speeches depend upon following the rhythmic sequence in very small slots, always repeating the same one. This is an oriental method which does not coincide with our work here and in order to clarify this, I will make some comments.
Continuing with the letter, there is further mentioned about the exercises, that some are strange and questionable. Yes, we must look at the kind of judgement or the basis upon which this assessment is made today. If one speaks about the desire present today for something new, then one must acquaint oneself with why such a desire exists; and what exists must really be characterised. I could, in order to make myself clear, perhaps bring to mind the book of Oswald Spengler The Decline of the West. Spengler followed up with a small brochure entitled Pessimism? I will quote a sentence from Pessimism. He says: It is not important to recognise truth, but to make facts matter. — Now a discussion follows regarding this statement, regarding what he understands as "truth" and as "facts". In one place he says: "Truths are the greats of thought ... what stands in a dissertation is truth, that a candidate fails his dissertation is a fact." — Now one must imagine that with such a sentence something must somehow be said, but it is complete nonsense. Yet people read over something like this, they take it all in, which says something, and they don't notice anything strange and consider it as something outlandish. One can't possibly have a discussion about such a statement, it is total nonsense. Something like this is not even discussed when it is such nonsense; you don't even notice it. It can't fail that in a time in which such a judgment prevails, many strange and questionable things are found. However, we can imagine where we have actually arrived — in any case in another connection than meant by Spengler. We graduate today, so to say without a fuss, up to the highest levels of our study; here in our knowledge itself there are actually no disasters or turning points. You could say that a disaster happens when a student fails, but not knowledge itself. This involvement of the whole person, so that you are able to live with a problem in such an inner way as you have any other outer experience, is something which is rarely found. When you have written a book or if you are a private tutor you may feel very satisfied, but you don't experience disasters or turning points because of the material. This is something which has, one could say, spread over the entire scientific life.
It is necessary that we come to live within the spirit once again, that the spirit becomes a reality in whose processes we participate. This is no contradiction against tranquility. Precisely though cultivating tranquility you acquire the right way to participate more strongly and concretely towards what happens objectively; finally, it is no contradiction against tranquility when one observes all the horror of a volcanic eruption or some similar events this way.
I would like to say that in our modern time there is hardly any receptivity necessary for the particular way to spiritual science, simply the entire way of thinking, the quite different way of experiencing truth, is first necessary. You see, when someone says: Yes, we don't need thinking, we don't need intellectualism, we need feelings! — it is because he doesn't get the feeling that he's being moved inwardly; what should be given is what is lacking.
You see, is it really enough today, to adhere to ancient religious rules? When one gives a single lecture — and I speak from experience — when one gives a single lecture, let's say, from certain details regarding the social question, then there are many listeners who could say or write: Sure, this is all possible but in this lecture the name of Christ is not mentioned even once. — Yes, my dear friends, there is still a divine commandment which says: You should not pronounce the name of God in vain — and there is the commandment: You should not continuously say, God, God. It can be something very Christian, no not continuously say the name of Christ; perhaps it is even Christian for this reason, because the name of Christ is not misused. It is not through the use of Christ's name in every third line that something becomes Christian.
All these things should stop in the old thinking's comfortable way. Those who don't drop this comfortable thinking — they would also have the vague feeling that something must change — they can't be informed about the demands of the time because everything which exists in the demands of the time is something which they are unable to experience; they can't, because they are merely taught that these demands must be experienced basically as they have always been, and not commit to actually moving to solutions which must be investigated to really meet the demands of the time. Often the enormous difference between theoretical thought and immersed-in-spirit-living, is not considered. However, already during the first step into spiritual science there must be a living-within-the-spirit. I'm not saying you need to be clairvoyant or something of the kind, but that there needs to be a living-in-spirit; there must be another form of experience of truth, of content, than what one is accustomed to these days.
Another objection which Dr Rittelmeyer expressed took me quite by surprise, I must admit, but this is the way it's going to happen. The objection is that people feel insulted when, instead of something being pointed out as within them, they are made aware of what individuals perhaps know, what individuals have seen. People feel, they expressed it as "their human kingdoms having been stolen", they had felt great and now they must feel small. — Yes, I must admit, this objection surprised me because I don't really understand its content. Isn't it true, what is said consequently in the letter, that people expect something to happen from above, but now they feel thrown back on to themselves, on to exercises they need to do, on to efforts needed to understand something. — I initially feel an extraordinary contradiction between both these allegations. Secondly, I must add this: my whole life I have been — and it has been already quite long — extremely glad if a truth appears somewhere, and I actually find it disturbing when someone rejects the truth, because it has not grown out of their own soil. This is quite an egotistical subjective judgment, but we are stuck in such egotistical subjective judgments, and as a result we need a renewal of thinking in our current time, because it exists.
Here we have a bunch of judgements which indicates how necessary it is that a shift takes place. If these judgemental directions, which have been created by our time, continue to exist, then we will get nowhere. It is already necessary to say, even though it may sound rough, it is above all necessary to mention that the objectors must think about their objections, to what a degree they should not be making them, in order for the entry of the renewal not to be disturbed by the most ancient judgments. This is what has to be said above all things.
Another objection which is of course often made is that Anthroposophy appears in the form of a science and the inference is made that the realm of belief and the realm of knowledge must metamorphose. Actually, the objection depends, when it is made, on the inexact understanding of the context in Anthroposophy. In Anthroposophy the claim is never made that a belief must be transformed into knowledge or something similar, but in Anthroposophy this first positive element appears: it is shown that through knowledge not only can one have something in the sensory world of appearance, but also in the spiritual world. The question can at least be: Are the methods which are applied directed to the real, safe and equivalent? — This can then be examined and re-examined. When the issue is expressed in a way of objecting to imagination, objecting to inspiration and so on, then there is nothing to be discussed. However, no judgment can be made when one says: I feel uncomfortable if something is to be known about it. — It isn't important if something is unpleasant, but it is important that a certain method regarding the super-sensory can be known, just as in the sensory world something can be known. What can be known can't be judged in a way so that one can say the objects of faith were based on the free recognition of inner truths because Anthroposophy is a knowledge forced through "hallucination and proof." — Anthroposophy is just a science and is established as a science, it can't get involved with such an objection because it is a science. One could have the same objection against mathematics; one could say it would be detestable if mathematical truths were actual truths. Such an objection can't actually be made, because it is basically pointless.
An objection which I have heard with the most diverse nuances, is this, that something is expected, which could be something shocking, which you accept and get away with by listening to such things as "Christ is the ruler of the sun" or the issue about the "Two Jesus children." which are equally indifferent to you.
My dear friends, I must admit I don't really understand how these things can be indifferent, when they are understood. The unbelievably important question of the present day is: How can the realm of morality be founded in the realm of natural necessities? We live today on the one side within a scientifically acknowledged realm of natural necessities and one allows that within this realm of necessities, hypotheses are made which are not supported by direct observation. One takes for instance the example of the development of the earth according to geology and so on, spanning only a certain time in history and then according to these impressions arrive at the origin of the earth as coming out of the ancient mists, or like the modified hypotheses in the sense of the Kant-Laplace theories which are no more valid these days; then out of this comes the imagining of the earth's origin and out of the second main statement of the mechanical heat theory, the theory of entropy, the imagining how everything is heading for death through heat (Wärmetod). Who constructs this hypothesis regarding the earth's origin and evolution must say to himself — because according to the scientific point of view on which it is based, it can't be assumed otherwise — that this ancient mist was there as the sovereign entity with laws of aerodynamics and laws of aerostatics, and out of this the laws of hydrodynamics and hydrostatics were created, and then luckily such conditions arose through which connections were created as we find in the simplest cells, the amoebas, and then all that turned into complicated organisms, also humans, and in humans moral ideals rose through which human worth could be felt.
What would we be as humans if we hadn't had our moral ideals, and if through these moral ideals we didn't, through the acceptance of a divine world order in the entire global context, become ennobled? It is useless to just let it go; to say we will separate the realm of the certainty of faith which we have in moral ideals, from what we have as the natural order. Such a separation can only happen with those who aren't really inwardly serious about what they see presented in the natural order.
My dear friends, I once became acquainted with someone who at the time was involved with the great problem of death in the world, explored from Haeckel's point of view. With an earnest attitude, an inner enthusiasm to understand such a point of view, he approached this view which is quite honestly based on the foundation of science. What did he have to say about moral-religious ideals? He said: "Those are religious foam bubbles rising in human life, it is something people put in front of themselves, it is something on which the human race lives, from which they take their dignity; but one day the great graveyard of the heat death will arrive, and then all outer forms of organisms, everything which appeared as moral-religious foam bubbles will be buried, and in the world's space a sloop will be circling in some curve that can be said to be something which people once created according to mechanistic or dynamic laws, these people allowed bubbles to rise and from this the people derived their worth; and all of that has turned out to be a cosmic cemetery."
You see, out of this person's honesty, because he couldn't unhook himself from it, he returned to the blissful womb of the Catholic Church for some years. This is only one example out of many.
This abyss has opened up between the moral-religious world order and the scientific-mechanic world order. There are only a few people capable of enough sensitivity, who doesn't tolerate the entire world view regarding the earth's origin or demise according to science. For example, Herman Grimm said a rotting and decaying carcass bone would be an appetizing piece compared to what the Kant-Laplace theory made of the earth. — What Herman Grimm added is true, future generations of scholars will be able to make astute treatises to explain the nonsense which the Kant-Laplace theory introduced into people's heads, to their detriment.
My dear friends, if with your deepest insight you want to look at what such a point of view has caused for the doom of the human soul, starting in the lowest classes in school, then in order to do what needs to be done today, you must search much deeper than is normally done. You can't get stuck half way and say: We must withdraw religious content from the general view of the world, we must have our own religious certainty and beside it, science may exist. — For then, at most, man's moral-religious view of the world will help him return to the bosom of the blessed Roman Catholic Church to numb himself if he still comes under such an anesthetic.
In the course of evolution, we have reached the point where we no longer know that the spiritual lives in all-natural laws, that for example what happens within man himself, where there is actually a hearth within him, is accomplished outside in nature. My dear friends, the people from the 19th century quite correctly were strongly affected by for example what Julius Robert Mayer expressed as a law of conservation of energy and of matter. (Erhaltungssatz der Kraft.) It has really come to the fore that the law of the conservation of power and of matter in the 19th century dominates our physics today. However, this is valid for outer nature only and there only within certain boundaries which become more limited as time goes by; but in terms of time it doesn't apply to human beings. It is simply true that within man there is a hearth where all material things which he takes into himself, is transformed into nothing, where matter is destroyed, matter is dissolved. By letting our pure thoughts be assimilated by our etheric body and letting these thoughts work on our physical body through the etheric, matter is destroyed in our physical body. (During the next explanation drawings were made on the blackboard. The originals are no longer available.)
I'm sketching diagrammatically, it is intensively spread over the entire human being, I draw it in such a way as if it is only a part. This place in a person where matter becomes destroyed is at the same time the place where matter is created again, when morality, when religious perceptions glows through us. What is created here simply by our perceptions through moral and religious ideals, this is like a seed for future worlds. If the material world perishes, when the material world has been destroyed in the heat death then this earth will be transformed into another world body, and this body of a world will be made from the moral ideals created into material forms. Because our science is not capable of penetrating deeply enough into matter, it is not capable of grasping the thought that matter itself is an abstraction. We may speak about the thermal death of the earth, but at the same time we have to speak of what is cast off from plants, in wilting and drying out, and about the seed surviving into the next year; even as we can speak in relation to the heat death, we can speak about the seed which remains to us and survives the world death.
There is a sphere where scientific truths end; mere scientific truths in the sense of today, where moral ideals end being bubbles of foam, when the earth will expire in the heat death. There is an accessible region for man, where moral ideals are received when physical matter is destroyed, a sphere where the Word becomes a natural scientific truth: "Heaven and Earth will pass away but My words will not pass away!" — There is a sphere where the Bible becomes science; and before this — it needs to be acknowledged in the background of today's aspirations — no healing can occur, before we have the opportunity to advance to a science, not a one-sided science like today, nor one which is a one-sided abstract spiritual science.
Today the term "spiritual science" is applied only to the science of ideas. For Anthroposophy spiritual science is not only what can be grasped on the other side of materiality, but it is something whose processes penetrate matter.
With results of this research it is then possible, certainly by applying diligent spiritual scientific methods, to consider everything regarding the relationship between the sun and Christ. These things must be considered in the right light. With a certain authority we have during the course of the last three centuries come to see something regarding the stars, sun and moon, which can be calculated. What has brought us misfortune is that we only calculate. We need to once again observe that by looking at the arithmetic of the world's structure, we are in fact investigating a corpse. We need to learn to investigate the spirit of the cosmic whole. Everything depends on this. We won't find the spirit, if we allow matter to violate us in such a way that it presents itself in the universe as something which can only be calculated, or at most be judged according to basic mechanical laws. For this reason, it can already be said that it depends entirely on the individual human being who says: "For me it is not important that the Christ is the ruler of the sun". — This sentence must be understood in the correct way: "For me it is a matter of indifference".
My dear friends, I've heard a few people say they are indifferent to what the Christ has to do with the sun, but they were not indifferent when their taxes increase by fifty percent. Yet it is more necessary for the overall salvation of mankind that Christ and the sun are seen to be related than the rising tax of fifty percent is.
How we think in detail about the two Jesus children may be discussed again. However, what would one say to an objection which claims we should practice something that, yes, I don't know what it is, and then the issue about the two Jesus children is put on the table, which leaves us indifferent. I open the Gospel and read a great deal which is presented there, similar to the issue about the two Jesus children mentioned in Anthroposophy. Then again, you don't say: We want religion, but we are quite indifferent whether Jesus was the son of Joseph and Mary or something similar, every single Gospel truth leaves us completely indifferent. — I don't know to what else you don't care about. One doesn't want to enter into something which is of no interest to you, but an objection is not the same, it is definitely not.
Now I would still like to enter into point eight which I've written down for myself, because time is marching on. It is said that a certain progress is expected in people's internalizing; yet through the way culture has been created, people have come to hate culture, they don't want to hear anything more about culture, and now (with Anthroposophy) something arrives which doesn't only speak about internalization, but even what strives to have an effect on architecture and the art of movement.
Yes, my dear friends, if you take life seriously you won't want anything other than what appears in Anthroposophy, what appears to you as spiritual foundations penetrating everything in outer life. I'm still talking about Anthroposophy; we will still touch on what religion has to say about it. That's just the trouble, we are no longer in the position to bring what we experience in the spiritual into our outer life, and finally this happens just in those areas where it is the most noticeable. Just imagine you had said to a Greek that he couldn't express his spiritual experiences in outer life. Just as the Greek thought about his Apollo, as he thought about Zeus, he created his Zeus temple accordingly, his colonnaded temple. We no longer create, we imitate what is old; we don't have the possibility of taking those areas relating to the spirit and also create an external physiognomy of life. The only thing we can create is a department store. The department store is the grandiose creation of the materialistic spirit of the present day. However, if we wanted a home for the spirit and turn to a builder, then he would build it in a Romantic, Gothic or some or other style, and we would have no feeling, when we stand there within the walls, of anything being expressed of what we had inwardly lived through spiritually.
You see, when the thought was created — not through me but through others — to build a house for Anthroposophy, not for an instant would an idea exist to approach a builder and let him erect a Renaissance or Baroque building and then to move in there, but the idea could come about in the following way. In this building this and that would be spoken about and the forms which would be visible all around should say exactly the same as what is being spoken within it. If this is not only theoretical but life, if the forms are creative, then they are presented — as living — in the world. It is impossible to measure what is created here as a matter of course in comparison with the dishonest cultural activity of the times which has brought us into all this trouble.
This is what I wanted to present primarily, my dear friends. There are too many questions to deal with in one stroke; I will continue with them tomorrow. I've limited myself today by entering into what has been raised against Anthroposophy in general. I will however expand on what in particular will be raised against the service which Anthroposophy will bring towards religious renewal. I would like to stress the following: if somehow an idea develops that it equally represents an existing religious confession, or a creed, which one thinks to justify only through Anthroposophy as its basis, then you do Anthroposophy a wrong because it has never claimed to be a religious education nor is it a religion or wants to establish a religion. This Anthroposophy will not do. Anthroposophy follows impulses to knowledge, goals to knowledge; and whoever says that Anthroposophy is not a religion because it doesn't have the characteristics of religion — say something which Anthroposophy must say about itself from the outset. You can't accuse someone of being something he doesn't even want to be! The objections which are actually made from a religious side, appear to me as if, let's say, someone is active in a field and is accused of not doing what he could in another field.
The objections raised by Dr Rittelmeyer, as far as I have taken into account, certainly involve the relationship people have to Anthroposophy. For this reason, I approached it from this side and will enter into it from the religious side, tomorrow.