20 February 1921, Hilversum
When speaking about such a subject as this evening's we must earnestly bear in mind that there are countless human souls at the present time whose experience of the various kinds of knowledge and of the tendencies of practical social life to be found today makes them long for a renewal of these things, for a new way of looking at the world. Such souls feel that in certain respects we cannot take for granted that we can continue to exist as beings with spirit-soul life and social life with the ideas, feelings and impulses of the will which we have taken over from the last century and with which we have been brought up.
Living in the civilized world we have experienced the immense progress of the scientific outlook on the one hand, and we have experienced the tremendous results of this scientific outlook in practical life and in technical achievements which meet us from morning till evening at every turn. But we have also received something else with these tremendous achievements of science and with the practical consequences of this scientific knowledge in social life. Whatever a person does today, whether in reading or whether in his ordinary everyday life or in whatever else he does, he constantly takes in from morning to evening scientific knowledge in one form or other. When he then faces the eternal questions of the human soul and of the human spirit, questions about the immortal being of the human soul, about the meaning of the whole world and about the meaning of human activity, he can only link them to what his own soul thinks and feels about these questions, to the impulses of his own actions and to what science has been saying for three or four centuries in a way in which it had not spoken to men of earlier ages. Earlier he would have received the answer through the various religious confessions, but even if he belongs to one of the latter today, the search for his answers will be influenced by his modern outlook. And in living this existence which has become so complicated and the whole style of which is dependent on modern technology, the modern person cannot help seeing how dependent on this technology is his life. And he has to say to himself: Fundamentally, human beings in the whole civilized world have become quite different from what they were when conditions were simpler. And he must then become aware and feel that today there are many questions to be answered about social life, about the way in which people live together.
We can even say the following: Scientific knowledge is such that we are compelled to recognize it, and the practical, technical results which our modern life has brought are such that we are compelled to live with them. But neither really gives us any answers to the great questions of human existence; on the contrary, they only produce new questions. For if we take an unprejudiced look at what science so significantly has to say about the human being, his organization, his form of life on the earth and so on, we do not acquire any answers about the eternal nature of the human being or about the meaning of the world and of existence; on the contrary, we acquire deeper and more meaningful questions. And we have to ask ourselves: where do we now find the answers to these questions which modern life has caused to become deeper and more urgent? For as far as knowledge is concerned, the achievements of natural science have not brought solutions for the great riddles of the world, but new questions, new riddles.
And what has practical life given us? Of course, all the means of our enormous and widespread industrial life and world transport and so on have been placed at the disposal of our practical social life. But it is precisely this practical life which presents us with ethical, moral and spiritual questions as to how human beings live with one another. And it is just this kind of question that concerns the minds of people today as a social problem and which often appears as a quite frightening problem to those who think earnestly and who take life very seriously. So we see that the practical side of life also presents the human being with riddles.
As against these questions which confront the human soul from two sides we can now place what the present speaker calls an anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit. This starts, first of all, from the foundation of knowledge and then seeks in the foundations of social life those sources of man's being which can lead at least to a partial solution of these questions, to a solution which is not only possible, but necessary, because it is quite clear to an unprejudiced observer that humanity will suffer a decline and be unable to rise out of the problems which face it concerning these questions of present-day civilization if life simply goes on as before, if human souls face such urgent questions and simply dry up, and if no new impulses for the renewal of social life are found out of the depths of the human soul.
What the anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit strives for is not directed against the knowledge of natural science. Anything directed against this knowledge, which has brought so much good to humanity, would be amateurish and superficial. But precisely because the anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit takes very seriously the fruits which natural science has given modern humanity, it comes to quite different results from those attained by the kind of scientific research which is practiced in every sphere of ordinary life.
The anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit follows the same path, indeed, in one respect is continued further along it. I would like to make use of a comparison in order to illustrate and explain the relationship of the anthroposophical Science of the Spirit to natural science. In using it I certainly do not wish to link what anthroposophy has been able to achieve so far with an historical event of world importance and to put it on an equal footing with it. It is only intended to be a comparison — there are always people who wish to make fun of such things, and I will leave it to them to decide whether they wish to make fun of this comparison.
When Columbus undertook his journey across the ocean he was not at all sure where he would arrive. At that time there were two possible ways of looking at the problem of world travel (which, in fact, came into the world through Columbus): either one did not bother about the great unknown which exists beyond the sea and stayed in the area of one's home, or one set out across the great ocean as Columbus and his followers did. But at that time nobody hoped to find America or anything like that. The intention was to find another way to India, so that one only really wanted to reach what was already known.
The scientist of the spirit who seriously studies the researches of natural science finds himself in a position similar to that of Columbus who wanted to reach something already known by a new route, but then on the way found something quite different, quite new. In following the work of natural science most of us do not get beyond the observation of sense phenomena and the ordering of them by the intellect. Or if we are equipped with instruments and tools which then help our observation, with the telescope, microscope, spectroscope, x-ray, and if we are armed with the conscientious and excellent method of thinking of modern science and then with all this set out across the sea of research, we shall only find on the other side something that is already known and which is similar to what we already have: atoms, molecules with complicated movements, the world, in fact, which lies behind our sense world. And although we describe it as a world of small movements, small particles and the like, it is fundamentally not very different from what we have here and can see with our eyes and touch with our hands. This then is what lies at the root of the world of the natural scientist. But if with the same seriousness we journey further across the sea of research, only this time using the anthroposophical Science of the Spirit, we arrive at something quite different. We do not meet the well-known atoms and molecules on the way. First of all, we become conscious of questions: What are you then actually doing when you investigate nature as has been done in recent centuries? What happens in you when you investigate? What happens to your soul while you are investigating in the observatory, in the clinic? And anyone who has linked some self observation with what he does will say to himself — your soul is working in an absolutely spiritual way, and when it tries to investigate the evolution of animals up to the human being and to penetrate the course of the stars, it is working in a way which was not followed by men of earlier times. But of course humanity has not always looked at these things in this way. People have not always said to themselves: When I investigate nature it is the spirit, the soul which is really working in me, and I must recognize this spirit, this soul. The results of an anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit are really reached on the path of scientific investigation. They are reached as something unknown in the same way that Columbus reached America. But what happens when we are engaged in true investigation is that we become aware of spirit, of soul, and this can then be developed further. And through this we then acquire a true knowledge of what spirit is in the human soul. And it is precisely the task of an anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit to evolve the methods by which we develop what is active in the soul of the modern scientist. But we have to choose a quite definite starting point for this Science of the Spirit and that is what one might call intellectual modesty. Indeed, we must have this intellectual modesty to such a degree that the comparison which I am now about to make is justified. We have to say to ourselves: supposing, for instance, we give a volume of Shakespeare to a five year old child — what will the child do with it? He will tear it to bits or play with it in some other way. If the child is ten or fifteen years old he will no longer tear the volume of Shakespeare to pieces, but will treat it according to what it is really for. Even as a five year old, a child has certain capacities in his soul which can be brought out and developed so that through the development of these capacities the child becomes different from what he was before. As adult human beings who have achieved our normal development in everyday life and in ordinary science we should be able to produce intellectual modesty and to say to ourselves: as far as the secrets of nature are concerned we are fundamentally in the same position as the five year old child with a volume of Shakespeare. There are certainly capacities in us which are hidden which we can draw out of our souls and which we can then develop and cultivate. And we must evolve our soul life so that we can approach the whole of nature anew in the same way that the child who has reached fifteen or twenty years approaches the volume of Shakespeare anew as compared with his treatment of it when he was five. And I have to speak to you about the methods by which such forces which are to be found in every human soul can be developed. For, in fact, by developing these methods we acquire quite a new insight into nature and into human existence. The modern seeking soul is in a way unconsciously aware of these methods, but this is about as far as it has gone.
There are, as you know, many people already among us who say to themselves: If we look back to ancient times or if, for example, we look across to the East where there are still remains, albeit decadent remains, of an ancient wisdom of humanity, we find that knowledge or what we might call science takes on a religious character, so that the human soul can experience a certain satisfaction in its research for answers about the world and its own existence. And because we see this and because in our civilized life anthropology has produced profound knowledge about such old ways of looking at life, many people long to go back to these earlier soul conditions. They want to bring ancient wisdom to life again and want to further in the West what is left of this ancient wisdom in the East according to the saying, “ex foriente lux.” Those people who long for knowledge which does not belong to our age do not understand the purpose of human evolution. For each age brings particular tasks for humanity in all spheres of life. We cannot fill our souls today with the same treasure of wisdom with which our forefathers filled their souls hundreds or thousands of years ago. But we can orientate ourselves to how our forefathers did it and then in our own way we can seek a path to lead us into the super-sensible. But the human soul has a fairly good idea that in the depths of its being it is not connected with physical nature, with which the body is connected, but with a super-sensible nature which is connected with the eternal character of the soul and the eternal destiny and goal of this soul.
Now our forefathers of hundreds or thousands of years ago had a quite definite idea about the relationship of the human being to the world to which he belongs beyond birth and death. When they entered on the path which leads to super-sensible knowledge, into the super-sensible world, there arose quite definite images, and these filled the soul with deep feelings. And there is one image in particular which made people shudder who knew about it from the past. This is the image of the Guardian of the Threshold, of the threshold which has to be crossed when we progress from our ordinary way of thinking which guides us in daily life and in ordinary science to knowledge of the spirit and of the soul. Men felt in ancient times: there is an abyss between our ordinary knowledge and that which gives us information about the nature of the soul. And these people had a very real feeling that something stood at this threshold, a being that was not human, but spiritual, and that prevented the threshold from being crossed before they were sufficiently prepared. The leaders of the old schools of wisdom, which are also called mysteries, did not allow anyone to approach the threshold who had not first been properly prepared through a certain training of the will. We can show why this was so by means of a simple example.
We are very proud today that for centuries we have had quite a different way of looking at our planetary system and the stars from the outlook of the Middle Ages and from the one we think existed in the Ancient World. We are proud of the Copernican outlook, and from one point of view quite rightly so. We say: we have the heliocentric outlook as compared with the geocentric outlook of the Middle Ages and of the Ancient World, where it was imagined that the earth stands still and that the sun and the stars move round it. We know today that the earth circles around the sun at a tremendous speed, and from the observations which are made in this connection we can work out the framework of our total world picture concerning the sun and the planetary system. And we know that in a way this medieval world picture can be called childish when compared to the heliocentric system. But if we go back even further, for instance, to a few centuries before the birth of Christ, we find the heliocentric system taught by Aristarchus of Samos in ancient Greece. We are told about this by Plutarch. This world picture of Aristarchus of Samos is not basically different from what everyone learns today in the elementary school as the correct view. At that time Aristarchus of Samos had betrayed this in the widest circles, whereas it was normally taught only in the confined circles of the mysteries. It was only conveyed to those people who had first been prepared by the leaders of the schools of wisdom. It was said: In his normal consciousness man is not suited to receive such a world picture; therefore the threshold into the spiritual world had to be placed between him and this world picture. The Guardian of the Threshold had to protect him from learning about the heliocentric system and many other things without preparation. Today every educated person knows these things, but at that time they were withheld if there had not been sufficient preparation.
Why were these things withheld from people at that time? Now, our historical knowledge does not normally suffice to penetrate into the depths of the evolution of the human soul. The kind of history that is presented today offers no explanation of how the constitution of the human soul has changed during the course of hundreds and thousands of years. In the Greek and even in the Roman and early medieval periods human souls had quite a different constitution from today. People then had a consciousness and knowledge of the world which arose out of their instincts and out of quite indefinite, half dreamlike states of the soul. Today we can have no idea of what this knowledge of the world was. We can take up a work which at that time would have been called scientific. We can think what we like about it, we can call it superstitious, and as far as present day education is concerned, we would be right. But the peculiar character of these works was that people never looked at minerals, plants, animals, rivers and clouds or at the rising and setting of the stars in such a dry, matter of fact and spiritless way as is done today, because at the same time they always saw spirit in nature. They perceived spirit-soul nature in every stone, in every plant, in every animal, in the course of the clouds, in the whole of nature. The human being felt this spirit-soul nature in himself, and what he felt in himself he found spread out in the external world. He did not feel himself so cut off from the outer world as people do today. But instead of this, his self-consciousness was weaker. And one quite rightly had to say to oneself in past periods of human evolution: If the ordinary human being were to be told about the nature of the heliocentric system in the same way that it was told to the wise — if it were simply said, “the earth circles through space with tremendous speed,” this ordinary person would suffer a kind of eclipse of his soul.
This is an historical truth. It is just as much an historical truth as what we learn in school about Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian and Persian wars. But a truth we do not normally learn is that the Greek soul was differently constituted from the modern soul. It was less awake in connection with the powers of inner self-consciousness, and the wise leaders of the mysteries were quite rightly afraid that if such souls acquired super-sensible knowledge without preparation, knowledge which today is the common possession of all educated people, they would suffer a kind of spiritual eclipse. Therefore the souls of men had first to be strengthened through a training of the will so that they did not succumb when their self-consciousness was led into a quite different world from the one it was accustomed to. And the souls had to be made fearless in face of the unknown which they had to enter. Fearlessness of the unknown and a courageous realization of what was literally for such souls the losing of the ground under their feet (for if we no longer stand on an earth that stands still, we lose the ground from under our feet), a courageous disposition of the soul and fearlessness and several other qualities were what prepared the student of the schools of wisdom to cross the abyss into the spiritual, super-sensible world.
And what did they learn then? This sounds surprising and paradoxical, for they learnt what we learn today in the elementary school and what is common to all educated people. This was in fact what the ancient peoples were afraid of and for which they had first to acquire the courage to face. The human soul has evolved during the course of the centuries so that today it has quite a different constitution, with the result that what could only be given to the ancient peoples after difficult preparation is now given to us in the elementary school. In fact, we are already on the other side of the threshold which the ancient peoples were only allowed to cross after long preparation. But we have also to deal with the consequences of this crossing of the threshold. We are at the point which they feared, and for which they had to acquire courage — but at the same time we have also lost something. And what this is that we have lost in our modern civilization is clear to us when we read what scientists who take our modern civilization seriously have to say about what we cannot know. Why this is so should really be explained by those who face such facts on the basis of a serious study of the Science of the Spirit. We have arrived at quite a different form of self-consciousness since the time of Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler. We have progressed to abstract thinking. We are developing our intellectuality to an extent which was unknown to the ancient peoples with their less awake kind of consciousness. And because of this we have a strong self-consciousness which enables us to enter into a world which the ancient peoples could enter only after being prepared. Even the most unbiased scientists who speak about what we are unable to know and about the limits of knowledge show that we enter into this world through a self-consciousness which has been strongly developed through the thinking and through an intellectuality which people in the past did not possess. But at the same time we have lost the connection with the deeper basis of the world. We have become rather proud of ourselves in having achieved a heightened self-consciousness, but we have lost real knowledge of the world. It is no longer possible for us to achieve such connection instinctively, as it was in the tenth or twelfth centuries. We therefore have to talk about a new threshold into the spiritual world. By means of our heightened self-consciousness we have to develop something that will lead us into the super-sensible world, which we can no longer enter instinctively as did the people of earlier times. These people developed a heightening of their self- consciousness through self discipline in order to be able to hold out in a world which we enter without preparation. So now we have to prepare ourselves for something else? In order to do this we have to develop powers which are latent in our soul and of which we become aware through intellectual modesty.
Thus, rather than starting with something obscure in the human soul, we start with two of its well-known powers. In the Science of the Spirit we begin with two powers which are absolutely necessary in human life, and they are then developed further. In normal life they are only at the beginning of their development, and this development is continued through our own work. The first of these is the human faculty of memory. It is through this faculty of memory that we are really an ego. It gives us our ordinary self-consciousness. We look back to a particular year in our childhood, and the experiences which we then had appear in the picture of our memory. It is true that they are somewhat pale and faded, but they do appear. And we know from ordinary medical literature what it means when part of our life is extinguished, when we are not able to remember something in the sequence of our life. We are then ill in our souls, mentally ill. Such an illness belongs to the most serious disorders of our soul-spirit constitution. But this faculty of memory which is so necessary for ordinary life is, bound to the physical body, so far as this ordinary life is concerned. Everyone can feel this. Those who have a more materialistic outlook show how this dependence is manifested, how certain organs or parts of organs only need to be damaged and the memory will likewise be damaged, interrupted, destroyed. But this faculty of memory can also be the starting point from which a new and higher power of the soul can be developed, and this is done in the way I have described in my book, How to Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds and in other writings. I have shown there how the faculty of memory can be developed into something higher through what I have called meditation and, in a technical sense, concentration on certain spheres of thought, of feeling and of the will.
What then is the peculiar characteristic of the images of the memory? Normally our images and our thoughts are formed in connection with the outer world, and they slip by, just as the outer world slips by. Our experience is made permanent by our memory. Out of the depths of our being we can recall what we experienced years before. Images become permanent in us through our memory. And this is what we use in meditation, in concentration, when we want to become scientists of the spirit. We form images which we can easily comprehend — or we allow ourselves to be advised by those who are competent in such matters — and these should be images which are not able to arise out of the unconscious, nor should they be reminiscences of life, but they should be images which we can comprehend as exactly as mathematical or geometrical ideas. The cultivation of these methods is certainly not easier than clinical research or than research in physics or chemistry or astronomy. It is, to be sure, an inner effort of the soul, and a very serious effort of the soul at that. It can take years, although with some people it can also take a shorter time; it simply depends on the inner destiny of the person, but it always takes some time before this continual concentration on particular images can lead to any result. Naturally the rest of life must not be disturbed through these exercises, in fact we remain sensible and able people, for these exercises claim only a little time. But they have to be continued for a long period, and then they will become what one can call a higher form of the power of memory. We then become aware of something in our soul which lives in the same way as the thoughts which we have about our experiences. However we know that what now lives in our soul does not refer to anything that we have experienced in life since birth, but in the same way that we normally have pictures of such experiences, we now have other pictures. In my writings I have called these Imaginations. We have pictures which are as vivid as are the pictures of our memory, but they are not linked to what we have experienced in ordinary life, and we become aware that these Imaginations are related to something which is outside us in the spiritual world. And we come to realize what it means to live outside the human body. With our faculty of memory we are bound to our body. With this developed faculty of memory we are no longer bound to the body, we enter into a state which is on the one hand quite similar to, but on the other hand quite different from the condition which the human being lives through from the time he goes to sleep until he wakes up. He is normally unconscious at this time, because he cannot see with his eyes or hear with his ears. This is the condition we are in when we use our developed faculty of memory. We do not perceive with our eyes and ears; we are not even able to feel the warmth of our surroundings. On the other hand we do not live unconsciously as in sleep, but we live in a world of images and perceptions. We now perceive a spiritual world. It is really as if we begin to go to sleep, but instead of passing over into the dullness of unconsciousness we pass into another world, which we then perceive through our developed faculty of memory. And the first thing that we perceive is what I would like to call a tableau of the memory, that is, a developed tableau of the memory of this life which reaches back to birth. This is the first super-sensible perception.
The memories we normally have are of our life; we allow the pictures of our memory to arise out of the stream of life. This is not the case when we look back on life through this supersensibly developed faculty of memory. In this case in one moment the whole course of our life is drawn together into a single picture which we can comprehend as something spatial before us. When we achieve this independence from our body, the fragments of our memory which normally appear as single events in time now form a coherent whole. When we have become accustomed to forming images independently of the body — in the same way that a sleeping person would if he could — there is then developed what one can call a real view of what going to sleep, waking, and sleep itself are. We get to know how the spirit-soul part of man draws itself out — not spatially, but dynamically, though despite this, the first is the right expression — and how this normally remains unconscious, how the human being can however develop this consciousness outside the body, and how consciousness arises when the spirit-soul part again enters into the body. When this has been developed it is possible to advance gradually to further images.
When we are able to imagine what kind of living spirit- soul beings we are when we sleep, we are able, through working further on the developed faculty of memory which we have described, to recognize how the spirit-soul part lived in a purely spiritual world before it descended into the physical world through birth and conception. We can then distinguish the following: A person who is sleeping has a desire which is both physical and super-sensible, to return to the physical body which is lying in bed and to revive it in a spirit-soul sense. We also meet this as a strong force in the soul that is waiting to be received by a physical body which comes from the father and mother in the line of physical heredity, but we also come to see how this soul descends from this spirit-soul world and penetrates the body. We acquire knowledge of how our soul lives in the spirit-soul world before birth; we come to know the eternal in the human soul. And we no longer merely rely on our faith concerning the eternal in the human soul, but on knowledge which has been acquired through super-sensible perception. And through this we also acquire knowledge of the great going to sleep which the human being experiences when he passes through the gates of death. What happens to the human soul when it passes through the gates of death is similar to what happens in sleep when consciousness is not lost but merely subdued, only here it is the other way round: whereas the human being is strongly attached to the body when he goes to sleep and wishes to return to it, thereby retaining his consciousness in normal sleep in a subdued form, when he goes through the gates of death he acquires full consciousness because he no longer has any desire for the body. Only after he has lived for a long time in the spiritual world does he experience something which may be compared to the age of the physical body which has reached the 35th year of life. After having lived for a long time after death the soul experiences a desire to return to the body, and from this moment it moves toward a new life on earth. I have repeatedly described in detail these experiences of the human being between death and a new birth. When such things as these are described, people today often make fun of them and regard them as fantastic. But those who regard as fantastic what has been won in this way should also regard mathematical ideas as fantastic, for what I have described has been won through true and earnest scientific investigation.
And now we experience a tremendous and significant image. In a memory image we have before our souls something which we have experienced years before. We have what we once experienced as an image before our souls. But if what we have before us does not arise through our normal memory but through the developed faculty of memory, we then have the spiritual world before us in which we are when we sleep and in which we also exist before we descend to a life on earth. What we now experience is not what appears to the senses in the outer world, but what appears to the eye of the spirit, the eye of the soul. We have before us the spiritual roots of existence, the widths of the universe. We rise up and go past a new Guardian of the Threshold, we cross over a new threshold into the super-sensible world, to what lies spiritually behind the natural existence to which we belong. The stones and clouds and everything that belongs to the kingdoms of nature arise like a mighty memory. We know what a stone or a cloud looks like to the eye. But now to the eye of the spirit something appears to which we are related because we lived in it before our birth or conception. This is the great world memory. Since this world memory of our own super-sensible existence before our birth appears and since our eternal nature appears before the eye of the spirit from the world outside us, we acquire at the same time a world tableau of the spirit that is spread out in the world around us. We acquire real spiritual knowledge of the world. The Science of the Spirit must speak about such things, for it is something which must be taken into modern civilization just as the Copernican and Galilean outlook entered the world a few centuries ago. Today the Science of the Spirit is regarded as fantastic in exactly the same way as the new outlook of that time which was rejected as paradoxical and fantastic. But these things will be accepted into human souls, and we shall then also possess something for the external social and the entire existence of the human being, which I am now about to mention. But first I must point out that there is another faculty of knowledge which must be developed in order to acquire full knowledge of the spirit.
People will be prepared to admit that the faculty of memory can be developed into a power for acquiring knowledge. But perhaps the more strict scientists will not be able to accept the second faculty for acquiring knowledge which I have to describe. And yet, despite this, it is a real power for acquiring knowledge, though not as it appears in life, but when it is developed. This is the power of love.
In normal life, love is bound to the human instincts, to the life of desires, but it is possible to extricate love out of normal life in the same way as the faculty of memory. It is possible for love to be independent of the human body. The power of love can be developed, if by means of it we are able to obtain real objectivity. Whereas in normal life the original impetus for love comes from within the human being, it is also possible to develop this love through being immersed in outer objects so that we are able to forget ourselves and become one with the outer objects. If we perform an action in such a way that it does not arise out of our inner impulses which originate in our desires and instincts, but out of love for what is around us, then we have the kind of love which is at the same time the power of human freedom. That is why I already said in the book which I published in 1892 under the title, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, that in a higher sense the saying, “love makes one blind,” is not true, but that on the contrary, “love makes one seeing.” And those who find their way in the world through love, make themselves really free, for they make themselves independent of the inner instincts and desires which enslave them. They know how to live with the world of outer facts and events, and how their actions should be directed by the world. Then they can act as free human beings in the sense that they do what should be done and not what they would be led to do out of their instincts and desires. In my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity I wanted to provide a foundation for a new social feeling of freedom which would enable a new form of social life to arise out of the depths of the human being. And now I would like to underline this by saying that we must cultivate this love as a power for acquiring knowledge, for example in developing a sharper faculty of perceiving how we become a new person each day. For each day are we not fundamentally a different person? Life drives us on, and we are driven on by what other people experience in us, and by what we experience in them. When we think back to what we were ten years ago, we have to admit that we were quite different from today.
Fundamentally, we are different every day. We allow ourselves to be driven by ordinary life and what the scientist of the spirit has to do as a training of the will is to take this development of the will into his own hands and to note to himself: What has influenced you today? What has changed in your inner life today? What has changed your inner life during the last ten, twenty years? — On the one hand we have to do this, but on the other hand we also have to do something else: we ourselves have to direct quite definite impulses and motives so that we are not always changed from outside, but that we ourselves are able to be our own witnesses and observe our willing and our action. If we do this we shall be able to develop quite naturally the higher kind of love which is completely taken up into the objects around us.
We therefore develop these two faculties of the soul — on the one hand, the faculty of memory which is independent of the body, and on the other, the power of love which really enables us to unite ourselves with our true spiritual existence for the first time and leads us to a higher form of self-consciousness. With these two we then cross the threshold into a spiritual world. We then supplement our ordinary scientific knowledge, and through this anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit, every branch of science becomes more fruitful.
I can remember how the great medical authorities at a famous school of medicine spoke of a “medical nihilism.” And they spoke of it because it had begun to be said that for many typical illnesses there were really no remedies. In modern scientific life the connection with nature has been lost, for we have no real picture of nature. This or the other substance is tried to see if it has any ability to heal a particular illness, but in fact there is no real knowledge of such things. Through the Science of the Spirit we can come to a real understanding of plant life, of each individual plant and of the great differences which exist between the roots, the leaves and the flowers, and we can come to understand how connections of a spiritual nature lie behind the life of the roots, the leaves, the flowers and in the life of the herbs. We learn how man stands in relation to this world of nature, out of which he has grown. We obtain an over-all view of the relationship of animals, plants and minerals to the human being, and it is through this that we acquire a rational therapy. In this way medicine can be made more fruitful. Last spring I gave a course for physicians and medical students, in which I showed how the art of finding remedies and pathology, the knowledge of various illnesses, can be made more fruitful through this spiritual knowledge.
And in this way all the sciences can be fructified by spiritual knowledge. In acquiring this knowledge, in uniting ourselves with what we are, with the spirit-soul life, which now works on our physical body, we come to a quite different kind of knowledge from the one advanced by ordinary science, for this latter only wants to work with logical, abstract and limited concepts about nature and human existence, and it is said: no science is real and true unless it arrives at such abstract laws. — But supposing nature does not work according to such abstract laws? We can talk about them for as long as we like, but we are limiting our knowledge if we are intent on a logical and abstract method, and if we wish to proceed with abstract experiments only. Then nature might well say: In these circumstances I will reveal no knowledge about the human being.
In approaching nature through the Science of the Spirit we get to know that it does not work out of such laws, but according to principles which can be reached only through an artistic way of perception, in real Imagination. We are not able to fathom the wonderful mystery of the human form, of the whole human organization by means of abstract laws or through the kind of observation which is practiced in ordinary science. Instead, we must allow our elementary knowledge to be developed and to rise to imaginative perception. Then the riddle of true human nature will be solved. And so a view of the human being is given us out of the Science of the Spirit in an artistic way.
With this a bridge is formed, leading from spiritual knowledge to art. Knowledge does not merely assume an outward character for those who devote themselves to it in an anthroposophical sense. If they are artists they do not employ abstract symbols or learned theories, but they see forms in the life of the spirit and then imprint them into matter. In this way art is renewed at the same time. We can certainly experience it if we are unbiased and impartial. The artists of the past created great and impressive works. How did they create? First of all, they looked with their senses at the material of the physical world. Let us take Rembrandt or Raphael — they looked at this material and idealized it according to the age they lived in. They knew how to understand the spiritual in the outer world of physical reality, and how to express it. The essence of their art lay in the idealization of what was real in the world. Whoever takes an unbiased look at art and at how it has developed, knows that the age of this art has come to an end and that nothing new can be created in this way any longer. The Science of the Spirit leads toward spiritual perception. Spiritual forms are first perceived in their spirit-soul reality. And artists will now begin to create artistically through the realization of the spiritual with the same sense of reality which artists worked with earlier where the outward reality was idealized. Earlier the artist drew spirit out of matter; now he takes it into matter, but not in an allegorical or symbolical way. — The latter is believed by those who cannot imagine how absolutely real the new kind of art can be.
So we see how the Science of the Spirit really leads to true art. But it also leads to true religious life. It is remarkable how those who find fault with the Science of the Spirit today say: The Science of the Spirit sets out to bring down into daily life a divine world which should only be felt in exalted heights. Of course, but this is exactly what the Science of the Spirit wants to do. The intention is that the human being is so permeated with spirit-soul existence that the spirit can be borne into every aspect of practical existence and not just be something which is experienced in nebulous mysticism or exercised in an ascetism which has little connection with life. People believe they have already gone a long way if they have given others an education so that when their work is finished, and the factory gate has been closed behind them, they are then able to have all sorts of nice thoughts and ideas. But a person who has to leave the factory gate behind him in order to devote himself to the edification of his soul is in fact not yet able to experience his full human existence. No, if we wish to solve the great problems of civilization we have to advance so far as to take the spirit with us when we go through the factory gate into the factory; we have to be able to permeate with the spirit what we do in daily life. It is this outer, spiritless life which we have created, this purely mechanistic life that has made our life so desolate and that has brought about our catastrophic times. The Science of the Spirit fulfills the complete human being. It will be able to bear the spirit from out of the depths of the human being into the practical, into what appears to be the most prosaic spheres of life. When the Science of the Spirit, which can combine knowledge and religious fervor, enters life, it spiritualizes all aspects of our daily life, where we work for other people, where we work our machines and where we work for the good of the whole through our division of labor. When we work like this it will become a social force which will help men. Economic and ordinary practical life will be taken hold of by a science which does not possess only an abstract spirit in concepts and ideas, but a living spirit which can then fill the whole of life.
It is not possible to solve social problems simply by changing outer conditions. We live in an age in which social demands are made. But we also live in an age in which human beings are extremely unsocial. The kind of knowledge which I have described will also bring new social impulses to man, which will be able to solve the great riddles which life brings in quite a different way from the abstract kind of thinking, which appears in Marxism and similar outlooks, which can only destroy, because they arise out of abstraction, because they kill the spirit, because only the spirit can revitalize life.
This is in a way what the Science of the Spirit can promise of itself: that it can not only give satisfaction to the soul in its connection to the eternal, but that it can also give a new impetus to social life.
Because of this there has been no intention in the Science of the Spirit of getting no further than a mere mystical outlook. We have no abstract mysticism. What we have does not frighten us from crossing the threshold into the spiritual world and to lead other people into the super-sensible world in a new way. But at the same time, we take what we have won in this way down into the physical sense world. This has resulted in the practical view of life which I have described in my book, The Threefold Commonwealth, and in other writings, and which are represented by the movement for the threefold order of the social organism.
There are some people who say: The Science of the Spirit leads away from the religion of the past; they say it is even anti-Christian. Anyone who looks into the Science of the Spirit more closely will find that, on the contrary, it is well suited to bring before people the Mystery of Golgotha and the real meaning of Christianity. For what has become of the Christ under the influence of the modern naturalistic outlook? What has become of Him as a super-sensible Being, who entered into a human body, who gave the earth a new meaning? He has been made into the simple man from Nazareth, nothing more than a man, even if the outstanding man in the history of the world. — We need super-sensible knowledge in order to understand Christianity in a way that will satisfy the needs of modern humanity. And it is precisely through the Science of the Spirit that we can attain an understanding of Christianity which can satisfy the modern person. Those who speak of the Science of the Spirit as being opposed to Christianity — even if these people are often the official advocates of Christianity — seem to me to be lacking in spirit, and not like people who have a right understanding of Christianity. Whenever I hear such faint-hearted advocates of Christianity I am always reminded of a Catholic theologian, a professor, who was a friend of mine who said in a speech about Galileo: Christianity can never be belittled through scientific knowledge; on the contrary, knowledge of the divine can only gain as our knowledge of the world grows and reveals the divine in ever increasing glory. One should therefore always think about Christianity in a large way and say: its foundation is such that non-spiritual and spiritual knowledge will pour into humanity — it will not belittle this Christianity, but will enhance it.
We therefore need a Christianity that takes hold of life, that is not content to say, “Lord, Lord,” but lives out the power of the spiritual in outer activity. And it is just such a practical Christianity that is intended in the threefold division of the social organism.
The gentleman who introduced me at the beginning of the lecture said that I had already spoken in Holland in 1908 and 1913. At that time I had to speak about the anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit in a quite different way from today, for at that time what the Science of the Spirit had to contribute as a solution to the questions of modern civilization was only to be found in the form of thoughts in one or two human souls. But since that time quite a lot has happened, despite the bitter war years which lie in between: Since 1913 when the foundation stone was laid, we have been working in Dornach near Basel on the School for the Science of the Spirit, the Goetheanum. This School for the Science of the Spirit is not supposed to serve an abstract Science of the Spirit alone, but is supposed to make all the sciences more fruitful through the Science of the Spirit. That is why we held the first course in the autumn of last year, although the Goetheanum is not yet finished and still needs a great deal to be done to it, and we shall also hold a second course at Easter, though this will be shorter. Thirty people spoke during the course in the autumn, some of whom were great experts in various sciences, in mathematics, astronomy, physiology, biology, in history, sociology and jurisprudence. But there were also people more connected with practical life, industrialists, people in business, and artists also spoke. As I have said, thirty people spoke, and they showed how the results of spiritual knowledge can be brought into the individual sciences. It was possible to see that this science has nothing superstitious about it, but that on the contrary it is quite rational in its inner, spiritual nature and thereby acquires the character of truth and reality. And it is in this way that we shall try to work in this Goetheanum.
The Goetheanum itself is built in a new artistic form, in a new style. If in the past one wanted to build a place for scientific work one discussed with a particular architect whether it was to be in the Greek, Gothic or Renaissance style. The Science of the Spirit was not able to do this, for it forms out of itself what it knows as reality, not only in ideas, not only in natural and spiritual laws, but in artistic expression. We would have committed a crime against our own spiritual life if we had employed a foreign style for this building, and not a style which arises artistically out of the Science of the Spirit. And so you see an attempt in Dörnach to represent a new style, so that when you go into the building you will be able to say to yourself: each pillar, each arch, each painting expresses the same spirit. Whether I stand on the rostrum and speak about the content of the Science of the Spirit, whether I let the pillars, the capitals or something else speak for me, these are all different languages, but the same spirit which comes to expression in all of them.
This is in fact just the answer which an anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit can give to the great questions which humanity has about civilization. For the first of these questions about civilization is the one concerning a real knowledge of ourselves, suited to modern times. This is gained in crossing the threshold in the new way that I have described, in acquiring powers of knowledge which enable us to have a view of the eternal in human nature through the developed faculty of memory and the developed power of love. And through this we arrive at a new feeling, worthy of the human being, as to what man really is. In meeting our neighbors we notice in them what is born out of the spiritual world, and see in them a part of this spiritual world. The ethical aspect of human life is then ennobled, social life is ennobled by the spirit. That is the answer to the second question, the question about human social life.
And the third great question of present day civilization is this. The human being can know: In what I do in my actions on the earth I am not only the being that stands here and whose action only has a meaning between birth and death, but what I do on the earth has a meaning for the whole world — it becomes a part of the whole world. When I develop social ideas I am developing something that has meaning for the whole world.
Let me sum up: Ordinary science of modern times makes a division between outer nature and the inner aspect of human life. It regards the development of the earth and of the whole planetary system as having originated in a kind of chaos. Man came into being, but then he will also disappear again after a certain time. The earth will sink back into the sun as a clinker, it will gradually become a field of dead bodies. Natural science has to say this when it stands upon its own ground. But moral ideals arise out of the human soul, and they are altogether what is most valuable in it. The outlook which has achieved so much in technology has no room for ideals — ideals will disappear like smoke. That is why what is called “the ideological outlook” has taken root in millions and millions of people. The modern proletariat speaks of customs, law, religion, science and art as an ideology because the feeling for the living spirit has been lost. If we recognize this living spirit again we know that what lives in the human soul as moral ideas, as something spiritual is like the seed in the plant. This year's plant dies, but a new plant arises out of its seed. In the same way we can say out of spiritual scientific knowledge: the clouds, stars, mountains, springs, stones, the plants, the animal and the physical human being will all disappear, decline and pass away like the withered leaves of a plant. But just as the new seed arises out of the plant, moral ideals rest in the human soul as a seed, not only for the following year, but for the eternal future. — And we can repeat the wonderful words of Christ: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words — that is, what we develop as spiritual knowledge in the human soul — will not pass away. We can say that we have a unity again before us: the declining physical world and the rising spiritual world. Through this man acquires a meaning for the whole world. His social life also becomes important. And the empty solutions which worry mankind so much today and which have caused such social upheavals in the east, will disappear when we make the social question a question of our total outlook, when we try to find the impulses for solving this social question in what the human being in his inner nature can fathom as living spirit.
Thus the questions of modern civilization will be activated by the Science of the Spirit.
We have also made some experiments in this direction in education. The Waldorf School has been founded in Stuttgart by Emil Molt and is directed by me. What can result from a living Science of the Spirit is here transformed for the uses of education and given to the children in an artistic, pedagogical form.
The anthroposophically orientated Science of the Spirit feels itself called upon to reconcile religion, art and science, to introduce real science, real religion, real art into practical life. For this the Goetheanum in Dörnach has been built, to be a first place where such a science can be cultivated in a free scientific atmosphere, in a free life of the spirit. From the beginning until now many people have been ready to make sacrifices to build the Goetheanum, but, as I said before, it is not yet completed. Its completion depends upon whether there will be enough people who have an understanding for such necessary progress in the world — whether the Goetheanum remains a torso and humanity says: We do not want to awaken the spirit again, or whether an understanding for the living spirit will lead to the completion of its first new home. Then others will follow. For it is certain that in the long run the cultivation of a knowledge of the living spirit will be essential. It is certain that even those who hate the spirit and who regard spiritual investigation as something fantastic, need the spirit. Searching souls need the spirit, and souls that are not seeking need it all the more. And this fact will not allow itself to be driven out of the world. We shall seek the spirit, because if we wish to be true men, we need the spirit.