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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Overcoming of Evil
GA 273

The lecture is a small excerpt from the 6th of 13 lectures in the series entitled: Spiritual Scientific Notes on Goethe's Faust Vol. II. It appears in the original German in Geisteswissenschaftliche Erlaeuterungen zu Goethes “Faust.” Band II, Das Faust Problem. Die Romantische und die Klassiche Walpurgisnacht, Bibliographic Nr. 273, Dornach 1978. The full lecture is entitled: The Problem of Faust.

4 November 1917, Dornach

People will have to know all the forces that the soul must summon up in order to overcome the powers of evil, or to transform them into good impulses. All this was prepared upon the foundation of the impulses of the 4th post-Atlantean epoch (the Graeco-Latin epoch), which had to deal particularly with the problem of birth and death, taken over as a kind of inheritance from the Atlantean age. It suffices to bear in mind the Christ-Impulse and the way in which it entered the world during the first third of the 4th post-Atlantean epoch. This epoch began in 747 B.C. with the founding of Rome, so that 747 years of the 2160 years forming one epoch of culture had to go by within the 4th post-Atlantean epoch, until the chief impulse, the Christ-Impulse, could become active.

Does not the Christ Impulse deal with the great significant problem calling for a super-sensible interpretation of the problems of birth and death in the history of mankind's development? How many discussions there have been among Christians on the birth of Christ, how many thoughts and feelings have already been expended on this problem! How immensely significant is the part played by the death of Christ! The birth and the death of Christ reveal particularly pregnant points in the struggle which went on in human souls in connection with the problem of birth and death. This struggle existed in human souls, because, I might say, it already existed in a more elemental, physical form during the great Atlantean age. Particularly during the 4th Atlantean epoch, in the middle of the Atlantean age, but still reaching into the 5th epoch, forces which were connected with birth and death, were active in the human being. I have already characterized some of these forces. The Atlanteans could develop forces which had an influence upon birth and death, an influence which greatly differed from the merely natural one. The good and evil forces in man could to a great extent influence the health and illness of other people, and consequently also birth and death. There was a connection between the actions of an Atlantean and the natural course of birth and death.

During the post-Atlantean age, in the 4th epoch of culture of the post-Atlantean age, this problem of birth and death was more connected with the human soul. But during our own epoch, the 5th post-Atlantean epoch, people will have to struggle with evil in the same elemental way in which they struggled with birth and death during the Atlantean age; particularly through the control of the different forces of Nature, the impulses that lead to evil will send their influences into the world in an immense, gigantic form. And the opposite forces, the forces of good, will have to grow out of the opposition to evil, and man will have to draw the strength for this opposition out of spiritual sources. This will take place above all during the 5th epoch, when the exploitation of electric forces, which will assume quite different dimensions from those which they have assumed so far, will enable man to spread evil over the earth, and evil will invade the earth by coming in an immediate way out of the forces of electricity.

It is necessary to envisage such things clearly and consciously. For those who wish to take in spiritual impulses will find the points of attack for the opponent forces and the points of issue for the impulses which have to develop out of the resistance offered to evil. It is of course difficult to speak of details in this connection, for these still touch to a great extent human interests which people prefer to leave untouched. In this connection the human beings are divided on the one hand into those who suffer greatly through the fact that they do not grasp why they must be involved in the Karma of the universe, they suffer because they must take part in this or in that, and they cannot grasp this without immediately growing pious in an abstract way; on the other hand there are the people who are greatly involved in that which constitutes above all the World-karma of the 5th post-Atlantean epoch, but who are unwilling to listen to all that is contained in the impulses which pass through the world, because many people are keen on setting up the very impulses which have a destructive influence as constructive impulses. We have already described that ever since the last third of the 19th century the Beings whom I designated as the Fallen Spirits of Darkness are active among men. They belong to the Hierarchy of the Angels. During the 4th post-Atlantean epoch they were still servants of the good, progressive Powers. They worked for the establishment of social orders based on human blood-relationships. But now they live in the kingdom of man, and as retarded Angel-Being's they are active in all those human impulses which are connected with blood-relationships, with racial and national relationships, and they assert these in an Ahrimanic way, to the detriment of social and other structures of mankind which should grow out of entirely different foundations, than, for instance, those of family-ties, race, tribe, or nationality.

To-day these Spirits have begun their work in a forceful way by emphasizing the principle of nationality abstractly. This abstract emphasizing of the principle of nationality, this drawing up of programmes based on the principle of nationality, forms part of the strivings which must be described as the strivings of the Spirits of Darkness. They will approach man far more closely, far more intimately, than did the retarded Spiritual Beings of the 4th post-Atlantean epoch, who belonged to the hierarchy of the Archangels.

The significant fact in the 5th post-Atlantean epoch will be above all, that the Beings who stand immediately above the hierarchy of Man, the Angel-Beings, will be able to approach the individual human beings, not only groups of men, in a very intimate way, so that these individual men will think that they are upholding things which come out of their own personal impulses, whereas — we may indeed say this — they are possessed by this kind of Angel-Beings of whom I have spoken.