Reincarnation and Immortality
V. The Mystery of the Human Being
9 October 1916, Zürich
Die Raetsel des geschichtlichen Lebens der Menschheit nach Ergebnissen der Geisteswissenschaft. (The Historical Evolution of Humanity and the Science of Spirit. Lecture given at Stuttgart, Germany, April 25, 1918)
No person with real inner sensitivity would find it any longer necessary to have to speak about a mystery when dealing with human soul life, than he would have to speak about the presence of hunger when dealing with the life of the body.
In the way it functions the life process must be so regulated that it induces hunger. It is possible to disregard hunger by the use of certain drugs and to believe that we can get away from it for a time, but in the long run this cannot be done without injury to the body. Similarly, any attempt to conceal the fact that there is a mystery in human life is bound to lead to injury in the soul. Those who disregard the mystery of the human being, either because of their condition in life or a lack of interest, very easily fall prey to a kind of soul hunger and to what happens as a result of this — a sort of atrophy in the life of the soul, an uncertainty and powerlessness, an inability to find one's way in the world.
Although no really sensitive person would find it necessary to have to speak about a human mystery in general, he would probably find more reason to consider that the great questions of life take on a new character in each succeeding period of time. As our time is so short, it is not possible to do more than indicate this fact. We can see how the outer conditions of life change from epoch to epoch, how new needs, new questions arise about the way we live. This also happens within the soul, which in its search for a solution to the mystery of man, changes its own finer qualities from epoch to epoch in order to make it possible for man to find such a solution. In this age that has been with us for three or four centuries, and particularly in the 19th century and our own day, which has culminated in the controlling of the world by means of steam, electricity, modern economic and social conditions, in this age there are also questions about the world in which the human being is placed that are of a different kind from those of earlier times. The science of spirit or anthroposophy seeks to approach the solution of the mystery of man out of the needs of modern times.
It is a mistake to regard the science of spirit, or anthroposophy, as a renewal of the views of the old mystics. Those who level this sort of criticism, from whatever viewpoint it happens to come, usually construct their own picture of the science of spirit and then criticize this picture, which actually has very little to do with what the science of spirit really is. It is only a caricature of the science of spirit that is criticized.
It is of course not possible within the framework of an evening's lecture to mention everything that would be necessary even to provide an outline of the science of spirit. Only a few further points can be added to what I have been saying about this for many years now, even in this city. It is particularly important to remember that the science of spirit does not take its origin from religion or mystical movements — although we should not conclude that it is necessarily opposed to these, as we shall see later — but it arises out of the life of the modern scientific outlook, out of a scientific approach to the world, connected with what is happening in the evolution of present-day natural science.
I do not think that anyone who despises the modern scientific outlook can penetrate the mysteries of the world as is done in the science of spirit, even if it is not the results of science that matter so much as the method of approach in conscientiously applying one's thinking to the phenomena of the world. The science of spirit must be well versed in the ways natural science investigates and thinks, and in the way in which it disciplines the inner life of the soul in the art of acquiring knowledge. The science of spirit must absorb this and reckon with it, if it is to keep abreast of the times.
It is just in connection with such an approach that the question arises: How is it at all possible for modern science and the outlook which results from it, to arrive at a view of the mysteries of the human being that really satisfies us deep down? If we are really positive thinkers we cannot permit ourselves an answer derived from preconceived opinions, or from one form of belief or another, but only from the facts of present-day scientific development and its method of thought. And so you will allow me to start with the course of scientific thought and research in more recent times. This will be regarded very much from the viewpoint of an admirer of the enormous progress made by the scientific approach in the 19th century, a viewpoint which enables one to realize that the hopes placed in natural science, particularly in the 19th century, for a solution to the great mysteries of man were absolutely honest and genuine.
To take one aspect of this, let us look at the rise of the physical and chemical sciences, along with the hopes and aspirations which came with it. We see how people steeped in the scientific outlook began to believe (around the middle of the 19th century) that the inmost being of man can be explained in terms of the physical body just as the working of the forces and forms of nature can be explained in terms of the wonderfully advanced laws of physics and chemistry. The great progress made by physics and chemistry no doubt justified such hopes for a while, and this progress led to the formulation of particular ideas about the world of the smallest particles: atoms and molecules. Even if people think differently about such matters today, nevertheless what I have to say about the atom and the molecule holds good for the whole of the scientific development. The idea was to investigate them and to explain how the substances and physical forces worked in terms of the constitution of the material molecules and atoms, and of the forces and mutual relationships brought about by this constitution. It was thought that if it was possible to explain a process in terms of the smallest particles, it would not be long before the way would be found to understand even the most complicated process, which was seen as a natural process: the process of human thinking and feeling.
Now let us examine where this approach with its great hopes has led. Anyone having studied the achievements of physics and chemistry during the past decades can only be filled with admiration for what has been achieved. I cannot go into details, but I will mention the views of a representative scientist, who sought his views in physics and chemistry in investigating the nature of the smallest physical particle, the atom, — Adolf Roland, who specialized in spectral analysis. He formulated his views on the basis of everything that is possible to know about the smallest particles that can be imagined as effective in the material world. — And how remarkable his views are! And how justified they are must be recognized by anyone who has some understanding of the subject. Adolf Roland says: According to everything that can be known today, an atom of iron must be imagined as being more complicated than a Steinway piano.
Now this is a significant statement, coming from one so familiar with the methods of modern science. Years ago it was believed that one could investigate the tiniest lifeless beings, or at least produce provisional hypotheses about them, in order to find out something about the world that constitutes the immediate surroundings of our ordinary consciousness. And what, in fact, does one find out? The scientist has to admit that having penetrated this smallest of worlds, he finds nothing that is any more explicable than a Steinway piano. So it becomes quite clear that however far we are able to go by this process of division into the very smallest particles, the world becomes no more explicable than it already is to our ordinary, everyday consciousness. — This is one of the ways of approach, with its great hopes. We see as it were, these great hopes disappearing into the world of the smallest particles. And honest scientific progress will show more and more by penetrating into the smallest particles of space that we can add nothing toward answering the great human mystery to what can be known to our ordinary consciousness.
In another sphere there have been just as great hopes, and understandably so, in view of the condition of the times. Just think of the great hopes people had with the advent of the Darwinian theory, with its materialistic bias! People thought they could survey the whole range of living beings, of plants and animals, right up to man. It was thought possible to understand man through having seen how he arose out of the species below him. And in following the transformation of the different species, from the simplest living being right up to man, it was thought possible to find material which would help solve the mystery of man.
Once again, anyone initiated into the ways of modern research can only be filled with admiration for the wonderful work that has been done on this subject even to this day. It was thought that we would find the single egg cell, out of which man had evolved, in the appropriate simplest living being, and would then be able to explain the origin of man out of this egg cell, which would be similar to what would be discovered as the simplest animal form in the world. Once again the path was taken to the smallest, this time the smallest living beings. And what has been found there? It is interesting to hear what a conscientious and important scientist of the 80's, Naegeli, had to say. He expressed his view, which has become famous, in the following way: Exact research on the individual species of plants and animals shows that even the tiniest cells of each single species have the most varied differentiation. The egg cell of a hen is just as fully differentiated from that of a frog as a hen itself is different from a frog. — In descending to the simplest living cells, by means of which it was hoped to explain the complications facing our normal consciousness, we do not arrive at anything simpler — as for instance when we study the iron atom — and in the end have to admit that it is just as complicated as a Steinway piano. Thus we have to imagine that the difference between the individual egg cells is as great as is the difference between the various species we see in nature with our ordinary consciousness.
Naegeli therefore proves by means of his own scientific conscientiousness that the approach of Darwinism with its materialistic bias is of no value.
But now there is another interesting fact. We could, of course, think that Naegeli, the great botanist, was really a one-sided personality, and in any case what he said was spoken in the 80's and that science has progressed and that his views are out of date. But we can also study the very latest developments on this subject, which have been well summed up by a most significant person, one of the most eminent pupils of Ernst Haeckel: — Oskar Hertwig. In the last week or two there has been published his summing up of what he has to offer as a result of his research on — as he calls his book, — Das Werden der Organismen. Eine Widerlegung von Darwins Zufalls theorie.
Just imagine, we are confronted by the fact that one of the great pupils of Haeckel, the most radical exponent of materialistic Darwinism, has in the course of his life come to refute this materialistic Darwinism in the most thorough and complete way. I myself often heard from Haeckel's own lips that Oskar Hertwig was the one from whom he expected the most, and whom he expected to be his successor. And now we find today that it is Oskar Hertwig who refutes what he had absorbed as scientific Darwinism from his teacher, Haeckel! And he does it thoroughly, for his work — if I may use the expression — has a certain completeness.
This is what I wanted to say, to start with. I shall come back to the question later. I would only like to add that Oskar Hertwig makes use of everything that even the most recent research has brought to light in order to prove that what Naegeli said was absolutely true, so that one can say that the present-day position of biological research shows that a study of the smallest living entities does not tell us any more than does a study of the various species that we can perceive quite normally. For these smallest living entities, the cells, are, according to Naegeli and Hertwig, just as different as are the species themselves. A study of them only teaches us that nothing can be discovered in this way that cannot also be discovered by our normal perception in looking at the ordinary world.
Nor is it much different when — I can only mention this briefly — instead of looking at the very small, we look at the very large, the world of astronomy. For here too there has been the most wonderful progress in more recent times, for instance, in the study of the way the heavenly bodies move, which surprised everyone so much in 1859, and which has had such tremendous consequences in astronomy and especially in astrophysics. — And what has been the result? A thing one hears frequently from those who are at home in this subject is: Wherever we look in the world, whether we discover one or the other substance, this is not the main thing, for we find exactly the same substances with exactly the same forces in the universe, in the relatively large, as we find working here on the earth, so that when instead of looking into the very small, we examine the very large we only find what we know from our ordinary experience of space and time in everyday life. It is just in deepening what can be achieved by natural science and in particular in feeling deep admiration for what natural science has achieved that the way for a modern science of spirit or anthroposophy is prepared. But the latter is also well aware that however admirable these achievements of natural science are, however significant they may be for particular purposes, however necessary they may be for sound human progress, they can never penetrate the real mystery of man. This they themselves have proved until now.
The science of spirit or anthroposophy therefore takes its cue from natural science and tries to go quite a different way, and this way is not connected with trying to explain what we experience with our normal consciousness by means of a study of the very small or the very large, nor with methods using microscopes, telescopes or anything that can be attained by our senses or instruments which help them, nor by any scientific methods used in the sense world, nor by studying anything other than what we experience in our normal consciousness, but the science of spirit seeks to approach a solution to the mystery of man by a quite different kind of perception, as far as it is possible for human beings to do this.
In giving an outline of how one can imagine this other way of looking at the things that surround us, and at the events that happen around us in the world, I will make use of a comparison which will help to make the matter clearer.
In ordinary life we are familiar with two states of consciousness, the state of our normal consciousness which we have from the time we awaken in the morning to the time we go to sleep in the evening — this is our normal day consciousness. We are also familiar with the state of our so-called dream consciousness, in which pictures rise chaotically out of depths of the organism that are not accessible to human consciousness, and these pictures appear to be completely without any form of order, it is our experience that makes us aware of the difference between this chaotic dream consciousness and our orderly day consciousness which is encompassed by the real world.
The science of spirit or anthroposophy shows us that just as we awaken out of the chaotic dream consciousness into our ordinary day consciousness there is also a further awakening out of our day consciousness to — as I have called it in my book, Riddles of Man — a perceptive consciousness. The science of spirit does not deal with a reversion into a world of dreams, visions or hallucinations, but with something that can enter into human consciousness, into ordinary day consciousness in the same way that this day consciousness replaces our dream consciousness when we awaken. The science of spirit or anthroposophy is therefore concerned with a perceptive consciousness, with a real awakening out of our ordinary day consciousness, with a higher consciousness, if I may use such an expression. And its content is derived from the results of this perceptive, higher consciousness. — Just as the human being awakens from his dream world, where pictures move chaotically to and fro, into the world of the senses, so now as a scientist of spirit he awakens from the normal day consciousness into a perceptive consciousness, where he becomes a part of a real, spiritual world.
Now, first of all, I must give an idea of what this perceptive consciousness is. It is not acquired by means of any particular fantastic, arbitrary act or fantastic arbitrary decision, but it is acquired by a person working as a scientist of spirit, work which takes a long time, that is no less toilsome than work in the laboratory or observatory, which is pieced together out of the smallest fragments, perhaps even with only small results, but which are necessary for the progress of science as a whole. But everything that the scientist of spirit has to do is not done as in the laboratory or observatory with ordinary methods and appliances, but is done with the only apparatus that is of any use to the science of spirit, the human soul. It consists of inner processes of the human soul, which, as we shall now see, have nothing to do with vague or chaotic mysticism, but which demand systematic and methodical work on the human soul.
How does one acquire the wish to pursue such spiritual work, such an inner development, such a higher self training? It is possible to do it by taking our ordinary conscious life as a starting point, and gradually coming to a particular kind of conviction that becomes more compelling as one immerses one's mind in the modern scientific outlook. For several hundred years already there have been some personalities with this attitude of mind, and today this is increasingly the case. I cannot mention individual names now, but this inner experience, which gradually emerges under the influence of the scientific way of thinking as a distinct and necessary inner outlook and attitude, will affect increasingly wider circles of people and will become a common conviction with all the consequences that such a conviction is bound to entail.
There are two things that we are concerned with here. The first is that we have to acquire a certain view of the human ego, or what we call our self, by means of true and intimate observation, carried out willingly and with discipline. We address this self, we express it in one word, when after a certain point in our childhood development, we begin to use the word “I.” In our honest self-observation based on self-training we ask: What is this ego really like? Where is it to be found in us? Is it possible to find it or, if we are honest and conscientious, do we not have to admit as the great thinker Hume did, who did not arrive at his convictions arbitrarily, but by honest, self-observation, that however much I look into myself, I find feelings, ideas, joy and sorrow, I find what I have experienced in the world, but I do not find an ego anywhere? And how can I in any case — as he quite rightly says — find this ego? If it could be found so easily it would also have to be present when I sleep. But when I sleep, I know nothing about this ego. Can I assume that it is extinguished in the evening and revives again in the morning? Without actually being grasped by the mind, it must be present even when the mind is not working in sleep.
This is absolutely clear. And all those who are familiar with present-day literature on this subject will increasingly find this clear and obvious, that this will become more and more the case.
How are we to understand this? I would have to speak for hours if I were to go into details to prove what I am now saying. — I can only just mention the one fact that the ego of which we are speaking is present in the same way in our day consciousness as it is in the deepest, dreamless sleep. The ego always sleeps. It sleeps when we are asleep, and it sleeps when we are awake, and we know only about a sleeping ego when we are awake, about what lives, even as far as our waking consciousness is concerned, in a hardly conscious sphere of our soul life. Even when we are wide awake in our ordinary consciousness the ego is still only present as it is when we sleep. The reason we cannot imagine anything like an ego in us is because the rest of our soul life is present and, like the black spot in our eyes, cannot see. — The ego is made dark in our souls in a way, and can only be perceived as something we cannot imagine. The ego is always asleep and there is no difference between the way the ego should be imagined in sleep and when we are awake.
It is the same when we consider our minds; for if we train our self-observation properly we realize that our mental images have exactly the same existence in our waking day life as they do in the night in the chaotic mental images of our dreams. In our minds we dream, even when we are awake.
These truths that our ego sleeps and that we dream in our minds and imagination, even when we are awake — these truths, it is true, are washed away by our active life in the day. But for anyone able to observe the human soul they prove to be great and shattering truths which stand at the start of every spiritually scientific investigation.
And if we were then to ask, to ask one's self-observation: This is all very well, but how do we actually distinguish our ordinary waking life of the day from our dream life and our sleeping life? What happens at the moment when we wake up? — As I have said, I cannot go into details — you can find all the details necessary to understand more completely what I am now saying in outline in my book Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment. — The question arises: What actually happens when we wake up, if our ego really remains asleep and our ideas and images, even in waking life, are like dream pictures? What is the difference between the waking and the sleeping human being?
Trained self-observation provides the answer: It is solely the penetration of the will into the soul life which differentiates waking life from sleeping and dreaming. The fact that we are awake and do not dream is due solely to the will pouring into us. It is because of this that we do not have dream pictures rising up without any direction of will, that we unite ourselves to the outer world with our will and with our will become a part of the outer world. It is what awakens the dream pictures to the substance of real-ness that they are images of an outer world, that brings it about that after waking up we are able to incorporate ourselves into the world through our will.
However paradoxical this may sound to many people today, it will have to become a basic conviction of a future outlook and will indeed become so, because it is bound to follow from a science based on true self-observation.
It is the flashing of the will into our minds that gives us our real connection with the outer world, which we experience with our ordinary consciousness. It is this that provides us with real self-observation in our ordinary consciousness. But we cannot remain in this consciousness if we really wish to fathom the actual nature of the things that surround us and the connection of human beings with the world. There has to be a similar transformation in our soul life, in the ordinary soul life we have in the day, in relation to the transformation that happens in our sleeping and dreaming life when we wake up. And a transformation can come about by working arduously towards a change, firstly in the life of our minds, and secondly, in the life of our will.
And I would like to point out at the start that what we call the science of spirit or anthroposophy is not based on anything metaphysical, spiritualistic or anything vaguely mystical, but that it is a true continuation of the well-founded and human scientific way of thinking. And so we can, for instance, link on to the sound beginnings that are to be found in the Goethean outlook upon nature and the world.
Allow me this personal remark, because it has something to do with what I have to say. That I am linking on to this Goethean outlook upon nature and the world is due to the fact that my destiny led me to immerse myself in it and to take from it what leads, as we shall see, to real perception into the spiritual world that surrounds us, surrounds us in the same way that the sense world does. What is so noteworthy with Goethe — and which is still not appreciated today — is that for instance he is able to bring physical phenomena that normally are only considered quite apart from the soul being, right into the life of the human soul. It is really quite wonderful to see how Goethe treats the physical aspects in his Theory of Color, which is still looked down upon by most people today, how he starts with the physical and physiological aspects and leads from them to what he expresses so beautifully in the section, “The Physical and Moral Effect of Color.” Naturally, one compromises oneself in many respects if one speaks about Goethe's Theory of Color. It cannot be spoken about as a matter of course because in its present form physics does not allow for any possibilities of discussing a justification of Goethe's theory. But the time will come when Goethe's Theory of Color will be vindicated by a more advanced kind of physics.
I can refer to what I have said about the artistic side of this in my book Goethe's Conception of the World, and in my introduction to Goethe's scientific writings. (Published in English as Goethe the Scientist — Ed.) Today, however, I am not concerned with vindicating Goethe's Theory of Color, but only wish to deal with method, with how Goethe manages to evolve beyond purely physical considerations in the chapter “The Physical and Moral Effect of Colors.” Here he describes so beautifully what the human soul experiences when it perceives the color blue. Blue, says Goethe, pours into the soul the experience of coldness because it reminds us of shadow. Blue rooms bestow a feeling of sadness on all the objects in the rooms. — Or let us take what Goethe says about the experience of the color red. Red, says Goethe, produces an experience purely according to its own nature. It can produce the experience of seriousness and worthiness, or of devotion and grace — of seriousness and worthiness in its darker and thicker shades, of devotion and grace in its lighter and thinner shades. — So we see that Goethe does not only deal with the immediate physical nature of color, but he brings the soul into it, the experiences of sympathy and antipathy, as immediate experiences of the soul, as we have in life when we feel joy and sorrow. It may be that the intensity with which Goethe studied the colors is hardly noticeable, but nevertheless he goes through all the colors in a way that one can do if one allows one's soul life to pervade them, — that is, Goethe does not separate the physical from the soul experience. In doing this he laid the foundation for a kind of observation which even today is naturally only in its beginnings, but which will find a serious and worthy further development in the science of spirit. For the human being's relationship to color is exactly the same as exists with the rest of his senses. He is so fully taken up with the perception of something physical, with what works through his eyes and ears, that he does not perceive what radiates through and permeates the physical percept as an element of soul; he does not experience its full power and significance in his inner life. It is like not being able to see a weak light against a strong one. For it is above all the physical object that our eye normally perceives so strongly.
Now it is possible to take what is to be found in Goethe in its first beginnings — albeit instinctively with him because of his naturally sound outlook — a stage further. And it can also be looked at from another viewpoint. Goethe never deals with colors only as they exist in the world, but he also deals with the reaction they stimulate, their effect on the organism. How wonderful, even compared with the latest experiments in physics done by Hertwig, Hume and others, are the things that Goethe brought to light about the reaction of the eye, how the colors are not only perceived as long as one looks at them, but then they only gradually fade away. In all this there are in our ordinary perceptions weak beginnings which can be applied much more to the inner life of our mental images and can undergo further development. For in the conscientious and careful development of particular aspects of our cognitive and imaginative life there is to be found an aspect of science that belongs to the science of spirit or anthroposophy. Goethe's attitude to color has to be applied by those who wish to penetrate into the spiritual world by means of the science of spirit to the content of our minds, which for our normal consciousness is really only a world of dream pictures permeated by the will. The scientist of spirit also approaches the outer world in exactly the same way as our ordinary consciousness approaches the pictures in our minds, concepts and ideas. A sound thinking person does not become any different from anyone else. But if he is to receive a revelation of the spiritual world he has to effect a particular kind of perceptive consciousness. And he does this by inducing a certain metamorphosis in the life of his mind.
The details of what has to be done you can find in the book already mentioned. I only want to put before you now the main principles.
The scientist of spirit gradually manages to free his mental images from their normal task by a particular kind of methodical approach to the content of his mind. The normal function of our mental images is that they enable us to have pictures of the outer world. These pictures are the end result. But for the scientist of spirit they are a beginning, for whatever their significance, whatever kind of picture of the world they give, he immerses himself in its inner life, the inner effects of the picture, the image. And he does this in such a way that he does not look to its content, but to the forces that develop in it, and he does this when his consciousness has been completely brought to rest and becomes alive in the activity of his imagination and thinking.
Normally, a scientist starts with nature as it is in the world and ends up with his ideas. The scientist of spirit has to start with the inner activity of his ideas, with a kind of meditative activity, but which is not at all the same as the kind of meditation normally described and which is nothing more than brooding on something that is on one's mind — no, what we are concerned with here is that the soul is brought to rest, its activity is stilled, so that the life of the soul approaches certain ideas that can be grasped and surveyed like a calm sea. They should then become active in the life of the soul, active solely in the life of the mind. After a great amount of meditative work which is certainly not less than work done in the laboratory or observatory, we arrive at a stage where we perceive remarkable things happening, affecting the life of the soul in this inner life of the mind. One of the most important and significant faculties of the soul that we develop in our normal consciousness is our memory, our ability to remember. What is it that our memory, our ability to remember brings about? It enables us to call up at a later time mental images that we have formed at an earlier time. First of all, we have an experience and this is taken into the mind. The resulting image is like a shadow of the original experience. The experience disappears, but the fact of its existence continues. — We carry the image of the experience in us. Years later, or whenever it might be, we can recall it. What we recall out of the total organism of our spirit, soul and body as a memory image is a shadow-like copy of what was imprinted on the memory in the first place.
If we pursue the methods actively and energetically that are given and described in my books for the cultivation of the mind, we acquire a much stronger kind of activity in the soul working in the memory. However paradoxical it may appear, I have to describe it, because I do not want to speak about the generalities of the science of spirit, but to deal with the positive and concrete aspect of it, upon which it is based. The scientist of spirit experiences that a mental image is brought alive, and by bringing the peace of his consciousness constantly to bear upon this image he gets to the point where he knows: Now you have exercised the powers of your thinking to such an extent that you can continue no further. — Then something shattering happens. The moment arrives when we know that we cannot continue to use our thinking in the same controlled way, but have to let it go, just as we let an idea or image go that then sinks into forgetfulness and that later can be recalled out of this by our memory. But when an image that we have as a result of an energetic meditative life is let go, it enters into much greater depths of our life than an image that is taken into our memory. The scientist of spirit then experiences — this is only one example, other experiences have to be linked to this, but now I only wish to give a few examples — that he has strengthened an image by the powers of his thinking to such an extent that he can allow it to sink into his being so that it is no longer present. But then it appears later, according to the images we have — this has all to be regulated — these images remain present. We acquire views in the course of time in which these images have to remain present, deep down in the unconscious. Some images remain for a longer period in the subconscious, others a shorter period and we acquire the power to recall them again and again. We do not do this by exerting ourselves in trying to remember an image. Images are recalled by peaceful immersion in ourselves; It is not like the way our ordinary memory works, for here we are dependent upon a mood of expectancy that we bring about at the right moment. We become aware of this mood of expectancy by other things which cannot be described here. We have a mood or feeling of expectancy; we do not do anything to bring about an image or an experience. We simply have this peaceful expectancy, this purely selfless immersion in ourselves and only after hours, weeks or even only after years does there come back what we have perceived in the very depths of our being, as if in a kind of abyss. And then the opposite happens from what takes place in our normal consciousness.
With our normal consciousness the experience comes first in all its vividness and then the shadowlike image is produced. Here something quite different happens. We start with something which leads at the same time to self-discipline and self-education, and this is an image which we put before our souls and let it be present in the soul for weeks or months until the moment comes when it can be completely immersed. Then it emerges again — but how it emerges is the surprising thing, for it is not anything as shadowlike as the normal image.
This experience is brought about by working on the image in a certain way and we know full well, if we are familiar with things that lead to such results as these, that we are dealing here with something sound and not morbidly introspective. These are not the same forces that lead to hallucinations or visions, or that produce morbid or unsound states of any kind, but they are the forces that produce precisely the opposite and, in fact, have the effect of banishing everything in the nature of hallucinations and visions. — It is the opposite process. The soul, in undergoing this, is not as it is in everyday life with its normal, healthy understanding, but it has to be much healthier and sounder if the exercises which belong to this whole development and which have to be done regularly are to overcome everything that would lead one astray. What this leads up to is something we have not known before — something spiritual, something super-sensible, that we now perceive in ourselves. What is it that perceives? It is what Goethe called the eye or the ear of the spirit, of which he had an instinctive presentiment.
From the moment onward when we have had an experience such as I have just described, we know that we do not have only a physical body, but that we have a finer, more inward body that is in no way made up of physical substance. However paradoxical it may appear to many people today when in the science of spirit or anthroposophy we speak of a fine etheric body, a soul body, it is nevertheless a truth — but a truth that can really be investigated only in this way I have described. We now know that we have something in ourselves in which spiritual perception can arise, just as perception can arise in the physical organism in the physical eye. We know that the eye or the ear of the spirit, as Goethe called it, becomes something from which there springs something out of the etheric world, out of the super-sensible body. We cannot use this super-sensible body like a physical body, but we know that it exists and we know that there has to be a science of spirit for us to find it. It does not come into being by means of any arbitrary act of the will, but it comes into being with the help of the most recent philosophical thought.
Let me cite a few facts that are especially important in this connection for the formation of a judgment about anthroposophy. The philosophers of more recent times who inherited the work of their predecessors done around the turn of the 18th to the 19th century and in the first half of the 19th century, pointed out, albeit instinctively and not as a result of method, that man does not have only a physical body, which provides the basis for his being, but he also has what one can call an etheric, a soul body. Only the terminology for this fine body was different, a body which exists as a fact for the science of spirit.
This kind of assumption led Immanuel Hermann Fichte (1797-1879) to his conception of the process of death, which he expressed in the following way: “For we hardly have to ask how the human being acts in regard to himself” when “going through death ... With this concept of the continuing existence of the soul we are not therefore bypassing our experience and laying hold of an unknown sphere of merely illusory existence, but we find ourselves in the midst of a comprehensible reality accessible to our thinking.” And now Fichte says — and this is what is important — this consciousness points to something beyond itself. “... Anthroposophy produces results founded on the most varied evidence that according to the nature of his being as also in the real source of his consciousness man belongs to a super-sensible world. Our ordinary consciousness, however, which is based on our senses and on the picture of the world that arises through the use of sight, and which includes the whole life of the sense world, including the human sense world, all this is really only a place where the super-sensible life of the spirit is carried out in bringing the otherworldly spiritual content of ideas into the sense world by a conscious free act ... This fundamental conception of man's being raises `Anthropology' in its final result into `Anthroposophy'.”
Into an “anthroposophy!” He uses the expression, anthroposophy. We can see from this the longing for the science that today has to become a reality.
To cite another example — owing to lack of time I can only quote a few examples — I would like to bring in the important German thinker, Vital Troxler (1780-1866), who also did some important teaching in Switzerland. He speaks out of the same approach, but still instinctively, because the science of spirit or anthroposophy did not exist at that time: “Even in earlier times philosophers distinguished a fine, noble, soul body from the coarse body ... a soul, which contained within it a picture of the body which they called a model and which for them was the inner higher man ... More recently even Kant in his Dreams of a Spiritual Seer dreams seriously as a joke about a wholly inward soul man, that bears within its spirit-body all the limbs normally to be found outside ...”
And now Troxler says: “It is most gratifying that the most recent philosophy, which ... must be manifest ... in anthroposophy, climbs to greater heights, and it must be remembered that this idea cannot be the fruit of mere speculation ...”
I do not need to quote the rest. He means that there must be a science which leads to the super-sensible, to the qualities of this super-sensible body, just as anthropology leads to the physical qualities and forces of the physical human body.
I have dealt with characteristic thinkers on this subject in my book, The Riddles of Man. They did not work out these things as the present-day science of spirit can do, but they spoke out of instinctive longing for a future science of spirit that has now to become a reality through this present science of spirit. Thus also the son of the great Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the important philosopher, Immanuel Herman Fichte.
In his Anthropology, the second edition of which appeared in 1860, Fichte says that there can be nothing that persists in matter: “In the elements of matter it is not possible to find the unifying form principle of the body that is active during our whole life. We are therefore directed to a second, essentially different cause in the body. Insofar as this contains what persists in the digestion it is the true, inner, invisible body that is present in all visible matter. The outer manifestation of this, formed out of the never-ceasing digestion may henceforth be called `body' which neither persists nor is a unity and which is the mere effect or image of the inner bodily nature, which casts it into the changing world of substance in the same way that an apparent solid body is made out of the particles of iron filings by a magnetic force, but which is again reduced to dust as soon as the binding force is taken away.”
Thus we see that Immanuel Hermann Fichte instinctively finds himself in the position of having to accept a force-body which holds the material components together in a material body in a certain formal structure like a magnetic force.
You notice, too, that Fichte also longs for an anthroposophy when he deals with the super-sensible in man and draws our attention to it.
Anthroposophy does not appear at a particular time without reason, but it is something that has long been anticipated by the really deep core of our soul life. This can be seen quite clearly in the examples I have given.
Now I must turn to the other aspect of the development of our soul life, the development of the will. What I have said so far was concerned with the development of the mind. The will, too, can be led beyond the condition it has in our normal consciousness. If you imagine that someone — I only want to mention the most important things, the rest can be read in my books — that someone were to look at his inner life in the same way that we look at our ordinary life between human beings under normal conditions, the life of the human community, we can notice our reaction when a desire or impulse awakens when we say: Conditions allow this impulse, this desire to take its course; another time the conditions do not allow us, or we do not allow it. We see that we evolve a certain responsibility toward outer life that is rooted in our conscience. We develop quite definite feelings, a particular configuration of our soul life in our conscience, concerning what we do or do not do. Our normal consciousness is subject to our soul life in developing such inner demands or standards — we obey logic, but when it comes to thinking or not thinking, to whether thinking is clear or restricted, how cool and logical our relationship is to this as compared to our relationship to outer life! We accept the one because we can, as it were, grasp it in spirit, as a mental image; we reject the other. But one cannot experience the intensive life that we feel in our human responsibility when it comes to our purely logical and scientific thinking.
The second kind of exercise consists in pouring out a certain kind of inner responsibility over our thinking, over our mind, so that we reach the point of not only saying: This opinion is valid, this opinion is properly conceived, I can give it my assent and so on, but also that we manage to preserve a mental image in the same duty-bound consciousness as we have when we do not go through with the one or the other action. Morality — though quite a different kind of morality from the one we have in normal life — is poured out over our mind, over our mental images. Inner responsibility poured out over the life of our mental images results in attitudes where in dealing in certain experiences we allow ourselves some mental images and reject others, in the one case accepting them, in the other rejecting them by a justified but temperate antipathy. From this new aspect, sympathy and antipathy activate our inner life. This again has to be practiced for a long time. I will give an example of how this can be supported by accustoming ourselves to allowing a mental image to be present in our souls in as manifold a way as possible.
In ordinary life one person may be a monist, another a dualist, the third a materialist, the fourth a spiritualist and so on. If we learn to immerse ourselves in the life of our mental images our concepts take on a different aspect in the living inner experience of the world of our mental images so that we come to recognize: Of course, there are concepts of materialism, they can be used for a particular province, for a particular sphere of the world. In fact, they must be available, for one can only get something out of immersing oneself in a particular sphere of the world if one has grasped materialism in all its many aspects. For another sphere of the world spiritualistic concepts are needed, for a third, monistic, for a fourth, the concept of idealism and so on. Monistic, dualistic concepts — they enrich the life of our minds and we know that such concepts mean no more than do different photographs of a tree taken from different points. We learn now to immerse ourselves in an inner element, an inner tolerance, that once again is an outpouring of moral substances over our inner life. It is just like someone receiving a picture of a tree that he has actually seen, who would never say, if he received a picture of the tree taken from a different angle, that it was not the same tree. Just as we can have four or even eight pictures which all portray the same tree, so we learn to look at all sorts of ideas, which singly would represent a one sided picture of reality, and to learn about them, to look into them with great care and immerse ourselves in their manifoldness. This is normally underrated when it comes to doing the exercises which have now to be undertaken. This is something that is not much understood today, even by the best, but it does lead to the further development of the will in a way similar to the development of the mind that I have described. We then experience that the will liberates itself from being bound to the body.
Just as oxygen can be extracted from water, so the will is released by means of the energetic pursuit of these various exercises that are described, and it becomes freer and freer, and more and more spiritual. By these means we awaken a real, higher man in ourselves that is not just an image of an ideal nor something thought out. We make the discovery which is still a paradox to most people today, but which is quite real for the science of spirit, that a second, more subtle man lives in us, having a quite different consciousness from our normal consciousness. And this consciousness that we can awaken in this way shows us that it is a much more real man than the one that we live in the physical body and move around in. This man in us can make use of the eye of the spirit, as I called it earlier, in the etheric body, in the way I have described.
The acceptance of such another consciousness of another more all-embracing man — this has a far more intimate connection with nature and its beings and to the spiritual world than our normal consciousness. — The acceptance of this also was instinctively foreseen by the more penetrating scientists of the 19th century. Here, too, the science of spirit brings about a fulfillment. I would only like to point out how Eduard von Hartmann worked in this direction, though I do not wish to advocate his philosophy in detail in any way. In his really controvertible work, The Philosophy of the Unconscious, Hartmann referred to the fact that an unknown soul quality is to be found behind the normal consciousness of the human being that — as Eduard von Hartmann describes it — comes to expression painfully in a way, and which has a kind of underground telephone connection with the unconscious spiritual nature of the outer world, and which can work its way up, and does work its way up, through the astral nature and pours out of the unconscious or subconscious into our normal, everyday consciousness.
Eduard von Hartmann really pointed instinctively to what the science of spirit teaches as a fact. Only he believed that this other consciousness of the human being could only be arrived at by theoretical hypotheses, analytical concepts and inferences. This was what he was lacking because he never wanted to take the path which is appropriate to his time: not just to formulate the life of the soul theoretically, but to take it actively into training in the two ways that have been described.
It has been possible to see from this that the acceptance of this spiritual nature in everything is much more helped by the solution of the mystery of the human being — even from a philosophical viewpoint, if it really remains philosophical — than all that can be done by the rest of science in the ways described above. And this can be proved by what has happened. Just in these matters Eduard von Hartmann proves a remarkable figure.
In 1869 he published his Philosophy of the Unconscious. Here he discussed how the spiritual that lives in the soul, hidden, as it were, in the spiritual soul, also lives in nature, and how the materialist today has only a one-sided idea of how the spiritual that lives in the soul also permeates and invades nature. In was 1869 that The Philosophy of the Unconscious was first published. It was the time when people had the greatest hopes of gaining a new view of the world on the basis of the new Darwinian approach, the laws of natural selection and the struggle for existence. Hartmann energetically opposed everything connected with this approach from a spiritual viewpoint, and naturally enough the scientists who were full of materialistic interpretation of Darwinism reacted to what Hartmann said. They said: Well, of course, only a philosopher can speak like that who is not at home in real scientific research and who does not know how conscientiously science works! — And many works were published by various scientists attacking Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious. They all wrote basically the same thing — Hartmann was a dilettante and one should not bother to listen to him any further. One only had to protect the layman who always fell for such things; that is why Hartmann's position should be exposed.
Among the many works that appeared there was also one which was anonymous. From start to finish everything was brilliantly refuted. It was shown how from the viewpoint which a scientist had to have, he understood nothing about how science works in its approach to the great mystery of the world! — The scientists were tremendously enthusiastic and were in full agreement with what the anonymous author had written, and it was soon necessary to reprint this ingenious, scientific work. Oskar Schmidt and Ernst Haeckel themselves were full of praise and said: It is a pity that this colleague of ours, this significant scientific thinker, does not say who he is. If he will only say who he is we will regard him as one of ourselves. — In fact, Ernst Haeckel even said: I myself could have said nothing better than what this anonymous author has marshaled from the scientific viewpoint against Hartmann.
And lo and behold, a second edition was needed just as the scientists had wished, But now in the second edition the author revealed himself. It was Eduard von Hartmann himself who had written the work! This was a lesson that could not have been executed more brilliantly for people who constantly believe that those who do not adopt their own attitude could not possibly understand anything about their learning and knowledge. It is a lesson from which we can still learn today, and particularly those could learn who, when it comes to opposing what the science of spirit teaches, approach it with a similar attitude.
The scientist of spirit or anthroposophist knows quite well the sort of things that can be leveled against anthroposophy, however well it may be presented. He is fully aware of what can be said against it, just as Eduard von Hartmann was able to present what the scientists found to be excellent and to their liking. Such lessons, it is true, are soon forgotten, and the old habits soon return. But we can recall them, and we should learn from them. It is not only with Eduard von Hartmann but also with others that an instinctive feeling has arisen that quite a different kind of consciousness is at work in the depths of the human soul.
I would remind you of Myers, the English scientist and editor of the reports of psychic experiments which were published in many volumes and which set out to show how there is something hidden in the human soul that exists alongside our ordinary experience, — what James, the American, called the year of the discovery of one of the most significant facts, namely the discovery of the unconscious in 1886. Today scientists on the whole know very little about such things. They know nothing of Eduard von Hartmann's arguments, nothing about James, nothing about 1886 when Myers discovered the unconscious, the part of us that is of a spirit-soul nature and is connected with the spirit-soul nature of the world, and that rises into and awakens our normal consciousness. It is the same as I have described as awakening as if out of our everyday consciousness, out of a dreaming state, and makes our ordinary consciousness into a perceptive consciousness. — But in Myers and James it is to be found in a chaotic and immature state, rather like a hope or promise. — It becomes a real fact for the first time with the science of spirit or anthroposophy.
And so we see — however paradoxical it may appear today — that the development of the inner powers of the soul emerges on two fronts. I can only indicate how what I have described in its first beginnings, when systematically carried out, eventually leads to our being increasingly able to learn to use the spiritual eye in the etheric body by means of the other man that lives in us, and we discover this world of inner processes in ourselves and are able to feel ourselves as belonging to it. How we then learn not only to overcome our conception of space, but also of time. We come to look at time in quite a different way. And, as I have said, we become able not only to carry ourselves back in our memories into the past, but also to gain experience of ourselves at earlier points of time and also to carry ourselves back beyond the time that we normally remember.
You all know that we can remember back only to a certain point in our childhood. This is as far as we can think back to. What we experienced in the first years of our childhood we can only be reminded of from outside. But now we can carry ourselves back to the time in our earliest childhood when as human beings we were not yet able to recognize or perceive our powers, to the time when the forces we need for our ordinary consciousness were needed for the initial growth of the body. That is to say, we learn to perceive not with the ego of our earliest childhood, but the ego that has brought our spiritual nature out of the spiritual world and united itself with what has been inherited in the way of physical forces and substances from our father, mother and ancestors. We go back to this spiritual human being. From the present moment we look back with an awakened consciousness and see through the sense world into the spiritual; we have a spiritual world before us. Similarly, when we carry ourselves back in time we then have a qualitative experience of the life that we live in the body and that comes to an end with death. On the one hand, our ordinary perception cuts us off in our normal consciousness from spiritual reality; on the other, our bodily experience cuts us off in our normal consciousness from what exists beyond the gate of death. The moment we reach the time which we can remember back to, we see on the other hand life bordered by death, and we see what death makes of us. What is beyond death is revealed, together with what is beyond birth, only divided, kept apart by our life in the body. The spiritual man, the eternal in us, is experienced in that we see our physical life as a river; the one bank is birth and the other bank is death. Death, however, is revealed together with what exists before birth.
We also see maturing in us what leads from this life to a further life on earth. For if we have gone through the gate of death we then see what lives in us. Just as we can say that there is something that lives in the plant which, having gone through the dark and cold time of year, develops into a new plant, so we see how our spirit-soul nature that is within us in this life goes through the spiritual world between death and birth and appears again in a new life on earth. All this becomes accessible to our perception when we develop the powers of the soul in the way that it has been described. Just as we grow accustomed to a physical world through our open eyes and open ears, so we accustom ourselves to a spiritual world, really become concretely aware of a spiritual world that exists around us. We live together with spiritual beings, spiritual forces. Just as we recognize our life, our body, as the expression of our spiritual being which begins at birth, or rather at conception, so we also come to know our physical life on the earth, our physical earth, as a further condition or state of something that has been preceded in planetary existence.
We come to see our earth as a metamorphosis, a transformation of an earlier planet, in which we existed as human beings at an earlier stage, not yet with the present-day physical body, but in a spiritual state and with the nature we have today in a spiritual form. The animals have undergone a downward evolution, the human being has evolved in such a way that the point at which man and animal meet is to be found in the spiritual and not in the physical. Man's evolution on the earth is a continuation of the life on an earlier planet, which has been transformed into the present earth, and which will similarly be transformed into the next stage and will enable the human being to take into himself an ego that today is still slumbering in him, but which will become more and more awake in the further course of evolution. The whole world will be spiritualized.
When we speak about nature we do not content ourselves with referring to a vague pantheism existing in the outer world, but in looking at the being of the earth we speak of rising stages that we get to know. Nor do we enter into a spiritual world with a vague pantheism, but as a concrete individual and real human being.
Today one is forgiven least of all for saying such a thing as this. Nevertheless it is true that a real, concretely spiritual world is opened up to us, the spiritual world that we belong to with our spiritual man, just as with our physical man we belong to ordinary physical reality.
And so in bringing about a methodical awakening of inner life the science of spirit or anthroposophy adds knowledge of spirit to natural knowledge and introduces a different picture of the world from the one we have in our ordinary consciousness. In this connection the science of spirit will gradually have to be taken into the hearts of those who are longing for it, but who for the most part do not know that this longing exists in their hidden feelings. But it is there, and it will come to be more and more recognized.
It is remarkable how even the most eminent thinkers of our time and of the immediate past have not yet been able to grasp the details of the kind of experience I have been describing. I wanted to cite the great philosopher Eduard von Hartmann who had an idea of what it was about, but who was only interested in reaching another consciousness in the human being theoretically, and who was unable to discover that one cannot find one's way into the spiritual by theories or hypotheses, but only by experience, by working upon one's thoughts in such a way that they are sent out as messengers into an unknown world, from which they return as experience, and that leads one into the spiritual world, as I have described. But the experience of it must be based on accepting the existence of a world of ideas and images as real.
Forgive me if I say something personal once more, but it is very much connected with this whole subject. I do not particularly wish to do so, but you will see why I refer to it.
In 1894 I attempted in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity to provide the world with just such a philosophical approach as a preparation for the science of spirit, where the individual human viewpoints, which sometimes have such remarkable names, could be understood, not as a choice of mutually exclusive views, but that they could be seen like photographs or different pictures of the same object and that these concepts could be allowed to speak for themselves so that one has a many-sided picture.
Eduard von Hartmann studied this Philosophy of Spiritual Activity in 1894, and he sent me his copy in which he had made notes. I would like to read a passage from the letter he sent me. It contains singular, philosophical expressions but what he means is quite clear even without going into what these expressions mean.
In the first place he says, for instance: “The title should be `Monism based on the theory of knowledge — ethical individualism,' and not `Philosophy of Spiritual Activity'.”
But he has an instinctive feeling for the fact that these two aspects are supposed to throw light on one and the same thing. He thinks, however, that they cannot be brought together. They are in fact brought together in the life of the soul and not by means of empty theories. This is what he meant. And similarly in other points.
Eduard von Hartmann therefore says: “In this book neither Hume's absolute phenomenalism nor Berkeley's phenomenalism based on God are reconciled, nor this more immanent or subjective, phenomenalism and the transcendental panlogism of Hegel, nor Hegel's panlogism and Goethean individualism. Between these two aspects there yawns an unbridgeable abyss.”
Because all these views exist in such a living way, they all testify to the same thing, they characterize one and the same thing from varying viewpoints!
Hartmann has an inkling of this, a feeling for it, but he does not see that what is important is not a hypothetical and theoretical way of putting them together in thought, but a living way of experiencing them as a unity.
He therefore goes on to say: “Above all, the fact is ignored that phenomenalism leads with absolute inevitability to soliphism [this may be a coined word, a `typo,' or the translator really meant solipsism - e.Ed] (that is, to a doctrine of being one, a doctrine of the ego), to illusionism and to agnosticism, and nothing is done to prevent this plunge into the abyss of un-philosophy, because the danger is not even recognized.”
This danger certainly has been recognized! And Eduard von Hartmann once again instinctively uses the right expression: “plunge into the abyss of un-philosophy.”
This is precisely what I have described today! Of course, this plunge into the abyss is not prevented by un-philosophy or by any hypotheses setting out to be philosophical, but only by our real life being led into the other existence, by the unconscious being made conscious, so that what is experienced objectively and independently in the soul can be guided back again into the conscious.
You can see here how the science of spirit or anthroposophy has gradually to get to grips with the longings and hopes for such a science, that exist at the present time, but which in themselves cannot get as far as what has to be achieved in the science of spirit, because for this to happen it is imperative to see that intimate work on the soul has to be done which does not remain mystically subjective, but is just as objective as ordinary science and knowledge.
What then has been done about this up to now? I have cited Oskar Hertwig to you. Oskar Hertwig is one of those who felt the significance of Eduard von Hartmann!
Ernst Haeckel is one of those who mocked most at what Eduard von Hartmann published in his Philosophy of the Unconscious.
Oskar Hertwig still cites Eduard von Hartmann continuously and does so in full agreement with what he says, even where Eduard von Hartmann says that the way in which the idea of natural selection is treated as a modern superstition is like a childhood disease, a scientific childhood disease of our times. This is cited by Oskar Hertwig, himself a pupil of Haeckel, as an appropriate statement about natural science by Eduard von Hartmann. And there is much more like this. It all adds up to a clear statement as to what science is unable to recognize and what it would really have to recognize. But what has happened is that the pupils of the great teachers of science of the 19th century have already started to refute everything that existed earlier in the nature of the hopes I have been talking about.
Oskar Hertwig is extraordinarily interesting because he shows that science today cannot have any objection to such a philosophy as Eduard von Hartmann's.
If the scientists find their way to Eduard von Hartmann, they will also find their way to the science of spirit. But then the general consciousness of humanity too will be able to find its way.
The science of spirit will encounter opposition enough from other directions as well. To conclude, I would like to mention briefly the objections that are constantly brought by the adherents of various religious organizations against the science of spirit. It is remarkable how it is just from the religious viewpoint that the science of spirit is attacked. It is said, for instance, that what the science of spirit has to say contradicts things in the Bible or that are held according to tradition. — But is this really what we should be concerned about? Could we think of not wanting to discover America because it cannot be found in the Bible or in Christian tradition?
If anyone believes that the power of the greatest thing in the world — Christianity — could be endangered because of some discovery, he cannot have much faith in it!
When I hear of how objections can be made by Christians, I recall a theologian, this time not Protestant, but Catholic, a teacher of Christian philosophy, member of a Catholic faculty of theology, who gave his inaugural lecture on Galileo — and we know how the church dealt with Galileo. This really genuinely Christian and Catholic priest, who up to the time of his death never denied that he was a true son of the church, said in his lecture on Galileo: It is with injustice that a really perceptive Christianity turns against the progress of natural science as brought about by such people as Galileo. It is with injustice that Christianity declares certain ideas which are falsely said to be derived from Christianity, to be irreconcilable with natural science. For modern science, thinks this priest and professor of theology, only appears to be irreconcilable with the more limited view of the world held by the ancient peoples, but not with the Christian view, for this Christian view, properly understood, is bound to confirm the discoveries of more and more wonders in the world, and is bound to confirm the glory of the Godhead and the glory of the Christian view; it is bound to confirm the wonders that divine grace has instituted upon the earth.
We can say the same about the science of spirit, for there is no contradiction between it and Christianity, properly understood. But contradiction exists only between it and a false teaching that unjustly purports to originate from Christianity. The only thing that the science of spirit cannot be reconciled with is a narrowly conceived scientific view of the world and not with a broadly based Christian view. And the discoveries of the science of spirit, the wonders that it finds in the spiritual world, will not mean an end to the wonders that Christianity teaches us about, but on the contrary will confirm them.
Laurenz Mueller, also a genuinely Christian theologian and professor, speaks in a similar vein: Christianity does not contradict and is not intended to contradict a doctrine of evolution properly understood, as long as it does not set out to be a purely causal evolution of the world and to place man only within the framework of a physical causality.
The science of spirit does not clash with Christianity, because it does not lead to the deadening of religious life and vision, but, on the contrary, it encourages and fires religious life and vision.
And those today who still believe that their Christianity would be endangered by the science of spirit will gradually have to realize that whereas wrongly understood science has driven away more and more souls, both outwardly and inwardly, anthroposophy or the science of spirit, because it kindles religious life, will bring even educated people back to the great mysteries, not only of Christian teaching, but also of Christian deeds and ceremonial services. This will largely be the work of the future, in fact, of the relatively near future.
Just in this connection one could wish that things would be better understood and that above all there were more willingness to understand the matter, that one would not formulate a picture without really going into it and then setting up this picture as something contradictory to Christianity.
I can only mention this very briefly. I would have to speak for a long time if I had to go into everything in detail — but this could be done — to show that Christianity has not the slightest grounds for turning against such ideas as repeated lives on earth.
To finish with, allow me to say a few words about the teachings of natural science.
Today natural science has arrived at the point of realizing what it cannot attain. Oskar Hertwig — to keep to our former example — hits upon something in a remarkable way in his book Das Werden der Organismen. Eine Widerlegung von Darwins Zufallstheorie.
In a remarkable way he comes to the conclusion that it is not any objective research, nor analytical research into scientific facts, that has led to the materialistic philosophy of Darwinism, but it arises from the fact that the people of this age have borne this materialistic outlook in themselves, have borne the belief in the unspiritual nature of the outer world in themselves, and have applied this to nature.
And here it is very interesting to feel the weight of Oskar Hertwig's own words to show the real nature of the situation.
Hertwig says: “The principle of utility, the conviction of the necessity of unrestricted commercial and social competition, materialistic tendencies in philosophy, are forces that would have played an important part, even without Darwin. Those who were already under their influence greeted Darwinism as a scientific confirmation of the ideas they already cherished. They could now look at themselves, as it were, in the mirror of science.”
“The interpretation of Darwin's teaching,” Oskar Hertwig continues, “which is so ambiguous in its uncertainties, also allows for a varied application in the other spheres of economic, social and political life. Each person can get what he wants from it, just as from the Delphic oracle, and can draw his own conclusions concerning social, hygienic, medical and other questions, and can call on the scientific learning of the new Darwinian biology with its unalterable laws of nature, to confirm his own views. If however these laws of nature are not what they are made out to be” — and Oskar Hertwig sets out to prove, and does prove, that they are not really laws of nature, “could there not also be social dangers when they are applied in various ways to other spheres? We surely do not believe that human society can use for fifty years such phrases as bitter struggle for existence, survival of the fittest, of the most useful, the most expedient, perfection by selection etc., without being deeply and substantially influenced in the whole direction of this kind of ideas.”
This is what a scientist is already saying today. He is not just saying that these materialistically formulated ideas of Darwinism are wrong, but that they are injurious, that they inevitably lead to difficulties in the soul life, and to social and political harm. Only the restricted and one-sided views of certain scientists could maintain otherwise. And sometimes this works out in the most terrible way.
A great scientist of the present day for whom I have great respect — and it is just because I have respect for him that I cite him now — hints in a remarkable way at how the scientist does not perhaps wish to be understood, but at how he must be understood on the basis of his attitude toward what can be expected of a purely naturalistic view of nature. The scientist, for whom I have the greatest respect, says at the end of a significant book — and these are now his own words that I am quoting: “We live today in the best period of time” — this is what he maintains, it cannot be proved with full validity, but he asserts: “we live today in the best period of time, at least we scientists, and we can even hope for better,” he says, “for in comparing the science of today with the achievements of earlier scientists we can say with Goethe who knew so much about nature and the world:
The pleasure ... is great, to cast
The mind into the spirit of the past,
And scan the former notions of the wise,
And see what marvelous heights we've reached at last.”
— Thus speaks a first class scientist at the end of an important book!
I do not know whether many people notice and think about the person whom Goethe makes say this. Is it really Goethe, the one who knew so much about the world and nature, who says this? No, he puts it into the mouth of Wagner
And Faust replies to Wagner:
“How strange, that he who cleaves to shallow things
Can keep his hopes alive on empty terms
And dig with greed for precious plunderings,
And find his happiness unearthing worms!”
This is the real view of the one who knew so much about the world and nature!
And if scientists today do not yet realize what can be built on the basis of the sound foundations to be found in a view of the world, such as also shone through Goethe, one can understand what Oskar Hertwig so rightly says: The materialistic conception of the world and Darwinism with its materialistic bias have arisen out of the general materialistic attitude of the times, their naturalistic methods, their materialistic impulses and feelings, and which have then been applied to nature. But the facts disprove this.
The scientist of spirit replies to this out of what he believes to be a deeper knowledge of the world and of man: No, it is not such a narrow view like the one prevalent around the middle of the 19th century that should affect our study of nature, but our views should be formulated according to the highest possible content that spirit and soul can attain, and they should then be applied to nature to see if nature really confirms them. We can then expect that the resultant view will not be anything like Darwinism. This latter believed the world to exist according to certain laws and, as we have seen, nature herself has disproved this belief.
The science of spirit strives to study the human soul in its depths, and to draw out of these depths the spirit that exists in the broadest and most embracing sense as the foundation of existence in spiritual beings and forces. It is not a one-sided but a many-sided path that it takes, for there is not only one path it follows, but it follows all the paths on which the human soul is led, from out of its own rich inner life. The science of spirit may be allowed to hope that the questions, the mysteries, which nature has put to it will not be refuted by nature, but that the spirit in nature will affirm them because the spirit that lives in nature also lives in man, and not, as in the other case, to deny what the science of spirit or anthroposophy envisages the real nature of the human mystery to be.