Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms
3 September 1920, Dornach
In our spiritual-scientific endeavors, it is important to acquaint ourselves gradually from the most diverse points of view with what we are supposed to understand. One can say that, particularly in regard to spiritual-scientific subjects, the world expects an uncomplicated, facile approach towards conviction; however, this is not easily provided. For as far as spiritual-scientific facts are concerned, it is actually necessary to attain our conviction in a gradually evolving manner. To begin with, this conviction is still weak. One becomes acquainted with the same things from ever changing new viewpoints; thus, conviction increasingly gains in strength. This is the one premise from which I should like to start today. The other will relate to various matters that I have discussed here for weeks; it will relate to what has been said concerning the differentiation of humanity throughout the civilized world. 84 See Lecture VII of this volume. Let me indicate briefly a few of the most salient facts that are of some importance to our considerations in the next three days.
I have pointed out in what sense the Orient is the source of humanity's essential spiritual life. I then indicated that in the central areas, in Greece, Middle Europe and the Roman Empire — what must be discussed covers vast periods of time — there primarily exists the predisposition for developing the legal, political concepts. The West is notably predisposed to contribute economic concepts to the totality of human civilization. It has already been mentioned that when we look across to the Orient, we find that the life of its civilization is basically decadent today. In order to evaluate properly what the Orient really signifies for the whole of human civilization, we have to turn back to more ancient periods of time. Among the historically accessible documents which are proof of the Orient's essential nature, the Vedas, the Vedanta philosophy, stand out above all; they and others are in turn evidence, however, of what was present in the Orient in still more ancient epochs. They indicate how a cultural life was born out of a primeval, wholly spiritual disposition of Oriental humanity. Subsequently, for the Orient too, ensued the times of obscuration of this spiritual life. Yet, a person who is able to contemplate in the right way what is happening in the Orient at present — although it is a mere caricature of what was formerly there — even today will still note the aftereffect of the ancient spiritual life in the decadent phenomena.
During a somewhat later period, the essentially legalistic, political thinking developed throughout the central regions of the earth. It evolved in ancient Greece and Rome, later on in the regions spread over Europe from the Middle Ages onward. The Orient originally possessed no actual political thinking, particularly not what we today define as juridical thinking. This is not in contradiction to the existence of codes of law such as Hammurabi's and others. For if you study the contents of these codes, you recognize from the whole tone and attitude that you are dealing with something quite different from the mode of thinking defined in the Occident as juridical. It is only in recent times that an actually economic form of thinking has developed in the West. As I have already explained, even science as it is practiced now is assuming those forms that really belong to the economic life.
As far as the Oriental spiritual life is concerned, it is interesting to observe how everything that the Occident has possessed up to now is basically also a legacy of the Oriental spiritual life, although in metamorphosed forms. Some time ago, I pointed out here how considerably this spiritual life of the Orient has been transformed in Europe. We are confronted by the fact that the capacities that held sway in the Orient have yielded up a perception of the immortal human soul, but in such a manner that this immortality was intrinsically bound up with prenatal existence before birth. The soul perception of the Oriental mind had a view, above all else, of preexistent life, of the soul's life between birth and death preceding this earthly existence. Everything else followed in consequence of this in a manner of speaking. From this view resulted the mighty relationships, only dimly glimpsed by the Westerner to this day, that one might call the karmic relationships, which subsequently left a reflection, albeit only a faint one, in the Greek concept of destiny. What is it, really, that passed over, that flowed across into the Occidental version of those concepts, even those with which an attempt was made to understand the Mystery of Golgotha? It was something that was strongly tinged by legalistic thinking. There is a radical contrast between contemplating the path of the soul in the sense of the Oriental world conception as descending from a spiritual world into the physical realm, noting how the karmic relationships are viewed there from wide perspectives, and considering the juridical idea of holding court over the soul that, in the Occident, has invaded these Oriental concepts. We need only recall Michelangelo's magnificent painting in the Vatican, in the Sistine Chapel, where the World Judge, like a cosmic magistrate, adjudicates upon good and evil men. This is the Oriental world view translated into Occidental legalism; this is in no way the original Eastern world conception. This legalistic thinking lies entirely outside Oriental perception. Indeed, the more advanced the concept of the spirit became in Central Europe, the more it culminated in the Roman legalistic element.
Hence, in the central regions, we are dealing primarily with the element predisposed for the juridical and political thinking. Civilization is, however, not only differentiated over the earth in this manner but in yet another way. If we study the accomplishments of the East, if we consider the special nuance of Oriental soul life, in particular where it is at its greatest, we find that this soul life is most eminently atavistic and instinctive, notwithstanding the fact that its fruits are primarily cultural; and all of mankind has continued to sustain itself on them. This spiritual life emerges out of unconscious imaginations that are, however, already muted by a certain ray of consciousness. Nevertheless, it contains much that is unconscious and instinctive.
The spiritual life produced by humanity up until now is indeed brought forth in a way that points to the highest spheres of which the human soul can partake, but the lofty heights of these spheres were reached in a sort of instinctive flight. It does not suffice to retrace the concepts or images produced by the Orient. Rather, it is necessary to focus on the singular kind of spiritual and soul life, by means of which, especially in its flowering time, the Oriental arrived at these conceptions. To be sure, we only gain an idea of this distinctive soul quality that I have already characterized by relating it with the life of the metabolism, if we want to have a feeling for the whole original soul structure contained in the Vedas and other texts. We simply must not overlook the fact that the Orient has reached its decadence today; for example, we should in no way confuse the mystic, nebulous manner which, despite his greatness, distinguishes Rabindranath Tagore, 85 See Note #54 from the true essence of Oriental soul life. For, although Rabindranath Tagore possesses what has been handed down to this day of the ancient Eastern soul life, he permeates it with all manner of modern, Western European affectations and is, above all, an affected individual.
Spiritual science must indeed lay hold of these matters, step by step, and in such a way that we do not merely accept some rigidly set up concepts, but really envision the unique soul nuance involved here. Thus, we find in the Orient an instinctive cultural life, permeated through and through with the trend for the legalistic and political soul life developing in the central regions. There, we come to the development of the half instinctive, the half conscious. It is most interesting to examine how a purely juridical thinking is produced from the souls of people, say, like Fichte, Goethe, Schelling or Hegel. It is purely juridical, but it is partly instinctive, partly a fully conscious thinking; something that is, for example, the special charm of Hegel's mode of thinking. A completely conscious element only appears in the Western soul, where consciousness develops out of the instincts themselves. The conscious element is still instinctive in the Western soul, but instinctively the conscious emerges in Western economic thinking. Here, for the first time, mankind is called upon to attain to a conscious penetration of even public, social affairs.
Now we come across something quite strange. One might actually recommend that those to whom it matters for one reason or another should now try to understand the configuration of civilized humanity's thinking by becoming acquainted with the attempts of the English thinkers to arrive at a mode of social thinking, say, the attempts of Spencer, Bentham, particularly Huxley, and so on. These thinkers are indeed all rooted in the same atmosphere of thought in which Darwin was rooted; they all really think as Darwin thought, except that they try, as does Huxley, to develop a social view out of their scientific way of thinking. A strange feeling pervades us when we delve into the attempts by Huxley 86 Thomas Huxley: 1825–1895. to achieve a social thinking, for instance, about the state, about the legal aspects of human relationships. It gives one a strange feeling. Let us suppose the following: Someone wishes to acquire a sense, a feeling for what I have here in mind, and to that end reads Hegel's book on natural rights, 87 Friedrich Hegel: Grundlinien einer Philosophie des Rechts, 1821. on political sciences, Fichte's philosophy of rights, 88 Johann Gottlieb Fichte: Grundlage des Naturrechts, 1796. or something else by a minor Middle European mind; afterwards, he reads, possibly, Huxley's attempts to advance from scientific to political thinking. He would experience something like the following. He would say to himself, "I read Hegel and Fichte; the concepts here are fully developed, they have strong contours and are precisely drawn. Now I read Huxley or Spencer, and I find the concepts primitive; it as though one had just begun to contemplate these questions. Confronted by such things, it does not do to say, “Well, the one was perfect, the other imperfect.” This does not suffice at all when one confronts realities.
Let me present to you a parallel taken from an entirely different realm. It can happen that one lectures on some spiritual-scientific subject, say, the former embodiment of the earth, the Moon embodiment. A variety of facts are set forth. Someone reads or listens to this lecture who is clairvoyant in a quite atavistic manner. It could be an individual who is outwardly illogical, who in practical life is unable to put five words together in logical sequence, who is inept in everything and therefore of no use in ordinary life. Such a person listens to what is being related about the configuration of some Moon era. Now, this same person who is quite dull and blundering in outer life and unable to count up to five properly, yet who is atavistically clairvoyant, can take in what he has heard, enlarge upon it, develop it further and discover additional facts not mentioned earlier. The things that such a person then adds can be infused with extraordinarily penetrating logic, a logic that arouses admiration, while, in everyday life, this person is clumsy and illogical. This is entirely possible, for if someone is atavistically clairvoyant, it is not his ego that joins his images together in a logical manner, although he can discover the images by himself. The images are joined by various spiritual beings dwelling within him. We become acquainted with their logic, not his.
This is why we cannot simply say that one view is on a higher, the other on a lower level; in every case we have to go into the specific character of the matter. This is true here too. The views of Fichte, Hegel and other less illustrious minds are half instinctive, only partly fully conscious ones. What arises, on the other hand, in the West as primitive economic thinking is indeed fully conscious. The concepts such as those thought out by Huxley, Spencer and others are impertinently conscious, but conceived in a primitive way. What had appeared in former times in instinctive or half instinctive form emerges here consciously but in quite an elementary way. I shall illustrate this by means of a concrete example.
Huxley tells himself that if we observe nature — he naturally looks at it from the Darwinian standpoint — we find the struggle for survival. Every creature fights ruthlessly for self-preservation, and the whole animal kingdom's struggle is waged so that the naturally strong survive by annihilating the weak. This theory has penetrated into Huxley's flesh and blood. This, however, cannot be continued on into humanity. Freedom such as we must seek in human social life is nonexistent in nature, for there can be no freedom — thinks Huxley — in a realm where every creature must either assert itself ruthlessly or perish. There can be no equality where the fittest must always eliminate the less fit. Now Huxley turns from the natural realm to the social sphere and is compelled to conclude that, indeed, this is true, but in the social realm goodness should prevail, freedom should reign. Something should come to pass that as yet cannot be found in nature.
It is again the great chasm that I have characterized from so many points of view. Once, Huxley very aptly calls man “the splendid rebel,” who, in order to establish a human kingdom, rebels against all that prevails in nature. Something therefore ensues here that is not yet found in nature. Now again, Huxley actually thinks along scientific lines. He is compelled to search for natural forces in man that constitute the social life and rebel against nature herself. He looks in man for something concrete that serves as the basis for the human social community. The other forces of the kingdoms of nature cannot establish this social community; in nature, the struggle for survival holds sway, and there is nothing that could hold humanity together in a social structure. Nonetheless, as far as Huxley is concerned, there is nothing but this natural cohesion. Hence, this “splendid rebel” must in turn have natural forces which, although they are forces of nature, rebel against the natural forces in general. Now, Huxley finds two natural forces that are at the same time the basic forces of the social life. The first one is actually worked out wrongly, for it is not yet capable of establishing a social life, only family egoism. It is what Huxley calls the family attraction, something that is active within blood relationships. The second force he lists that could form a sort of natural foundation for the social life is something that he calls “the human instinct for mimicry,” the human talent for imitation.
Now, there is something that appears in the human being in the sense referred to by Huxley, namely, the faculty of imitation. It means that one person follows what the other does. This is the reason the individual pursues not merely his own directions, but society as a whole, the social life, runs along the same lines, as it were, because one person imitates the other. This is as far as Huxley goes. It is very interesting, because you know that in describing the human being we list the following: The element of imitation from the first to the seventh year; from the seventh to the fourteenth year, the element of authority; the one of independent judgment from the fourteenth to the twenty-first year. All three, of course, participate in the social development. Huxley, however, stops short at the first; he is only laboring to emerge from the primitive level. He has taken hold of nothing but the force that is active in the human being only until his seventh year. We are confronted with nothing less than the fact that if the social community as envisioned by Huxley were actually to exist, it would have to consist entirely of children; human beings would have to remain children perpetually. Thus, in envisioning the social life, Western society has, in fact, only advanced to the stage applicable to children. The social science striven for in full consciousness has progressed no further than this That is most interesting.
Here, you can detect the primitive aspect in connection with a particular element. The West works its way out of the scientific-economic thinking and attains something in a conscious manner that has been reached in the central regions in a half conscious, half instinctive way on a higher level. We can actually follow up these things in detail and they can thus become most interesting. All matters brought to light by spiritual science can invariably be followed up by means of details. It only requires a sufficiently large number of people to develop enough diligence to pursue all details of spiritual-scientific matters.
Is it not actually rubbed into us in this instance that something else must be present that cooperates in the social development of existence? For, certainly, social structures cannot be established in which only forces of imitation hold sway. Otherwise, they could only contain children; human beings would have to remain children forever, if the social life would originate only through mutual imitation. In order to arrive at something that can throw light on the primitive attempts, and can also bring together East, Middle and West, we must proceed from initiation science. This means that we have to link the train of thought that we tried to connect with the above to what initiation science can offer to humanity, so that mankind may be capable of developing a social life truly structured in conformity with the Spirit.
People fail to observe how the environment of the human being is pervaded with quite clearly differentiated forces. Modern science has reached the point where it states that we are surrounded by air, for we inhale and exhale it; but there is something that is even more obvious in our life than “the air around us,” something that people fail to notice. Take the following simple fact that no one today takes into consideration, yet is something that could be understood by anybody. An animal kingdom is spread out around our human kingdom. This animal kingdom includes creatures of every imaginable form. Let us picture to ourselves this whole manifold animal kingdom around us. In the case of a table, everybody knows that there are forces present that gave this table its shape. In regard to the animal kingdom surrounding us, we ought, naturally, to assume the same, namely, that just as air is present, so, in the environment, the forces are contained that bestow form upon the creatures of the animal kingdom. We all dwell within the same realm. The dog, the horse, the oxen and donkey do not move about in a different world from the one which we also inhabit. And the forces that bestow the donkey shape on the donkey affect us human beings too; yet — forgive me for speaking so bluntly — we do not acquire the form of a donkey. There are also elephants in our environment, but we do not assume the shape of elephants. Yet all the forces fashioning these shapes surround us everywhere. Why is it that we do not take on the forms of, say, a donkey or an elephant? We possess other forces that counteract them. We would indeed acquire these shapes if we did not have these other opposing forces. It is a fact that if we as human beings confront a donkey, our etheric body constantly has the tendency to assume the shape of a donkey. We restrain our etheric body from doing so only because we have a physical body possessing a solid form. Again, if we face an elephant, our etheric body endeavors to assume the elephant shape and is prevented from doing so only because of the physical body's solid shape. Whether it be elephant, stag-beetle or dirt-beetle, the etheric body tries to assume the shapes of any and all creatures. Potentially, all the forms are present in our etheric body, and we comprehend these forms only when we retrace them inwardly, as it were. Our physical body merely prevents us from turning into all these shapes. Therefore, we can say that we carry the entire animal kingdom within our etheric body. We are human only in our physical body. In our etheric body, we bear with us the whole animal kingdom.
Again, there flows all around us the same complex of forces that creates the plant forms. Just as our etheric body is predisposed to assume all animal shapes, our astral body is inclined to reproduce all the plant forms. Here it is already more pleasant to make comparisons, for, while the etheric body is imbued with the tendency to become a donkey when it sees one, the astral body wishes merely to become the thistle on which the donkey feeds. But this astral body is definately ensouled with the tendency to accommodate itself to those forces that find their external expression in the plant forms. Thus we may say that the astral body reacts to the complex of forces that shapes the plant kingdom.
The mineral kingdom is again a force complex that develops the various shapes of this specific realm. This acts within our ego. It is quite evident in the case of the ego, for you only think in terms of the mineral realm. After all, it has been reiterated time and again that the intellect can only grasp the inanimate. Hence, what is contained in the human ego understands the lifeless. Consequently, our ego dwells in the complex of forces that creates the mineral kingdom. The physical body, as such, lives in none of these realms; it has, as you know, a realm of its own. In my Occult Science, an Outline, the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms are dealt with separately; this signifies that the physical body possesses a domain of its own. The animal kingdom, on the other hand, is actually found in the etheric body; as far as this viewpoint is concerned, the plant kingdom is found in the astral body, and the mineral kingdom in the ego. From my various books, however, you are familiar with something else. You know that during earthly life these various bodies are worked upon. I have described how the ego, the astral body, the etheric body and even the physical body are worked on. I initially outlined it there, I might say, from the human, the humanistic intention. Now let us try to depict it from another point of view.
Take the mineral concepts that the human being acquires. He experiences the external world, after all, by experiencing it in mineral concepts and forms. Only enlightened minds like Goethe work their way up to the pictorial forms, to the morphology of plants, to metamorphosis. Here, the shapes are transformed. The ordinary view, still prevailing today, on the other hand, only dwells in the solid, mineral forms. If, now, the ego works on these forms and develops them, what is the result? Then, the result is the conscious cultural life, one of the domains of the threefold social organism. The ego creates the cultural life while working inwardly upon itself. All cultural life is, in fact, inner formative development of the ego. What the ego acquires from the mineral realm and in turn transforms into art, religion, science, and so forth, that is the cultural sphere, the transformed mineral kingdom, the spiritual realm.
What results from the tendency of the astral body, residing in the subconscious depths of most human beings, to assume every plant form possible? When you transform this tendency indwelling the astral body, when it radiates up into consciousness in half instinctive, half conscious form, what comes about then? The domain of rights, of the state, comes about.
Now, if you comprehend what holds sway in the relationships between human beings, namely, what is now, within external life, transformed from man's experiences of animality in the ether body, then you arrive at the third domain of the threefold social organism. Were we to stop at the etheric body as it comes to us from birth, we would only have the tendency in this etheric body to turn now into a donkey, now into an oxen, now into a cow, now into a Butterfly. We would reproduce the entire animal kingdom. As human beings we do not merely do this, however, we also transform the ether body. We accomplish this within the social life by living together with others. When we face a donkey, our etheric body wishes to become a donkey. When we confront another human being, we certainly cannot say without uttering a real insult that now, too, we wish to turn into a donkey. This is not possible, at least not in ordinary life; here we must change in another way. I should like to say that, here, the transformation becomes visible; here, those forces come into play that are effective in the economic life. These are the forces that assert themselves when a human being confronts his fellowman in brotherliness. In this way, in the brotherly confrontation, those forces are active that represent the work on the etheric body; thus, through the work on this body, the third realm, the economic sphere, comes into being.
Animal Kingdom: Etheric Body Economic Realm
Plant Kingdom: Astral Body Realm of Rights, of State
Mineral Kingdom: Ego 60; Cultural, Spiritual Realm
Thus, just as man is connected on the one side with the animal kingdom through his etheric body, he is related on the other side in the external environment with the economic sphere of the social organism. We could say that if man is viewed inwardly, spiritually, from the physical body towards the etheric, we find the animal kingdom within man. Outwardly, in his surroundings, we find the economic life.
When we penetrate into the human being and search out what he represents by virtue of his astral body, we find the plant kingdom. Outwardly, in the social configuration, the life of rights corresponds to the plant kingdom. Again, penetrating the human being, we discover the mineral kingdom corresponding to the ego. Outside, in the environment, corresponding to the mineral kingdom, we have the cultural life. Thus, through his constitution, man is linked to the three kingdoms of nature. By working on his whole being, he becomes a social being.
You see that we can never arrive at a comprehension of the social life if we are not in a position to ascend to the etheric body, astral body and ego. For we do not understand man's relationship to the social order if we don't ascend like that. If one proceeds merely from natural science, one stops short at the “human instinct for mimicry,” the faculty of imitation; one cannot progress. In thoughts, one makes the whole world puerile, for it is the child that still retains most of the natural forces. If one wishes to advance further, one needs the insight into initiation science. We need the insight into the fact that the human being is bound up with his etheric body through the animal kingdom, with the astral body through the plant world, and with the ego through the mineral realm. We need to know that owing to his observation of the mineral world man attains to his cultural life; that due to the transformation of the deep instincts harbored by him and owing to his kinship with the surrounding plant world he attains to the life of rights, of the state. We realize that these deep instincts correspond to the sphere of rights and the state. This is why, at first, the life of the state contains so much of the instinctive element if it is not infused with the cultural element of jurisprudence. Finally, we have the economic sphere which basically represents the metamorphosis of those inner experiences gained in the etheric body.
Now, these experiences are not brought to the surface from within by the science of initiation, for Huxley is not motivated in any sense by initiation science to explore the connection between man and the economic life. He observes the exterior, the conditions economically present outside. The whole complex of relations between the economic sphere, the etheric body and the animal kingdom is unclear to him. He looks at what is outwardly present. Consequently, he can certainly not advance beyond the most primitive, elementary level, the faculty of imitation.
From this we realize that if people would wish to continue extracting social thinking from modern science, they would remain caught up in absurdities and something quite dreadful would have to ensue. Over the whole earth, a social life would have to arise that would bring about the most primitive conditions; it would lead humanity back to a puerile social life. Gradually, untruth and lying would become a matter of course simply because people could not do otherwise even if they wanted to. They would be thirty, forty, fifty or even older, yet they would have to behave like children, if, with their consciousness, they only wanted to comprehend what is derived from science. People would only be able to develop the instincts of imitation. Even today we frequently have the feeling that only these instincts of imitation are being developed. We watch the appearance, somewhere, of yet another reform movement of a radical nature. It really only contains the instincts of imitation derived from some university philistine. Much of what, today, looks most illustrious when given the polish derived from the customary falsehoods would appear very different in the light of initiation science. Modern comprehension of the world, however, is limited to what can be seen in the light of the concept of imitation unless one is willing to advance from ordinary, official science to the science of initiation, the science that draws its substance from the inner impulses of existence.
Thus I have tried to show you how the aspects that are lacking in the present, the very. aspects through which it becomes evident where the present age must remain stuck because of its inability to penetrate reality, can be fructified and illuminated by the science of initiation.