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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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From Symptom to Reality in Modern History
GA 185

In these lectures, Steiner surveys some of the great developments in European consciousness and attitudes since the 15th century that have gradually formed the Europe of today. He examines the rise of nationalism and shows how different religious outlooks have played a profound role in shaping the course of events.

He also speaks of his personal confrontations with the attitudes and movements of his time. These lectures give a basis for a far deeper understanding of the present world situation and provide a challenge for those concerned with the future of humanity.

Translated by A. H. Parker.

I. The Birth of the Consciousness Soul October 18, 1918
Historical survey of our epoch from the standpoint of the Consciousness Soul. True reality lies concealed behind events. The great turning points in the evolution of mankind when the life of the soul passes from one stage of development to another stage. In the Middle Ages the universalist impulse of Catholicism was predominant and relied upon its power of suggestion. The conflict between the papacy and the empire — waning of Catholic power.

Symptoms of the new era — the removal of the pope to Avignon 1303, the suppression of the Order of the Templars, and the Mongol migrations. Existence of a more or less homogeneous complex which later gave birth to France and England. Joan of Arc and the emergence of nationalism, 1429. Nationalism as a unifying factor.

The conflict between Central and Eastern Empire leading to colonizing activity and the intermingling of the Slavonic and Teutonic peoples. The peasant revolts and the rise of Hapsburg power. Growth of towns between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries with their specific urban outlook. Preparation of parliamentary government in England as a result of the civil wars. Birth of the impulse of the Consciousness Soul. The political and social structure of Russia based an tradition. The revolt of the self-reliant personality against the universalist impulse of Catholicism brought no new creative ideas. Hus, Savanarola, Calvin and Luther challenged traditional ideas, but were uncreative. The dawn of the Consciousness Soul signifies a new relationship to the creative ideas of the past.

The national impulse and the emancipation of the independent personality followed different paths in France and England. In France the national element is orientated towards man and leads to the Revolution of 1789; in England towards mankind and leads to liberalism. Here the personal element transcends nationalism and strives to embrace the whole world. Significance of the battle of Trafalgar. In North America about the 1780's the specifically French nuance, Romanism, is subverted by the Anglo-Saxon element and lost to the world. A personality characteristic of the rise of the Consciousness Soul is James I of England.
II. Symptomatology of Recent Centuries October 19, 1918
Contradictions in the personalities of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul, e.g. James I. Loss of creative energy in this epoch. Increasing divergence between the French and English character. Consolidation of the state idea under Louis XIV, a consequence of the Chaos of the Thirty Years' War. The emancipation of the personality and its chaotic expression in the French Revolution. Liberty, equality and fraternity must be rightly associated with the tripartite division of man. The Revolution was all soul without body, Napoleon all body without a soul. The seven year cycles in Napoleon's life. Purpose of the Consciousness Soul is to develop independence, self-reliance. The need to abandon old supports and work out one's religious faith. Potential dangers. Rome opposed to the development of the Consciousness Soul and wished to keep man at the level of the Intellectual Soul. The stifling of the aspiration to the Consciousness Soul by reviving traditions of a past epoch, e.g. Freemasonry and the impulses of the Egypto-Chaldaean epoch. The two streams of recent history: the chaotic search for liberty, equality and fraternity; the various Orders which seek to stifle the awakening of the Consciousness Soul for their own ends. Thus the impulse to transcend nationalism by the development of the personality was blunted. Liberalism which aimed at political enlightenment declined in the last third of the nineteenth century. Spirit and soul no longer active forces; the phenomenal world the sole reality. Socialism as one of the most significant symptoms of modern times. The three tenets of socialism — the materialist conception of history, the theory of surplus value and the theory of the class struggle — Marx, Engels and Lassalle. Birth of international socialism. Another Symptom of our time: the creation of insoluble problems, e.g. Alsace.
III. Characteristics of Historical Symptoms in Recent Times October 20, 1918
The rise of socialism and its limitations. The significance of the scientific mode of thinking. Birth of the machine age. Colonizing activities dependent upon the achievements of natural science. The importance of colonization for the epoch of the Consciousness Soul. The impulse of the Consciousness Soul brings to an end the differentiation between men. The difference between observation of nature and knowledge derived from experimentation can be exploited technically. Technics introduce forces of death into social life. By reacting against technics man develops the Consciousness Soul. The relation between consciousness and the forces of death. The function of catabolic processes in man. Parliamentary government ends in the suppression of personality; democracy ends in egalitarianism.

The Masonic lodges and the mystery of birth and death. The impulses of the papacy are turned against Catholicism, cf. Garibaldi. The Byzantine tradition in Russian orthodoxy, a powerful force in opposition to the emancipation of the personality. Russia bears within it the seeds of the Spirit Self.

The meeting of Goethe and Soret in 1830. The controversy between Cuvier and Geoffrey de Saint Hilaire. The latter sees nature as a living organism, the former compares and classifies organisms. Thinking still active in sleep. What the Gods implanted in the instinctive life in early times must be replaced by super-sensible knowledge. The conquests of modern science, etcetera must be transformed by insight into the super-sensible. Man must open himself to the super-sensible so that what his Spirit Self prepares may enter into his ego. Modern history fails to penetrate to spiritual realities, and modern medicine to symptoms of cosmic origin. Disease as a visitation from heaven. Relation between epidemics and the periodicity of sun Spots.
IV. The Historical Significance of the Scientific Mode of Thinking October 25, 1918
Difference between knowledge derived from observation of nature and from experimentation. Facts of history are symbols of an underlying reality. Development of the Consciousness Soul must be accompanied by receptivity to the spiritual. Importance of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia for a co-operative life. The social revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, bereft of ideas. The Bolsheviks, the radical left wing of the Social Democratic party, take over; opposed to a spiritual Weltanschauung. Fruitful ideas could only spring from a spiritual outlook, but were rejected by the oppressed classes. The proletariat a product of the machine age and purely pragmatic in outlook. Cut off from nature, surrounded by a mechanized environment, it envisages the world and the social order as a vast machine.

Between 1860 and 1873 a tendency towards altrusim. The need to awaken an active interest in our fellow men. Importance of sickness and a positive attitude to life.

The forces of birth and death active throughout the life of man. In Graeco-Latin epoch they were evenly balanced in the early thirties of man's life. In epoch of Consciousness Soul, intellectual development ceases before middle life. Today we must consciously create and destroy, we must recognize the impermanence of things. Birth and death must be woven into our social life. In the fifth post-Atlantean epoch evil will be developed in man and in the sixth epoch will be experienced externally. Christ destined to appear again in the etheric body in the fifth epoch. The Christ impulse born out of the forces of death. Through the forces of evil mankind will be led to a renewed experience of the Mystery of Golgotha.
V. The Supersensible Element in the Study of History October 26, 1918
Relationship of the Mystery of Evil to the Mystery of Death and the Mystery of Golgotha. Purpose of the forces which bring death to man is to endow him with the capacity to develop the Consciousness Soul. Forces of evil necessary for the development of the Consciousness Soul; they awaken in man a desire for the life of the spirit.

The need to develop a sympathetic understanding for others in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul in four domains. First, men will see each other differently in future. The role of art. Secondly, a new understanding will be developed. Men will be able to hear the soul through language and will experience a sensation of colour. Thirdly, they will experience in their respiration the emotional reactions of others. Respiration will adapt itself to the affective life of others. And fourthly, men will learn to ‘digest’ each other in the sphere of will. But all these forces will only be fully developed in the Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan periods.

Today it is necessary to overcome particularist tendencies. Man rebels against this; the spread of the doctrine of national self-determination, but this is opposed to the divinely ordered course of evolution.

The sterility of modern Masonry: difficulties of taking up Anthroposophy. Modern ‘prophets’ and the easy path to the spirit. A reminder of the four steps of future development and why the extreme left came to power in Russia.
VI. Brief Reflections on the Publication of the New Edition of ‘The Philosophy of Freedom’ October 27, 1918
Dr. Steiner's involvement in the impulses of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. His invitation to Weimar and his collaboration in editing the Weimar edition of Goethe's works. Weimar as a centre of international scholars of repute.

Discussion of the first section of The Philosophy of Freedom. Necessary to establish the idea of freedom on a firm, scientific basis. The soul of man permeated by the cosmic process; modern scientific thinking is tied to the phenomenal world and unable to arrive at a philosophy of freedom. The second section of the book deals with the reality of freedom which can become a driving force in social life. Plea for ethical individualism; we must overcome the constraint of natural laws and conventional moral norms.

Dr. Steiner moved to Berlin. Took over the review Das Magazin as platform for his ideas. Found some support from B. Tucker and J. H. Mackay. Opposition from his contemporaries, the Berlin professoriate. The vulgarity of Bölsche's ideas popular at the time. Further details of Berlin life — the Dreyfus affair, criticism of Max Halbe, friendship with O. E. Hartleben and severance from the Magazin.

Dr. Steiner's association with Berlin Workers' College. Socialist workers infected with positivism and Marxism. Freedom no place in the socialist programme. Rosa Luxembourg on ‘Science and the Workers’. Failure of learned professions — their ideas no spiritual basis.

Invited to lecture before Berlin Theosophical Society. His association with the Theosophical movement and Speech before congress in London chaired by Mrs. Besant. Found no support here for the ideas of The Philosophy of Freedom.

Need to grasp the idea and importance of ethical individualism, to develop a thinking freed from the tyranny of the senses, a disciplined scientific thinking combined with an insight into the spiritual world.
VII. Incidental Reflections on the Occasion of the New Edition of ‘Goethes Weltanschauung’ November 01, 1918
Reasons for choosing the name Goetheanum for the Anthroposophical Centre at Dornach. Dr. Steiner's early literary activity associated with Goethe and Goetheanism. Historical events and the lives of individuals as pointers: one must look beyond facts to ascertain their inner meaning. A desire for super-sensible vision today, but unwillingness to undertake the necessary training. The law of causality and the destiny of Robert Hamerling.

The Austrian, German by descent and racial affiliation, and his strange position in Imperial Germany — different modes of apprehension, etcetera.

Steiner's formative years at Neudörfl. The problem of Cis-Leithania and trans-Leithania. His environment held little interest for him. Education in the Realschule at Wiener-Neustadt with emphasis on natural science. Brief comments on his teachers.

Outgrows the limited horizon of the Austrian background and turns towards the legacy of German culture and Goetheanism. Goetheanism the vital impulse for the modern epoch — it is a crystallization of divers impulses of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. An isolated phenomenon and will never become popular. The spiritual impulses of the age remote from reality, cf. the churches and universities.

R. Steiner's arrival in Weimar 1889. Influence of K. J. Schröer and H. Grimm. Schröer's work on Goethe not taken seriously by the universities. Goethe's significance for our time — his Weltanschauung rests on a scientific foundation; Goethe's intuitive perception of nature and his conception of man as an integral part of the cosmos. Goethe a universal genius — his phenomenal versatility. Purpose of the book, Goethes Weltanschauung, to awaken Steiner's contemporaries to a knowledge of t he real Goethe. Goetheanism prepares the ground for spiritual science. The Philosophy of Freedom intended to serve the needs of the time and offer a challenge to the destructive forces acting against the spirit of the age. Steiner's work sets out to develop insight into, and understanding of what is needed, and to preserve the world from the havoc of Wilsonism.
VIII. Religious Impulses of the Fifth Post-Atlantean Epoch November 02, 1918
Three currents of evolution are confluent in man. In the course of the post-Atlantean epoch man reaches physical maturity at an ever earlier age, e.g. in ancient India at the age of fifty, today at twenty-eight. Mankind as a whole at the present time develops as far as the stage of the Sentient Soul. In the second current of evolution the individual develops the Consciousness Soul. The third current of evolution is that of peoples or nations — the Italian people develops the Sentient Soul, the French the Intellectual Soul, and the English speaking peoples the Consciousness Soul.

Birth of the People of the Christ in the East in the ninth century. Differentiations of the Christ impulse in Europe. Russian people as vehicle for the revelation of the Christ impulse. The controversy between Photius and Pope Nicholas I.

Solovieff wished to spiritulize the material world. The second differentiation of the Christ impulse seen in the Church of Rome, which transformed the spiritual sovereignty of Christ into the temporal sovereignty of the Church.

Development of the Consciousness Soul leads to Reformist teachings, e.g. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, etcetera. Conflict with Rome. The People of the Church. Jesuitism as the militia of the Counter Reformation. The spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola. Results of Jesuitism. Polarity of Goetheanism and Jesuitism.
IX. The Relation Between the Deeper European Impulses and Those of the Present Day November 03, 1918
Interaction of the three currents of evolution — that of mankind as a whole, that of man as individual and that of the folk souls. Action of the Christ Impulse at three levels, cf. Wilhelm Meister and the picture gallery. Pictorial representation of (a) world history and the evolution of mankind, (b) the life of Christ up to the Last Supper, (c) from the Last Supper until His Death and Resurrection. The Grail atmosphere in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister. These three currents of evolution assume different forms, e.g. in Arianism and Athanasianism. The doctrinal dispute over the relationship of God the Father to Christ the Son. Ulfilas and his translation of the Bible. Victory of Athanasianism through Clovis and Charlemagne: the transition to Roman Catholicism.

The Celtic civilization in Europe: its survival in Wales. The Celts and the authoritarian, aristocratic structure of society, cf. King Arthur and his Knights. Amongst those still influenced by the Celts, Christ appears as a feudal lord as in the religious epic Heliand.

The People of the Lodges in W. Europe. Their relation to Jesuitism. The work of Herbert of Cherbury. Fruit of the ‘Lodge’ impulse was Aufklärung and the spirit of rationalism in all spheres. Christ only a teacher. Deism of the Aufklärung in Harnack. The Grail current and Goetheanism — its antithesis to the Arthurian current.

Goethe and the Consciousness Soul. Birth of socialism. Polarity of individualism and socialism. Aim of socialism — to realize fraternity in the social organism, liberty in the sphere of religion and equality in the domain of knowledge. Paul Ernst and his article on moral courage in the Frankfurter Zeitung.