9 May 1915, Vienna
My dear friends,
Our spiritual-scientific world-conception should not only further the, development and rise of individual souls, hut above all it should really help us to gain new aspects for a conception of life. In the present time we should take it to heart that such encompassing aspects have to be gained in order to judge life. Of course, it is a great and also a significant task for the individual to further his own development by what he can win as a fruit of spiritual-scientific self-education. Only the fact that individuals progress, enables individual souls to cooperate in the development of mankind. Our attention should, however, not only be turned to this fact, but as followers of the anthroposophical world-conception we should also be able to experience the great events of our time from a high standpoint, from a truly spiritual standpoint. When judging the things which are taking place, we should really be able to transfer ourselves, as it were, to a higher standpoint. To-day it may perhaps be appropriate to advance a few aspects connected especially with the great events of the present time, because, my dear friends, our meeting is being held in a fateful time, fraught with destiny.
Let us now set out from something which closely affects us as human beings. At certain times people are seized by illness. As a rule, illness is looked upon as something which injures the organism. But this, generally adopted view is not always justified. There are indeed certain illnesses which must be judged from this standpoint, which invade our organism, as it were, like a foe, but this is not always the case. It does not even apply to the majority of illnesses, for as a rule illness is something quite different. Illness is generally not an enemy, but a friend of the human organism. What is inimical to the organism generally precedes illness, it develops in us before the external, visible illness breaks out. Opposing forces are in the organism, and the illness which breaks out at a certain moment is an attempt on the part of our body to defend itself against these opposing forces which had remained unnoticed. When an illness breaks out, the organism frequently begins a work of healing. Through illness the organism fights against the inimical influences which precede the illness. Illness is the last form of the whole process and it implies a battle of the sound fluids in the organism against the forces which are lurking below. Illness exists for the sake of driving out what is lurking below. Only if the majority of illnesses is looked upon in this light, can a right conception of the pathological process be reached. Illness therefore indicates that something preceded its outbreak, something which must be expelled from the organism by the illness itself.
It is easy to discover what has just been said, if such phenomena of life are viewed in the right light. The causes may lie in many different spheres. But as explained, the essential point is to view illness as a defence of the organism against forces which must be driven out.
I do not think that it is possible to make a better comparison in regard to the whole complex of the significant and deeply incisive events in a great part of the world which are taking place since the beginning of August 1914, — I do not think that a better comparison can be found between these events and a pathological process affecting the whole human development. What should strike us above everything else is that these war-events really constitute a pathological process. But it would be wrong to think that we can deal with it by grasping it wrongly, as so many other pathological processes are grasped, namely by considering it as something inimical to the organism. The cause which we must envisage, precedes the pathological process.
Particularly in the present time it may strike us how little inclined people are to envisage truths which are immediately evident to these who take in a spiritual-scientific world-conception not only with their intellect, but also with their feeling.
We have had to pass through many painful experiences during the past 9 months — painful experiences connected with people's lack of judgment. When reading the books and articles which are most popular to-day and which are spread in many different countries of the world, do we not find that those who judge the present events admit that everything began, say in July 1914? The most distressing experience which we had to pass through in addition to all the other painful things, was to see that particularly the people who counted, most, that is to say, those who write newspaper articles and form public opinion, regally do not know anything about the development of events and only bear in mind the things which lie closest! This gave rise to endless discussions, to entirely useless discussions on the real cause of the present war.
Again, and again people ask: Is this or that party responsible for it? and so forth. But in every case, they omit to go back further than. July, or June 1914 at the incest. I mention this because it really characterizes our materialistic age. One generally thinks that materialism only brings with it a materialistic way of thinking. But this is not true. Materialism does not only produce a materialistic way of thinking, but also short-sightedness; materialism produces laziness of thinking and lack of insight. The materialistic way of thinking leads to the opinion that one can prove and believe anything. The self-training implied by Anthroposophy, if this is grasped in the right way, also enables us to recognise that it is possible to prove and to believe anything if one remains in the field of materialism. Let us take an example:
You see, in the past years, when one brought forward the spiritual-scientific world-conception in this or in that place and certain people thought that they had to assert their own views in the face of the spiritual-scientific world-conception, one could frequently hear the following argument: Kant has already proved by his philosophy that there are limitations to man's knowledge; human knowledge cannot reach the spheres which the spiritual-scientific world-conception tries to reach. Then they bring forward certain interesting things showing how Kant is supposed to have proved that human knowledge cannot reach the spiritual world. If spiritual science was upheld in spite of all, then they came along and said: This person rejects everything that has been proved by Kant! Of course, this more or less implied: What a foolish person he must be, for he rejects strictly proved facts!
But this is not the case: The spiritual scientist does not deny that Kant is absolutely right, for it is evident that he demonstrated this clearly. But my dear friends, suppose that someone had stated that the plant consists of minute cells, at a time when the microscope had not yet been invented, but that these cells could not be found because human eyes are unable to see them. It might have been proved that the cells do not exist and this would have been quite correct, for the constitution of the human eye does not permit us to penetrate into the plant's organism to the extent of seeing these tiniest cells. The proof would be absolutely correct and it could not be overthrown. Yet in the course of human development the microscope was discovered as an aid to the human eye, so that in spite of the strictest proof to the contrary, people were able to recognise the existence of these tiniest cells.
When people will grasp that proofs are useless for the attainment of truth, that proofs may be correct, but that they do not mean anything special if we wish to progress in the attainment of truth, then it will be possible to stand upon the right foundation. For then it will be possible to know: Though proofs may be correct, they cannot lead us to the truth, this is not their task!
Bear in mind the comparison which I made, for it will show you that the proof according to which the human power of vision is unable to reach the plant's cell is just as valid as the proof that, according to Kant, human knowledge is unable to reach the supersensible worlds. These proofs may be absolutely correct, yet real life transcends them. This too is something which we obtain, as it were, along the path of spiritual research, for by extending our horizon we really reach the point of appealing to. something which is not only limited to the human, intellect and its proofs.
Those who restrict themselves to materialistic ideas are really led to an unbounded belief in proofs; if they have a proof in their pocket, they are convinced of the truth. But spiritual science shows us that in reality it is possible to prove either the one or the other thing; intellectual proofs are however meaningless for the attainment of real truth. It is therefore an accompanying symptom of our materialistic age that people should fall into this intellectual short-sightedness. And if this is mingled with passions, it gives rise to something which we do not only see in the armed conflict of European nations, but also in the hostile attitude consisting in the fact that one accuses the other, without any outlook (I distinctly say, without any outlook, for this does not only apply to the present time of war) of their ever convincing each other. These who naively think that a neutral country might perhaps arbitrate in the case of diverging statements between two hostile countries, are really simple minded! Of course, the facts advanced by one side may be just as well supported by proofs as the facts advanced by the other side. Insight, my dear friends, can only be gained by penetrating into the deeper foundations of the whole human development.
In my lecture-cycle on the Folk-Souls of Europe and their influence on the individuals belonging to the different nations, which I gave a few years before the outbreak of the present war, I already tried to throw some light upon the reciprocal relations of the different nations and I tried to show that different forces are at work in the various, nations.1See Rudolf Steiner: The Mission of the Folk-Souls in Relation with the Germanic-Nordic Mythology. Let us complete this to-day by drawing in some new aspects.
Our materialistic age has far too abstract a way of thinking; Above all it does not consider the fact that in life there is a real course of development and that man should allow that which is in him to mature, so that it gradually ripens into real judgment. We know — for this has been set forth sufficiently clearly in The Education of the Child that the human being passes through a course of development; during the first seven years he develops above all his physical body, from the seventh to the fourteenth year his etheric body, and so forth. Little attention is paid to this progressive course in mans individual development, and less still to the parallel phenomenon, to the equivalent course of development in mankind.
The processes which take place in the nations and their connections are guided (we all know this through spiritual science) by the Beings belonging to the higher Hierarchies. We speak of FOLK-SOULS, or FOLK-SPIRITS in the true meaning of the word. We know, for example, that the Folk-Soul of the Italian nation inspires what we designate as Sentient Soul; the French Folk-Soul inspires what we call the Intellectual Soul; the inhabitants of the British Isle are inspired through their consciousness soul; in Central Europe the inspiration takes place through what we designate as the human Ego.
This does not imply any verdict in regard to the individual value of the different nations, it simply states the facts. It states for example, that the inspiration of the nation which inhabits the British Isle is based on the fact that it has to bring into the world influences produced by the inspiration of the Consciousness Soul through the Folk-Soul.
It is strange how nervous people get on this subject. During the war I once more emphasized in this or in that place certain things which I had already explained in the above-mentioned cycle of lectures. Yet some people almost considered it as an insult to the British nation to say that it had the task to inspire the Consciousness-Soul, whereas, the Folk-Soul pertaining to the German nation has to inspire the human Ego. It is just as if it were taken as an insult to say that salt is white and Cayenne pepper red! It is a plain characteristic, the description of an existing truth, and it has to be accepted as such, to begin with.
It will be much easier to deal with the connections existing between the single members of human nature if we bear in mind the characteristics of the various nations, if we do not mix everything together, as is done by the modern materialistic conception. Of course, the individual rises above that which he receives from, his Folk-Soul, and it is pre-eminently the task of our Anthroposophical Society to lift the individual out of the Group-Soul life into the life of humanity as a whole. But nevertheless, there remains the fact that in so far as the individual stands within his own nation he is inspired in a certain direction; the Italian Folk-Soul speaks, for example, to the Sentient soul; the French Folk-Soul to the Intellectual Soul, the British Folk-Soul to the Consciousness Soul. We should therefore imagine that the Folk Soul soars above that which individuals do within single nations.
But in the same way in which we can see a course of development in individual life and are able to say in the case of individual people that the Ego reaches a certain stage of development at a definite moment in life, so it is also possible to speak of a development, a real development in the case of the Folk-Soul. But this development of course differs somewhat from that of individual human beings.
Let us single out, for example, the Italian nation. There we. have this nation and the Folk-Soul belonging to it. You see, the Folk Soul is a Being of the supersensible world, it belongs to the world of the higher Hierarchies. It inspires the Sentient Soul, and this until the nation, the Italian nation, lives (we are speaking of this particular nation), yet it inspires the Sentient Soul at different times in a different way.
There are times in which the Folk-Souls inspire the members of single nations in such a way, that their inspiration is, as it were, one of the soul. The Folk-Soul soars in higher regions of the spirit, and its inspiration is of such a kind that it only transmits soul qualities. Then there are times in which the Folk-Souls descend and engage mere strongly the individual members of the nations; their inspiration is so strong, that they do not only send it down into the soul and its qualities, but right down into the bodily qualities, so that people depend on their Folk-Souls even bodily. As long as a nation submits to the influence of its Folk-Soul so as to receive only soul-spiritual qualities, the national type is not so distinct. The forces of the Folk-Soul do not yet work in such a way as to seize the whole human being, right down into the blood. Then comes a time when one can gather by the way in which a person looks about, by the characteristic shape of his head and his physiognomy, how the Folk-Soul influences him. The influences are so strongly marked, because the Folk-Soul has descended deeply; it claims the whole human being in a strong and intensive way.
You see, in the case of the Italian nation, the middle of the 16th century, around the year 1550, was the period mentioned by me, when the Folk-Soul came down and worked in such a way that its mark may be found in the individual people. Then the Folk-soul soared back, as it were, and these influences were transmitted to the descendants by heredity. The most intensive union of the Italian nation with its Folk-Soul was around the year 1550. It was the time when the Italian Folk-Soul descended most deeply, when the Italian nation acquired its definite character. If we go back to the time before 1550, we see that the characteristic traits are not so clearly traced, they do not confront us so clearly as after 1550, Only in that epoch began the characteristic essence which we know as Italian character. At that time the true marriage took place between the Italian Folk-Soul and the Sentient Soul of. individual people belonging to the Italian nation.
In the case of the French nation (you see, I am not speaking of individual men, who can rise above the nation) a similar moment, when the Folk-Spirit descended most deeply and permeated the whole nation, set in around the year 1600, at the beginning of the 17th century. There the Folk-Soul seized the whole Intellectual Soul.
In the case of the British nation this moment arose in the middle of the 17th century, around the year 1650. Then the British nation obtained as it were its external British expression.
Many things will be clear to you if you know such facts, for now you can, for example, face quite differently the question: “What about Shakespeare and his connection with England?” Shakespeare worked in England before the time when the British Folk-Soul exercised its strongest influence upon the English nation. Shakespeare lived before that time. This explains why he was not completely understood in England. We all know that there are Shakespeare editions in England which suppress everything that is not quite in keeping with the taste of governesses. Shakespeare has often been moralized, so to speak, in the most extreme sense. We know that the deepest, understanding for Shakespeare is not to be found in England, but in the Central European, development of spiritual life.
You will now ask: When did the Folk-Soul come into contact with the members of the Central-European nation? There matters stand as follows: Through the fact that the Ego is the essential thing in Central Europe, that the Folk-Soul soars down and withdraws, again soars down and withdraws — through this fact, we have repetitions. Thus we have a descent of the Folk-Soul, when it unites with the individual souls, around the time in which the wonderful Parsifal legends arose, the legends of the Holy Grail. Then the Folk-Soul withdrew and its next descent is between the years 1750 and 1830. At that time Central-European life is most deeply seized by the Central-European Folk-Soul. Since 1830 it has withdrawn again.
You may therefore see why Jacob Böhme lived, for example, in an epoch in which he could obtain little from the German Folk-Soul. For it was not a time in which the Folk Soul united with the individual souls of the nation. Although Jacob Böhme is called the “Teutonic Philosopher,” he is therefore a man who, in regard to the time in which he lived, is not dependent on his Folk-Soul; he faces us, as it were, like one who is not rooted in his time, like something eternal.
If we take Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe, they are German philosophers who are deeply rooted in the German Folk-Soul. It is a characteristic fact that these thinkers who live between 1710 and 1830 are deeply rooted in their Folk-Soul. This is their characteristic trait.
You therefore see that it is not only essential to know that
in the Italian nation, the Folk-Soul works through the Sentient Soul,
in the French nation, it works through the Intellectual Soul,
in the British nation, through the Consciousness-Soul,
in the Central-European nation, through the Ego —
but that it is also essential to know that they exercise their influences at given times. The events which take place can only be grasped from a historical aspect, if we really know these things. The nonsense pursued in the form of science, where documents are taken and events are enumerated in sequence, with the conclusion that one must be deduced from the other — this nonsense of historical investigation does not lead to real history, to an understanding of human development, but only — one might say — to a falsification of the forces working in human history.
If we now see in how many different ways the forces which drive the nations work upon each nation (of course, other nations might also be characterized), we discover the contrasting things which are there. We then see that the events which are taking place in the present time have not only arisen during the. past few years, but that they prepared themselves throughout the centuries.
Let us look across to the East, to the region which is the home of Russian culture. Russian culture is characterised by the fact that it can only unfold when the Russian Folk-soul will have united with the Spirit-Self. (This too is mentioned in the cycle of lectures The Mission of the Folk-Souls). That is to say; A future epoch must come in which the characteristic qualities of the European East will take on a definite form. This will be entirely different from what takes place in Western or in Central Europe. To begin with, however, it is clear that what pertains to Russian culture does not exist as yet, for Russian culture is connected with tin Spirit-Self in the same way in which the individual human being is now connected with it, that is to say, it must always look up to it. Individual Russians, even the deepest Russian philosophers, do not speak in the same way Central Europeans when they express the loftiest things, but in an entirely different way. Here we come across something very characteristic.
You see, we must ask: What is the most characteristic trait of the spiritual life of Central Europe? You all know that there was a time in which the great mystics lived; Meister Eckhart,Tauler,and others were active then, and others too. With their feeling soul they all sought the Divine Essence contained in the human soul; they looked for the God within them, ... they sought to find within their own soul “the little spark in feeling,” as Eckhart expressed himself. Within the soul (they said), within the soul there must be something where; the Godhead is present in a direct way. This gave rise to the striving to unite the human Ego with the Godhead within the human soul. This Divine Essence, this Godhead, was to be striven for; it called for an active striving, for development.
This characterizes the whole life of Central Europe. Think of the infinite soul-depth and feeling of a man who stands in a completely international way in Central European culture, in the spiritual life of Central Europe. Angelus Silesius, who says in one of the beautiful mottoes contained in his Cherubinisher Wandersmann: “When I die, it is not I who die, but God in me.” Consider the great profundity of these words! The man who uttered them, had a living grasp of the idea of immortality and he felt that when death comes to the individual human being, it is because he is filled by the Godhead. Death is a phenomenon which is not connected with man, but. with God, and since God cannot die, death must only be an illusion. Death can therefore not mean a destruction of life. A person who can say, “When I die, it is not I who die, but God in me,” knows of the existence of the immortal soul. This infinitely profound feeling lived in Angelus Silesius. It is a result of the fact that the inspiration passes through the Ego.
When the inspiration passes through the sentient soul, something may arise which appeared, for example, in Giordano Bruno: This friar penetrated with greatest passion into everything discovered by Copernicus and he felt that the whole world was filled with life. If you read anything by Giordano Bruno you will find the confirmation of the fact that in so far as he grew out of the Italian nation, he proves that the Italian Folk-soul is inspired through the sentient soul.
Cartesius (Descartes) was born at that characteristic moment of French development when the French Folk-soul completely united itself with the French nation. Read a page by Cartesius, the French philosopher; you will find everywhere the confirmation of the truth discovered by spiritual science, namely that the inspiration of the Folk-Soul influences the Understanding Soul.
Read Locke or Hume, or any other English philosopher up to Mill and Spencer, — everywhere you will come across the inspiration of the Consciousness Soul.
When you read Fichte, who strives within the Ego itself, you will find that the Folk-soul inspires the Ego.
It is characteristic that the Central European Folk-Soul is experienced in the Ego, so that the Ego is the truly striving part, the Ego with all its strength and errors, with all its mistakes and victories. A man of Central Europe who has to find the path to Christ, must give birth to Him within his own soul.
Try to find in the spiritual life of Russia the idea (it should not be taken over superficially from the civilisation of western Europe) that Christ or God should be experienced within the soul. You will not be able to find it; Russians always expect that the forces which penetrate into the historical course of events penetrate into it like a “miracle,” to use Solovioff's expression. The spiritual life of Russia is very much inclined to look for the resurrection of Christ in the spiritual world, to worship th influence of an inspiring, power, yet this inspiring power speaks as if man were below and as if the inspiring element soared on high above mankind like a cloud, as if it did not penetrate into the human Ego. This intimate union of the Ego with its God, or if Christ is thought of, with Christ, this desire that Christ should be born within one's own soul, can only be found in Central Europe. If the culture of Eastern Europe will one day reach the stage of development which is appropriate to it, it will appear in a civilisation soaring above man, setting forth a kind of Group-soul life, but upon a higher stage than in the past. At present we must find it natural that Russians, and even Russian thinkers, should always speak of a spiritual world soaring above the world of man, of a spiritual world which they can never approach as intimately as Central Europeans approach it, when their Ego seeks to draw nigh to the Divine Essence surging and weaving through the world. On many occasions, when I myself spoke of the Godhead that surges and weaves through the world, my words were inspired by the feelings of a Central European, for no other nation in Europe can grasp such truths in the way in which Central Europeans grasp it. This characterizes the Central European nation.
These are the forces that live in the different nations and that confront one another in such a way as to compete with each other again and again. Sudden explosions must occur, resembling the discharge of clouds which bring lightning and storm.
But do we not see (this is how one might express it now) how a word resounded in the East of Europe, which was like a watchword and was also meant to act as such, just as if the civilisation of Eastern Europe were beginning to overspread the unworthy west of Europe, overflooding it? Do we not observe the rise of Slavophils, of Panslavs and Panslavism, particularly in men of Dostojevski's kind, and similar ideas? Dostojevski came forward with the special points of his programme staging; “You western Europeans, the whole lot of you, have a culture which is rotten to the core; it must be supplanted by the impulses coming from Eastern Europe.” A whole theory was set up, which culminated above all in the fact that people said: In the West, everything has grown rotten and decadent, and it must be replaced by the fresh forces of the East. We have our good orthodox religion which we do not oppose, we accept it like the cloud of the Folk-soul soaring above the people ... and so forth. Very clever theories were thus built up, dealing with what might already constitute the principles, the aims of the ancient Slav life, and stating that from the East the Truth should begin to spread over Central and Western Europe.
I said that the individual may rise above his nation. In a certain sphere, Solovioff, the great Russian philosopher, was such an individual. Although every line he writes reveals that he writes as “Russian,” he nevertheless stands above his nation. In his youth Solovioff was, one might say, a Panslav. But he penetrated more deeply into the ideas which the Panslav and Slavophils set up as a kind of philosophy of nations, as a kind of world-conception of nations. And what did Solovioff discover? What did Solovioff, the Russian find? He asked, himself: Does that which constitutes the true Russian-being really exist in the present time? Is it to be found among those who represent Panslavism, who follow the Slavophils? — He did not rest until he discovered the truth. What did he discover? He investigated the statements of the Slavophils, to whom he himself had belonged in the past, he pressed upon them. And he discovered that the majority, of the thought-forms, statements and intentions had been taken from the French philosopher de Maistre, who sympathized with the Jesuits; he was the great teacher of the Slavophils in the field of a world-conception. Solovioff himself proved that these ideas had not grown out of Russian soil, but that these Panslav and Slavophil thoughts had been taken from de Maistre. And he proved other things besides. He unearthed a long-forgotten German book, from the 15th century, unknown to everyone in Germany. The Slavophils copied whole portions of it in their literature.
What is the strange phenomenon which confronts us here? People believe that from the East come impulses which are of Eastern origin, whereas they are a purely western importation. They came from the West and were then sent back again to the western people. The western people become acquainted with their own forms of thought ... because the East does not yet possess its own forms of thought.
When things are closely investigated, one always finds the confirmation of the statements made by spiritual science. They prove to be correct. We therefore have something elemental in the forces, which come rolling towards us from the East, something which will unfold one day if it will absorb the forces which developed in Central Europe with the same love with which Central Europe once absorbed the Greek and Latin life coming from the South.
the course of mankind's development, the later epochs absorb
what was contained in the past epochs. And the FAUST mentality
of Central Europe, which I described in my public lecture
Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und, leider, auch Theologie!
Durchaus studiert mit heißem Bemühen.
Da steh' ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor.
(Alas! Philosophy, law, and medicine,
and unfortunately, also theology
I studied with hot endeavour.
But there I stand now, poor fool!
and am as clever as I was before.)
There arose in Germany an immensely rich life of the spirit, an immensely intensive rich striving in the spiritual life of Germany. — But if Goethe had written his Faust 40 years later, he would certainly not have begun with: “Habe nun ach, Philosophie ...” I have, alas! studied philosophy, etc. ... and have become the wise man of all ages ... but he would have described his Faust exactly as he did in 1770.
This living striving comes from the Folk-soul's inspiration, of the Ego, from that intimate connection of the Ego with the Folk-soul. This is a fundamental quality of the Central-European civilisation of the spirit. And the civilisation of eastern Europe must unite with it warmly and lovingly. The forces which bad to flow into Central Europe were once absorbed, received from the civilisation of the South. To-day it is not otherwise, and if the elemental wave of development comes rolling along from the East, it is just as if the pupil were furious with his teacher because he must learn something from him and wants to whip him for it. The comparison is somewhat trivial, but it is one which explains things precisely.
Groups, masses of people endowed with entirely different forces of development live together in Europe. These different forces of development must actively compete against each other; they must assert themselves in different ways. The opposing forces, those which come into conflicts with the others, prepared themselves long, long ago. Particularly when studying the fine nuances, we see everywhere the truths revealed by spiritual science.
Do we. not find it expressed in a wonderful way that the wave of European development should concentrate itself so as to show the whole of mankind, symbolically as it were, how Central Europe must feel the life-union between the Ego and the spiritual world, how God should be experienced in the “sparklet within the soul,” how Christ should be experienced in “the small spark within the soul?” Christ himself must become active within the human Ego. For this reason, in Central Europe the. whole development tends towards what we call the Ego, the “Ich.” And Ich means “I, C, H” : ICH. The Ich — Jesus Christ, faces us in Central Europe like a mighty symbol, intimately working together with, what can be the soul's holiest possession, intimately working together with the soul itself!
This is how the Folk-soul works, he inspires the nation and expresses the underlying facts in characteristic words. I know that some people laugh when such things are said, when one gives expression to the truth that the Folk-soul worked for centuries in order to give rise to the word ICH, which is so symbolically full of meaning. But let them laugh! After a few decades they will no longer laugh, and call such things more significant than what people now designate as “laws of Nature.” The influence of this wave of development was very characteristic. Only a very small portion of the truth sometimes rises up in human consciousness; but the forces which are active in the sub-conscious depths express themselves in a far more truthful way.
We speak, for example, of the Germanic peoples. The working Genius of Speech forms the words. One part of the inhabitants of Central Europe calls itself “German.” But when we speak of the Germanic races we must include Germany Austria, Holland, the Scandinavian nations and also the inhabitants of the British Isles. The word “Germanic” has a very wide meaning and embraces a large field. But the inhabitant of Great Britain rejects it. To him a “German” is an inhabitant of Germany. In English there is no special word for “Germane” (Germanic). The German language embraces a far larger field with that word. The German language as such is inclined to set the word at the service of selflessness; The German does not only call himself Germanic, but he includes the others in it. But the Briton rejects it.
Try to penetrate into the wonderful essence of the Genius creating speech, and you will discover the truly wonderful element in it. Maya, the great illusion, arises in connection with that which lives in the consciousness of men. But the forces, which work, in the subconscious depths are far more true. They express something immensely significant and profound.
Compare now the intimate way in which we must work in order to understand the European play of forces, compare this inmate way of working with the coarse way in which one generally views the reciprocal connections of the European nations. It will show you the devastation in the human power of judgment resulting from the materialistic age. The fact that people have begun to think that “matter carries and supports, everything” is not the worst; the worst thing of all is that people have become short-sighted, that they are unable to see the fundamental facts and do not even make one step to reach the world which lies behind that veil which is woven over truth as Maya; this is really a calamity.
Materialism very skilfully prepared its aims. Here too genius was at work, but the genius who is the leading power in materialism is Ahriman. He exercised a powerful influence during the past centuries, a very powerful influence indeed!
Let me now refer to a chapter which people perhaps prefer to ignore to-day. But I must draw attention to it, even though people may look upon this as a special form of insanity.
You see, the easiest, way of influencing people is to drip into the soul and thoughts of still youthful persons forces which will develop later in life. Older people can very seldom be taught anything thoroughly. Consequently, Ahriman could never have a better chance of preparing souls in a genuinely materialistic way than by dripping into the souls of young children and youthful persons certain forces which will continue to work in their sub-consciousness. By absorbing materialistic forms of thought at an age, when one does not yet think materialistically, people are taught to think materialistically. When materialism is implanted into the souls of children, people learn to think in a materialistic way.
Ahriman did this by inspiring a writer of the materialistic age to write Robinson Crusoe. If our spirit is clear-sighted and submits to Robinson's influence, we shall see that ideas which are completely materialistic are at work in Robinson. This may not appear at once, yet the whole … the way in which the book is built up, the way in which Robinson is led to all kinds of outer experiences in his adventurous life, until finally even religion grows out of the soil like cabbage, — all this prepares the child's soul excellently for a materialistic way of thinking.
And if we consider that at a certain time there existed a Bohemian, a Portuguese, a. Hungarian, etc., etc. Robinson, in imitation of the original Robinson Crusoe, we must admit that the work was done very thoroughly. The reading of Robinson books contributed greatly to the development of materialism.
In contrast to such phenomena we should point out that there is something which children should take in until late in life: namely the fairy-tales of Central Europe, above all those collected by the brothers Grimm. This is far better reading for children than Robinson Crusoe.
And if to-day the terrible, difficult, fateful events among the nations of Europe are looked upon as a warning to study more closely the whole way in which things occur in the present time by developing out of the hidden depths of events, it will be possible to recognise above all that in reality the essential thing doe s not lie in the fact that a few German scientists sent back their decorations and titles to England!
If the warning of the present time is strong enough to enable us to recognise the whole significance of the materialistically inspired consciousness-soul of the British nation, we shall also recognise what it means to let children read Robinson-books and we shall extirpate the whole Robinson literature. If the warnings of the present time are really taken into consideration in the right way we shall work far more thoroughly, far more radically.
You see, I began to interpret Goethe 35 years ago by explaining his spiritual-scientific task. I tried to explain that Goethe's theory of evolution really contains a truly great theory of evolution, in keeping with spiritual views. The time must come in which larger circles of people recognise this. For Goethe gave us a great, powerful theory of evolution, which is truly spiritual. People found it difficult to understand. In the materialistic age, Darwin was far more successful for he gave in a coarser, materialistic form the truths contained in a fine, spiritual form in Goethe's theory of evolution. A thorough Anglicising took hold of Central Europe. Consider how tragic it is that the most English scientist in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, who swore by Darwin, should have felt such a furious hatred against everything English, and when this war broke out he was one of the first who returned the decorations and titles which had been given him in England. He will have been too old to send back the English-tinted Darwinism, but this would have been the important, essential fact.
The things which matter, lie deeply concealed and are immensely significant. And they are connected with the necessary spiritual deepening of our epoch. If one day we shall recognise the immensely greater depth of Goethe's Colour Theory in comparison with Newton's Colour Theory, and the immensely greater depth of Goethe's Theory of Evolution in comparison with Darwin's, we shall recognise the forces concealed in the spiritual life of Central Europe also in regard to these highest subjects.
By explaining to you all these things, I wish to awaken in your souls a feeling for the great warning which we must see in the present difficult and fateful events. It is a warning to work, to bethink ourselves of what lies concealed in the spiritual life of Central Europe, to undertake the responsibility of drawing out these forces. This is what I meant in my public lecture, yesterday, when 1 said that the spiritual life of Central Europe contains seeds which must unfold into flowers and fruits.
If we recognise again and again that the conscious life of the soul lies on the surface and that below it lies all the things explained to you in these days, we may turn our thoughts towards the fact that also in the present time the impulses of many people contain forces besides those of which they are conscious. Do not think that the people in the West and in the East who have to. defend the great fortress of Central Europe are only fighting for something which lives in their upper consciousness. You should envisage above all the impulses of which so many men who are now passing through blood and death are not conscious, — nevertheless these impulses exist. When we look to the East and to the West, spiritual science should give us the feeling that the impulses of the men who bring these sacrifices contain forces which the future will bring to birth in external life, although the fighting men are hardly conscious of this. Only if we consider the present events in this light, we are filled with the true feelings, with the feelings enabling us to grasp them.
But let us consider how many souls involved in these events — so great in their warlike character that they cannot be compared with anything else in the conscious history of mankind — let us consider how many souls are now passing through blood and death and let us remember that they will look down upon the death which they were condemned to suffer by the present time. Let us remember that in the meaning off what I told you yesterday, youthful etheric bodies fill the spiritual atmosphere of the earth. Let us consider that in the spiritual world will exist not only the souls, and the individualities of these men, but that useful impulses going out from these young etheric bodies will permeate the spiritual atmosphere. Let us set out from this point and try to bear in mind the warning calls which must be heard by those who remain behind on the earth. Indeed, each individual soul that passed through the portal of death reminds us of the great tasks which must be fulfilled in the civilisation of Europe. These warning calls must be heard. Out of the depths of spiritual life, we must be willing to draw feelings born out of knowledge, which show us the true nature cf the world in which we live. And one day, when we shall feel that each soldier who fell on the battlefield is a warner calling for mankind's spiritualization in the civilisation of Europe, we shall have grasped the events in their true meaning. Not only an abstract knowledge should go out from centres such as Dornach, the knowledge that man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body and Ego, that he passes through many incarnations, that he has a Karma and so forth, but the souls who belong to our spiritual-scientific movement should be stirred in their innermost depths to that feeling life of which I have just spoken, enabling them to experience in the near future the warning calls of those who died in young years. The most beautiful experience which followers of spiritual science can win is that of the living stream which should pass like a breath through the ranks of those who count themselves as belonging to our movement. Not the mere knowledge of this fact, not only its recognition, but its life, the realisation of this life.
Indeed, recently several of our members have left the physical plane. Among them, a young helping friend, our dear FRITZ MITSCHER. Karma brought it about that I had to speak at the cremation in Basle, I had to send certain words to the departing soul. Among other things which I said to this soul, were the words that we know that he will remain a helping friend also now that he has passed through the threshold of death. I had to say this, guided by the consciousness of the fact that the truths which animate every one of us do not only stand before us as a theory, but that these truths uttered as if they were theoretical thoughts, must fill our whole soul with life, full life.
In that case, our attitude towards those who passed through the threshold of death must be the same as towards those who still live here on earth. Indeed, we should not hesitate, to say: Those who still live in the physical body are handicapped in many ways, so that they cannot live a full spiritual lire, they cannot live it to the fill. How many handicaps can be observed in people during their physical life on earth, when it is a question of recognising the truly great tasks of evolution — and still more, when it is a question of FULFILLING THEM! We may rely far more on the dead.
This feeling, that the dead live among us, of a special mission entrusted to them, guided me, when p spoke the parting words for our fried, Fritz Mitscher, who passed through the portal of death so early in life. The words spoken for him apply to many others who crossed the threshold of death. In the dead we have our beat and most important helpers and you will not misunderstand me when I say: In our spiritual work we may rely far more upon the dead than upon the living.
But in order to be able to say this, we should stand in a living way within that which our spiritual movement can give us. I rely on the fact that those who crossed the threshold of death are — particularly in the external field — our most important helpers in the spiritualization of human civilisation in the future, for they look back upon death, and death will be their great teacher. Many people to-day need stronger teachers than those whom life can give them. Many examples prove this.
Let me give you one example (though many others can be given): A few years ago, a sensational article directed against the spiritual science I represent, appeared in Hochland, a periodical published in South-Germany. This article caused a real sensation. It convinced many people, because it was written by a very famous philosopher. The editor of Hochland accepted the article, so that he propagated — at least he thought so — a very conspicuous article on this mad spiritual science.
You see, it is not important to defend ourselves against such things with external measures. It is quite comprehensible that clever modern people should think that spiritual science is foolish ... But since the outbreak of war something else occurred. The editor of that paper is a staunch German, a man with German feelings. The author of the article which had been accepted, addressed certain letters to him and these were printed in the Sueddeutschen Monatsheften for the publisher was guided by, let us say, his blessed “innocence.” Try to read these articles. They are full of venom against the spiritual culture of Central Europe; the letters which that very same philosopher wrote to the editor of Hochland are full of venom, so that the editor felt obliged to say: “In Central Europe, men with such ideas can only be found in a mad-house.”
Consider the immense significance of this criticism. There is a man who edits a paper in South-Germany. He accepts an article winch he considers important as a weapon for the destruction of spiritual science and he says: “Here, at last, we have a good article on spiritual science written by a famous thinker!” After a while, the same author sends him letters which he must designate as coming from a person who should be in a mad-house.
If one arrives at conclusions by a truly living logic, one would have to say: That man is a fool now, consequently he must have been a fool before! The editor simply did not recognise that he had to deal with a fool, when that man first wrote against spiritual science. This is living logic, life-logic. Sometimes, however, people cannot wait until this logic works and shows its effects. Nevertheless, it is active in life and so we may sometimes experience things of this kind.
The article in question was directed against my spiritual science. People read it and said: “O, that article was written by a famous philosopher and Platonist and he is a very clever man!” The editor thought: “An article on spiritual science written by such a clever man, must be a specially good article.” But after a while that same editor had to admit: “That man is a fool.” First, however, he needed proofs for this, as described.
Such things may occur among those who live on the earth. People who do not have a very firm ground under their feet, as in the case of the editor of that South-German periodical, have to be taught their lessons by the recent events which come from the spiritual world and are offered by life itself, in a far deeper meaning than one generally likes to admit.
You will therefore understand me, when I add the following remark to what I already explained to you: There are many opposing forces in the present time, and it is permissible to designate war as a disease. This war is the result of something which was enacted long ago, and it is a healing force eradicating many evils which would gradually harm the life of our whole, civilisation. By designating war as a disease in this meaning, but by looking upon disease as a self-defence, we can understand it, and the fateful events of the present with its significant hints and admonishments. In that case we experience it with all the inner forces of our soul, so that we can direct our attention towards the souls who passed through the threshold of death and look ahead into the near future, the souls who really grasp the inspiration which they are able to send into the hearts of those who are willing to listen to them, namely that a spiritual deepening must take hold of them, it must penetrate into them for the sake of human progress and salvation which the future needs.
If your souls can rightly take in the meaning which I wish to convey with these words, you will really be followers and upholders of our spiritual-scientific world-conception in the full meaning of the word. If you can make up your minds to become souls who turn their attention to the messages whispered from above by those who passed through the portal of death as a result of the fateful events of our times, you will be true followers of spiritual science.
In the near future, spiritual science will have to build a bridge connecting the living with the dead, a line of communication for the inspiring elemental forces of those who in the present time made the great sacrifice of their life, a path along which their messages can reach us.
For this reason, I wished to give you these explanations, by appealing to your souls and by stimulating certain feelings. These should be expectant, listening feelings, able to grasp what the difficult, fateful present reveals to human souls.
In this meaning, let me again conclude with the words already spoken the day before yesterday; they should work in our souls like a Mantram, transforming them into expectant souls, ready to receive the inspirations which come from the dead, from souls filled with a growing life in the Spirit:
Aus dem Mut der Kämpfer,
Aus dem Blut der schlachten,
Aus dem Leid Verlassener,
Aus des Volkes Opfer taten
Wird erwachsen Geistesfrucht,
Lenken Seelen geistbewusst
Ihren Sinn ins Geisterreich.
From the courage of the fighters,
From the blood shed in battles,
From the sorrow of the abandoned,
From the nation's deeds of sacrifice,
Will spring forth a spiritual fruit,
If souls, spiritually conscious, turn
Their senses towards the Spirit-realm.