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The Relation of Man to the Hierarchies

Schmidt Number: S-3302

On-line since: 8th June, 2012

A Lecture by
Dr. Rudolf Steiner
Dornach, November 26th, 1916
Bn/GA 172

This is the 9th of 10 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach, in November of 1916. The title of this series of lectures is: The Karma of Human Vocation as related to Goethe's Life. They were published in German as: Das Karma des Befurs des Menschen in Anknuepfung an Goethes Leben. Kosmische und menschliche Geschichte.

This lecture appears in the book: The Karma of Human Vocation. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn/GA 172. The London Reference number is, S-3302.

Copyright © 1928
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Anthroposophical Movement

Weekly News for English-speaking Members of
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VOL. V. Nos. 14 and 15

8th/15th April, 1928


Published at the Offices of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 46, Gloucester Place, London, W.1, England. Subscriptions: Great Britain and Dominions, 15s. yearly, 3s. 9d. quarterly. Single Copies, 3d. America, $4.00 yearly, $1.00 quarterly. All right reserved.

Lecture by Rudolf Steiner

Dornach, 19th November, 1916.
Shorthand Report unrevised by the Lecturer. For the preceding lectures of this Course on the
‘Karma of Vocations,’ see Anthroposophical Movement, Vol. IV, Nos. 37, 38, 41, 44, 46, 49 and 51.

Lecture by Rudolf Steiner

Dornach, 26th November, 1916.

Shorthand report unrevised by the Lecturer. All rights reserved by Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag Dornach. English translation by G. Kaufmann, edited by H. Collison.

O

 NE reproach among others is often levelled at our Spiritual Science by theologians and others who believe — though they do not comprehend it — that they are standing on the true ground of Christianity. This Spiritual Science, they say, alleges truths concerning a whole number of Hierarchies, with Beings existing in the spiritual World, higher than man. For, as you know, we do speak of the spiritual Hierarchies, including the Angels, Archangels, Archai, Exusiai and so on. We speak of these kingdoms of the super-sensible Worlds just as we speak of the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, the mineral kingdom, the elemental kingdom, and so on, in the earthly world. We know that the life of man falls into two halves. One of them takes its course between birth and death. During this life — or through this life — man comes down from the super-sensible World into the kingdoms which he then finds in his physical environment: the human kingdom, the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, the mineral kingdom and so on. And when he passes through the gate of death the other section of his life begins. He then rises to the higher kingdoms which tower upward stage by stage from below, just as the kingdoms of Nature descend from above. He rises to the Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai, etc.

Nowadays, as I said, there are those who imagine — though they really do not comprehend it — that they themselves are standing on the ground of Christianity. And they direct their attacks especially against this idea of spiritual Beings between man and the Godhead — Beings who occupy the super-sensible spaces between the human being and the essential Godhead, who is not only far above man but far above the Angeloi, Archangeloi and the rest. Those above all who think themselves especially advanced in their Christian conception are very prone to say that this science of spiritual Hierarchies and Beings is a lapse into some old Polytheism, or, as they say, into a kind of Paganism. According to them, it is precisely the task of the man of to-day to place absolutely nothing between himself and the Godhead. Man shall live in this world, open his eyes to all that appears to his senses, and find his way directly to the Godhead, without any mediation through Angels, Archangels or the like. Many people hold that this is especially sublime: to stand face to face with one's God without any intermediates at all.

We hear this objection hurled at Spiritual Science from very many quarters. It only bears witness to the fact that in the circles whence it comes there is absolutely no knowledge of the spiritual needs of our time. For it is really not the question whether a man imagines that he of himself can find the way to his God. The question is whether, as a matter of fact, he can do so. The question is, not whether he imagines that he is thinking of his God, but whether he is really doing so. We from our point of view must ask, what are they really conceiving, who imagine that they are thinking of their God when they declare: ‘We will have none of your mediation through other spiritual Beings; we will rise from our own souls straight to our God.’ What are they conceiving in reality? Is it really God whom they conceive when they think or speak of God? Are they conceiving what the word God must mean when the human being rightly speaks of his God? No, they are not. What they are conceiving is altogether different. Let us go through all the ideas and conceptions such people have of their God: what do these ideas describe? None other than the being of an Angel — an Angelos. All those who declare that they look up directly from their soul to God — in reality they are only looking up to an Angel-being. You may search through all their descriptions — however sublime they sound — and you will find they are describing no more than an Angel. Really, what these people say amounts to the demand that we shall conceive as God nothing higher than an Angel. For instance, what is called God in modern Protestantism — the God of whom so much is said in Protestant quarters — is one of the Angeloi and nothing more than that. For the point is not whether one imagines that one is finding one's way to the highest God. The point is whether one is really doing so. Along these lines man only finds the way to his Angelos. I say again, to his Angelos — that is important.

Take to begin with the Beings of the lowest Hierarchies: the Archai (or Spirits of Personality as we have called them), Archangeloi (Archangels) and Angeloi (Angels). Thereafter comes man, then the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, the mineral kingdom.

Archai ............

Spirits of Personality

Archangeloi ...

Archangels

Angeloi ..........

Angels

 

Man

 

Animal

Plant

 

Mineral

Take only these, the lowest Beings. We need but remember what we have often described before. We know that the Archai or Spirits of Personality are also the Time-Spirits. We to-day are living in a different spiritual context than the old Greeks or Romans. We are under a different Time-Spirit. Such a Spirit of the Time is a sublime Being. Then again we have those Beings whom we call Archangels. Their mission is to bring about harmony among men on Earth. Hence in a certain sense they are the guides and leaders of the Folks and Nations. And the Angeloi — the Beings immediately above man — it is they who lead man through the gate of death. They lead him on and on, so that in a sense he has his Angelos beside him from death to a new birth. Then they lead him again into a new life on Earth. It is the mission of the Angeloi to lead the individual human being through his repeated lives on Earth.

Thence we come down to man himself. Man, as he now is on Earth, only remembers his earthly life in the physical body. The memory of the Angels goes much farther, for only so can they guide and direct the repeated earthly lives of men. The modern theologian does not even rightly conceive the Angel, for at the very outset he omits this property whereby the Angel guides the human individuality through his repeated lives on Earth.

All this must be borne in mind. Not until we come to the Archangels do we stand face to face with Beings who regulate the relationships among men. And the Time-Spirits regulate these relationships over long epochs of time. The Angels on the other hand are essentially those Beings who regulate the life of the individual. Bearing all this in mind we shall not fail to see that it is a hidden egoism on the part of men to wish to rise immediately to God. In truth, though they will not admit it, they only want to rise to their God — that is to say, to their own Angel.

This is of great practical significance. For it bears a certain seed within it, namely this: They speak of ‘the one God,’ but that is only a fanciful imagination on their part. In real truth, when they give themselves up to this fancy, every one of them is speaking of his own God, namely, of his Angel. And as an inevitable consequence, in course of time each one will worship his own God, namely his Angel. Indeed we can see how strong is the tendency of men to-day for every one to worship his own God. The finding their way together in those Gods who are common to all has become very slight indeed in modern time. The emphasis of every one on his own God has become more and more prominent. The human race is becoming automatised. It is as though the mere name of ‘God’ remained. It sounds the same, for all who share a common language, but with the one word every one conceives something different, namely his own Angel. He does not even rise to the Archangel who guides the communities of men.

Underlying it is a hidden egoism, which men will not confess. But it is of no little importance to realise the fact. For the human being is living in an untruth when he does not admit, ‘I am looking up to my Angel,’ but says to himself, ‘I am looking up to the one and unique God.’ He is living in a nebulous conception, that is, in an illusion, a Maya of the inner life, and this involves important consequences. For when a man gives himself up to this inward illusion something quite definite takes place. We do not alter the spiritual facts by giving ourselves up to fanciful ideas. The spiritual facts ensue, whether we think rightly or wrongly. A man looks up only to his Angel, but does not admit the fact. He imagines that he is looking up to God, while in reality he is not even looking up to an Archangel. By this untrue conception he in a certain sense benumbs his soul; and this benumbing of the soul is very common nowadays. But to benumb the soul is the most detrimental thing of all in our present period of human evolution. For when the soul is benumbed the Ego is suppressed, the Ego is made dim, and then those other Powers who ought not to be working in the soul creep in. That is to say, in place of the Angel whom he first desired to worship (whom he re-christened ‘God’) the Luciferic Angel creeps in, and by and by man comes to worship not the true Angel but the Luciferic Angel, and then the inclined plane which leads him down is very near at hand. Then it is very near at hand for him to deny God altogether, that is to say, to deny his Angel. And this denial is always connected with the denial of the true human Ego, of which I showed you an example in the book Matérialisme et Spiritualisme by Leblais, wherein it is said that the cat has an Ego just like any man, and there is also mention of a ‘Grandprêtre du chien.’

In many respects we must admit that to the question, ‘Who is to blame for the materialism of our time?’ this answer must be given: The religions are to blame — the religious faiths. For they darken the consciousness of men, putting an Angel in the place of God; and for this Angel the corresponding Luciferic Angel is then substituted. And the Luciferic Angel quickly leads the human being into materialism. Such is the hidden connection. In their arrogance and egoism the religious faiths will not hear of anything beyond the Angel. With measureless conceit they say that they are speaking of God while all the time they are only speaking of an Angel, and not even that completely. This measureless arrogance — though they would often describe it as humility — was in the long run bound to produce materialism.

If we bear this in mind, we recognise a significant connection. Through the false interpretation of an Angel as God, the tendency to materialism arises in the human soul. Underlying it is an unconscious egoism. On the one hand man shuns the task of rising to a knowledge of the spiritual world. On the other hand he would like to find a direct connection with his God, — as it were, out of his own resources only.

You will gain insight into many things that are working themselves out in our time if you will bear in mind what I have here indicated. There is only one safeguard against the misinterpretation of God, and that is recognition of the spiritual Hierarchies, for then one knows that the religious faiths of to-day do not rise higher than the Hierarchy of Angeloi.

At this point we are still more or less within the limits of what man develops as his conscious life. But there are many things living unconsciously in man — or only dimly conscious. So we may say: A man's connection with his Angel is a real one, but his connection is no less real with the Archangel Hierarchy and with the Hierarchy of the Archai. The misinterpretation of the Angel, which takes place more or less consciously, leads in its turn more or less consciously to the world-conception of materialism — not in the single individual, but in the epoch as a whole, it gradually leads to this. Here we are still within the realm of that which happens consciously in the soul. But when we come to man's relation to the Archangel Hierarchy we are no longer in a realm of which he has much knowledge. True, nowadays he often talks a lot about it, but he knows very little. We do indeed have very frequent confessions of faith nowadays — not in the Archangel Hierarchy, but in one Archangel. There may not be clearly expressed confessions of faith, but there are inclinations to the one Archangel or the other, inclinations of the feeling life. In the nineteenth century this bore very copious fruit in one respect at least, namely in the rise of the ideas of Nationality, which are an unconscious outcome of the one-sided devotion to one Archangel or another, overlooking the real co-operation of the Archangels. Underlying this is a similar egoism, as in the devotion to the one Angel, — only in this case it is an egoism of the social life.

Now we might also wish to describe what it is that goes hand-in-hand with this socially selfish devotion to the Archangel, just as materialism goes consciously hand-in-hand with the misinterpretation of the Angel. But if we dwelt on this subject we should be skating on thin ice, and that is not exactly permissible to-day.

Still darker are the relations of men to the Archai — to the Time-Spirits. These relations lie very far in the hidden depths. As to the Angels, men do at least want to enter into relation to them, though they do not admit the fact. Nevertheless, when they say ‘I believe in God’ they do admit it, wrongly, as I have shown. And with the Archangels they are connected — wrongly, once more, in our time — in their sentiment and feeling, inasmuch as they declare their adherence to this or that group by blood-relationship or the like. This leads into false paths which I will not, or cannot, describe today. Similarly, men are led into false paths in their relation to the Time-Spirits. Here too, they are generally attached to the one Time-Spirit, who appears to them as the spirit of their own particular age. You need only call to mind how we endeavour in Spiritual Science to counteract these self-centred notions by describing the successive epochs of time, letting their several characteristics influence us, so that we expand our heart and soul over all earthly evolution, nay, over all cosmic evolution, thus gaining a relation, in our thought at least, to many different Time-Spirits. But the people of to-day want no such thing. We should have to describe at length what we have here been hinting at, if we would characterise the false paths along which men are led by this their egoism in relation to the Time-Spirit. From a poetic work I recently placed before you a sorry picture of our present time — most tellingly described. Such by-ways as are there described are connected with the false relation to the Time-Spirit. But we are entering very profound regions when we speak of the false paths in relation to the Time-Spirit. When a man names his own Angel ‘God’ and is thus led from the true Angel to the Luciferic Angel, it is an aberration of belief, of faith, of world-outlook. Such aberration remains in a sense an individual matter. At the next stage there can be the aberration of whole nations. Yet even this is still no more, so to speak, than an aberration amongst human beings, and the consequences are simply the consequences of error among men. But when we reach up to the Time-Spirit — when we err in relation to the Time-Spirit — then do our aberrations begin to infringe upon the cosmos. There is a mysterious connection between man's errors in relation to the Time-Spirit and the beginnings of those cosmic burdens with which he loads himself, if I may put it in these words. Of course, if one refuses in any case to look beyond the Angel, one will see no such connection. What I shall now say, let everyone take as he can. I say it out of profound investigations of Spiritual Science, but I should have to speak for months if I would relate these investigations in all detail.

The errors man commits in relation to the Time-Spirit reach up into the cosmic events, and the cosmic events hit back again. And when cosmic processes — at any rate the beginnings of them — are thus carried into human life, the result is a decadence which goes so far as to attack even the physical body. The consequence, in other words, are illnesses, mortality, and all things of that kind. Perhaps in no very distant future mankind will grow convinced of this. Many a thing done by humanity on the physical plane, if it be such as to offend against the Time-Spirit, invokes into the evolution of the Earth destructive forces, the effects of which extend even to sickness and death. With the insight which you will now have gained you may ask yourselves whether it may not be that some things which are happening in our own day are errors against the Time-Spirit. Then perhaps you will be able to give yourselves the answer, and you will recognise profound connections, reaching even to disease and death, whereby a compensation will be brought about for many a sin which man is committing against the Spirit of the Time to-day.

We can be well aware, needless to say, that the clever people of to-day will only laugh at such statements as I have just advanced. They, with their scientific world-conception, know that it is nonsense (so they say) to believe that what a man does, or what men do in their social relationships together, can entail elemental consequences. But the time is not far distant when men will believe this, for the simple reason that they will witness it.

Our time lacks the necessary earnestness for a genuine world-outlook, able to sustain the life of man. It is one of the first calls on every one who finds his way into Spiritual Science, to develop this earnestness of world-outlook, to enter a little more deeply into the course of human evolution. How often have we emphasised the fact that earthly evolution only receives its sense and meaning through the Mystery of Golgotha. Indeed we have already given many things, to reveal the Mystery of Golgotha in its significance. But we must go on describing ever more and more exactly, to recognise its full meaning. To-day men sometimes ask, how does the human soul find its way to Christ? And we may say, since Christ is a higher Being than all the Archai, the way to Christ needs to be found. For by the way of the ordinary religious faiths to-day, Christ is not found, but as we have seen at most an Angel. In the name of the various Angels, nay even of some Archangels (if the Luciferic Archangels have usurped the place of the progressive ones) one may indeed behave as men are now behaving; but never in the name of Christ. It is an absolute impossibility for two men, who stand in enmity against each other, both to confess the Christ. Surely there is no difficulty in seeing that, — it should go without saying. No doubt it may be possible in the sense that one merely speaks the name: ‘Christ, Christ’ or ‘Lord, Lord’ (as Christ Himself already indicated) while all the time one is referring to one's own Angel. But it is impossible if one is really speaking of the Christ. Therefore the question may arise: how can the human soul find a way to Christ at all? To gain instruction on this question we could take various paths. Let us now choose one that re-suits naturally from our recent considerations.

The men of to-day know very little of the past. Above all, they do not know why it is that certain things are handed down traditionally. At most they know that they are handed down, but why, they scarcely know. For instance (as you may read to-day in all manner of exoteric books, and notably in Masonic books), it is traditionally related that there were Mysteries in ancient times, and that these Mysteries were so to speak a secret institution, i.e., that in these Mysteries, as the very word would indicate, secrets existed — real secrets, even in the external sense. Certain traditions were entrusted to whoever found access to the Mysteries. These traditions he was under obligation to communicate to no one save to those who were together with him in the self-same Mysteries. It was the very strictest rule in those ancient times that one must not betray the mystic communications. The rule was thus expressed: it is one of the most punishable offences for anyone to pronounce a secret of the Mysteries before an uninitiated hearer. Nay more, it is one of the most punishable offences for an unqualified person even to listen to such a communication. So long as the Mysteries existed in the ancient sense, this idea was carried out with the strictest interpretation. Why was it so? Why did they do this?

Nowadays, you see, there is much talk about the Mysteries, especially among those who want to shine and sparkle a little with their talk. Notably in those quarters where they talk of these things in words, without even having the will to understand, as is often the case in modern Freemasonry, much harm is done by talking round these matters in the most superficial way and with very little knowledge. Nowadays people do not even notice whether these things are being truly spoken of, out of the reality itself, or in mere words. Alas, one can have the strangest experiences in such matters. I do not wish to criticise, but the facts are far too serious, they must at least be indicated. For instance, one can have this experience. Some person is a member of one of those societies which call themselves by all kinds of names — Brotherhoods, Keepers of the Mysteries. Such a person comes to one (I am relating an actual fact), questions one about the subject which seemingly interests him, that is to say, interests him so far as the words are concerned; but he can understand very little of it. Then after a time one hears that he has been talking of these matters in this or that quarter, and has been talking pretty worthless nonsense.

Let us now bring before our souls one characteristic — concerning the customs and traditional procedure of the Mysteries — which resulted from the real evolution of mankind. How often have I emphasised the fact that mankind has changed in the course of earthly evolution, and that a most important incision took place at the time when Christ went through the Mystery of Golgotha. To indicate one important feature, among others that we have already mentioned, we may say this: — Let us go back beyond the Graeco-Latin epoch, or notably beyond the fourth century B.C., into the fifth, sixth or seventh century (so that we might even remain within the Graeco-Latin time, — but we should find it still more the case if we went back into the Egypto-Chaldean or the Persian epoch). Everywhere we should find that that which was spoken by man had quite another significance for other men than it had in later times, say in the seventh or eighth century after the Mystery of Golgotha. In the times when the old atavistic properties of the soul were still existing (leading up even to the old clairvoyance), the word which one man spoke to another had an altogether different significance from what it subsequently had, or what it has to-day. The word itself, if I may say so, by its own inherent virtue, had a kind of suggestive value. For much was still contained within it of an inherited, Divine-spiritual force. When a man spoke, it was as though the Angel from the Hierarchies was also speaking in his word. Hence you may estimate that in those olden times communications by word of mouth were very different from what they are today. To-day, even if we are aware of all these secrets, we have no possibility of speaking in words as they did in those olden times. For we are bound to speak in words by virtue of what the words have become through language. For us, they are conventional signs. We can no longer go to another human being and say to him with power as we could have done in the third or fourth or fifth century B.C., ‘Thy Angel loves thee,’ thereby letting a gentle thrill pass through his soul, which was a force of healing. We can no longer do this. The words have lost their virtue, they have lost their old suggestive power. In olden times a power of human community flowed from soul to soul when men spoke. Just as we breathe the common air when we are together in such a hall as this, so did there live in that which men spoke a spiritual power of community. This has been lost in the progressive evolution of mankind. The word has become more and more bereft of the Divine. If you consider this, then you will also realise that in those olden times there could be certain words and sentences and formulae which had a greater influence than other words — a greater influence than the words that were commonly spoken. Such formulae of words, which had an influence extending far beyond the commonplace, were handed down in the sacred Mysteries. Now you can understand why they might never be betrayed. For with his very knowledge of such formulae, great power over other men was given to a human being. This power must on no account be abused. It is an absolutely real truth: When the old Hebrew temple-priest pronounced what in ordinary life was called the ‘word’ (which in this case contained a certain sequence of sounds) when he pronounced it in the right way, then for the men to whom he spoke it actually happened that another World was there around them — spiritually speaking, but this spirituality was absolutely real. For in those olden times it was so: every sequence of sounds contained the corresponding power.

Thus you can understand, not only was it criminal to pronounce the Mystery-formulae before an unauthorised person — for one then wielded an unrighteous power over him — but it was also anathema to listen, for the listener himself would run the risk of falling completely under the power of the speaker. These things are not so abstract as certain people nowadays would fain describe them. They are very real and concrete. But the times have changed, and we must have an ear for the changing of the times. Since the Mystery of Golgotha, words no longer have the same significance. For you yourselves will recognise, true freedom could not have arisen among men if words had preserved their old significance. Men would always have remained a mere product, as it were, of speech. Words had to lose this inner force. But then another Force came into earthly evolution, which, if it found its true relation to mankind, could by and by replace for men what once had come to them out of the words. Out of their words, the men of olden time had learned to think. Indeed, in olden time there were no other thoughts than those that came out of the words. But the power of thought could only come out of the words so long as the words were such as I have now described them. In the succeeding times this power was no longer there. Then did there come that Being, who — if the thoughts were filled with Him — could give the thoughts this power back again. It was that Being who could say, I am the Word. It was the Christ. But men must first find the way to make Christ living in their souls. The Christ is there. We know that He is there as a real Power since the Mystery of Golgotha. And now that we are speaking about karma we shall also show how He has His relation to karma. Where the Angel only comes into relation to the one man, Christ can have a far higher significance even than the Archangels, for He not only unites men on the Earth according to the Spirit of the Time; He also unites the living and the dead — the souls that are organised here in the body and those that have passed through the gate of death.

To this end, however, we must first learn to understand a little better how Christ may be found — or rather, how a way to Him may be found — out of the Spirit of our Time. This is the question from which we took our start. How can the man of to-day find a way to Christ?

Above all, it is necessary for man once more to get beyond this selfish living-in-his-own-soul alone. There is a true word in the Gospels. (Alas, how many words of the Gospels are not taken in their real truth, because they do not suit human convenience!) It is this: ‘Where two are united together in My name, there am I in the midst of them!’ The spirit of vain mysticism which declares, ‘I will give birth to Christ in mine own soul’ — that is not the spirit of Christianity. The spirit of Christianity is that which speaks: ‘Where two are united together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.’ But I would like to explain the full spirit of this saying in connection with the repeated earthly lives of man, for that is the intention of our present studies. I would apply it to our time, and relate it to that life into which modern man is placed by his calling or vocation. To do so, we must first dwell on certain characteristic features. We must learn to know what it is to get beyond this self-centred limitation of each man to himself. In the Spirit of our Time we must get beyond it, first and foremost by learning to understand once more the cosmos with which man is related and out of which man is born. We must learn to regard man in his relation to the cosmos.

Do you imagine that the Natural Science of to-day is able to conceive the cosmos in relation to man? Remember Herman Grimm's saying, which I have quoted even in public lectures: Natural Science conceives the world as a kind of mechanism in which there is simply no room for man. The natural-scientific world-conception is quite unable to conceive man in relation to the cosmos, for to do so one must first see things concretely. Nowadays when a man constructs a machine he imagines that the only thing that happens is that the machine is built; or at most he will add to it what happens by means of the machine, and that is all. But to give oneself up to this belief is to cultivate — what is indeed universal nowadays — what I would call negative superstition. Superstition is the belief in spirits where there are none, but it is also possible not to believe in spirits where they are. That is ‘negative superstition.’ To this negative superstition humanity to-day gives itself up unstintingly — albeit, hitherto, quite unawares — for men are not yet accustomed to conceive, in relation to the whole universe and subject to a moral point of view, those things which emerge in human evolution. They think of them purely from the point of view of mechanism.

Let us take one example, characteristic of our time and similar to many other things by which the outer life today is largely ruled: the steam-engine. What a tremendous part the steam-engine plays in our time! How many things in our life are governed by it 1 You need only think of all the things that would not be there if it were not for the steam-engine. I do not say that all these things must necessarily be produced by the steam-engine. The simple fact is, very many things are produced by the steam-engine nowadays, and that is according to the true spirit of the time.

The steam-engine was not properly invented until the 18th century, for the attempts that existed before were not really applicable in practice. What has become so universal and has attained such immense significance, is in effect the steam-engine which was made practicable by Newcomb in 1713 and by Watt in 1763. Not until then were the former attempts turned to practical account. Newcomb and Watt must be described as the originators of the steam-engine in the sense in which one speaks of it to-day, and of all that is connected with it.

Now let us ask, to what is it really due — this possibility of having steam-engines, which as you see is comparatively recent? The year 1763 — what I now say will sound very queer to anyone who thinks along the lines of Natural Science — 1763, when Watt first raised the steam-engine, so to speak, to its proper level, is very nearly the year of the conception of Goethe's Faust. Maybe in the further course of our studies we shall yet perceive strange connections between the steam-engine and the conception of Goethe's Faust, however far apart these things may lie. To this end, however, we must first bring before our souls certain facts connected with the entry of the steam-engine into human evolution. Let us ask once more: To what is the steam-engine really due? It is fundamentally due to the possibility of creating a vacuum, or a space in which the air is highly rarefied. The possibility of constructing steam-engines lies in the creation and useful application of the vacuum.

In times long past they used to speak of the horror vacui — fear of the void. They meant something quite objective. They meant that space itself always wants to be filled with something. An empty space cannot really be created; Nature has a kind of horror of the void. This belief in the horror vacui first had to disappear from humanity; it had to be possible to create a space in which the air is rarefied, — a space approximately empty. Only then could one proceed with the practical construction of steam-engines. The air had to be eliminated from certain spaces.

Mechanical considerations will never lead us to a new cosmic-moral conception as against the old cosmic-moral conception of the horror vacui. Let us then ask ourselves, what really happens when we create a vacuum or a space in which the air is rarefied, with the object of placing what is achieved thereby, at the service of human evolution on the Earth? The Bible tells us that Jehovah breathed into man the living breath — the air — and that thereby a living soul came into being. The air had to be brought into man in order that he might become what he was destined to become as earthly man. Through many hundreds of years, nay, through the thousands of years, man only made use of that rarefication and condensation of air which came about of its own accord within the cosmic process. Then came the modern age, and man himself began to rarefy the air; to get rid of that which Jehovah had brought in; to counteract the way of Jehovah's working, when He placed man on to the earth. What happens therefore when man uses a space with rarefied air, that is to say, when he banishes the air from a given space? It is a case of opposition against someone. And now you will readily conceive: Whereas Jehovah pours into man through the warmth, man drives Jehovah away when he creates a space where the air is rarefied. Hence, when the steam-engine is constructed in this way, Ahriman gains the possibility of establishing himself as a demonic being, even in the physical. When we build steam-engines, we provide the opportunity for the incarnation of demons. We need not believe in them if we do not want to; but then we are negatively superstitious. Positive superstition is to see spirits where there are none — negative superstition is to deny them where they are. In the steam-engine, Ahrimanic demons are actually brought to the point of physical embodiment. That is to say, while the cosmos descended with its spiritual content through that which was poured into human evolution, the spirit of the cosmos is driven away with this creation of demons. In other words, the great and admirable progress of modern time has not only brought us a demonology but a demonomagic. Modern technical industry is in many respects demonomagic.

Many things become apparent — I shall now again say something paradoxical — when we are rightly able to read what is generally considered insignificant. After all, in the letter i, materially speaking the line is the most important part, and yet it is only the dot that makes it i. How much less matter the dot contains than the line, and yet without the dot it is not i. So in the evolution of humanity, those who adhere to the material alone will often only see that which contains materially a hundred times more than the dot, and the dot they will fail to see. But an intimate observer, who does not merely stare at the phenomena but is able to read them truly, will learn to interpret many things which appear only in the gentlest hints. There is a strange fact which you will find indicated in the biography of James Watt. The way I shall now refer to it will no doubt seem mad to the enlightened modern man; but you must first understand the true interpretation. Watt was not able to carry out at once what he had intended with his invention of the steam-engine. As we saw, the process took place between 1713 and 1763. When someone makes an invention people imitate it again and again, do they not? So there was much construction going on during these years, and when Watt had built his machine — efficiently, so far as its other qualities were concerned, — he had included one arrangement for which another man already had a patent. So he was unable to carry it out. He had to think out another device instead; and in a strange way he discovered it. In the time in which he lived, the Copernican world-conception (which in reality, as I have told you, answers only to the spirit of our age) had long been accepted. And in real truth, Watt had the idea to construct the whole device, the instrument of movement which he needed, in such a way that he could name it the ‘Sun-and-Planet movement.’ He called it the ‘Sun-and-Planet movement,’ because he was actually guided by the way the revolutions of the Planets round the Sun are conceived in the Copernican system. So he brought down and secreted into the steam-engine what had been recognised in modern time as the movements of the Heavens!

Think now of what I recently told you, what will happen in the future (for it is only now in the initial stages): how by the summation of delicate vibrations great effects will be brought about. On Earth, thank Heaven, this is not yet achieved! Yet this is a beginning. The movement of the Sun and Planets is here imitated. Do you imagine — considering how great is the significance for the Earth of the Sun-and-Planetary movement as it rays down on to the Earth — do you imagine, when we imitate it here on a small scale and let it ray out again into the cosmic spaces, that it is of no significance? It is of very great significance for the cosmos. Here you can see at once: even the vibrations are given to the demon, whereby he may unfold his activity out into the cosmic spaces.

No one can sensibly imagine that this is meant to imply that the steam-engine should be abolished. Many things would then have to be abolished, for the steam-engine is by no means the most demonic. Wherever electricity is applied, and many another thing beside, there is far more of demonomagic; for there we are dealing with many other forces which have still more significance for the cosmos. Needless to say, anyone who understands Spiritual Science will realise that these things are not meant to be abolished. We cannot be reactionary or conservative in the sense of resisting progress. In deed and in truth, this demonomagic is progress, and the Earth will yet undergo more and more of such advances. Man will succeed in unfolding mighty effects into the cosmic spaces. It is not a question of abolition — not even of hostile criticism — for it goes without saying, these things are justified. Yet, if on the one hand these things must emerge in the progress of mankind, it is indeed a question on the other hand of our creating counter-forces to bring about the necessary balance. Compensating forces must be created, and that can only be when humanity understands once more the principle of Christ and finds the way to Christ. For a short space of time mankind has been led away from Christ. Even those who call themselves officially His representatives look only for an Angel in the place of. Christ. But we shall have to find the way of the soul to Christ Himself. For just as with the demons of our machines we work out into the cosmos, even to the physical stars, so must we find the way of the Spirit, out into those worlds where man is between death and a new birth and where the Beings of the Hierarchies are living. What I am now hinting at is connected with what I explained before. I told you on the one hand how men are entering more and more into the karma of their vocations, such as I described it, and how from the other side this karma must be met by that understanding of the Spiritual World which can in turn prepare our finding of a way to Christ Himself. Of these things we shall continue in the next lecture.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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