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Anthroposophical Life Gifts

Life Gifts: Lecture I: Folk Souls and the Mystery of Golgotha

Lecture I

Folk Souls and the Mystery of Golgotha

Berlin, March 30, 1918

All those who received in the right way what was stated in our last lectures, as to the way in which the human soul can to a certain extent determine its relation to the super-sensible worlds, and can of itself bring about that relationship, need not on the other hand be alarmed by the fact that it is also the simple truth that the human being, as such, is dependent in a certain sense on the whole universe, on the whole of his environment. Between these two things human life really oscillates; it swings backwards and forwards between the free establishment of a relation to the super-sensible world, and its dependence on the environment, on the whole universe; and this, by virtue of the fact that man, between birth and death, is bound to a particular physical body. During the next few days we will discuss part of this dependence on the universe, in a special connection: one which may come very near to the human soul at the present day. Above all it will have become clear from much that we have made our own through Spiritual Science, that the whole earth which we as collective humanity inhabit, is a kind of huge living being, that we ourselves stand within this great living being, as members of it; in various lectures I have spoken of the separate phenomena of the life of this great living being which is our earth. The life of the earth is expressed in manifold ways. Among others it is expressed in the fact that certain relations exist between the different parts of the earth and the man who lives upon the earth. As true as it is that, on the one hand, the human race is a unity (which indeed is a very superficial truth), so it is also true that the separate parts of the human race distributed over the different parts of the earth differ according to these domains and are dependent on them. Not only is this the case on account of the many forces which external natural science and geography investigate, but they are also dependent on many other, more secret forces of the separate parts of the earth's surface. There exist certain inner relations between man (with these the superficiality of natural science is not concerned) and the ground which he inhabits, part of the earth from which he springs. This can best be observed from the fact that such relationships become established in the course of shorter or longer historical periods. This might already be seen in the change which takes place in Europeans who emigrate to America and settle there; for although of course the period of the settlement of Europeans in America is still so short that what here comes into consideration is at present but a mere indication, it is nevertheless strongly and distinctly indicated. The external configuration of the Europeans alters (as already said, this is up till now only indicated) when they inhabit America; perhaps not once, but certainly in the course of generations. In the form of the arms and hands for instance, and also in the shape of the face, the Europeans gradually grow to resemble the old Red Indians, they gradually take on the personal characteristics of the old Red Indian Race. You must of course not take this too literally, but simply as hints for further observation.

Roughly speaking, these things are what first of all draw our attention to certain connections between the great organism of the earth and the different members of this organism, in fact the different sections of the earth's population. We know well that man during his life on Earth is connected with super-sensible beings, beings of the Higher Hierarchies. We know that what we call a “Folk-Soul” is not that unreal abstraction of which materialistically-minded men speak today, we know that the “Folk-Soul” is a kind of Archangelic-Being. We need only read the cycle on the Folk-Souls given in Christiania to learn that a Folk-Soul is a concrete, real being, in whom man is to a certain extent embedded during his life. Man stands in constant connection, through his being, with higher and lower beings of the Higher Hierarchies. We will look into this connection today and in the next few days from one point of view (we can indeed only speak of such things at all from certain points of view).

In order rightly to comprehend subjects such as the substance of this lecture we must make clear to ourselves that to the spiritually-scientific observer of the world, what is in the materialistic sense called matter or substance does not exist at all; a really searching observation proves that this too resolves itself into spirit. I have often made use of a comparison which should make clear how these things are ordered. Take water. It can freeze, then it is ice and looks quite different. Ice is ice, and water is water; yet ice is also water, only in another form. It is somewhat like this as regards what is called matter; it is spirit in another form, spirit passed over into another form, as water into ice. Hence in spiritual science we have the spiritual in the view even when discussing material processes. Spirit is active everywhere. The fact that the activity of the Spirit is expressed also in material processes is due to a special form of manifestation of the Spirit. But everywhere there is activity of spirit, thus even when we study the more material phenomena we are really referring to forms of activity of the spirit, as they appear in a certain sphere as external, more or less material processes.

In man, material processes are continually taking place which really are spiritual processes. Man eats. He thereby takes into his own organism substance of the outer world. Solid substances which become liquefied are taken into the human organism, and thereby undergo a transmutation. The human organism indeed consists of all sorts of substances, which it receives from without; and not only because it receives these substances but in the very act of receiving them, they also go through a certain process. The warmth of the body is conditioned by the warmth it receives, and by the processes which the received substances undergo in our organism. We breathe. In breathing we take in oxygen; not only do we take in oxygen, but through the fact that our breathing-process is under the same ruling as are the processes in the outer world, in the atmosphere, we are subject to the rhythm of the whole universe. (I have even presented this relationship numerically.) Thus through the rhythmical processes which we undergo in our organism, we also stand in a certain relationship with the environment. In fact it is the case that the very influences for instance, which are exerted on individual human beings by the Folk-soul, are brought about through these processes, these happenings, by which the outer events in Nature affect us and continue to work on in us. We do not merely breath in oxygen, for something spiritual lives in the oxygenised breath. We do not merely eat; substances are transmuted in us, but this material process is at the same time a spiritual one, and the Folk-Spirit can live in this process of taking in substances and digesting them. The fact of our Folk-Spirit living with us is by no means merely an abstract thought, for the life of the Folk-Spirit is impressed on what we do in our daily life and on that which is accomplished in our organism. Material processes are at the same time the expression of spiritual workings. The Folk-Spirit must take this indirect way of entering us; through the food and so on.

The different Folk-Spirits, whom in the course of the lectures on the Mission of the different Folk-Souls we have distinguished according to other points of view, work, with regard to what I have just indicated, in different ways upon mankind; and the individual characters of the nations of the Earth are thereby differentiated. The various characters of the different nations depend on their Folk-Spirits. But if, from a spiritual-scientific point of view, we follow the by-paths along which the separate Folk-Spirits work, the following result becomes apparent.

Man breathes. He thereby stands in constant connection with the surrounding air; he breathes it in then he breathes it out. If, in a particular case, on account of the configuration of the Earth and for reasons of various kinds, the Folk-Soul chooses the by-path of breathing and by means of that, calls forth the special configuration and characterization of the nation in question, we can say that the Folk-Spirit works ‘through the air’ on the people concerned. In fact this is the case to an especially marked degree among those people who have at any time inhabited the Italian Peninsula. On the Italian Peninsula the air is the medium for the workings of the Folk-Spirit of the people. We may say that the air of Italy is the means, the medium, through which the Folk-Spirit impresses his workings on the people who inhabit the Italian Peninsula, in order to give then the particular configuration through which they are just the Italian nation, and formally worthy old Roman nation and so on. Thus we can investigate apparently material workings in their spiritual foundations, if we follow the methods of Spiritual Science.

Now one may raise the question: How is it with other Folk-Spirits? If we look around at other regions of the Earth, what methods do the Folk-Spirits adopt in order to bring the particular configuration of the nations to expression? Among the people who have inhabited the France of today or who still inhabit it, the Folk-Spirits work along the by-path of the fluidic elements, through everything which not only enters the body as fluid, but which also works in it as fluid. Thus the Folk-Spirit vibrates and moves in the process by which liquid contracts the organism and works upon it, and thereby determines the character of the people. This is the case among the people who formerly inhabited the France of today as well as those who still do inhabit it.

Now we do not grasp the matter completely if we only look at this relationship of man to his environment from one side. That would indeed give a very one-sided conception. It must here be remembered what I have often said, that “Man is a two-fold being;” his head and the rest of his organism, each work for themselves. In reality the working of which I have just spoken in reference to the Italian and the French peoples, affects only the rest of the organism, and not the head. From the head another activity goes forth. Only through the cooperative working of the activity which proceeds from the head with that which comes from the rest of the organism, does that which then impresses itself upon the Folk-character come fully into force. The activity which proceeds from the head is neutralized, as it were, by that which proceeds from the rest of the organism. Hence we might say, as regards the Italians, that together with what they breathe in with the air and which regulates the rest of the organism except the head, there works also from the direction of the head, the nervous system of the head in its spiritual differentiation, insofar as man is ‘nerve-man of the head.’ In France this is different. What lives in the organism as “rhythm” is a particular rhythm for the whole organism and different from that of the head; the head has its own rhythm. While in Italy it is the nervous activity of the head which works in combination with what is acted in man by the air, in France it is the rhythm, the rhythmical movement of the head — the vibrating of the rhythm in the head combined with what is effected by the fluidity in the organism. Thus the Folk-character is built up through the particular combination of what takes place in the head of the individual man with what the Folk-Spirit brings in from the environment.

From this we can see that it is possible to study what is spread out severally over the Earth's organism, if we allow ourselves to observe these things from a spiritually-scientific point of view; for, as a matter of fact, mankind will never understand the characteristic configuration all over the world if such things are not taken into consideration.

Let us enquire further as to the different Folk-characters, the British, for instance. As the Folk-Spirits of the Italian race works through the air, and that of the French through the watery element, so the Folk-Spirit of the British race works through everything earthly, principally through the salt and its combinations in the organism. Solidity is the principal feature; the watery element works in the French national character, in the British it is the solid, the salty element which is active through everything which enters the organism, through air as well as through food. This brings about the peculiar form of the British Folk-Character. But here again something neutralizing works from the head upon what comes from the environment. Just as “rhythm” is in the rest of the organism as well as in the head, so is also digestion, assimilation, and the rest of the organism and in the head as well. As the organism of the head accomplishes its metabolism, this process of the transmutation of substance is combined with the salty element in the organism, and that brings about the British Folk-Character. Thus the earth-element in connection with the metabolism of the head, determines the British Folk-character. We may say that while the Folk-Soul works through the salty element, it is opposed by the characteristic quality of the metabolism of the head. You will be able to study all the separate features of national character if you look at these particular metamorphoses in the modes of activity of the Folk-Souls.

Let us go further into the West. In America things are again different. There a subterranean element is at work. While in the British organism we have to do with the earthy, with the salty, in the American Folk-Character an underground element is active, something that vibrates under the earth; that has there a very special influence on the organism. The Folk-Spirit works on the national character of the American people particularly through the underground magnetic and electric currents. And something from the head strains towards these underground magnetic and electric currents and neutralizes their influence: toward them streams what is actually Human Will. That is the characteristic feature of the American Folk-Character. While of the British national character we must say that it depends essentially on the earthy element, inasmuch as man takes it into his organism and it comes into reciprocal action with the metabolism in the head, so, inasmuch as the Will impresses itself in the case of the American, it works in him together with something which comes from underground, and this determines the American Folk-Character. With this is also connected what I have mentioned in a public lecture (The historical life of mankind and its problems, 14th March 1918). Man can only with his whole free personality stand in relationship with the element above the Earth and down to the Earth. If he is influenced by underground Folk-Soul activities, he is not forming his Folk-Soul in freedom, he is then, as it were “possessed” by the Folk-Soul. I have shown in the public lecture that the Americans may even say the same thing as a Central-European, Herman Grimm, also says; and yet it is not the same thing. While we notice in Herman Grimm how everything is humanly acquired and won, with Woodrow Wilson it is as though he were humanly possessed by it. From that you can see one thing (this is important because at our present time it is necessary to face these things). When today, two or three men say the same thing, it is considered purely from the point of view of ‘content,’ it is looked at in the abstract. But two men may say the same thing in substance, and the remark made by the one may sound exactly the same as the other, yet the one man may have fought out, conquered things in his soul, and the other may utter them as the result of ‘possession.’ The content is often not at all the essential thing. What matters is the degree in which what a man says is his ‘own,’ the acquisition of his own soul, instead of having perhaps acquired it through being possessed. That is the important point. Today people have only a sense for the abstract. We can see in Herman Grimm that what he says has been gone over and over many times in his soul, and we might take sentences from Wilson's works and write over them “Herman Grimm” or vice versa; but that is not the point. Herman Grimm worked something out, Woodrow Wilson says something which comes to him through being possessed by underground beings. These things must be recognised; we need not approach them with emotion and passion, they can be recognised quite objectively.

Let us enquire further, and describing a circle round Germany, look for the moment towards the East. Something characteristic confronts us there when we observe the Easterner who has first gradually to lift himself out of chaos, and will only then rise resplendent in his original form. As the Folk-Spirit works in Italy through the air, in the French people through water, in the English through the earth-element and in the American through an underground element, so does the Folk-Spirit work in the Russian Slavonic element through the light. In actual fact the Folk-Spirit on whom the East depends works in the vibrations of light. When once that which in the future will grow up in the West shall have loosened itself from its embryonic coverings, it will be seen that the method of working of the Folk-Spirit in the European East is quite different from that of the Folk-Souls in the West. For although I must say that the Folk-Spirit works through the light, yet the curious thing is that it does not work directly through the light vibrating on to men, look through the light which is first sunk into the ground and is then reflected back thence. This light which rises again from the ground is that of which the Russian Folk-Spirit makes use, to work upon the Russian. It does not work upon the whole organism, but directly upon the head, on the character of thought, on the manner of forming concepts, sensations, etc. Thus here the method of the Folk-Spirit is exactly the opposite of that in the West, where he works from the rest of the organism and something strikes against him from the head. In the East he works through the light. The light streaming back from the ground is there the medium for the Folk-Spirit, and that works particularly on the head. And the counteraction now comes from the rest of the body, and especially from the organism of the heart. This counteraction now operates as a reversed process towards the head and alters the working which proceeds from there. (It is still in chaos today, still in its embryonic coverings.) It is the rhythm of the breathing which strikes towards the head and counteracts what comes from the Folk-Spirit by way of the light. What comes out in the Near East has presence to a still higher degree when we go further East. It is the special characteristic of the Far East that there the Folk-Spirit works also partly through the light which is taken up and reflected from the Earth and which works upon the head, but works also through that which is no longer light, and is indeed not visible at all: the Harmony of the Spheres, which vibrates through everything and which, to the spiritual humanity of the Asiatic East, is equivalent to a working of the Folk-Spirit, in that Folk-Spirit works directly through the Harmony of the Spheres which, however, is reflected from the Earth and works upon the head. In opposition to this works the rhythm of the breath, and therein lies the secret of the fact, that seekers of the Spirit in the East have always tried to come into connection with the Spirit through a special development of the breathing. If you study Yoga you will see that it requires one to develop the breathing in a special way. This rests on the fact that the individual tries to find a spirituality through the Folk-Spirit; — as a member of the whole of humanity, not as an individual — he seeks it in a manner which really belongs to the character of this nation. Thus the further east we go, the more do we find this. Of course it would be seen in more or less refinement in the activities of this Folk-character, and also in deteriorations in these activities, how sometimes a deviation becomes evident. Individual nations and whole races may be subject to these deviations to a pronounced degree; and that a disharmony, for instance, appears when the activity of the head of accords with that in the rest of the body, and so on. But to enter into these various disharmonies is perhaps not to be specially recommended to-day, as for this or that reason a nation is bound to love certain other nations today, circumstances demand this; and much might be received with the feeling instead of with the understanding and perhaps then be misunderstood. At a later date, perhaps we may be able to speak about Eastern peoples and similar problems.

Now the question can be raised: How do the Central European nations stand? We are speaking more of geographical relationships, not considering Central Europe in a social-political sense. I have not answered the questions according to racial relationships, but as you see spiritually-geographical relationships. We cannot speak of a ‘Central Europe,’ to which neither France nor Italy belongs. The chilly air of the Folk-Soul Working in Central Europe is that — in a sense in which I have explained to working in other realms for air, water, and the salty element — the influence works here in a direct manner through warmth. The Folk-Spirit in central Europe chooses the by-path, the medium of warmth; and it is moreover not a rigidly determined medium, it can be individualized. There may be people in Central Europe in whom this working of the Folk-Spirit may be different, sometimes acting from the remainder of the body and sometimes from the head, according to whether the heat comes directly from the outside air or through nourishment or breathing. All these forms of heat are a medium for the Folk-Spirit. That which here counteracts this effect is again warmth; so that in Central Europe, warmth, in so far as it works externally, is a medium for the Folk-Spirit; and what meets it is again a self-created warmth coming from within. Therefore we may say that what works in the body through the Folk-Spirit as warmth is met by the special warmth of the head, and when the warmth of the Folk-Spirit works through the head, warmth for the rest of the body streams towards it. Warmth is attracted to warmth and it depends principally on the greater or lesser liveliness of the senses, or indeed of the power of perception. A man of lively disposition looks lovingly at things around him, develops more warmth of his own; a man who is casual and superficial, who does not feel much, but passes lightly over everything, develops less warmth of his own. This sympathy with the environment, when a man keeps an open heart and eye for his surroundings, strikes against the warmth working through the Folk-Spirit, so that warmth strikes warmth. This is the peculiarity of the methods of working of the Folk-Spirit in Central Europe, and much in the nature of the Folk-character comes from warmth being intimately associated with warmth. The other ways of working are not all so related; the will is not related to the electrical element in the same manner nor the salty element to the assimilative process in the head, nor are the other workings mentioned. But warmth produces the European character, which is also expressed in fact of the people being more or less able to ‘enter into’ everything. (We do not wish to speak of the relative value of this, but only to characterize; so everyone may take this as he wishes — as virtue or as vice. ) Warmth to warmth: this makes a man pliant, plastic, capable of making himself at home everywhere even among foreign peoples. If we follow up history, we see how the different German tribes have been absorbed into foreign peoples and have taken on a foreign element. This consideration will strengthen all that has just been said.

In what has been gone into today, the great contrast between the Asiatic East and the American West also becomes very clearly apparent. One might say that the light, and even to what lies above the light in the etheric, is the means made use of by the Folk-Soul in the East in order to approach man, even if it be reflected light from the earth; the subterranean element, that which works beneath the earth, is in the West. This can lead us deeply into the organic soul-life of the whole organism of the earth and its association with mankind. In this there is absolutely no intention to wound any part of the Earth's population or to flatter any other; yet it is true that on the one hand in the East, the evolutionary streams are directed towards the spiritual, in the west downwards towards gravity, chaining man to the Earth. (Whether this agrees more or less with the American national character, I leave it for each one to judge for himself.) A rising tide — I might say — in the East, and ebbing back, a working into the Earth, in the West. Such is life. Of course man does not grow like, or accommodate itself to earthly conditions all at once, but in the course of time, in the lapse of generations. Thus when a European goes to the East and has children, and his children themselves have children, the conditions holding sway there compel these circumstances to develop. They work in the human being. It is really a fact that, as our physical organism and arm will always grow out of the shoulder but never a nose, so there will never be good Yogis in America. Yoga may be transplanted there; but we also raise all sorts of plants in glass houses, that is not the point in question, but rather what is intended in the orderly continuity of evolution itself. All this is ordered and appointed. Natural-scientific biology by no means explains the nature of earthly conditions. For this we must go into the different ways of working of the Folk-Souls, by considering, as we have to-day, how the unmanifested comes to expression in what is manifest.

Man is thus involved in the methods of working which are in connection with the Earth. If you take this into account it will on the one hand perhaps have a very depressing effect on your soul; it is depressing to see that man is really so very dependent on the forces connected in the manner described, with that corner of the earth on which his karma placed him in one incarnation. Of course, it is part of his own karma that he should be placed to there. Yet for all that the circumstances I have described have something perhaps of a depressing nature, and it becomes still more so, if we do not take all the circumstances into account, for if we go back to the former periods of the Earth's evolution, we find that the further we go back the greater the dependence, of which I have spoken, and the more mankind is differentiated by such impulses over the surface of the Earth. Yet the Earth's evolution bears within it the possibility by which men are indeed able gradually to overcome this dependence, at any rate in their inner life if not in outward form.

What then would have had to happen — let us inquire — what would be conceivable as having to take place, in order that this dependence upon a spot of earth might be lessened in any sort of way, that man might rise in some way out of the necessity here characterized, to a certain freedom?

For that, something must have occurred during the evolution of mankind on Earth which would directly counteract this dependence of man on his own part of the earth. We have now discussed all the impulses which make man here dependent on his plot of earth. I said that something had to happen to counteract this dependence, something which would as it were smite these relationships in the face. You are to understand that this force which would appear on the Earth, which would be different from all that works through man's dependence, would have a compensating, neutralizing effect on these relationships. What can this be?

At the beginning of our era the Mystery of Golgotha took place. In the course of time we have discovered many things about it. But we need only bring before our souls one quite casual, ordinary, universally-known characteristic of the Mystery of Golgotha, to see that even through something which lies so much on the surface of things, this Mystery of Golgotha takes its place in the Earth life as a unique event. Christ Jesus lived among a people having a very decided national character, everything the nation does is done from a pronounced national character. But that which happened to Christ Jesus, which fulfills itself out of the Folk-character, — the Mystery of Golgotha, the death on Golgotha, stands in complete contradiction to this character. For the people in the midst of whom the Mystery of Golgotha takes place, neither acknowledge, nor recognize Christ-Jesus personally or individually; but kill Him, and cry: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Something takes place which only has meaning if thought of in contradiction to what can arise from the character of the people as something that they of themselves reject, annul and destroy. This is the secret of the Mystery of Golgotha. It has therefore no national character, it does not grow from out of the Folk-character, it contradicts all that we have hitherto characterized as dependence of man on his national character. It is an event, a happening on earth, which has nothing to do with the Folk-character, because only that in it which destroys — death — has anything to do with this Folk-character. For this Event is neither connected with the Jewish Folk-character nor with the Roman Folk-character working in the same land; for the Jews cry: Crucify Him! and the Romans can find no fault in Him! That is, they do not know how to deal with what is going on before them. The whole thing is quite beyond what can take place through the Folk-character. Thereby the Mystery of Golgotha becomes an event which, if you study it deeply, you can pair with none other. Of course there have been martyrs elsewhere, but they did not become such from the motives which hold good for the Mystery of Golgotha. The more you study the Mystery of Golgotha, the more you will find that it came about just because it has nothing to do with any Folk-character but because it has connection with the whole of humanity. Therefore we may really say, that on the one hand we have that principle in the evolution of mankind which so extends over humanity that works in a differentiating manner; then something grows out of one of these differentiations which does not belong to it, but has precisely as its peculiararity the fact that it is independent of the Folk-character, that is the point. In every respect we must recognize more and more as the essential point in the Mystery of Golgotha that it must be understood individually if it is to be understood aright. As we understand it more and more, we shall gradually say: We can grasp earthly positions, human relationships in this or that way, but the Mystery of Golgotha stands by itself; it must specially be understood as something unique, it cannot be taken otherwise if it is to be understood. Look into any sphere whatsoever. We have today looked into the sphere of the Folk-Soul which works in humanity, we can explain all things in the realm of the Folk-Soul from the beginning of humanity on Earth until today excepting the Mystery of Golgotha and what is connected with it. And we would be able to find all sorts of domains of which we might say that on the one scale there is everything else, and on the other the Mystery of Golgotha and its consequences. I have often declared that learned theologians must admit today that an “historical proof” of the Mystery of Golgotha is not to be found which can be recorded in history. One does not record events in history of which no historical proofs are to be found; only the Mystery of Golgotha! For that alone shall be a super-sensible one; there shall be no “historical proof” for that! The Mystery of Golgotha shall be accepted by no man who demands only historical, material proofs. It only works aright on the man who has developed so far as to allow something to be counted as historical, of which there are no proofs. Evolution will so proceed that the external proofs of the Mystery of Golgotha will be washed away, will disappear; criticism will wash them away. But a spiritual understanding of the evolution of mankind will consider this Mystery of Golgotha as the very pivot of all earthly events. It must be grasped spiritually, must be recorded spiritually, in the process of the history of mankind. That is just its secret. Men will gradually cease to look for historical proofs, but rather for the possibility of understanding that, on this one occasion, a super-sensible comprehension of an Event which is enacted sensibly on the physical earth is necessary, in order that man may grasp its connection with the earthly historical development of humanity, in the full sense of the word.

Of this we shall speak further in the next lecture.




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