[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

Highlight Words

A Sound Outlook for To-day and a Genuine Hope for the Future

Sound Outlook: Lecture V: The Being and Evolution of Man

Lecture 5

The Being and Evolution of Man

Berlin, 23rd July, 1918

We have been trying to come to grips with the following question: Why does man not notice how different — different spiritually and in their culture — are the several periods in which, during our present earth-cycle, he has spent his repeated earth-lives. We need to understand clearly why it is so widely believed that Man has altered very little during thousands of years, since history began, whereas Spiritual Science shows how greatly souls changed in their essential character during the third; fourth and fifth Post-Atlantean epochs — the fifth being our present one. These changes are confirmed by Spiritual-Scientific knowledge, but we find very little trace of them if we scan outer history, as usually presented and written.

I have already tried to show, in approaching this question, that, if one pays a little attention to the soul-element in history the changes spring to lisht. I have endeavoured to make comprehensible the difference between the feelings of the human soul, in, for instance, the eleventh or twelfth centuries, and those of the of the human soul of to-day. As an example I tried to illuminate for you the soul of Bernard of Clairvaux in the twelfth century. Such examples might be multiplied, but before we go further in this direction, we will revert once more to the kernel of our question: What is it that prevents man from observing rightly how his various earth-lives differ in this respect?

He is chiefly prevented by the circumstance that, as constituted in the present earth-era, he has exceedingly little perception of his real ego, his true human self. But for certain hindrances, he would have quite a different idea of his nature and being, We will deal with these hindrances presently. For the moment I would like to point out, — you can take it, to begin with, simply as an hypothesis — how man would appear to himself if his real being were revealed to him.

If this were possible, he would above all notice a great and constant change in his personal life between birth and death. Looking back from whatever age — 20, 30, or 50 — towards his birth, he would see himself in perpetual metamorphosis. He would perceive by-gone changes morn clearly and realise hopefully that further changes are in store for him in the future. These I have mentioned in other lectures.

Because present-day man is too little inclined to realise himself as a soul-being, he has not much idea of how he has altered in the course of time. Strangely, but truly, his idea of himself is divided into two parts. He sees his bodily part on the one hand, a more or less constant factor in his life between birth and death. He is conscious, of course, that he “grows”, that he was tiny and became bigger, but that is almost all he knows consciously about his outer physical being. Take a simple example. You cut your nails — why? Because they grow. That shows, if you think about it, that a continual process of shedding takes place in your organism as regards the outer bodily part of it. In fact you drive that part out, so that in a certain time, at most in six or seven years, the material of the body is completely changed. You continually get rid of your material outfit. Man, however, is not conscious of this outer dissolution and continual reconstruction from within. Just fancy, how differently we should know ourselves, if we were conscious of how, as it were, we shed the external part of our physical body, dissolve it, and rebuild ourselves anew from within — we should be observing the metamorphosis of our own being!

Something else would be linked with this. If we really took into our consciousness that the body we bear is our possession for only seven years, that we have thrown off all we possessed of it before that, we should appear to ourselves much more spiritual. We should not have the deceptive notion, “I was a little child to begin with — then I grew bigger and different” — but we should know that though the material of the child-substance is somewhere, what has remained is not material, but absolutely super-substantial. If man could bring this metamorphosis into consciousness, he would be looking back at something retained ever since childhood. He would recollect himself as a spiritual being. If we knew what takes place in us, we should have much more spiritual conceptions of ourselves.

Yet again — suppose we looked at ourselves much less abstractly, we talk about ourselves as though we had a “Spiritual centre.” We speak of our Ego and we have the idea: “Our Ego was there in our childhood, and accompanied us further,” and so on; but we really picture it sinply as a kind of spiritual centre. If only we could rise to the other conception — that of outer dissolution and inner reconstruction — we could not help regarding the Ego as the efficacious, active cause of it. We should see ourselves as something very real and inwardly active. In short, we would look upon our Ego not as something abstract, but would survey its inwardly active work on our body, leading this from one metamorphosis to another. We should correct any erroneous conceptions which we cherish on the subject at present. They are even embodied in the expression of speech. We say “we grow,” because we have the notion that we were to begin with, children, and have grown taller; but the matter is not as simple as that. The truth is that in a tiny child the bodily and the soul-spiritual activities are experienced more as a unity wherein the head-organism and the reproduction-organism (sex-organism) are closely associated. The two experiences of head and body separate later, becoming alien to one another. The material organism of childhood does not increase, for it is thrown off, dissolved; but the two poles of our own being grow wider apart. By this means, later on, in a fully formed body, in which the poles have separated from one another, our substance is organised from within. It seems to us as mere growth, but that is not so; we are organised inwardly, therefore we are connected with different outward things in earlier and later periods of life. As time goes on, the head-organism needs to move itself further away from the immediate earth-forces. The head rises; conseouently, we “grow.”

All these conceptions would change if we accepted the actual truth — which we do not do. We leave out of account the constantly changing body, the body that is always becoming differen:t we ignore it and imagine that it grows of itself and becomes larger; and so we fail to notice what a rich, mobile, living, inward entity is the ego, which works on us unceasingly between birth and death. Such a conception would give us a really coherent idea of ourselves if we could but grasp it, but modern man is not capable of that. This is to some extent connected with the destiny of the human race, with the whole development of our epoch. Man does not really identify himself with his living, active, ego, which actually builds his organism from year to year, but he divides it; on the one side he looks at his organism, which he imagines to be solid and enduring, and on the other at his ego, which he makes into an abstraction, a figure of straw. Such a man says: We have on the one side a sense-organism, a bodily one, through which we cannot approach things because they can only make “impressions” on us: the essential nature of the thing does not reveal itself to us at all; the “thing-in-itsef!” cannot be apprehended, we have only phenomena. Certainly, to look on the body as enduring substance gives this argument some justification. Then he looks at this insubstantial ego and says: There, within, there is something like a “feeling of duty,” and he sums it up as the “categorical imperative.” The unity is split up. If we thus divide the unity in human nature, criticising it from two sides, we become followers of Kant. What I am now saying goes into the very depths of present-day human thought.

Man of this age is little fitted to comprehend himself as a complete being in the word. He divides himself in the way I have described. The result is that we never contemplate our real soul-being with the eye of the spirit, or we would see that this part of ourselves is what continually works upon and changes the body. We look merely at the abstract body and the abstract ego and do not trouble about what the whole undivided human being may be. To become aware of that would at once lead us to recognise that this undivided being is different from incarnation to incarnation. The true, genuine human ego, concealed as it is, hidden at present from the soul's gaze, differs from life to life. Of course, if we are thinking of the abstraction, “ego,” not of the concrete human ego, we cannot arrive at the idea of the ego being so different from life to life. The result of thinking abstractly in this way is that things which are in any way similar are ultimately reduced to a featureless uniformity. Souls of course are similar in successive earth-lives; but on the other hand, they also differ, because from life to life a man passes through the course of human development. Because man does not in truth behold either the mutability of his body, or the real, whole activity of his ego, he does not see his true being. This is, as it were, a golden rule for gaining real knowledge of man and insight into his nature. And why?

The answer to this question lies in what you know of the Ahrimanic and Luciferic elements. We divide our being in such a way that on the one side we place our body, which we regard as having been small once and having expanded and grown, whereas it has in reality continually renewed itself. What is it that appears to us if we look at the body in this way? The Ahrimanic element, active within ourselves. But this Ahrimanic element is not our real human being; it belongs to the species and indeed remains the same though all ages. Therefore in looking at the body, we are really looking at our Ahrimanic part, and this is all that modern scientific anthropology describes in man. That is one thing we see — the corporeal part of ourselves, which we hare conceived of as being dense. The other is the abstract ego, which is in reality fluctuating, living strongly within us only; while we form a conception of ourselves, between birth and death. There we have our individual education, our uselessness and also our value, — there we survey our own personal life between birth and death; but we do not see our ego as it is in reality, as it works upon the metamorphoses of our physical body; we see it as Lucifer shows it to as, rarified. We see our physical part materialised, densified by Ahriman; our soul-spiritual part rarified by Lucifer.

If this was not so, if we did not divide ourselves so that one pole of our being is Ahrimanic and the other Luciferic, we should have a much more intimate connection with the dead who are always among us, because we should be more closely related to the spirituel world. We should comprehend the complete reality, to which belongs also the world in which man is after he passes through the gate of death, and before he returns to this world through the gate of conception.

Thus we never have our real being before us, but on the one side the physical-corporeal Ahrimanic phantom, on the other the soul-spiritual Luciferic phantom; two phantoms, two delusive images of ourselves, yet between that, imperceptible to us, lives the real man, that being to which we must refer when we say “man,” because this is the true man, progressing from life to life.

We must in all seriousness consider what this means for human knowledge. In this way we shall come to understand why it could be imagined that throughout the various epochs man remains the same. What we see are the incorrect thoughts about man; on the one side the idea of what does remain true to the species through long ages, and on the other, the real soul-spiritual psychic being, which is supposed not to extend beyond the life between birth and death. An understanding of how the soul-spiritual element alters the body from year to year would lead to a grasp of the mighty transition which occurs when it envelopes itself in the physical-corporeal through conception or leaves it again through death. We pay no heed to the work performed by the soul-Spiritual element on the body.

All this can be expressed in a different way. What we conceive of as our complete organism is but a small part of what we are as human beings. We only “dwell” in this organism. What we are accustomed to look upon as our organism, densified through Ahriman as we see it, has its real origin much more in our last incarnation than in this one. From the various studies of this year and former years you will gather that your physiognomy, in its present form, results from your preceding incarnation, your last earth-life. In a person's physiognomy we can really see a connection with his former life. Everything belonging to the physical corporeal organism is much more deeply connected with the last life than with the present one. Man of to-day is easily beguiled into saying: inasmuch as we have had no previous life, it cannot give us our present form, whether great or small. That is only self-persuasion. If we were to understand ourselves correctly, we should be obliged to look back to a former life. Paying attention to what forms our organism, in the way I have set forth, would bring enlightenment. A sudden light would be thrown on what we ourselves cannot form, and we would see how it has been formed by an earlier life. We can really have insight into someone if we know how his soul-spiritual part has fashioned his organism. This comes forth, as it were, out of his personality, and behind it remains what Ahriman makes visible as the result of th earlier embodiment.

For anyone who is accustomed to look upon man as a real living being, it is, when meeting a fellow-man, as though an entity emerged from him. Ths entity is his present self: only as a rule it is invisible. The other entity remains a little behind the first, and this it is which was formed from the past life. In the emerging entity something soon presents itself. At first, this entity is, I might say, perfectly transparent, but it rapidly becomes opaque, because the soul-spiritual element, appearing as an active power, densifies the entity which has just emerged. And then appears something else, which seems to be a seed for the ensuing earth-life.

For him who can perceive the connections, present-day man is seen as threefold. All sorts of myths convey this in their symbols. Call to mind numerous descriptions in which three consecutive generations are set forth, obviously to illustrate the threefold nature of man. Remember many of the renderings of Isis, also various Christian portrayals in which three figures are described as belonging together. Man's threeford nature is what is really meant. Of course a materialistic interpretation is possible — “Grandmother, Mother and Child,” if you like; but the threefold character is put there because it corresponds to a reality which can be perceived. We can most truly picture earlier times if we divest ourselves of the fantastic ideas of modern learning (which always tries to spin a meaning round pictorial representations), and take notice of what humanity's perceptions were in a past not so very far behind us, and how these were expressed artistically.

This kind of consideraticn is of the utmost importance. if we are to bring home to ourselves that the Christ, Who went through the Mystery of Golgotha, has His relation (of which we speak so often), to the true human ego. If we consider St. Paul's words, “Not I, but Christ in me,” this “in me” refers to the true, hidden ego, invisible to view as yet. Man must in a sense look on it as a Spiritual being if he would find the right connectiona with the Christ. One would like to know how certain passages in the Gospels can possibly be understood, if this is not taken into account. For instance, the passage at the very beginning of the Gospel of St. John, where John speaks as go the Christ came to man as to the abode where He belongs. The (German) translators usually construe it “He came unto His own estate, and his own people received Him not,” yet the Gospel goes on to say: “But to as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His Name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John I. 12,13.). And it is made quite clear that He desired to come to all men who had this consciousness; yet those without, indeed all men, are certainly born “of blood” and “of the will of man”. The being I have been describing as the “true man”, not born of blood nor of the will of man, comes indeed from the spiritual world, and clothes himself in physical heredity. The Gospel is speaking of the man of whom I have told you to-day, and that is why it is so difficult to understand and is so erroneously expounded, fettered as it is by the conceptions current, to-day. Without the conceptions conveyed by Spiritual Science, the underlying, aspects of the Gospels cannot be understood; with them, a sudden light breaks in.

In respect of all these relationships, something tremendous happened at the Mystery of Golgotha for the evolution of humanity. Before then, as you know, the complete human ego lived differently in the body. The Mystery of Golgotha marked a point of time in which the whole consciousness of man was changed, as the result of the Union of the Christ-Being with earthly evolution. Now the time has , for an increasing comprehension of the Mystery of Golotha and its conneetion with mankind.

A knotty point for the many expositors of the Gospels, for instance, is the saying which, however epressed or translated., always has the same ring — the saying that “The Kingdom of Heaven has descended.” Amongst those who have entirely misconceived this expression is H.P. Blavatsky, who seized upon it and asserted that Christians therefore maintained that with the Mystery of Golgotha a sort of heavenly kingdom had come down to earth, and yet nothing different has happened — the ears of corn and the cherries have not become twelve times is large, etc.; intimating that on the physical earth nothing is altered. This “descent of the Kingdom of Heaven,” of the spiritual kingdom, crates great difficulties for many commentators of the Gospels, because they do not clearly understand it. The meaning really is that until the Mystery of Golgotha, men had to experience what they could of the spiritual on the physical plane by means of atavistic clairvoyance. After that, they had to lift themselves up to the spiritual, and discern things in the Spirit, which really has drawn near to them. There is no need for the word-spinning arguments which are brought forward from all quarters; the' truth must be recognised, and this truth is as follows: —

The effect for men of Christ having passed through the Mystery of Golgotha is that they can no longer receive spiritual life mearly through the fact of their physical existence, but only by living in the spiritual world. Anyone who now lives only in the physical world, is no longer living on the earth, but below the earth; because from the Mystery of Golotha onwards, the possibility is given us of living in the spirit. The spiritual kingdom has in truth come among us. Taken in this sense; the expression is at once understood, but only in connection with the Christ. This, however, was to be temporarily hidden. As man made the effort to acquire it, it would be gradually communicated to him; and only by gaining insight into it can the real course of, modern history since the Mystery of Golgotha be understood. Christianity, as it had come into the world through the Mystery of Golgotha, was in its early centuries implanted in the Gnosis, which was then more or less still in existence. It embodied very spiritual views of the real nature of Christ Jesus. Then the Church took on a defined form. This form can be traced historically, but you must bear in mind what its task was from the third, fourth, fifth century onwards. The explanation now given must not on any account be misunderstood. Spiritual Science, as here advocated, stands on the ground of genuine, active tolerance for all existing religious revelations. Spiritual Science must therefore be able to discover the relative truth of the different religious creeds. It is not that Spiritual Science leans more or less sympathetically towards this or that creed; its aim is to distinguish the truth contained in the different religious denominations; it weighs them all with care, and refuses to be one-sided. Spiritual Science must not be proclaimed as leaning towards this or that Creed: it is the Science of the Spirit. It can for instance, fully appreciate that it is a pity that for many people the inner content of Catholic ritual is lost. It knows how to appreciate the special virtues of Catholic ritual in relation to the course of civilisation, and also that a certain artistic output is closely related to Catholic ritual, which indeed is only a continuation of certain other religious creeds, much more so than is commonly thought. In this ritual there resides a deep element of the Mysteries. However, what I have to say essentially concerns sonething else, at all events not the Catholic ritual, which has its full inner justification as an extraordinary impulse for human creative achievement. What I now have to set forth is this: that ecclesiastical forms were given certain tasks — which are indeed still theirs to a certain extent, but were given for the most part at the time when such ardent souls as Bernard of Clairvaux found their way to their God through the Church. We must always discriminate between the Churches and such personalities as Bernard of Clairvaux and multitudes of others. What then, was the task of the Church? Its task was to keep souls as far away as possible from an understanding of Christ, to bring it about that souls should not approach too near to Him: The history of Church-life in the third or fourth century, and later on, is substantially the story of the estrangement of the human mind from a comprehension of the Mystery of Golgotha; in the development of the Church there is a certain antagonism towards an understanding of Christ. This negative task of the Church has its justification in the fact that men must always strive anew through the force of their own minds and souls to reach the Christ, and fundamentally through all these centuries man;s approach to the Christ has been a continual struggle of the individual against ecclesiasticism. Even with such men as Bernard of Clairvaux, it was so. Study even Thomas Aquinas. He was reckoned a heretic by the orthodox; he was interdicted, and only later did the Church adopt his teaching. The path to Christ was really always a “defensive action” against the Church, and only slowly and gradually could men win their way to Christ. We have but to think, for instance, of Petrus Waldus, the founder of the so-called sect of the “Waldenses,” and his associates in the twelfth century, none of whom at that time had any knowledge of the Gospel. The spreading of Church-life had come on without the Gospels. Just think of it! From those around Petrus Waldus a few persons were chosen who could translate something of the Gospels; thus they learnt to know the Gospels, and as they learnt, a holy, lofty Christian life flowed to them from the Gospels. The outcome was that Petrus Waldus was declared a heretic by the Pope, against the will of his contemporaries. Up to this time a certain amount of gnostic knowledge had spread even in Europe, as for instance among the “Catharists” translated as “Purified Ones;” it was directed to acquiring concepts, concrete concepts, about the Christ and the Mystery theof Golgotha. From the standpoint of the official Church this was not allowed, therefore the Catharists were heretics: “hetzer” (German for “heretic”) is only an alteration of their neme — it is the same word.

It is very necessary to take that of which I am now speaking in its full strictness, in order to distinguish the path of Christianity from that of the Church, and thus to grasp how, in our age, through the principles of Spiritual Science, a way must be paved tothe true Christ, to the real Christ-concept. Very many features of the present day become clear when we realise that not all that called itself Christian was intended to communicate the understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha, but that much was even intended to hinder that understanding, to raise a barrier against it. Does this barrier exist to this day? Indeed it does! I would like to give you a case in point.

Manifold endeavours, including that of Protestantism, were always in opposition to the Church, because the Church in many ways had the task of erecting a barrier against the understanding of Christ, and men could do no other than strive for that understanding. Petrus Waldus felt that need when he had recourse to the Gospels. Until then, there was only the Church — not the Gospels. Even now, many strange opinions are held about this relation of the Church to the Gospels. I want to read you a passage from a modern writer, very characteristic of this state of things, from which you will recognise that the opinion which condemnned Petrus Waldus to excommunication is deeply rooted even now. Take it as an example of what is being said even to-day:

“The Gospels and Epistles are for us incomparable written records of revelation but they are neither the foundation on which our Faith was built, nor the unique source from which the content of the latter is spontaneously created. In our view the Church is older than the sacred writings; from her hand we receive them, she guarantees their trustworthiness, and as regards the dangers of hand-written transcriptions, and of the changing of the text in translation into all languages of the earth, the Church is the only authoritative interpreter of the sense and import of every particular utterance.” (“The Principles of Catholicism and Science”, by George von Hertling, Freiburg 1899.)

This means that the actual content of the Gospels is irrelevant; all that matters is what the Church declares is to be found in them. I have to say this, for the simple reason that even in our own circles there is much simple mindedness on the subject. Again and again one hears the view that it would be useful if we could approach the Catholic Church, saying that our interpretation is entirely favourable to the Christ. But that would not help us at all, it would only blacken us in the eyes of the Church, because she allows nothing to be upheld about the Christ, or about any conclusions beyond those of Natural Science, unless the Church herself recognises it as in agreement with her doctrine. Whoever among us upholds a conception of Christ, and believes thereby to vindicate himself in the eyes of the Church, really accuses himself — is indeed regarded as having done so, because he has no right to declare anything about the Christ from any other source than the Church's owm doctrine .

The same author from whose work I have just read, speaks very clearly on the subject: “Believers are in just the same position as is the investigator of nature with the facts of exoerience.” He means that the believer must receive what the Church dictates to him about the spiritual world, just as the eyes take in the facts of nature.

“He must neither take anything away nor add anything, he must take it as it stands; above all the very purest reception of the true content of the matter is expected of him. The truths of revelation are something given, for him who grasps them in faith. For him, they are conclusive and complete. No enrichment of them has been possible since Christ: their volume cannot to decreased, and any change in their content is out of the question”.

So speaks one who subscribes fully to the genuine orthodox Catholic view — a view which must dissociate itself, for instance, with a certain aversion from any train of thought such as Lessing's, which leads-towards a renewed search for the Spiritual. Lessing's views went as far as to embrace repeated earth-lives; they are a product of modern spiritual life. The bitterest opposition is bound to exist between the Catholic Church and such Cerman spiritual life as flowed through Lessing, Herder, Goethe and Schiller. This same person (von Hertling) writes further:

“The edifice of Church dcctrine, as it appears to the Theologian of to-day and is presented by him, was not complete and ready-made from the beginning. What Christ imparted to the Apostles, what they proclaimed to the world, was not a methodical, fully prepared system, developed at all points: it was a rich store of truths, all united as in a focus in one event of sacred history: the story of the Redemption, of the Incarnation of the Divine Logos; but the instruction of the believers, and the necessary defence against heathen assaults, as well as against the misrepresentations of heretics, made it necessary tc unite these truths in a system, to develop their full content, to determine their purport. — This was done by the unwearying proclamation of the doctrine by those specially chosen as instruments, according to the Catholic interpretation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but at the same time vith the co-operation of the learning of the early Church.

“No new language was creeted by this revelation, but what was already current was used; the sense and meaning of individual words being recoined and heightened. Theology, which undertook to think out the content of Revelation while setting it in order for expository purposes, needed for the task certain tools and resources: sharply circumscribed ideas for organising the subject-matter; special exnression for making comprehensible relationships which far exceeded the experience of everyday life. A new task in the history of the world thereby devolved upon Greek philosophy. It had the vessels ready Prepared, into which an infinitely richer content, springing from a higher source, was to be poured. Platonism was the first source of this creative work. The drift of its speculation on the super-sensible distinctly singled it out for the task. Much later, after the lapse of more than a thousand years, when the most important essentials of revelation had at last been formulated in dogma, the close union of theological science with Aristotelian philosophy was completed and exists to this day”.

(Because, therefore, the philosophy of Aristotle was united with the Church as long ago as the Middle Ages, its value for the Church today is beyond question!)

“With its help, the sainted Thomas Aquinas, the greatest master of system known in history, raised the great edifice of doctrine, which, only modified here and there in detail, has determined Catholic theology as to form, expression and method of teaching ever since.”

The author in question regards what he calls Church doctrine as having come about by means of a certain union between the Christian wisdom-element and Greek Aristotelian Philosophy. He does recognise the possibility that in a very distant future, (he says expressly “in a future by no means near as yet”), Christianity might be approached through quite different ideas He says: Supposing that Christianity had not been spread abroad throurth Greek philosophy, but as it might have been, through the Indian, it would have come forth in an entirely different form. However, it must remain in the form it has received: it must not, be changed by any novel view, arising in modern times. But he in certainly aware that there are points where he is treading on thin ice: —

“I am only against a spiritual disposition which, in realms where full freedom is accorded to Scientific investigation, is deaf to all the fundamental objections, and holds fast to tradition.”

Yet he holds strongly enough to tradition!

And finally, it is then necessary to give way, as was done in the case of the Copernican system."

That waseonly in 1827! He turns away from legitimate endeavours to understand Christianity afresh, with a modern consciousness. That is remarkably little to his taste. He says:

“I could conceive that a far-distant future might loosen the union of Theology and Aristotelian philosophy, replacing it's no longer comprehensible or satisfying concepts with others, which would correspond to a knowledree improved in many ways.” He “could conceive” — that what nobody in any case understands to-day might be replaced by something equally incomprehensible.

“It would not be offending against the warning of the Gospel, because it would not be pouring new wine into old skins, for on the contrary new vessels would be produced, to preserve therein the never-failing wine of the doctrine of salvation, in its essential character, and to purvey it to the faithful.”

But that must not happen. He goes on:

“But the vessels must be chosen ones. The attempts made by Cartesianism in the seventeenth century, and by the philosnphy of Kant and Hegel in the nineteenth, exhort us to prudence. A school of ideas which would replace Aristotelianism would have to arise, just as that did, From fulness of knowledge and contemporary consciousness.”

Then these same men would oppose it, because they at any rate are not the offspring of “fulness of knowledge and contemporary consciousness”.

“It would have to acquire equal authority over wide circles of thinking humanity, and even then its transformation into ecclesiastical theology would hardly be attained without errors and perplexities on all hands.”

It would be necessary to “labour” to bring about understanding. “As, for instance, in the thirteenth century, when through the Arabs the complete philosophy of Aristotle was brought to the Christian West. Its reception aroused severe opposition. Even a Thomas Aquinas was not spared hostility. He was held by many to be an innovator, against whom the champions of the well-tried old order had to marshal their forces.”

It is remarkable how it is with this principle of over coming an old way of understanding. “Christianity — men may think it quite a good principle, but they absolutely will not admit its validity in their own epoch. It cannot be said that such a thing is done in simplicty. It is very learned, for the pamphlet concludes with a really significant reference — a reference to an Order which has at all times had reputation for shrewdness — a brotherhood which has a different standing from that of Bernard of Clairvaix or Francis ef Assisi, whose reputation rested or a certain mystical tendency. This other Order reckoned mystical piety aad such-like of less value than a certain shrewdness and understanding of worldly affairs. Hence the pamphlet says in conclusion:

“I end with an utterance of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which has been incorporated into the constitution of the Jesuit Order, and has ben referred to of late in different quarters: “Scientific pursuits, if they are undertaken with pure stiving in the service of God, are on that account, because they comprehend the whole of humanity, not less, but more pleasing to God than pennance.”

The endeavour has been made in our own time to awaken clear understanding on all sides. I will prove this to you by an example. I have been reading to you from this author so that you may see the position taken up by those who hold certain views, as regards a movement I was describing. This attitude of theirs was perceived by a writer who published a short time ago, (it is importent to note that it is of recent date) an article on the author of this pamphlet. I will read an extract from it:

“At the Conference in 1893, on the subjct of Catholic Science and the position of Catholic savants at the present day this declaration was made:

“We Catholic-Scientists of the nineteenth century are convinced that there is no antagonism between Science and Faith, but that they are ordained to combine in inner harmony. We are convinced that no two sides of truth exist, or can exist. God is the source of all truth; He has spoken to us through the Prophets and the incararnated Logos; He speaks to us through the ordained ministry of the Church, and no less in the laws of logic, which we must hold to when we strive for knowledge of the truths of Nature. eBcause God cannot contradict Hinself, therfore no antagonism can exist between supernatural and natural truths; between the teachings of revelation and a science which earnestly, honestly brings to light the laws and the rules of method.”

“This really means, however, that philosophy is reduced to silence. Its freedom is just the same for us as that of a flock of sheep in its enclosure, or the prisoners within walls. Philosophy, as regards its own principles, is just as little free under the determining, limiting rule of faith as they — who are allowed to walk about on their own feet, to use their own-hands and to move as they like, but in a strictly — enclosed space. The phrase “Catholic philosophy” embodies a direct contradiction, for by its own account of itself it is not unconditionally free.”

If our Spiritual Science were not independent, it would not be what it ought to be.

“Catholic philosophy has to follow a prescribed line of march. A philosophy claiming to be based. on scientific method must hold firm, regardless of consequences, to nothing outside the results of its own researches and its own thinking. It is bound by strict rules of investigation and verification, and is forbidden to take its stand within any particular religion or on any point of ecclesiastical dogma. Otherwise it is not science but unscientific dogmatism, governed not by principles of knowledge, but by faith and the power of faith. In that case it does not go its way unhindered and uninfluenced, nor does it follow impartially its own laws, but it acknowledges as a matter of course an ordained truth, and, in relation to that, resigns its independence.” (Dr. Bernhard Münz. “The German Imperial Chancellor as Philosopher” in the “Austrian Review”, 15th April 1918.)

That is precisely the task of the present time, to find the way for every hman being to stand on his own feet. A man who maintains such things as you have just heard quoted stands in sharpest contradiction to this task. There are neople who see that such opinions preclude any possibility of a scientific view of the universe; but it seems very difficult at the present time to prove the impartiality of one's judgment, however necessary it may be. The further progress of civilisation will depend on men comin to learn how in their soul-being they are connected with the Spiritual world; whoever shuts his eyes to this, hinders the most important task of his own day. There is no escape from this conclusion. The remarkable thing to-day is that people can look at the matter, and in a marvellous way draw other conclusions from it. The author of this article writes of the man from whose pamphlet I have read to you, which culminated in the confession of Jesuitism. The “subject” of the article is Georg von Hertling, now “Count” Hertling. — The author of the article, however, in spite of having said that the outlook he is criticising “excludes all science”, adds in conclusion:

“Count Hertling is a decided, strongly-marked individuality. Individuality literally means indivisibility, but in this case it implies divisibility, inner blending, universal organisation. Individual soul, family soul, and nation-soul meet and are accentuated side by side in this man: this trinity-of soul it is that makes him so strong and stamps him as the predestined Chancellor of the German Empire.” A need of our time is to find a way of touching the nerve through which the current of Spiritual Science must flow, and this can be none other than the one which enables the soul to find its onn way to the spiritual world. This must be thoroughly understood, for it is bound un with the deepest needs, the most indispensible impulses, our age. Our time demands of man that he should be able, in noticing a thing, to admit it, and to draw the real conclusions from it. Spiritual Science can be genuine only in those who have the courage to face truth and to maintain it; otherwise such experiences as I have described will become more frequent. I must add this, because more and more simple minds are to be found amongst us who hear with joy any praise of Spiritual Science, or what appears like it. Discrimination precisely in these very points is necessary. “Praise” can be far more hurtful and run far more counter to our efforts, than adverse criticism, when honestly meant.

Hermann Heisler, a protestant theologian, gave seventeen sermons in Constance and published them afterwards under the title of “Vital questions of the Day”. By chance a characteristic review of his book fell into my hands, and our unsophisticated friends would perhaps count it as something to be pleased with, inasmuch as it is unadulterated praise:

“These sermons deserve particular attention, on account of their authorship. Heisler was for ten years an evangelical Pastor in Styria and Bohemia, then, alarmed at the danger of becoming numbed by the routine of his office, resigned it for the time being, in order to devote himself for a year to studying the fundamentals of natural science and philosophy. Finally, urged by an inner call, he returned to his spiritual sphere with new joyfulness and love. As he could not serve his country with the colours, he offered his spiritual services to the Church of his native Baden, and was entrusted with a cure of souls at Constance, where these seventeen addresses were given in 1917. They are remarkable as regards their substance. They are all based on deep spiritual effort, and expect hearers and readers alike to share in it. They are not, designed to arouse beautiful feelings but to lead through earnest thinkins to convinced knowledge. They avoid the sermonising tone, and read almost like scientific treatises developed in a popular way about religious problems. I would instance the sermon on that many-sided conception, freedom. It arrives at the true conclusion: ‘Of course there always remains as absolute necessity which directs us. Even as free human beings, we still follow the aim which most attracts us; but the divine gift of freedom which Christ brings us is that the lower attractions of the sense-world lose their constraining power over our souls, and the majesty of the spiritual world gains inner sovereignty over us.’ ” The peculiar feature of Heisler's preaching, however, does not lie in the powerful grasp of his thinking, but in its special content: Heisler is a convinced, inspired Theosophist. He himself would rather use the term, “follower of Spiritual Science”. That must not be confused with the spiritualistic belief in the materialisation of spirits. It calls for a purely spiritual activity, bound to no material means. Our thoughts are forces, which, invisible yet powerful, stream out from us and impress the seal of our being on the whole of Nature, beneficially or the reverse. This belief in the imperishable power of the spirit is set forth for our comfort in the address, ‘Our Dead are Alive;’ it takes an amazing form in the one on ‘Destiny.’ Based on the account in St. John's Gospel of the man born blind, the old Indian and Orphic doctrines of the soul's pilgrimage, its reincarnation in an earthly body, is taught; the preacher would thereby solve the riddle of how fate so often seems unjust, and, like Lessing in his “Education of the Human Race,” would arouse a belief in a carefully planned divine education of humanity. When I add that Heisler looks upon this teaching, indeed on all his Spiritual Science, as a return to the New Testamet, lecturinrg upon it as science, and consciously overstepping the Kantian boundary between knowledre and faith, I have sketched his schene of thoght it its main features.”

“Well, we might say, what more is wanted! Really nothing better could be written! But the author of the review concludes his considerations thus: “I myself reject this Spiritual Science and abide by Kant; but after all, the sermons contain so much that is good, and Theosophy is for the moment agitating theology in so significant a way, (cf. for example, Rittlemeyer's writings in the Christliche Welt), that I believe I do many theologians and laity a service by drawing attention emphatically to these addresses.” (D. Schuster in “The Hanover Courier”, 18th July, 1913.)

That is often the way of thought in our age: inner force and courage are lacking in it. The man has “nothing but good” to say; one notices that he has insight into the good, because he can define it in charming words; but then — “I personally reject this Spiritual Science”! There you have the fruits of what I began by describing, and much in the present time is connected with these “fruits”. In the next lecture I will deal further with the tendency I have been discussing, and its effpcts in social democacy and Bolshevism.

Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com