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

Highlight Words

The Cosmic New Year

Schmidt Number: S-3956

On-line since: 18th July, 2002



1st January, 1920.

Meeting you today with New Year Greetings, I should like to express the wish that each one of you may realize in the depth of his soul how great and insistent are the demands of the present moment as regards the evolution of mankind, and that, as a result of this realization, each one in his own place may co-operate as far as he can, in bringing to fulfilment that of which mankind stands in such need. At this time of year, expressing as it does symbolically the meeting of past and future, I should like, by way of introduction to our New Year contemplation, which rightly is also a contemplation of the whole course of time, to recall some passages from essays which I wrote more than thirty years ago and which are shortly to be published. Although connected with personal experiences, these essays have a definite significance if we want to look into the whole spiritual condition of the present day. My purpose in writing them was, as you will notice, to rouse the conscience of the German people, to give expression to that which could be perceived even then, as fundamentally lacking in the spiritual life of the German nation. I will read to you some passages from one of these essays entitled “The Spiritual Mark of the Present Day”. These passages refer to what was taking place more than thirty years ago, to a past which was then the present. I wrote in the very midst of the spiritual life prevailing at that time, amid symptoms which showed themselves most markedly in the life of thought of the German nation. I wrote: “It is with a shrug of the shoulders that our generation recalls the period when a philosophic current ran through the whole spiritual life of the German people. The mighty impulse of the times, seizing men's minds at the end of last century (i.e., the eighteenth century) and the beginning of this one, and boldly facing the highest imaginable tasks, is now looked upon as a regrettable aberration. If anyone dares to raise an objection when the conversation turns upon Fichte's fantasies, or Hegel's insubstantial play of thoughts and words, he is regarded by his listeners as a mere amateur, who has as slight an idea of the spirit of modern scientific investigation, as he has of the thoroughness and seriousness of philosophic methods. Kant and Schopenhauer at best are tolerated by our contemporaries. It is apparently possible to trace back to Kant the somewhat scanty philosophic crumbs used by modern science as foundational; and Schopenhauer, besides his strictly scientific works, also wrote a few things in a light style, on subjects accessible to people with a limited spiritual horizon. An open mind for that striving towards the loftiest heights of the world of thought, an understanding for that soaring of the spirit which in the realms of science went parallel with our classic period of culture — this is lacking now. The serious side of this phenomenon only appears when we take into consideration that a persistent turning away from that spiritual goal implies for the German people the loss of their own Self, a breaking away from the Spirit of the Nation. For that striving sprang from a deep need in the German nature. It does not enter our mind to wish to deny the manifold mistakes and one-sided fallacies which Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, Oken, and others, committed in their bold inroads into the kingdom of idealism. But the impulse which in all its grandeur inspired them should not be misunderstood. It is the impulse most fitting for a nation of thinkers. The German nation is not characterized by that living sense for immediate reality, or the outward aspect of Nature, which enabled the Greeks to create their wonderful and imperishable works of art. Among the Germans there is instead, an unceasing urge of the spirit toward the cause of things, toward the apparently hidden, deeper origins of the Nature which surrounds us. Just as the Greek spirit found expression in its wonderful world of plastic forms, so the German, more concentrated within himself, less open to Nature but on that account more with his own heart, cherishing intercourse with his own inner world, sought his conquests in the world of pure thought. The way, therefore, in which Fichte and his successors looked upon the world and life was truly German. This is why their teachings were so enthusiastically received; this is why, for a time, they held the whole life of the nation enthralled. This is why we must not break with their spiritual leading. Our solution of the difficulty should be to overcome mistakes, while continuing the natural course of development on the lines laid down at that time. Not what these spirits found or thought to find, is of lasting value, but how they faced the problems.”

At the time when this essay was written the German nation had to be shown these truths, which were threatening to disappear from their field of vision. We were living then in another age than the present, an age in which, had we willed it, it might still have been possible for certain circles to unite with the spirit, then at the beginning of its decline, and thus to prepare the way for an all-pervading and lasting development of the human impulse. Indeed, at that time it ought to have been possible to find such people, amongst those who called themselves leaders of the nation, amongst those who prepared the younger generation for later life. There were no experiments, then, of the kind now coming to the fore in Russia. At that time (in Germany) those who educated the young, still had the chance of turning back to the aims and intentions of the old spiritual life, causing it to rise again in the new form. But no one was willing to listen in the least to any voice urging that a real, spiritual striving should rise to life again amongst men. Every opinion that had taken firm hold amongst the lower or higher ranks of the nation's teachers during the preceding thirty years, was an attack directed against the aims and intentions of a spiritual world-conception.

I should recall that when I wrote this essay, I had already published my views on Goethe's World Conception, on Goethe's scientific ideas. I had pointed out two great dangers in the domain of thought, in the field of active scientific investigation. I coined at that time two expressions defining the two great foes of human spiritual progress. On the one hand I spoke of the “Dogma of Revelation”, and on the other hand of the “Dogma of mere Experience”. I wished to show that the one-sided cultivation of the dogma of revelation, as it had developed in the religious confessions, was just as pernicious as the continual hammering upon the so-called dogmas of experience, i.e., continually insisting only upon all that the external sense-world, the world of material facts, offers to scientists and sociologists. In the course of time the task arose of rendering these thoughts more concrete, of pointing out the real forces behind this or that phenomenon.

What, then, lies behind in everything brought to our notice when the dogma of revelation is mentioned? Today, in an all-embracing sense, all that lies behind what we term Luciferic influences in the course of mankind's evolution. And behind the dogma of experience, lies everything that we term, again in an all-embracing sense, the Ahrimanic influences in human evolution. In the present age, he who wishes to lead men only under the influence of the dogma of revelation, leads them in the Luciferic direction; he who wishes instead to lead men, as scientists would do, only according to the dogma of external sense-experience, leads them in the Ahrimanic direction. Is it not a fitting New Year's contemplation in these serious times of ours, to review the last thirty or forty years, and to point out how necessary it still is today to repeat the call of that time, to raise it anew, but far more strongly? The outward course of events during these last thirty or forty years has shown clearly the justification of that call; for he who without prejudice looks at what has happened, must say to himself: “There would not be today's misery and want, had that call become a reality in the hearts of the people of Central Europe at that time.” At that time it sounded in vain. Today the Holy Roman Congregation meets it with the Decree of the 18th July, 1919, and the chief clergy announce from their pulpits that Anthroposophy is not to be read in my books because the Pope forbids it. Information concerning it can be obtained from the writings of my opponents. This pronouncement takes place simultaneously with negotiations for the establishment of a Roman Catholic Nuntiate in Berlin under the auspices of a Berlin Government with socialistic leanings! Here, again, is something that shows the spiritual mark of the age. Would that today one could really appeal to the innermost heart-forces of those who are still capable of feeling something of the spiritual impulses in human evolution, so that they may wake up, so that they may see how things really stand. The all-important thing today is that man should be able to find himself. But to find our own Self requires confidence in our own strength of soul. Little is attained amongst men today, by appealing to this confidence in their own strength of soul. People want, on the one hand, the support of something which constrains them from within to think and to will what is right, or, on the other hand, the support of something which constrains them from without to think and to will what is right. In some way we always find these two extremes in men; they never wish to pull themselves together, to strive with active forces towards the balance between these two extremes.

Let us reconsider this spiritual mark of the present day, about to become the social and material mark. Let us reconsider it to some extent. We hear the old Marxist call rising in the East of Europe: “A social order must be established among men, where everyone can live according to his individual capacities and needs; a social order must be evolved where the individual capacities of each man can be taken into full consideration and where the justifiable needs of every single person can be satisfied.” Taken in the abstract, no objection whatever can be raised against this saying. But on the other hand, we hear a personality like Lenin saying: “Among people of today such a social order cannot be founded; it is only possible to establish a transitory social order; it is only possible to establish something which is injustice” — of course in the widest sense of the word. Injustice is indeed present to an absurd extent in everything that Lenin and his followers establish. For Lenin and his followers believe that only by passing through a transitory social order, can a new human race be produced, a race not yet in existence; only when the race is there, will it be possible to introduce the social order where everyone will be able to employ his capacities, where everyone will be able to live according to his needs. This, then, is what they are aiming at: the formation of a race of men not yet in existence, in order to realize an ideal which, as I have said, can be justified in the abstract.

Ought not enough people, when they hear of such a thing as this, be able to find themselves, and to grasp the whole seriousness of the present world-situation? Is it not time for this drowsiness to cease, when something of this kind appears before us pointing most significantly to the mark of the present day — this drowsiness which causes us to close our eyes a little, so that we do not grasp the whole significance of such a matter? Nothing will help us to reach a concrete insight into these things, except to abandon the paths of abstraction in the Spiritual life. And for this we must first really acquire the feeling that where there is only a flow of words and phrases about spirit and soul, there the talk is mere abstraction. We must be able to feel when spirit and soul are spoken of as reality. For example, speaking of human capacities: These arise as manifestations from out of man's inner being as the individual grows up. Through some of its leaders, mankind feels itself induced to develop accordingly these capacities and forces, which come to light in the growing human being. But in this domain our feelings are to be trusted only if we definitely perceive in the manifestation of these forces and capacities, a manifestation of the Divine; if we can say to ourselves: Man has come into this World of sense-realities out of a spirit-soul World of Being, and that which externalizes as human forces and capacities, and which we develop in ourselves and in others, comes from a spiritual world and is now placed in a physical human body. Now, consider the spiritual meaning of that which has been explained in this place for decades; it will show you that with the incorporation of human capacities and forces in the physical human body, Luciferic beings were given the possibility of approaching these human capacities and forces. No work whatsoever can be done in the sphere of human capacities and forces, be it in the form of self-activity or in the teaching of others, or in the furtherance of general culture, without coming into contact with the Luciferic forces. In that region which man has to go through before he enters physical existence through birth or conception, the Luciferic Power cannot directly approach the human capacities and forces. Embodiment in a physical human frame, is the means by which the Luciferic Powers are able to reach human capacities and forces. It is only if, without prejudice we look this fact in the face, that we assume a right attitude in life towards everything that surges up from human nature as individual capacities and forces. If we close our eyes to what is Luciferic, if we deny that it exists, then we succumb to it. Then the soul falls into that mood which desires above all to deliver itself up to some coercion from within, so that through all kinds of mystic or religious forces it can unburden itself of the necessity of calling upon its own free Self, or of seeking for the Divine in the world, within the development of its own free Self. Men do not want to think for themselves, they want some indefinite force from within to manifest itself, according to which they can argue logically. They do not want to experience truth; they only want to experience that inner force compelling them from within, manifesting itself in proof which does not appeal to experience, but appeals instead to a Spiritual Power which over-rules man, which compels him to think in this or in that way about Nature or about mankind himself. Men deliver themselves over to the Luciferic Powers, by calling up within themselves this inner compulsion, this inner power.

The means which can be used so that man shall appeal to this inner compulsion, so that he shall not rise to the free, upright position in the spiritual world, is to force him to think that there are no such three members of human nature as Body, Soul and Spirit; to forbid him, as actually happened in the Eighth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, to think that man consists of Body, Soul and Spirit, and bid him to put away all thoughts concerning the Spirit. These are inner connections which may not be overlooked any longer. We must face them today clearly and without prejudice. In the year 869 A.D., it was decided to forbid the belief in the Spirit in man. It was in that year that the downward slope towards Lucifer began in European civilization. And today we have the full result. Long enough has mankind yielded to the inclination not to experience truth, but to allow the compulsion of argument, of impersonal argument, to work upon him. As a result, mankind has fallen into the other extreme. There has been no real comprehension of human capacities and forces, no one wanted to own that, as I have just explained, Luciferic forces live in human capacities and forces, when these are embodied in a physical human frame. That false point of view — the ruling one in humanity today, concerning individual capacities and forces in human nature — has been the outcome.

Human needs, needs arising first out of his purely physical nature, constitute the other pole of man. In his Letters on aesthetics, Schiller has characterized these needs very finely, contrasting them with man's abstract logical power. He calls them the basic needs (“Notdurft”), whereas he characterizes logical compulsion as the other power, a power straying into spiritual regions. During that great period of German evolution, a personality such as Schiller, was on the point of grasping rightly the polaric contrasts in man. The time was not yet ripe for saying more than what Schiller, Goethe, and others like-minded had said. The necessity of building further upon this beginning has been laid upon our present age. If we continue to build, Anthroposophical Spiritual Science will arise. He who is only acquainted with the one-sided power of proof in the spiritual sphere, only learns to know in life the one-sided power of natural instincts in human needs. It is easy to imagine that when man with his capacities and powers enters the physical sense-world through conception or birth, and Lucifer hovers over him and from that which man himself ought to possess takes something on one side, the head-side of the man's being, there remains in man an inferior kind of power for the exercise of his independence in the sphere of his needs. Through that which Lucifer on the one hand takes for his own, Ahriman on the other hand attains the possibility of making his own that which works in the needs of human nature. The dogma of mere external sense-experience has paved the way for the complete Ahrimanization of mankind's sense-life of instinct during the last third of the nineteenth century. Modern man stands before a terrible fact today because he does not recognize that salvation lies in the state of balance between the two extremes, between capacities on the one side, and needs on the other side. The materialistic spirit in man makes him look on the body alone as that which produces capacities i.e., man looks merely on the Luciferic primal force of capacities. The capacities become Luciferic owing to their entrance into a human body. If man believes that capacities spring from the body, then man believes in Lucifer, and if man believes that needs spring from the human body, then man believes only in the Ahrimanic side of such needs.

And what experiment is being made in the East of Europe today under the guidance of the West? (This guidance is not only evident through the fact that Lenin and Trotsky are the spiritual disciples of the West, but also through the fact that Lenin was dispatched into Russia in a sealed railway carriage by Dr. Helphand, the German official who accompanied him. So that what is termed Bolshevism, is an article transported into Russia by a German Administration and the German military command.) What are they trying to attain in the civilization of Eastern Europe? An attempt is being made to do away with everything human, with everything embodied in a human body as human, and to harness together Lucifer and Ahriman, with the civilization they represent. Were this to be realized in the East, then the Manufacturing Company of Lucifer and Ahriman would create a world excluding everything beneficial to the individual human being, and man himself would be dovetailed into this Luciferic-Ahrimanic civilization as part of a machine in the complete working of the machine. But the parts of a machine are lifeless and allow themselves to be fitted in, whereas human nature is inwardly alive, permeated by soul, permeated by spirit. It cannot fit into a merely Luciferic-Ahrimanic organization, but will perish in it. Only an understanding of Spiritual Science can grasp what is really taking place today in this materialistic world which has but the haziest notions of spirit. It is only the insight of Spiritual Science and its living earnestness which can explain what the fact implies that, during the last thirty to forty years, the essential nature of the German people would not turn back to that German spirituality pointed out in my essay, but that in this German world of culture, we have at last come to this, that men of authority have felt it to be the right thing to send to Russia (in a sealed railway carriage), through a man who stood in their service, the inaugurators of Lucifer and Ahriman. In our days, it will not do simply to look around and then go to sleep peacefully, in the presence of what is actually taking place in the depths of the spirit of the present time. We ought to feel that we must say: “We have forsaken and trodden under foot that which in the age of Schiller and of Goethe was created within the Spiritual life of Germany. And we have the task of beginning where they left off and of building on further.” No better New Year's thought can enter our souls than the resolution to make this our starting point.

I told you the following some years ago: In the sixties and seventies of last century an educationist, Heinrich Deinhardt, lived in Vienna, the place where my essays were put together. This man's spirit led him from the standpoint of Schiller's Letters on Aesthetics to take an active part in pedagogics, a science that was then under full sail, following the materialistic lead of his day. In some fine letters, printed at the time, explanatory of Schiller's Letters on Aesthetics, Deinhardt wrote that man should be educated to recognize the compelling necessity of logic, and of the basic needs (“Notdurft”), which only live in instinct. Deinhardt was one of those who raised the warning cry: “We must prevent by means of education what is bound to happen otherwise.” He could not yet speak with the concepts of Spiritual Science, but he did point out in his own words the inevitable coming of the Luciferic-Ahrimanic culture if the Science of Education, the Art of Education were not determined by this balance. Heinrich Deinhardt had the misfortune to be knocked down in the street and to break his leg. Quite a simple operation might have put it right again, but the doctors found he was so undernourished that the injured parts would not heal. So this man, who could look so deeply into the events of his day, died owing to a slight accident. Yes, in Central Europe, men whose will was directed to bring forth something out of the spiritual, were left to starve! This example could be multiplied many times. Those who write like the Jesuit, Father Zimmermann, whom I mentioned yesterday, will probably not die of hunger. Those will not die of hunger who wrote the following: “In No. 6 of the weekly paper, Dreigliederung des Sozialen Orgaeismus (The Threefold Social Organism) it is boasted that the ‘new impulse’ (a pet phrase of the Anthroposophists and of the Dreigliederung people) rests upon the fullness of Steiner's spiritual knowledge. The head of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart founded the ‘Free Waldorf School’ for the children of employees and managers, a school founded on the impulses of all the thoughts that had come from Dr. Steiner's Anthroposophical Spiritual Science. In that school ‘Anthroposophy is to be the artistic method of education’.” Those who mock and tread into the dust what is being willed out of the spirit will surely not die of hunger, even in these hard days.

But it is indeed necessary to receive into our souls New Year impulses that prevent us from passing by sleepily and heedlessly, what is actually going on, impulses that make us accept sternly the stern intention of Anthroposophical Spiritual Science. In our own ranks, too, I see many who would like to doze over things that reveal themselves out of full compassion, out of compassion for that which is happening in our times and which, left to itself, must lead to downfall! There are persons lacking courage who join the Anthroposophical Society and then say: “Yes, Spiritual Science is something I like, but I do not want to have anything to do with social activity; it has no place in it.” Such members might take an example from our adversaries. The Jesuit, Father Zimmermann, follows everything we do. He concludes the article mentioned above, with the sentence, “The weekly paper, The Threefold Social Organisme.g., No. 8, of course holds the opinion that the ‘Church is conspiring’ against the historical task of the self-determination of the individual.” In other articles, too, the Jesuit, Father Zimmermann, shows how seriously he takes all we do.

It would be well if those who are in our Society would also take things seriously, in the right way. The spies who are on the outlook for any weak spot which they can expose in Anthroposophical Spiritual Science, and in all that proceeds from it, are not few in number. I think you know that I am not so foolish as to tell you what follows, out of mere vanity, and so I venture to refer to it. On the side of our adversaries the wish naturally arises to find a point of attack here or there. It is well, therefore, to read the following passage in Dr. Rittelmeyer's essay: ‘Steiner, War and Revolution’: “I happened to have a talk recently with a young Swedish scientist in economics, who had had the strict schooling of the economists of Cassel. He told me that he had read Steiner's book very carefully, from end to end, with the expectation of unmasking him as an amateur; but he had been unable to find any mistake.” In our circles we ought to consider such matters more seriously. The foundation on which we ought to build is the knowledge: Here something is willed, something that has nothing to do with the rambling talk of Theosophy, current elsewhere. Here we build upon the same strict insight into things as is demanded from any other accepted science. Were this really felt, then we should understand why the event took place which Father Zimmermann terms a defection. You know that it was no defection, but that we were thrown out because it was impossible to bring any earnestness into that society of mystic wishy-washy talk, no real earnestness was wanted there. They only wished to go on chattering in the same way they had chattered for years, particularly in connection with subjects about which all possible things can be said with no knowledge of the spiritual world. What our age most sorely needs is the greatest earnestness in the sphere of Spiritual life.

Today, New Year's day, with my visit drawing to an end, I wished to speak to you again of this deep earnestness. My most heartfelt desire is that into our ranks may come the New Year wish — it is a wish each one can shape for himself — that through the souls and hearts of our friends, eyes may in some degree be opened to that which is needed so sorely, to that which, out of the Spirit alone, is able to help humanity. No salvation is to be found in any external organization. Something new must be stamped upon human evolution. These facts must become known, and to feel that these facts must become known is indeed the most worthy New Year's thought that could rise in your hearts. This year, 1920, will hold in store many an important decision, if enough people can be found who are able to recognize the needs of mankind, as I have pointed them out today. 1920 will bring misery and suffering if such men cannot be found, if those only take the lead who wish to work on in the old way.

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