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

Highlight Words

The Spiritual Foundation of Morality


In the last lecture we found that moral impulses are fundamental in human nature. From the facts adduced, we tried to prove that a foundation of morality and goodness lies at the bottom of the human soul, and that really it has only been in the course of evolution, in man's passage from incarnation to incarnation, that he has diverged from the original instinctive good foundation and that thereby what is evil, wrong and unmoral has come into humanity. But if this is so, we must really wonder that evil is possible, or that it ever originated, and the question as to how evil became possible in the course of evolution requires an answer. We can only obtain a satisfactory reply by examining the elementary moral instruction given to man in ancient times.

The pupils of the Mysteries whose highest ideal was gradually to penetrate to full spiritual knowledge and truths were always obliged to work from a moral foundation. In those places where they worked in the right way according to the Mysteries, the peculiarity of man's moral-nature was shown in a special way to the pupils. Briefly, we may say: The pupils of the Mysteries were shown that freewill can only be developed if a person is in a position to go wrong in one of two directions; further, that life can only run its course truly and favourably when these two lines of opposition are considered as being like the two sides of a balance, of which first one side and then the other goes up and down. True balance only exists when the crossbeam is horizontal. They were shown that it is impossible to express man's right procedure by saying: this is right and that is wrong. It is only possible to gain the true idea when the human being, standing in the centre of the balance, can be swayed each moment of his life, now to one side, now to the other, but he himself holds the correct mean between the two.

Let us take the virtues of which we have spoken: first — valour, bravery. In this respect human nature may diverge on one side to foolhardiness — that is, unbridled activity in the world and the straining of the forces at one's disposal to the utmost limit. Foolhardiness is one side; the opposite is cowardice. A person may turn the scale in either of these directions. In the Mysteries the pupils were shown that when a man degenerates into foolhardiness he loses himself and lays aside his own individuality and is crushed by the wheels of life. Life tears him in pieces if he errs in this direction, but if, on the other hand, he errs on the side of cowardice, he hardens himself and tears himself away from his connection with beings and objects. He then becomes a being shut up within himself, who, as he cannot bring his deeds into harmony with the whole, loses his connection with things. This was shown to the pupils in respect to all that a man may do. He may degenerate in such a way that he is torn in pieces, and losing his own individuality is crushed by the objective world; on the other hand, he may degenerate not merely in courage, but also in every other respect in such a way that he hardens within himself. Thus at the head of the moral code in all the Mysteries there were written the significant words: “Thou must find the mean,” so that through thy deeds thou must not lose thyself in the world, and that the world also does not lose thee.

Those are the two possible extremes into which man may fall. Either he may be lost to the world, the world lays hold on him, and crushes him, as is the case in foolhardiness; or the world may be lost to him, because he hardens himself in his egoism, as is the case in cowardice. In the Mysteries, the pupils were told that goodness cannot merely be striven for as goodness obtained once for all; rather does goodness come only through man being continually able to strike out in two directions like a pendulum and by his own inner power able to find the balance, the mean between the two.

You have in this all that will enable you to understand the freedom of the will and the significance of reason and wisdom in human action. If it were fitting for man to observe eternal moral principles he need only acquire these moral principles and then he could go through life on a definite line of march, as it were, but life is never like this. Freedom in life consists rather in man's being always able to err in one direction or another. But in this way the possibility of evil arises. For what is evil? It is that which originates when the human being is either lost to the world, or the world is lost to him. Goodness consists in avoiding both these extremes.. In the course of evolution evil became not only a possibility but an actuality; for as man journeyed from incarnation to incarnation, by his turning now to one side and now to the other, he could not always find the balance at once, and it was necessary for the compensation to be karmically made at a future time. What man cannot attain in one life, because he does not always find the mean at once, he will attain gradually in the course of evolution in as much as man diverts his course to one side, and is then obliged, perhaps in the next life, to strike out again in the opposite direction, and thus bring about the balance.

What I have just told you was a golden rule in the ancient Mysteries. We often find among the ancient philosophers echoes of the principles taught in these Mysteries. Aristotle makes a statement, when, speaking of virtue, which we cannot understand unless we know that what has just been said was an old principle in the Mysteries which had been received by Aristotle as tradition and embodied in his philosophy. He says: Virtue is a human capacity or skill guided by reason and insight, which, as regards man, holds the balance between the too much and the too-little. Aristotle here gives a definition of virtue, such as no subsequent philosophy has attained. But as Aristotle had little tradition from the Mysteries, it was possible for him to give the precise truth.

That is, then, the mean, which must be found and followed if a man is really to be virtuous, if moral power is to pulsate through the world. We can now answer the question as to why morals should exist at all. For what happens when there is no morality, when evil is done, and when the too-much or the too-little takes place, when man is lost to the world by being crushed, or when the world loses him? In each of these cases something is always destroyed. Every evil or unmoral act is a process of destruction, and the moment man sees that when he has done wrong he cannot do otherwise than destroy something, take something from the world, in that moment a mighty influence for good has awakened within him. It is especially the task of Spiritual Science — which is really only just beginning its work in the world — to show that all evil brings about a destructive process, that it takes away from the world something which is necessary. When in accordance with our anthroposophical standpoint, we hold this principle, then what we know about the nature of man leads us to a particular interpretation of good and evil.

We know that the sentient-soul was chiefly developed in the old Chaldean or Egyptian epoch the third post-Atlantean age. The people of the present day have but little notion what this epoch of development was like at that time, for in external history one can reach little further back than to the Egyptian age. We know that the intellectual, or mind-soul, developed in the fourth or Graeco-Latin age, and that now in our age we are developing the consciousness-or spiritual-soul. The spirit-self will only come into prominence in the sixth age of post-Atlantean development.

Let us now ask: How can the sentient-soul turn to one side or the other, away from what is right? The sentient-soul is that quality in man which enables him to perceive the objective world, to take it into himself, to take part in it, not to pass through the world ignorant of all the diversified objects it contains, but to go through the world in such a way that he forms a relationship with them. All this is brought about by the sentient-soul. We find one side to which man can deviate with the sentient-soul when we enquire: What makes it possible for man to enter into relationship with the objective world? It is what may be called interest in the different things, and by this word “interest” something is expressed which in a moral sense is extremely important. It is much more important that one should bear in mind the moral significance of interest, than that one should devote oneself to thousands of beautiful moral axioms which may be only paltry and hypocritical. Let it be clearly understood, that our moral impulses are in fact never better guided than when we take a proper interest in objects and beings. In our last lecture we spoke in a deeper sense of love as an impulse and in such a way that we cannot now be misunderstood if we say that the usual, oft-repeated declamation, “love, love, and again love” cannot replace the moral impulse contained in what may be described by the word interest.

Let us suppose that we have a child before us. What is the condition primary to our devotion to this child? What is the first condition to our educating the child? It is that we take an interest in it. There is something unhealthy or abnormal in the human soul if a person withdraws himself from something in which he takes an interest. It will more and more be recognised that the impulse of interest is a quite specially golden impulse in the moral sense the further we advance to the actual foundations of morality and do not stop at the mere preaching of morals. Our inner powers are also called forth as regards mankind when we extend our interests, when we are able to transpose ourselves with understanding into beings and objects.

Even sympathy is awakened in the right manner if we take an interest in a being; and if, as anthroposophists, we set ourselves the task of extending our interests more and more and of widening our mental horizon, this will promote the universal brotherhood of mankind. Progress is not gained by the mere preaching of universal love, but by the extension of our interests further and further, so that we come to interest ourselves increasingly in souls with widely different characters, racial and national peculiarities, with widely different temperaments, and holding widely differing religious and philosophical views, and approach them with understanding. Right interest, right understanding, calls forth from the soul the right moral action.

Here also we must hold the balance between two extremes. One extreme is apathy which passes everything by and occasions immense moral mischief in the world. An apathetic person only lives in himself; obstinately, insisting on his own principles, and saying: This is my standpoint. In a moral sense this insistence upon a standpoint is always bad. The essential thing is for us to have an open mind for all that surrounds us. Apathy separates us from the world, while interest unites us with it. The world loses us through our apathy: in this direction we become unmoral. Thus we see that apathy and lack of interest in the world are morally evil in the highest degree.

Anthroposophy is something which makes the mind ever more active, helps us to think with greater readiness of what is spiritual and to take it into ourselves. Just as it is true that warmth comes from the fire when we light a stove so it is true that interest in humanity and the world comes when we study spiritual science. Wisdom is the fuel for interest and we may say, although this may perhaps not be evident without further explanation, that Anthroposophy arouses this interest in us when we study those more remote subjects, the teachings concerning the evolutionary stages through Saturn, Sun and Moon, and the meaning of Karma and so on. It really comes about that interest is produced as the result of anthroposophical knowledge while from materialistic knowledge comes something which in a radical manner must be described as apathy and which, if it alone were to hold sway in the world, would, of necessity, do untold harm.

See how many people go through the world and meet this or that person, but really do not get to know him, for they are quite shut up in themselves. How often do we find that two people have been friends for a long time and then suddenly there comes a rupture. This is because the friendship had a materialistic foundation and only after the lapse of time did they discover that they were mutually unsympathetic. At the present time very few people have the “hearing” ear for that which speaks from man to man; but Anthroposophy should bring about an expansion of our perceptions, so that we shall gain a “seeing” eye and an open mind for all that is human around us and so we shall not go through the world. apathetically, but with true interest.

We also avoid the other extreme by distinguishing between true and false interests, and thus observe the happy mean. Immediately to throw oneself, as it were, into the arms of each person we meet is to lose oneself passionately in the person; that is not true interest. If we do this, we lose ourselves to the world. Through apathy the world loses us; through uncontrolled passion we lose ourselves to the world. But through healthy, devoted interest we stand morally firm in the centre, in the state of balance.

In the third post-Atlantean age of civilisation, that is, in the Chaldaic-Egyptian age, there still existed in a large part of humanity on earth a certain power to hold the balance between apathy and the passionate intoxicating devotion to the world; and it is this, which in ancient times, and also by Plato and Aristotle, was called wisdom. But people looked upon this wisdom as the gift of superhuman beings, for up to that time the ancient impulses of wisdom were active. Therefore, from this point of view, especially relating to moral impulses, we may call the third post-Atlantean age, the age of instinctive wisdom. You will perceive the truth of what was said last year, though with a different intention, in the Copenhagen lectures on The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind. In those lectures we showed how, in the third post-Atlantean age, mankind still stood nearer to the divine spiritual powers. And that which drew mankind closer to the divine spiritual powers, was instinctive wisdom.

Thus, it was a gift of the gods to find at that time the happy mean in action, between apathy and sensuous passionate devotion. This balance, this equilibrium was at that time still maintained through external institutions. The complete intermingling of humanity which came about in the fourth age of post-Atlantean development through the migrations of various peoples, did not yet exist. Mankind was still divided into smaller peoples and tribes. Their interests were wisely regulated by nature, and were so far active that the right moral impulses could penetrate; and on the other hand, through the existence of blood kinsmanship in the tribe, an obstacle was placed in the way of passion. Even to-day one cannot fail to observe that it is easiest to show interest within blood-relationship and common descent, but in this there is not what is called sensuous passion. As people were gathered together in relatively small tracts of country in the Egypto-Chaldaic age, the wise and happy mean was easily found.

But the idea of the progressive development of humanity is that that, which originally was instinctive, which was only spiritual, shall gradually disappear and that man shall become independent of the divine spiritual powers. Hence we see that even in the fourth post-Atlantean age, the Graeco-Latin age, not only the philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, but also public opinion in Greece, considered wisdom as something which must be gained as something which is no longer the gift of the gods, but after which man must strive. According to Plato, the first virtue is wisdom, and according to him, he who does not strive after wisdom is unmoral.

We are now in the fifth post-Atlantean age. We are still far from the time when the wisdom instinctively implanted in humanity as a divine impulse, will be raised into consciousness. Hence in our age people are specially liable to err in both the directions we have mentioned, and it is therefore particularly necessary that the great dangers to be found at this point should be counteracted by a spiritual conception of the World, so that what man once possessed as instinctive wisdom may now become conscious wisdom. The Anthroposophical Movement is to contribute to this end.

The gods once gave wisdom to the unconscious human soul, so that it possessed this wisdom instinctively, whereas now we have first to learn the truths about the cosmos and about human evolution. The ancient customs were also fashioned after the thoughts of the gods.

We have the right view of Anthroposophy when we look upon it as the investigations of the thoughts of the gods. In former times these flowed instinctively into man, but now we have to investigate them, to make the knowledge of them our own. In this sense Anthroposophy must be sacred to us; we must be able to consider reverently that the ideas imparted to us are really something divine, and something which we human beings are allowed to think and reflect upon as the divine thoughts according to which the world has been ordered. When Anthroposophy stands in this aspect to us, we can then consider the knowledge it imparts in such a way that we understand that it has been given us so as to enable us to fulfil our mission. Mighty truths are made known to us, when we study what has been imparted concerning the evolutions of Saturn, Sun and Moon, concerning reincarnation, and the development of the various races, etc. But we only assume the right attitude towards it when we say: The thoughts we seek are the thoughts wherewith the gods have guided evolution. We think the evolution of the gods. If we understand this correctly we are overwhelmed by something that is deeply moral. This is inevitable. Then we say: In ancient times man had instinctive wisdom from the gods, who gave him the wisdom according to which they fashioned the world, and morality thus became possible. But through Anthroposophy we now acquire this wisdom consciously. Therefore we may also trust that in us it shall be transformed into moral impulses, so that we do not merely receive anthroposophical wisdom, but a moral stimulus as well.

Now into what sort of moral impulses will the wisdom acquired through Anthroposophy be transformed? We must here touch upon a point whose development the anthroposophist can foresee, the profound moral significance and moral weight of which he even ought to foresee, a point of development which is far removed from what is customary at the present time, which is what Plato called the “ideal of wisdom.” He named it with a word which was in common use when man still possessed the ancient wisdom, and it would be well to replace this by the word veracity, for as we have now become more individual, we have withdrawn ourselves from the divine, and must therefore strive back to it. We must learn to feel the full weight and meaning of the word ‘veracity’, and this in a moral sense will be a result of an anthroposophical world conception and conviction. Anthroposophists must understand how important it is to be filled with the moral element of truth in an age when materialism has advanced so far that one may indeed still speak of truth, but when the general life and understanding is far removed from perceiving what is right in this direction. Nor can this be otherwise at the present time; as owing to a certain quality acquired by modern life, truth is something which must, to a great extent, be lacking in the understanding of the day, I ask what does a man feel to-day when in the newspapers or some other printed matter he finds certain information, and afterwards it transpires that it is simply untrue? I seriously ask you to ponder over this. One cannot say that it happens in every case, but one must assert that it probably happens in every fourth case. Untruthfulness has everywhere become a quality of the age; it is impossible to describe truth as a characteristic of our times.

For instance, take a man whom you know to have written or said something false, and place the facts before him. As a rule, you will find that he does not fear such a thing to be wrong. He will immediately make the excuse: “But I said it in good faith.” Anthroposophists must not consider it moral when a person says it is merely incorrect what he has said in good faith. People will learn to understand more and more, that they must first ascertain that what they assert really happened. No man should make a statement, or impart anything to another until he has exhausted every means to ascertain the truth of his assertions; and it is only when he recognises this obligation that he can perceive veracity as moral impulse. And then when someone has either written or said something that is incorrect, he will no longer say: “I thought it was so, said it in good faith,” for he will learn that it is his duty to express not merely what he thinks is right, but it is also his duty to say only what is true, and correct. To this end, a radical change must gradually come about in our cultural life. The speed of travel, the lust of sensation on the part of man, everything that comes with a materialistic age, is opposed to truth. In the sphere of morality, Anthroposophy will be an educator of humanity to the duty of truth.

My business today is not to say how far truth has been already realised in the Anthroposophical Society, but to show that what I have said must be a principle, a lofty anthroposophical ideal. The moral evolution within the movement will have enough to do if the moral ideal of truth is thought, felt and perceived in all directions, for this ideal must be what produces the virtue of the sentient-soul of man in the right way.

The second part of the soul of which we have to speak in Anthroposophy is what we usually call the mind-soul, or intellectual-soul (German — Gemütsseele). You know that it developed especially in the fourth post-Atlantean, or Graeco-Latin age. The virtue which is the particular emblem for this part of the soul is bravery, valour and courage; we have already dwelt on this many times, and also on the fact that foolhardiness and cowardice are its extremes. Courage, bravery, valour is the mean between foolhardiness and cowardice. The German word “gemüt” expresses in the sound of the word that it is related to this. The word “gemüt” indicates the mid-part of the human soul, the part that is “mutvoll,” full of “mut,” courage, strength and force.

This was the second, the middle virtue of Plato and Aristotle. It is that virtue which in the fourth post-Atlantean age still existed in man as a divine gift, while wisdom was really only instinctive in the third. Instinctive valour and bravery existed as a gift of the gods (you may gather this from the first lecture) among the people who, in the fourth age, met the expansion of Christianity to the north. They showed that among them valour was still a gift of the gods. Among the Chaldeans wisdom, the wise penetration into the secrets of the starry world, existed as a divine gift, as something inspired. Among the people of the fourth post-Atlantean age, there existed valour and bravery, especially among the Greeks and Romans, but it existed also among the peoples whose work it became to spread Christianity. This instinctive valour was lost later than instinctive wisdom.

If we look round us now in the fifth post-Atlantean age, we see that, as regards valour and bravery, we are in the same position in respect of the Greeks as the Greeks were to the Chaldeans and Egyptians in regard to wisdom. We look back to what was a divine gift in the age immediately preceding ours, and in a certain way we can strive for it again. However, the two previous lectures have shown us, that in connection with this effort a certain transformation must take place. We have seen the transformation in Francis of Assisi of that divine gift which manifested itself as bravery and valour. We saw that the transformation came about as the result of an inner moral force which in our last lecture we found to be the force of the Christ-impulse; the transformation of valour and bravery into true love. But this true love must be guided by another virtue, by the interest in the being to whom we turn our love. In his Timon of Athens Shakespeare shows how love, or warmth of heart, causes harm, when it is passionately manifested; when it appears merely as a quality of human nature without being guided by wisdom and truth. A man is described who gave freely of his possessions, who squandered his living in all directions. Liberality is a virtue, but Shakespeare also shows us that nothing but parasites are produced by what is squandered.

Just as ancient valour and bravery were guided from the Mysteries by the European Brahmins — those wise leaders who kept themselves hidden in the background — so also in human nature this virtue must accord with and be guided by interest. Interest, which connects us with the external world in the right way, must lead and guide us when, with our love, we turn to the world. Fundamentally this may be seen from the characteristic and striking example of Francis of Assisi. The sympathy he expressed was not obtrusive or offensive. Those who overwhelm others with their sympathy are by no means always actuated by the right moral impulses. And how many there are who will not receive anything that is given out of pity. But to approach another with, understanding is not offensive. Under some circumstances a person must needs refuse to be sympathised with; but the attempt to understand his nature is something to which no reasonable person can object. Hence also the attitude of another person cannot be blamed or condemned if his actions are determined by this principle.

It is understanding which can guide us with respect to this second virtue: Love. It is that which, through the Christ-impulse, has become the special virtue of the mind-soul or intellectual-soul; it is the virtue which may be described as human love accompanied by human understanding. Sympathy in grief and joy is the virtue which in the future must produce the most beautiful and glorious fruits in human social life, and, in one who rightly understands the Christ-impulse, this sympathy and this love will originate quite naturally, it will develop into feeling. It is precisely through the anthroposophical understanding of the Christ-impulse that it will become feeling.

Through the Mystery of Golgotha Christ descended into earthly evolution; His impulses, His activities are here now, they are everywhere. Why did He descend to this earth? In order that through what He has to give to the world, evolution may go forward in the right way. Now that the Christ-impulse is in the world, if through what is unmoral, if through lack of interest in our fellow-men, we destroy something, then we take away a portion of the world into which the Christ-impulse has flowed. Thus because the Christ-impulse is now here, we directly destroy something of it. But if we give to the world what can be given to it through virtue, which is creative, we build. We build through self-surrender. It is not without reason that it has often been said, that Christ was first crucified on Golgotha, but that He is crucified again and again through the deeds, of man. Since Christ has entered into the Earth development through the deed upon Golgotha, we, by our unmoral deeds, by our unkindness and lack of interest, add to the sorrow and pain inflicted upon Him. Therefore it has been said, again and again: Christ is crucified anew as long as unmorality, unkindness and lack of interest exist. Since the Christ-impulse has permeated the world, it is this which is made to suffer.

Just as it is true that through evil, which is destructive, we withdraw something from the Christ-impulse and continue the crucifixion upon Golgotha, it is also true that when we act out of love, in all cases where we use love, we add to the Christ-impulse, we help to bring it to life. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25, 40), this is the most significant statement of love and this statement must become the most profound moral impulse if it is once anthroposophically understood. We do this when with understanding we confront our fellow-men and offer them something in our actions, our virtue, our conduct towards them which is conditioned by our understanding of their nature. Our attitude towards our fellow-men is our attitude towards the Christ-impulse itself.

It is a powerful moral impulse, something which is a real foundation for morals, when we feel: “The Mystery of Golgotha was accomplished for all men, and an impulse has thence spread abroad throughout the whole world. When you are dealing with your fellow-men, try to understand them in their special, characteristics of race, colour, nationality, religious faith, philosophy, etc. If you meet them and do this or that to them, you do it to Christ. Whatever you do to men, in the present condition of the earth's evolution, you do to Christ.” This statement: “What ye have done to one of My brothers, ye have done unto Me,” will at the same time become a mighty moral impulse to the man who understands the fundamental significance of the Mystery of Golgotha. So that we may say: Whereas the gods of pre-Christian times gave instinctive wisdom to man, instinctive valour and bravery, so love streams down from the symbol of the cross, the love which is based upon the mutual interest of man in man.

Thereby the Christ-impulse will work powerfully in the world. On the day when it comes about that the Brahmin not only loves and understands the Brahmin, the Pariah the Pariah, the Jew the Jew, and the Christian the Christian; but when the Jew is able to understand the Christian, the Pariah the Brahmin, the American the Asiatic, as man, and put himself in his place, then one will know how deeply it is felt in a Christian way when we say: “All men must feel themselves to be brothers, no matter what their religious creed may be.” We ought to consider what otherwise binds us as being of little value. Father, mother, brother, sister, even one's own life one ought to esteem less than that which speaks from one human soul to the other. He who, in this sense does not regard as base all that impairs the connection with the Christ-impulse cannot be Christ's disciple. The Christ-impulse balances and compensates human differences. Christ's disciple is one who regards mere human distinctions as being of little account, and clings to the impulse of love streaming forth from the Mystery of Golgotha, which in this respect we perceive as a renewal of what was given to mankind as original virtue.

We have now but to consider what may be spoken of as the virtue of the Consciousness- or Spiritual- Soul. When we consider the fourth post-Atlantean age, we find that Temperance or Moderation was still instinctive. Plato and Aristotle called it the chief virtue of the Spiritual-Soul. Again they comprehended it as a state of balance, as the mean of what exists in the Spiritual-soul. The Spiritual-Soul consists in man's becoming conscious of the external world through his bodily nature. The sense body is primarily the instrument of the Spiritual-Soul, and it is also the sense body through which man arrives at self-consciousness.

Therefore the sense-body of man must be preserved. If it were not preserved for the mission of the earth, then that mission could not be fulfilled. But here also there is a limit. If a man only used all the forces he possessed in order to enjoy himself, he would shut himself up in himself, and the world would lose him. The man who merely enjoys himself, who uses all his forces merely to give himself pleasure, cuts himself off from the world — so thought Plato and Aristotle — the world loses him. And he, who denies himself everything renders himself weaker and weaker, and is finally laid hold of by the external world-process, and is crushed by the outer world. For he who goes beyond the forces appropriate to him as man, he who goes to excess is laid hold of by the world-process and is lost in it.

Thus what man has developed for the building up of the Spiritual-soul can be dissolved, so that he comes into the position of losing the world. Temperance or Moderation is the virtue which enables man to avoid these extremes. Temperance implies neither asceticism nor gluttony, but the happy mean between these two; and this is the virtue of the Spiritual-Soul. Regarding this virtue we have not yet progressed beyond the instinctive standpoint. A little reflection will teach you that, on the whole, people are very much given to sampling the two extremes. They swing to and fro between them. Leaving out of account the few who at the present day endeavour to gain clear views on this subject, you will find that the majority of people live very much after a particular pattern. In Central Europe this is often described by saying: There are people in Berlin who eat and drink to excess the entire winter, and then in summer they go to Carlsbad in order to remove the ill-effects produced by months of intemperance, thus going from one extreme to the other. Here you have the weighing of the scale, first to one side and then to the other. This is only a radical case. It is very evident that though the foregoing is extreme, and not universal to any great extent, still the oscillation between enjoyment and deprivation exists everywhere. People themselves ensure that there is excess on one side, and then they get the physicians to prescribe a so-called lowering system of cure, that is, the other extreme, in order that the ill effects may be repaired.

From this, it will be seen that in this respect people are still in an instinctive condition, that there is still an instinctive feeling, which is a kind of divine gift, not to go too far in one direction or another. But just as the other instinctive qualities of man were lost, these, too, will be lost with the transition from the fifth to the sixth post-Atlantean age. This quality which is still possessed as a natural tendency will be lost; and now you will be able to judge how much the anthroposophical world conception and conviction will have to contribute in order gradually to develop consciousness in this field.

At the present time there are very few, even developed anthroposophists, who see clearly that Anthroposophy provides the means to gain the right consciousness in this field also. When Anthroposophy is able to bring more weight to bear in this direction, then will appear what I can only describe in the following way; people will gradually long more and more for great spiritual truths. Although Anthroposophy is still scorned to-day, it will not always be so. It will spread, and overcome all its external opponents, and everything else still opposing it, and anthroposophists will not be satisfied by merely preaching universal love. It will be understood that one cannot acquire Anthroposophy in one day, any more than a person can take sufficient nourishment in one day to last the whole of his life. Anthroposophy has to be acquired to an ever increasing extent. It will come to pass that in the Anthroposophical Movement it will not be so often stated that these are our principles, and if we have these principles then we are anthroposophists; for the feeling and experience of standing in a community of the living element in anthroposophy will extend more and more.

Moreover, let us consider what happens by people mentally working upon the particular thoughts, the particular feelings and impulses which come from anthroposophical wisdom. We all know that anthroposophists can never have a materialistic view of the world, they have exactly the opposite, But he who says the following is a materialistic thinker: “When one thinks, a movement of the molecules or atoms of the brain takes place, and it is because of this movement that one has thought. Thought proceeds from the brain somewhat like a thin smoke, or it is something like the flame from a candle.” Such, is the materialistic view. The anthroposophical view is the opposite. In the latter it is the thought, the experience in the soul which sets the brain and nervous system in motion. The way in which our brain moves depends upon what thoughts we think. This is exactly the opposite of what is said by the materialist. If you wish to know how the brain of a person is constituted, you must inquire into what thoughts he has, for just as the printed characters of a book are nothing else than the consequence of thoughts, so the movements of the brain are nothing else than the consequence of thoughts.

Must we not then say that the brain will be differently affected when it is filled with anthroposophical thoughts than it will be in a society which plays cards? Different processes are at work in your minds when you follow anthroposophical thoughts from when you are in a company of card players, or see the pictures in a movie theatre. In the human organism nothing is isolated or stands alone. Everything is connected; one part acts and reacts on another. Thoughts act upon the brain and nervous system, and the latter is connected with the whole organism, and although many people may not yet be aware of it, when the hereditary characteristics still hidden in the body are conquered, the following will come about. The thoughts will be communicated from the brain to the stomach, and the result will be that things that are pleasant to people's taste to-day will no longer taste good to those who have received anthroposophical thoughts. The thoughts which anthroposophists have received are divine thoughts. They act upon the whole organism in such a manner that it will prefer to taste what is good for it. Man will smell and perceive as unsympathetic what does not suit him — a peculiar perspective, one which may perhaps be called materialistic, but is exactly the reverse.

This kind of appetite will come as a consequence of anthroposophical work; you will like one thing and prefer it at meals, dislike another and not wish to eat it. You may judge for yourselves when you notice that perhaps you now have an aversion to things, which before your anthroposophical days you did not possess. This will become more and more general when man works selflessly at his higher development, so that the world may receive what is right from him. One must not, however, play fast-and-lose with the words “selflessness” and “egoism.” These words may very easily be misused. It is not altogether selfless when someone says: “I shall only be active in the world and for the world; what does it matter about my own spiritual development? I shall only work, not strive egoistically!” It is not egoism when a person undergoes a higher development, because he thus fits himself more fully to bear an active part in the furtherance of the world development. If a person neglects his own further development, he renders himself useless to the world, he withdraws his force from it. We must do the right thing in this respect as well, in order to develop in ourselves what the Deity had in view for us.

Thus, through Anthroposophy a human race, or rather, a nucleus of humanity will be developed, which perceives temperance as a guiding ideal not merely instinctively, but which has a conscious sympathy for what makes man in a worthy way into a useful part of the divine world-order, and a conscious disinclination for all that mars man as a part in the universal order.

Thus we see that also in that which is produced in man himself, there are moral impulses, and we find what we may call life-wisdom or practical wisdom as transformed temperance. The ideal of practical wisdom which is to be taken into consideration for the next, the sixth post-Atlantean age, will be the ideal virtue which Plato calls “justice.” That is: the harmonious accord of these virtues. As in humanity the virtues have altered to some extent, so what was looked upon as justice in pre-Christian times has also changed. A single virtue such as this, which harmonises the others did not exist at that time. The harmony of the virtues stood before the mental vision of humanity as an ideal of the most distant future. We have seen that the moral impulse of bravery has been changed to love. We have also seen that wisdom has become truth. To begin with, truth is a virtue which places man in a just and worthy manner in external life. But if we wish to arrive at truthfulness regarding spiritual things, how then can we arrange it in relation to those things? We acquire truthfulness, we gain the virtue of the Sentient-Soul through a right and appropriate interest, through right understanding. Now what is this interest with regard to the spiritual world? If we wish to bring the physical world and especially man before us, we must open ourselves towards him, we must have a seeing eye for his nature. How do we obtain this seeing-eye with reference to the spiritual world? We gain it by developing a particular kind of feeling, that which appeared at a time when the old instinctive wisdom had sunk into the depths of the soul's life. This type of feeling was often described by the Greeks in the words: “All philosophical thought begins with wonder.” Something essentially moral is said when we say that our relationship to the super-sensible world begins with wonder. The savage, uncultivated human being, is but little affected by the great phenomena of the world. It is through mental development that man comes to find riddles in the phenomena of everyday life, and to perceive that there is something spiritual at the back of them. It is wonder that directs our souls up to the spiritual sphere in order that we may penetrate to the knowledge of that world; and we can only arrive at this knowledge when our soul is attracted by the phenomena which it is possible to investigate. It is this attraction which give rise to wonder, astonishment and faith. It is always wonder and amazement which direct us to what is super-sensible, and at the same time, it is what one usually describes as faith. Faith, wonder and amazement are the three forces of the soul which lead us beyond the ordinary world.

When we contemplate man with wonder and amazement, we try to understand him; by understanding his nature we attain to the virtue of brotherhood, and we shall best realise this by approaching the human being with reverence. We shall then see that reverence becomes something with which we must approach every human being and if we have this attitude, we shall become more and more truthful. Truth will become something by which we shall be bound by duty. Once we have an inkling of it, the super-sensible world becomes something towards which we incline, and through knowledge we shall attain to the super-sensible wisdom which has already sunk into the subconscious depths of the soul. Only after super-sensible wisdom had disappeared do we find the statement that “philosophy begins with wonder and amazement.” This statement will make it clear that wonder only appeared in evolution in the age when the Christ-impulse had come into the world.

It has already been stated that the second virtue is love. Let us now consider what we have described as instinctive temperance for the present time, and as practical wisdom of life for the future. Man confronts himself in these virtues. Through the deeds he performs in the world, he acts in such a way that he guards himself, as it were; it is therefore necessary for him to gain an objective standard of value.

We now see something appear which develops more and more, and which I have often spoken of in other connections, something which first appeared in the fourth post-Atlantean age, namely the Greek. It can be shown that in the old Greek dramas, for instance in Aeschylus, the Furies play a role which in Euripides is transformed into conscience. From this we see that in earlier times what we call conscience did not exist at all. Conscience is something that exists as a standard for our own actions when we go too far in our demands, when we seek our own advantage too-much. It acts as a standard placed between our sympathies and antipathies.

With this we attain to something which is more objective, which, compared with the virtues of truth, love and practical wisdom, acts in a much more objective, or outward manner. Love here stands in the middle, and acts as something which has to fill and regulate all life, also all social life. In the same way it acts as the regulator of all that man has developed as inner impulse. But that which he has developed as truth will manifest itself as the belief in super-sensible knowledge. Life-wisdom, that which originates in ourselves, we must feel as a divine spiritual regulator which, like conscience, leads securely along the true middle course. If we had time it would be very easy to answer the various objections which might be raised at this point. But we shall only consider one, for example, the objection to the assertion that conscience and wonder are qualities which have only gradually developed in humanity, whereas they are really eternal. But this they are not. He who says that they are eternal qualities in human nature only shows that he does not know the conditions attached to them.

As time goes on it will be found more and more that in ancient times man had not as yet descended so far to the physical plane, but was still more closely connected with divine impulses, and that he was in a condition which he will again consciously strive to reach when he is ruled more by truth, love and the art of life in regard to the physical plane, and when in regard to spiritual knowledge he is actuated by faith in the super-sensible world. It is not necessarily the case that faith will directly lead into that world, but it will at length be transformed into super-sensible knowledge. Conscience is that which will enter as a regulator in the Consciousness- or Spiritual-Soul. Faith, love, conscience; these three forces will become the three stars of the moral forces which shall enter into human souls particularly through Anthroposophy. The moral perspective of the future can only be disclosed to those who think of these three virtues being ever more increased Anthroposophy will place moral life in the light of these virtues, and they will be the constructive forces of the future.

Before closing our observations, there is one point which must be considered. I shall only touch upon the subject, for it would be impossible to analyse without giving many lectures. The Christ-impulse entered human evolution through the Mystery of Golgotha. We know that at that time a human organism consisting of physical, etheric, and astral bodies received the Ego-impulse or “I” from above, as the Christ-impulse. It was this Christ-impulse which was received by the earth and which flowed into earthly evolution. It was now in it as the ego of Christ. We know further that the physical body, etheric body and astral body remained with Jesus of Nazareth; the Christ-impulse was within as the ego. At Golgotha, Jesus of Nazareth separated from the Christ-impulse, which then flowed into the earth development. The evolution of this impulse signifies the evolution of the earth itself.

Earnestly consider certain things which are very often repeated in order that they may be more easily understood. As we have often heard, the world is maya or illusion, but man must gradually penetrate to the truth, the reality of this external world. The earth evolution fundamentally consists in the fact that all the external things which have been formed in the first half of the earth's development are dissolved in the second half, in which we now are, so that all that we see externally, physically, shall separate from human development just as the physical body of a human being falls away. One might ask: What will then be left? And the answer is: The forces which are embodied in man as real forces through the process of the development of humanity on the earth. And the most real impulse in this development is that which has come into earth evolution through the Christ-impulse. But this Christ-impulse at first finds nothing with which it can clothe itself. Therefore it has to obtain a covering through the further development of the earth; and when this is concluded, the fully developed Christ shall be the final man — as Adam was the first — around whom humanity in its multiplicity has grouped itself.

In the words: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me,” is contained a significant hint for us. What has been done for Christ? The actions performed in accordance with the Christ-impulse under the influence of conscience, under the influence of faith and according to knowledge, are developed out on the earth-life up to the present time, and as, through his actions and his moral attitude a person gives something to his brethren, he gives at the same time to Christ. This should be taken as a precept: All the forces we develop, all acts of faith and trust, all acts performed as the result of wonder, are — because we give it at the same time to the Christ-Ego — something which closes like a covering round the Christ and may be compared with the astral body of man.

We form the astral body for the Christ-Ego-impulse by all the moral activities of wonder, trust, reverence and faith, in short, all that paves the way to super-sensible knowledge. Through all these activities we foster love. This is quite in accordance with the statement we quoted: “What ye have done to one, of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”

We form the etheric body for Christ through our deeds of love, and through our actions in the world which we do through the impulses of conscience we form for the Christ-impulse that which corresponds to the physical body of man. When the earth has one day reached its goal, when man understands the right moral impulses through which all that is good is done, then shall be present that which came as an Ego or “I” into human development through the Mystery of Golgotha as the Christ-impulse shall then be enveloped by an astral body which is formed through faith, through all the deeds of wonder and amazement on the part of man. It shall be enveloped by something which is like an etheric body which is formed through deeds of love; and by something which envelops it like a physical body, formed through the deeds of conscience.

Thus the future evolution of humanity shall be accomplished through the co-operation of the moral impulses of man with the Christ-impulse. We see humanity in perspective before us, like a great organic structure. When people understand how to member their actions into this great organism, and through their own deeds form their impulses around it like a covering, they shall then lay the foundations, in the course of earthly evolution, for a great community, which can be permeated and made Christian through and through by the Christ-impulse.

Thus we see that morals need not be preached, but they can indeed be founded by showing facts that have really happened and do still happen, confirming what is felt by persons with special mental endowments. It should make a noteworthy impression upon us if we bear in mind how, at the time when he lost his friend, Duke Charles Augustus, Goethe wrote many things in a long letter at Weimar, and then on the same day — it was in the year 1828, three-and-a-half years before his own death, and almost at the end of his life — he wrote a very remarkable sentence in his diary: “The whole reasonable world may be considered as a great immortal individual which uninterruptedly brings about what is necessary and thereby makes itself master even over chance.” How could such a thought become more concrete than by our imagining this Individual active among us, and by thinking of ourselves as, being united with him in his work? Through the Mystery of Golgotha the greatest Individual entered into human development, and, when people intentionally direct their lives in the way we have just described, they will range themselves round the Christ-impulse, so that around this Being there shall be formed something which is like a covering around a kernel.

Much more could be said about virtue from the standpoint of Anthroposophy. In particular long and important considerations could be entered into concerning truth and its connection with karma, for through Anthroposophy the idea of karma will have to enter into human evolution more and more. Man will also have to learn gradually so to consider and order his life that his virtues correspond with karma. Through the idea of karma man must also learn to recognise that he may not disown his former deeds by his later ones. A certain feeling of responsibility in life, a readiness to take upon ourselves the results of what we have done, has yet to show itself as a result of human evolution. How far removed man still is from this ideal we see when we consider him more closely. That man develops by the acts he has committed is a well-known fact. When the consequences of an action seem to have come to an end, then what could only be done if the first act had not taken place, can still be done. The fact that a person feels responsible for what he has done, the fact that he consciously accepts the idea of karma, is something which might also be a subject for study. But you will still find much for yourselves by following the lines suggested in these three lectures; you will find how fruitful these ideas can be if you work them out further. As man will live for the remainder of the earth development in repeated incarnations, it is his task to rectify all the mistakes made respecting the virtues described, by inclining to one side or the other, to change them by shaping them of his own free will, so that the balance, the mean, may come and thus the goal be gradually attained which has been described as the formation of the coverings for the Christ-impulse.

Thus we see before us not merely an abstract ideal of universal brotherhood, which indeed may also receive a strong impulse if we lay Anthroposophy at the foundation, but we see that there is something real in our earthly evolution, we see that there is in it an Impulse which came into the world through the Mystery of Golgotha. And we also feel ourselves under the necessity so to work upon the Sentient-Soul, the Intellectual-Soul and the Spiritual-Soul, that this ideal Being shall be actualised, and that we shall be united with Him as with a great immortal Individual. The thought that the only possibility of further evolution, the power to fulfil the earth mission, lies in man's forming one whole with this great Individual, is realised in the second moral principle: What you do as if it were born from you alone, pushes you away and separates you from the great Individual, you thereby destroy something; but what you do to build up this great immortal Individual in the way above described, that you do towards the further development, the progressive life of the whole organism of the world.

We only require to place these two thoughts before us in order to see that their effect is not only to preach morals, but to give them a basis. For the thought: “Through your actions you are destroying what you ought to build up,” is terrible and fearful, keeping down all opposing desires. But the thought: “You are building up this immortal Individual; you are making yourself into a member of this immortal Individual,” fires one to good deeds, to strong moral impulses. In this way morals are not only preached, but we are led to thoughts which themselves may be moral impulses, to thoughts which are able to found morals.

The more the truth is cultivated, the more rapidly will the anthroposophical world conception and feeling develop ethics such as these. And it has been my task to express this in these lectures. Naturally, many things have only been lightly touched upon, but you will develop further in your own minds many ideas which have been broached. In this way we shall be drawn more closely together all over the earth. When we meet together — as we have done on this occasion as anthroposophists of Northern and Central Europe — to consider these subjects, and when we allow the thoughts roused in us at gatherings such as this to echo and re-echo through us, we shall in this way best make it true that Anthroposophy is to provide the foundation — even at the present time — for real spiritual life. And when we have to part again we know that it is in our anthroposophical thoughts that we are most at one, and this knowledge is at the same time a moral stimulus. To know that we are united by the same ideals with people who, as a rule, are widely separated from one another in space, but with whom we may meet on special occasions, is a stronger moral stimulus than being always together.

That we should think in this way of our gathering, that we should thus understand our studies together, fills my soul, especially at the close of these lectures, as something by which I should like to express my farewell greeting to you, and concerning which I am convinced that, when it is understood in the true light, the anthroposophical life which is developing will also be spiritually well founded. With this thought and these feelings let us close our studies today.

Last Modified: 29-Aug-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com