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Impulses of Utility, Evil, Birth, Death, Happiness

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Impulses of Utility

Lecture I

Western and Eastern Culture, H. P. Blavatsky

Notes on a Lecture given by Dr. Steiner.

Dornach, 7th October 1916

My dear friends, in the lectures which have been held here for some weeks I have endeavoured to show you some of the things which have lived in human evolution — certain things connected with various inner impulses which have entered into the modern development of humanity. We have had to go very far back to find the origin of these impulses. We have sought to understand how, from out of the Atlantean civilisation, there flowed the relics of an ancient Atlantean Mystery magic. We have shewn how, in a state of decadence, this Atlantean civilisation still lived on amongst those peoples who were re-discovered in Europe through the re-discovery of America. We then sought to study the relics of another branch of Atlantean magic which sent its rays and streams from Asia throughout Europe. And so, we have seen coming from Atlantis a co-operation in a certain sense between the Eastern and Western pole. From out of these impulses which have remained over from Atlantis, we then sought to deepen ourselves concerning the nature of the Graeco-Roman epoch, which as we know, was a copy to a certain extent, of Atlantean civilisation, though of course on a higher stage. And then we tried to understand the two poles of the IVth Post Atlantean Period. That is, the pole of Greece and the pole of Rome. We then attempted to follow at least partially, the various impulses which were further active in our European life of civilisation. We have especially considered that impulse which came into the spiritual stream of Europe through the fact that the Templars had to undergo a certain fate, and that this fate of the Templars which works so powerfully, so deeply on our own souls, evokes spiritual forces into existence which have continued to work on in a spiritual way; inspiring, impelling, initiating all of those things which have contributed to the external path of the history of the peoples of Europe. And then we have continued to trace how these impulses pass over into a recent material. And in the last lecture, we saw at the end of the 18th century, it gives a peculiar colouring to those ideas which at that time confused the world, the ideas of Brotherhood, Freedom and Equality. Many such impulses as have been born in the course of centuries and flowed into European development could be characterised, but that must be left over to a later time.

I should now like to characterise, through certain significant impulses, the path of our own European life of civilisation, because it is essential that through a Spiritual Scientific observation one should learn to know more and more thoroughly the peculiarities of our own age, the age in which we are standing to-day. It is important for us to know how our own time is determined by that special spiritual structure of the 19th century. In this 19th century all those impulses of which I have spoken to you have been more or less veiled, covered up to a certain extent. I have often drawn your attention to the fact that, as regards the evolution of modern civilisation, the middle of the 19th century was a most important time; — it was that time in which in the 5th Post Atlantean civilisation something was to become especially active something which man knows and learns to produce through his intellect in so far as that is bound to the physical plane. We must rake this quite clear to ourselves. With the 5th Post Atlantean civilisation something of the nature of forces comes into the Post Atlantean development which was absolutely different from what occurred in the Graeco-Latin age in the 4th Post Atlantean epoch. Naturally the Greeks had intellect (verstand) but that was of quite a different nature from our own - our own intellect, — which has gone through the 5th Post Atlantean epoch and which, in the middle of the 19th century, really entered upon a quite definite crisis. That intellect which was developed in ancient Greece, and which, for instance, radiated in all that the Greeks created artistically, which radiated in all that the Greeks created in their State arrangements (which were not really State arrangements at all), — that intellect which worked through the Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, that intellect which then was drawn over into the political being of Rome was utterly different from the intellect which arose in our own 5th Post Atlantean epoch. One can even prove this philosophically, as I have attempted to do in the first volume of my “Riddles of Philosophy.” With the Greeks, their ideas were really so existing that they perceived them just as we to-day can see colours, hear sounds, and have sense perceptions: so they could experience ideas. Now with our modern humanity the intellect is separated from outer perception and it works in the inner being of man; but it works in such a way as it must do when it is to be activated through the brain or, in general, through the physical organism. This has gradually brought about a certain state of affairs: — and please bear in mind, that by reason of the whole meaning of our civilisation, it had to be so. The tendency was gradually brought about in the 15th century, through this intellectual development, of permeating human life more and more with purely materialistic cognition, and practical life with the principle of mere utility, Utilitarianism. We have gradually seen with what necessity these things developed, how in the civilisation of the West of Europe certain impulses arose, and in connection with these impulses questions were put in the sphere of cognition. We have seen how these questions differed from others which arose, for instance, in the East of Europe. We have seen, for instance, how the West, through a long preparation was driven in the sphere of knowledge and in the practical sphere of life, to urge the spirit into a configuration which gradually put certain questions above all else. We have seen how in the West there gradually rose the tendency to study what I must call the affinity of all beings; and, when it comes to man, of studying what relates to the Birth of man and to Heredity. One can best understand Western civilisation (when it is striving for cognition) if one knows that these questions concerning the affinity of beings, and of Birth and Heredity, were dominant in the life of the West. From this there arose in the Western world, in their science of chemistry and physics, the seeking of the affinity of different forces of Nature which were regarded as modifications of one particular force of Nature. This tendency then extended to other spheres; in the sphere of Biology it was the affinity of various animals and plants which was investigated; and out of all of this man himself was explained — man, as he was thought to have developed, from a purely animal existence. One must say: To understand the birth of man in its affinity with other creatures on the Earth, was the culmination of these questions in the West.

The Eastern sphere on the other hand, sought in the realm of knowledge other questions: “What is Evil? What is the meaning of suffering in the world?” Never so much as in the East of Europe was there so much thinking concerning Evil and Sin. Of course, in the other spheres this was also the case, but nowhere with the same intensity and with the same genius as in the East. All the literary production of the East stands under the influence of the question: “What is Evil?” And the pains which in the West we applied to the problems of Affinity, were in the East applied to the investigation of Sin. The same thought which was employed in the West to investigate the natural connections of physical man as he passes through birth into existence, was applied in the East to understand Death. That same effort is employed in the East to understand Death. “How does man maintain himself aright as a soul, as he passes through Death? What does Death signify in the whole connection of Life?” That announced itself as a question in the East, one just as important for the East as the question concerning the natural Affinity of Man and the Birth of Man is for the West. Just as in the Western World we can prove that these problems of Birth and Happiness lay at the basis of their thinking, so we can show that in the Eastern world, (for example, in Solovieff) we can say that all his thinking is directed to the question of Evil and of Death. The difference is only this — that in the West one has already travelled a long way in one's investigation, whereas in the East they are still more or less at the beginning. Then, as you know, all these things passed over into the sphere of practical life, into the arranging of social life, — those ideas which we seek to realise in everyday life, — and if to a certain extent we investigate the most intimate impulses in the life of the West, we see that we can refer these to the thoughts concerning the Happiness of Man.

Please just bear in mind how this thinking concerning the Happiness of Man begins with the “Utopia” of Lord Bacon and the “Utopia” of Sir Thomas More, and we see how this same trend of thought has developed into the most diverse social programmes which have found expression in the West. Of course, social programmes have also come to expression in the East, but one can easily prove that in the East they spring from quite different impulses than have the social programmes of the West. All these, as well as the idea of Freedom which came to us from the French Revolution, and all the social ideas of the 19th century, all have as their aim the Happiness of Man. In the East we find, (of course still in the beginning) how there, instead of Happiness it is Redemption which is sought for — the inner freeing of the soul of man. There the longing exists to know how the soul of man can develop towards the overcoming of life. One understands this extraordinary interplay of impulses if one keeps this in mind. And we have seen how even a consideration of a somewhat higher kind, of the Lives written of Christ Jesus, has received its colouring from what lies in these same impulses and tendencies. In the West, we have that most characteristic and clever observer of the Life of Jesus — Jesus considered only as Jesus — just as one can consider any other human being, born from a certain race, a certain climate, or a certain nation. I refer to the “Life of Jesus” by Ernest Renan. Now in the East Jesus is little spoken of, and when one speaks of Jesus it is simply as a path along which one can come to the Christ. You find this very strongly in Solovieff.

Between these two, as I have told you, (and if one only has an eye for these things, a sense for what Goethe calls the UR-phenomenon, one knows how these three names are chosen) — between these two, Renan and Solovieff, there stands — a far more original and far clever man than the other two — David Frederick Strauss. Ernest Renan considers only the Jesus, Solovieff considers only the Christ; Ernest Renan transformed Jesus into a simple man, a human, one can almost say an “all too human” man Now with Solovieff this human element is completely lost. Man's gaze is directed into the spiritual world by Solovieff, when he considers the Christ; and he only speaks of moral, spiritual impulses. Everything with Solovieff is forced into a super earthly sphere. The Christ has nothing earthly, although He pours His effects into an earthly sphere. Between these two stands David Frederick Strauss. He does not deny Jesus — he admits that such a personality lives; but, just as Ernest Renan simply and solely considers Jesus as man, so to David Frederick Strauss, Jesus is only of significance in so far as on this Jesus for the first time is suspended the idea of the whole of humanity. Everything which man can long for or ever has longed for, from out of the Mysteries of all ages as the Idea of All-humanity, is attached to the Jesus of David Frederick Strauss. D. F. Strauss does not very much consider the earthly Life of Jesus only as a means whereby to show how in the age when Jesus appears, humanity had the longing to bring together all the myths which refer to the sum total of humanity, and to concentrate them on that Figure. And so, that which in Ernest Renan's Life is so full of colour, with D. F. Strauss becomes a kingdom of shadow, which only seeks to show how the Myths of Centuries all flow together. With D. F. Strauss Christ is not a figure cut off as with Solovieff, but is the idea of that which lives on throughout the whole of humanity — that Christ Who for thousands of years has poured Himself into humanity and developed through humanity. With D. F. Strauss, therefore we find only an idea of Jesus, united with an idea of Christ. With Ernest Renan, we have a personal and historical Jesus. With Solovieff we have a Christ Who is super-personal yet individual, but at the same time super-historic. He is super-personal yet individual, because He is a Being shut off, included in Himself, although at the same time He is an individual but transcending personality. Between these two stands D. F. Strauss, who has not to do with a vision, — a perception of the personal element working in Christ Jesus, — for this personal element is only, as it were, a point of support for all those myths streaming through humanity.

If one only keeps in mind this scheme obtained from a spiritual observation of the history of Europe, one can almost read straight off the various spiritual connections. You see, with Ernest Renan, a man who pre-eminently arose out of the Western civilisation, it is a question the whole time, of understanding how a certain country, a certain race could give birth to Christ Jesus. It is a question of the birth of Jesus. With Solovieff the question is especially: “What does Christ signify for human evolution? And how can Christ save what is born in man as a soul, how can He lead that again through the Gate of Death?”

And so, in the middle of the 19th century, as I have told you, that which lives in this evolution and which belongs especially to our 19th century, reached a certain crisis. At that time, the most extreme point was reached which one can strive for through physical, intellectual performance. In the course of the 19th century, the striving after happiness was gradually transformed into the striving for mere utility, — Utilitarianism. That is something which appears especially in the middle of the 19th century, both in the sphere of knowledge as also in the sphere of life: — the striving after mere utility. And that is something which especially disturbed those who understand the real eternal needs of the human soul, it disturbed them especially that the 19th century should bring forth a striving especially concentrated on the principle of Utilitarianism. Thus, we meet Materialism in the sphere of Knowledge, and Utilitarianism in the sphere of Practical Life. And those two things belong absolutely together.

Now I am not bringing forward these things in order to criticise them, but because they are necessary points of transition for humanity. Man had to go through this materialistic principle in the sphere of Knowledge, as he had to pass through the principle of Utilitarianism in the sphere of Practical Life. It was a question of how humanity should be led in the 19th century in order to pass in the right way through those necessary points of its development. We will therefore begin the consideration of these things this evening from a certain point of view, and then, on a later occasion I shall hope to enter into them more thoroughly.

Knowledge, especially that which in the West is, ae we know, concentrated on the phenomena of Birth and the question of Heredity, and this was placed in the service of Materialism, of Utilitarianism. Now let us make clear to ourselves what really happened in thought. As you know, Darwinism arose, which studied the problem of the Birth of Man, that is, the Origin of Man from a sequence of organisms; and Darwinism attempted to make popular certain quite definite views. We know also that something far more spiritual than Darwinism already stands in Goethe's “Theory of Evolution,” but Goethe's theory had for the time to remain more esoteric. And so, in the first place, the more coarse, materialistic form had to be taken up by humanity. We know too that in the last decades the most intimate pupils of Darwinism have attempted to undermine Darwinism itself in its materialistic colouring. But Darwinism, as it really entered the world of the I9th century, did not enter the world because the investigations of Nature, because science itself made it necessary — not even the natural scientists would maintain that. Oscar Hertwig, the best pupil of Haeckel says, that because human beings only wanted to keep in man the social and mercantile principles of utility during the I9th century, therefore they carried these principles over even into the external world. They simply wanted a reflection of their own thinking, and it was no external facts of nature which forced a Darwinistic view on humanity. So, it is no wonder that, on a closer investigation, one no longer finds these views substantiated. But, as human beings, we have come now to the principle of Utility.

Now Darwin also lived in a certain stream which strove after the principle of Happiness, the Happiness of Human beings, but a stream which was absolutely materialistic. Darwin came very near to that stream which belongs to the doctrine of Malthus. The teaching of Malthus proceeded from a certain definite view, a view that on the Earth in a certain way the means of life increases. That means the fruitfulness of the Earth can increase. But, side by side with this increase in the fruitfulness of the Earth the Malthusians also regarded the increase in the population of the Earth, in such a way as one is only able to regard it, if one does not take into consideration the idea of reincarnation. And they came to see that the fruitfulness of the earth — that is, the means of nourishment, — did not increase at the same rate as the increase in population. They thought: the increase in the nourishment runs its course according to the number [sequence] 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on which we call arithmetical progression; whereas the increase in population happens according to the numbers 1, 2, 4, 8 and so on, which as you know, is geometrical progression. The disciples of Malthus, on the basis of this view, developed the ideas which they thought they had to develop, keeping in mind the Happiness of humanity on the earth. All the time they had in front of them their calculated increase in population, and on the other side an increasing lack in the means of nourishment. From this proceeded the so-called Malthusian ideal — that is, the ideal of the `two children' system. It was said: Since nature has the tendency to impel men forward geometrically and only to impel the means of nourishment forward arithmetically, therefore the population must be restricted, which can be done through the two children system. Now, concerning this special application of the principle of Happiness in the whole stream of Materialism which one gets simply by studying the sequences of Birth according to a materialistic principle (which of course has blinded humanity), we need not speak further now, but Darwin started from the certainty of the principle that for all beings who live on the Earth, the means of nourishment increase in arithmetical progression, whereas the population increases in geometrical progression, And so for him there resulted a certain consequence. He said: If things transpire so the means of nourishment increasing at the rate of 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on, whereas the population increases at the rate of 1, 2, 4, 8, then there will be amongst the beings of the Earth an inevitable struggle for existence, and the struggle for existence must be a really operative principle. So, upon Malthusianism, — that means something which was meant absolutely for practical life, — Darwin based his system. Please bear in mind that Darwin did not derive his system from an observation of Nature, but from a theory. It was not an observation of Nature based on Knowledge which gave Darwin his impulse, but simply this principle of utility which said that by regulating the births so that the rate of birth did not grow greater than the rate in the increase of nourishment — one could thereby maintain a balance. Of course, it was thought that one could find the struggle for existence everywhere in Nature, and so the Darwinians said: All beings live immersed in a struggle for existence whereby the unfit are removed and the fit remain over. That means the Darwinian `survival of the fittest.' And so, you see, no cosmic principle full of wisdom is required, because now everything runs on by itself through the survival of the fittest. How suitable for the humanity of the I9th century to strip off everything of a spiritual nature and to live as far as possible only in material existence! One has no need to think of ideals if one lives only under the principle of the survival of the fittest. Nature can then go on entirely without ideals. As a matter of fact, one might even work against the course of Nature if one attempts to realise any ideals, because through one's ideals one might even cause an unfit individual to survive; — an individual who would go under in the struggle for existence!

My dear friends, that principle lived in the humanity of the 19th century everywhere, and was uttered more or less clearly. One lived under the impulse of thinking along these lines, even if one did not always say it quite so clearly. In short, a View of the World arose which sought to satisfy the humanity of the I9th century in this special manner. I just wanted to show you in this where lies the true impulse of Darwinism, because in the beautiful scientific Unions or Scientific Societies in general, people have sought to spread a materialistically coloured Darwinism as a kind of Gospel throughout humanity, without knowing what real impulse lay at the back of them. You see, humanity has a far greater preference for ideas which deceive it than for those which explain the truth. We could go on to bring forward many, many things which would simply be an expression of the fact that in the middle of the 19th century our civilisation and culture had reached a certain crisis, and it was a question for those who knew that certain things must never he quite killed, — things that they knew were necessary for the progress of humanity, — it was a question for those who knew, how, m such an age of mere utility, one could still maintain a spiritual civilisation and culture. And so, it was no accident but something founded in the purpose of the whole of human development, that when that principle of utility brought European development to a crisis in the middle of the 19th century, a personality such as Time. Blavatsky appeared who, through her natural endowment, was capable of revealing to humanity an extraordinary amount from out of the spiritual world itself. if anyone who is an astrologer wanted to consider this matter, he could undertake the following pretty experiment. He could take the point of time of the strongest utilitarian crisis of the 19th century, and for that point of time set up a horoscope. He would get just the same horoscope if he calculates the horoscope of Time. Blavatsky! This is simply a symptom that the self-evolving Cosmic Spirit in the course of time wanted to place a personality in the world through whose soul the opposite of Utilitarianism should come to expression. That principle of utility is absolutely established in Western civilisation, and against all this the Eastern civilisation has always held itself erect. Therefore, we see this peculiar play that, whereas in the West right into the sphere of Knowledge this Western principle is striven for out of a materialistic Darwinism, where a struggle for existence inserts itself into scientific observation, — that brutal struggle for existence against which attacks have always been made by the Russian investigators, whose research work you find collected by Kropotkin in his book, wherein he says that it is not a struggle for existence which lies at the basis of all animal species, but what he calls Mutual Aid. And so, about the middle of the 19th century we have Darwin's “Origin of Species” appearing in the West through the struggle for existence, and in the East, we have brought together by Kropotkin, the labour of a whole series of Russian scientists in his book “Mutual Aid,” which characterises the evolution of species by showing that just those species develop best of all who help each other mutually. Thus, on the one side as it were, at the one pole of the newer spiritual civilisation men are taught that those species develop best who suppress each other most of all, and then from the East, from the other pole, we are taught that those species develop best, the members of which are so endowed that they support each other mutually. That is extraordinarily interesting. One might say, that just as Darwin from out of the milieu of the West works m the middle of the 19th century, so from out of the aura of the East there worked that which was laid down in the soul of Blavatsky, but which could not come fully to development because the time was not yet at hand

We have seen how the West has come forward in a certain way already, whereas the East still stands at the beginning of this development. And so, in Blavatsky there appears a kind of beginning, the announcement of a soul-development. This soul-development of Blavatsky appeared entirely out of a Russian aura, in spite of the fact that her origin was not in itself entirely Russian. This soul, in her mediumship, was developed in a Russian way, but, in the course of her life she was completely led into Western civilisation, — she was so utterly led into Western civilisation that, as you know, she wrote her books in the language of the West; even as far West as America, this figure of Blavatsky was interwoven with the civilisation of our recent age. One might say that in Blavatsky the attempt was made to see how these two things could be intermingled. From all that I have told you concerning the evolution of Blavatsky, you will know that certain things were attempted through her, but, as you also know all meaning, all sense was snatched away from these very exempts. The works of Blavatsky are even chaotic, giving out great significant truths, hut all hopelessly mixed up with the most extraordinary rubbish. Now what, in reality, has proceeded from that impulse which was attempted with Blavatsky? With Blavatsky, the attempt was made to take occultism, which is a merely traditional occultism, and to propagate that. And what has followed from this, after Blavatsky's death right on to our own age? That you have experienced for yourselves right up to the humbug with Alcyone, and what is now developing from Mrs. Besant herself.

Thus, you have this example before you — an attempt to unite occultism with utilitarianism. Now in the way in which it was attempted there, it could not go on any further. Through that peculiar intermingling of something which was born in the East with what existed in the West, Blavatsky, whose soul was of a mediumistic nature, was intended to incorporate the spirituality of the West with the principle of Utilitarianism An Ahrimanic attempt was begun; and that is a terrible, a horrible, but powerful example of how an Ahrimanic attempt inserts itself, which tries, not only to bring out a certain knowledge concerning the supersensible world, but to place it entirely in the service of utility, of Utilitarianism. Blavatsky was surrounded by personalities who strove to keep her entirely in their own hands, but that never quite succeeded because she always slipped away from them in a certain way. But a certain number of men in the Western world endeavoured to get Blavatsky entirely into their own hands, and if that had succeeded, if the ideal of uniting spirituality with the principle of utility had been Utterly realised, we should experience something quite different to-day from that Bureau of Julia (Stead's Bureau); for the Bureau of Julia is only a posthumous, an unsuccessful attempt to amalgamate the principle of utility with spiritualism. What was attempted with Blavatsky was simply only a caricature, but if that had succeeded, we should have everywhere to-day Bureaus where, through mediums, we could get all kinds of information concerning what numbers would win in a lottery, what lady one should marry, whether one should sell out or keep for a time certain stocks and shares. And all that would be arranged from the information to be got from the spiritual world, through mediumship. The spiritual life would be placed utterly at the service of utility. The tragedy of Blavatsky consists in this, — that she was driven to and fro, between both poles, and therefore her life is of such an extraordinary psychological character. In Blavatsky's life, certain doors had to be opened through which one could look into the spiritual world, and so we see this extraordinary phenomenon appearing, of the withdrawal of the Individuality who used Blavatsky as a means of bringing revelations into the world concerning the spirit, while in its place appears that individuality whom Olcott characterises as the reincarnated Sea-Pirate of the 16th century, John King. John King, who then occupied himself in materialising tea cups and things of that kind, when they were especially needed! Into these things there plays a conflict between the principle of Utility and that principle which must work with more Utilitarianism in the course of the further development of humanity, — not by removing utility out of the world, but by directing it spiritually into the right paths. Because, my dear friends, you must not think that any spiritual civilisation of the future will ever be at enmity with life. The task of any true spiritual Science should be to bring Utilitarianism into the right waters.

But of this we shall attempt to speak in the next lecture. We shall then attempt to show the relation between the principle of utility of the most practical life of our present age, and that which should be a spiritual life within this life of practise. And therewith we shall contact one of the most important questions of the life of our present age.



West

East

Darwin

Kropotkin

Development of Species.

Development of Species.

Struggle for existence.

Mutual aid.





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