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Spiritual Science, History, Reincarnation, Culture, Examples

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Spiritual Science, History, Reincarnation, Culture, Examples

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

This previously untranslated lecture is from the lecture series entitled, The Bridge between Cosmic Spirituality and the Physical Constitution of Humans, published in German as, Die Bruecke Zwischen der Weltgeistigkeit und dem Physichen des Menschen. Die Suche Nach der Neuen Isis, der Goettlichen Sophia. Der Mensch in seinem Zusammenhang mit dem Kosmos. Band II. It is lecture 8 of 16 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach and Basel, Switzerland in the Fall of 1920.

By Rudolf Steiner

Translated by Hanna von Maltitz
Bn 202.8; GA 202; CW 202

This previously untranslated lecture is from the lecture series entitled, The Bridge between Cosmic Spirituality and the Physical Constitution of Humans, published in German as, Die Bruecke Zwischen der Weltgeistigkeit und dem Physichen des Menschen. Die Suche Nach der Neuen Isis, der Goettlichen Sophia. Der Mensch in seinem Zusammenhang mit dem Kosmos. Band II. It is lecture 8 of 16 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach and Basel, Switzerland in the Fall of 1920.

We present it here, lovingly translated by Hanna von Maltitz, with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn 202.8, GA 202, CW 202.

This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
Various e.Text Transcribers

Thanks to the Basil Gibaud Memorial Trust, this Lecture has been made available.

Spiritual Science, History, Reincarnation, Culture, Examples

From: The search for the new Isis, the Divine Sophia.

(GA 202)

Lecture 8

Dornach, 12 December 1920

I would like to devote in these considerations which will be continued next Friday, the possible all inclusive image on the one side of the link humanity has to the entire universe, to the cosmos, as well as the physical aspect to the spiritual cosmos, and on the other hand to show how we can gradually, through spiritual scientific studies arrive at an actual bridge between what can be called the order of nature and the moral world order. Today I want to offer a kind of Intermezzo which will show how, with reference to humanity itself, the spiritual must be linked to physicality, if it is to come to an all embracing examination including human evolution. That which prohibits the creation of a bridge between the physical and the spiritual also prevents, for the traditional world view in its various forms, reaching a total conception of what is working within human evolution. We can approach spiritual science in such a manner that it isn't an abstract theory, only a sum of imaginations which should solve the question of the immortality, the question of repeated earthly lives in an abstract form. We can't accept spiritual science in this way. It would be a misunderstanding to take it this way. We must imagine spiritual science as penetrating our lives and take what is given in the area of spiritual science in its specific abstract, theoretical form, and apply it quite concretely in our lives. From this I would like to give you an example which has certainly come from true spiritual scientific studies which one can not only refer to but which is verifiable in life itself.

The precursor is this: a spiritual researcher presents certain interrelationships. He expresses these interrelationships. He applies them to life. The course of every person's life can be externally observed. An impartial examination of life is then verified which the spiritual researcher offers from his observations. Something like this must be somewhat retained with such an example of spiritual scientific examination, which I'm presenting as reference to you today.

An historic angle on examination methods has actually strongly influenced what we call the natural scientific way of thinking today. Historical examinations have gradually been capitulated by scientific studies and it is believed that the historical progression of humanity as such should be discovered by the effects reverting back to the causes and then finding an interrelationship between historical causality and causes reflected in events of nature. When single historic examiners turn radical in this regard, the tendency, at least gradually, will direct history in a similar examination method as is applied to science.

In particular, when one observes the unfolding of everyday life and includes individuals in this unfolding from one generation to the next, one gradually arrives at considering things, I might say, merely from outside, as threads of scientific necessity. Even though for many it is somewhat depressing today, yet necessary as part of their appearance, we need to refer to physically inherited features. We are continuously considering how a person has more of this, or less of that, outer or inner physical or soul traits simply inherited from his forbearers and thus we create personal history daily. We extend our history with it. We look at it to a certain extent, as if we live within the present generation, and how this branches off from the foregoing, this again from what was before it and so on. We become accustomed to considering historic development by actually looking at the events of generations.

Let's take a region, say Central Europe. Let's examine it by considering the characteristics of the central European people in the last decades. Then go further back to previous decades and try where possible to get a feel for what we usually do with sensory examination, let's say regarding the characteristics of today's Germans, the characteristics of today's French and take these back to the Germans of the 18th century, the French to the 18th century and so on. We see to a certain extent a straight stream of mankind's development and we are content. The scientist would say the need for causality is satisfied when one finds spiritual-soul qualities in a particular human trait of the present day which can be traced back to spiritual-soul qualities of earlier generations of the same nation, the same race and so on, when therefore a specific causal relationship in the straight line of the course of time can be established.

How can the world view of those who in the course of time during the three to fourth century and even longer have developed and even remain religious, spiritual, yet, as soon as they are let free to abstractions, feel the soul-spiritual life tightly bound to the physical, how can such a method of examination rise above the pure progression of the generation line, the evolution of generations? Here we have to become serious regarding anthroposophic wisdom. From this viewpoint we need to not merely look back at people or the number of people in the present, insofar this person or these people directly have inherited characteristics from their forebears, but we need to be practical and clear that in every one of these people there is a soul-spiritual element which had lived for a long time in the soul-spiritual world before it came in to a particular physical body. When we have a person present in front of us, we need to say to ourselves: we look lovingly at him, he actually displays inherited qualities from previous generations. We also observe him soul-spiritually. He has a soul which has absolutely nothing directly to do with previous generations, which also have not had much to do with generations even further back, who in a much earlier time than now had been on the earth, and who, during an entire row of generations, developed in such a way that he didn't stand directly in relation to the earth's evolution, who, during the course of generations, had been in the soul-spiritual world. It is one-sided to consider mankind only according to inherited characteristics of generations. It is finally also only an illusion to consider mankind or historical origins this way. It is argued that one would understand these things, but in fact they are not understood at all in reality. There is theorizing about this and that, what mankind is doing at present, how they live there, the affect of this or that inherited quality. Yet if we could be sufficiently impartial we would in innumerable situations, yes, everywhere, say: what a person takes on from generation to generation of further developing physical qualities, is not by any means clear in one or other area, whether with individuals or with some kind of nation, or race type of relationship. If one wants to come to the reality, if one doesn't allow the continuation of abstraction, when one is also a materialist — which is after all only an abstraction, even a materialistic abstraction — then one must consider how someone living in the present had taken what had been in his bloodline, and be clear about the forces within his soul, which had lived for a long time in the spiritual world before his reincarnation into this body.

During recent years I have made indications regarding these things. I have made indications what, particularly in our time, before the disastrous events of the European peoples being intermixed, what the soul carried within itself from the first Christian decades. The world is however complicated and by giving such details, one only actually find a part. Such details must be taken further in order to gradually reach a total view. This may not at all be understood as when something previously stated in all truthfulness, even applied to several people, should now be corrected; so to add to this, the following must be said.

Relatively speaking it is not the greatest number of the central European population who carry souls who had lived in the first Christian decades, in the manner we imagine the common history of the first Christian decades to have been. Things are far more complicated. What appears through spiritual scientific research sometimes seem paradoxical; yet this is the way it is, and so things which appear for the spiritual scientific researcher only through real observation, which must be reached through real super sensible experience, will be piling error upon error when mere speculation is used, when one is given over to philosophising or speculating. The resulting experience is revealed in a different way and this is just that which the spiritual researcher finds so intensive: that he or she is actually surprised by the outcome. He expects nothing throughout, that this or that will be the result, but is surprised by the results.

To represent such results I would like your souls to glance back to those peoples who were in America during the time Europeans started their American conquest and continued ever more. You know it was a people which from a civilized European view was regarded as wild. One such a wild population in America, the Indians, was wild in comparison to the civilization designated as living in the last centuries in the European world, and yet there lived in them in relation to other soul forces which excludes the intellect, something the so-called civilized people would wish to have returned to them. Above all, the Indian population had an inherent regard for the spiritual forces of the world which actually, at closer inspection, presented something impressive. This population venerated a Great Spirit. This was already becoming decadent during the times of the conquests, but this decadent revelation pointed back to the veneration of a Great Spirit, which flowed and wove through everything and had its lower forces within separate elemental spirits.

Within this, let me say, religious pantheistic image lived this American people. Above all we must emphasize: this American folk had not participated in the outer sense in what the European population had participated in during the course of the so-called Christian development. What European Christianity brought had not been shared by the American Indians. The entire soul constitution of this folk developed intensive pantheistic feelings and based their behaviour on these impulses. In addition what developed in these souls was their ability to spend a relatively short time between death and a new birth. They needed no great period of time but it was intensive, unbelievably simple, elementary what these souls lived through in processing the spiritual world. So not only the souls of the Indian population, as they lived in the time of the conquest of the West — in this case nearly all — but also later souls, have already essentially returned into the western European population.

By studying — in reverse — the course of generations from the present time into the Middle Ages, we could discover physically inherited features. Taking this as the total reality, we lull ourselves into illusions. It is an abstract observation to say that the present western peoples of Europe are very far away from Central Europe and continuing to Eastern Europe and further, can only be examined so that we may say: these nations received their features from previous generations, and so on. This is actually not only the case, because these bodies carrying the ancestral blood have drawn western souls into them like the majority of the people; souls therefore, which through their inner development had not experienced the Christ impulse but in essence carried a kind of pantheistic impulse. Already in the first weeks of their upbringing spent in their environment — because even outer culture, outer civilization propagates in a straight line from generation to generation, but excluding inner soul impulses — these people outwardly adopt Christianity and then from outside they are moulded which we today often encounter as singular and unique. By our impartial observation these people may be seen, if our glance is penetrated thoroughly into its spiritual-intellectual-characteristic aspect, as if something is pulsing within them, something which had been conveyed by their soul from the past.

I said that things revealed through spiritual scientific research are often paradoxes. These things can't be solved by speculation. They have to come about through presented experiences and are often found in established literary methods. Whoever verifies this outwardly will find that light is shed on the outer world, based on knowledge like this.

We will now refer to people who lived during the time of migration in Europe; who emigrated from Europe. These souls were similar to those who had spread Christianity from the south to the north, they were souls who grew into the externalised Christianizing impulse. These souls who accepted Christianity like those living in Europe during the first century — and were quite different to those living with Christianity today — didn't incarnate again into the Central European population. These souls certainly needed longer to return after death into a new birth than did the American Indian souls; it involved souls who had gone through their physical existence earlier than those others who we considered as the last Indian souls, actually the Indian souls during the time of conquest. What the destiny of these earlier Indian souls was, we will not explore now. However, these souls who incarnated in the first Christian century in Europe and who were present in the cultural spread of Christianity from the south to the north, these incarnated now more towards Asia. What I am now describing reveals, particularly clear in these times, how the dreadful catastrophe of the second decade of the twentieth century is so closely stitched into it. In our study of the present earth civilisation now appears something extraordinarily meaningful, for we notice that these souls have incarnated into the Japanese population; that the kind of Christianising a soul had undergone through Europe's Christianizing, who now hear no sound of Christianity from infancy, who only through the subconscious carry a certain nuance of Asian decadence as a result of the then Christianising impulse which they still carry within them, now turn against the present Europe. It is essentially a result of the total decadence of declining oriental wisdom — which at one time was so great, as I have depicted for you — in harmony with the first primitive Christian impulses, how they originated when Christianity in Europe spread from the south to the north under the barbaric populations. This is how it was essentially in the major part of the population. Certainly it complicated things as a result, that this population was thus originated — the souls of the American ancient population like the Central European population both moving eastwards — intermixing into many unique bodies now occupied by souls who had lived during the first Christian centuries more towards the south. These are now right within the populations which originated in this way as I have described to you.

Then we have, when we study the present civilisation, a large number of souls who already in the first centuries AD lived before the founding of Christianity in Asia, in the near East, or in general over the entire Asia. This was not the time of great blossoming of the oriental culture of nature, but it was the time when ideas and concepts were being created which would help understand the Mystery of Golgotha. I'm talking about souls who stood far from the Mystery of Golgotha but who had a particular culture of wisdom which could not be transplanted into the West, and from which the Mystery of Golgotha could be understood as coming out of Hellenism, out of the Roman culture.

We must always differentiate between the Mystery of Golgotha, according to facts, and the various interpretations which have been brought about in the course of centuries. These facts can be interpreted in a different way in every age, and it would be nonsense to identify some or other teaching of the Mystery of Golgotha with the actual facts of this Mystery. I can explain this with a comparison. Imagine we have a very ingenious person. We also have a child, and next, a mediocre person, balancing everything out, somewhat middle class, even an average person, and thirdly a person with a disposition of brilliance. All three are presented with the same thing: the actual reality of the ingenious individual. The child will have some or other explanation of the genius' actions. The philistine who wants to balance everything out, will also have an explanation, and the person with a disposition of having ingenious qualities will have another explanation. All three are confronted with the same reality but their explanations are completely different and one is not justified to identify either the one or the other as the actual reality. In the same way one may not identify the teachings of the first Christians with the reality of Christianity. These teachings of the first Christian centuries came out of the Orient. One actually learnt what the teachings of oriental wisdom were and they were used to illuminate the Mystery of Golgotha. It is naturally terribly tyrannical when progressive churches take this teaching as the only valid interpretation of the Mystery of Golgotha, because it is nothing other than an interpretation according to the preconditions of a certain age. Other times could interpret the Mystery of Golgotha differently. We must explain it spiritual scientifically to justify the demands of the present time.

Therefore, what lived in the Christ teaching impulse in the first centuries, we find — but not applied to Christianity, rather more or less disregarding the Mystery of Golgotha — in the more contemporary intellectual people but less in the majority of people, the teaching studied in the Far East. Those souls who lived just before and also during the time of the Mystery of Golgotha and who were actual oriental souls, experienced a long stretch of time between their death and rebirth while the oriental culture, even in its decadent form, presented extraordinary images to these souls.

These souls appeared in the people who became the American nation, as a conquered people, while Europeans flooded America. The entire American culture with its materialistic aspect, essentially originated out of this appearance of souls who were essentially oriental souls during the time which I have just characterized for you, and who now penetrated bodies with the experience that this embodiment was strange, allowing themselves to be sucked into this embodiment which they did not understand, but took as primitively materialistic and appeared strange because they had basically lived in strong abstractions in their previous earthly life. They could not enter into themselves in their present incarnation but carried over from their previous life what had then been experienced as outer nature observation in an attitude of secluded, often sectarian religiosity. This exists in the denial of matter with Mrs Eddy, with the Scientologists and so on. Everything which appears in the outer world can verify these things, if we consider them with enough impartiality.

By adding what anthroposophic spiritual science offers to what outer anthropological methods of examination supply, we may obtain an image of reality. However we should be serious with what anthroposophic spiritual science can offer. We should not be satisfied with the mere theory of repeated earthly lives. We should observe reality, the outer reality, practically, in relation to this knowledge and then this knowledge can gradually carry its fruits into a practical social life.

We must consistently realize that those who cling to a viewpoint which only considers outer laws of nature, who direct people towards only considering the merely anthropological, only observing what is physically inherited from one generation to the next, that they will always face more and more riddles. Illusions can be entered into for a long time, regarding such riddles. We can believe in some understanding in the course of humanity but we only enter into such illusions while theory, crammed in from earliest youth, is taken as the basis, until we can gradually only observe what comes visibly to the eye, what expresses itself as physically inherited results. However it will probably eventually happen that someone says: yes, but there are facts after all which cannot be ignored, and which are inexplicable in the context of mere anthropological causality. We need to take into consideration that in some or other generation of some or other nation are souls at present who have come from somewhere else than from the great-great-great grandfathers of this nation. To the nation's egoism that might not sound very good but without it this egotism will dwindle when humanity goes through a similar development in future. It has been pointed out already that the largest part of the European population certainly had been propagated through their ancestral blood, but carry Indian souls amongst then, and that these souls lived here in Europe — a largest part of the same in the time of the Attilas — and who had embraced Christianity, which we now meet over in Asia. Even in some educated souls we can see this through unprejudiced examination. Certainly, so correct, so pedantically abstract as we are used to considering things today, they cannot be considered when we search for the reality as it is meant here. However, when we don't build our concepts as abstractly as we are used to, but if we want to come to the reality, then we must go out from such points of view which are mentioned here. Various things will be discovered which appear paradoxical but which actually clarifies reality.

It is for example curious, partly in the coquettish statements of Rabindranath Tagore to observe this strange flavour. One might say here is the possibility to grasp with spiritual hands the Christian descended soul and the oriental descended body. This provides an orientalising coquetry. That which appeared specifically as something well-meaning dribbling into the soul of Rabindranath Tagore, comes from having once sailed into a Christian soul but who did not become a Christian, while living in an outer, non-Christian civilization.

The Greek saying “Know Thyself” is not only directed at single people and above all not merely destined for trivial self contemplation but it is also directed at mankind. However, humanity finds this observation uncomfortable as a rule. Still, we won't make progress in our civilization, but go progressively backwards if we don't become serious about the Apollonian words “Know Thyself”. It is certainly something uncomfortable — such people as Kurt Leese, to whom I've referred in open lectures in Basel, found it “annoying” and “provocative” if one can't merely get to know a person according to what his nose looks like, what his mouth looks like, or how his eyes appear, but that one gets to know him by what his soul looks like. Will we practically accomplish an entry into a spiritual world view if we utter empty abstractions about repeated earthly lives and the repeated earthly lives expressed as destiny, and shrink back from the practical application in life when we can't learn any more about people than if they are blond or dark, have this or that form of eyebrow, this or that form of a nose? If we want to be serious about broadening our spiritual world view then everything indicating “Knowledge of Humanity” must be permeated by spiritual impulses, then we need not shrink from the discomfort in our soul qualities as well as those of others by really getting to know them. Then we need even so, as we did with the nose, look at the soul qualities and as a result the progress of humanity from the present into the future will be touched, for we don't merely look at the outer form of the nose but that soul-to-soul relationships develop between people, focussing on soul knowledge. What is called the social question is something more profound than is imagined by many. This social question can basically not be considered from afar if a study of mankind needs to be continued, which I stated yesterday at the end of my lecture, where the human being is completely missing and there is only arguments about private property and its cultivation, and of economizing machines. Since the decline, humanity has forgotten instinctive soul knowledge and today the social life is experienced by looking actually at one another externally. This drives the wildest instincts to the surface. Humanity would decline into the most savage instincts if the soul spiritual did not breathe through our human life directly. Added to this it is necessary to take note that besides the outer historic causality, the reality of earthly humanity being there throughout and right up to the present, and actually what follows is not merely their physicality brought forward, but that it also applies to the soul, which had lived in some or other soul-spiritual entity in this or that earlier time on the earth. This results in there being qualities in the reincarnated soul and in physical features which are truly expressed in the reality of the human civilization in the present time.

The previous reaction against a spiritual world view doesn't only apply to the mechanical materialistic way of thinking along scientific and theoretical lines but go much deeper. They justify themselves today also by directing their world view in a way which avoids everything soul-spiritual and only focuses on the physical-anthropological results of generations. A map of Europe will develop purely according to the blood relationships of peoples, purely according the chauvinistic, folk egotistic impulses. That is the practical social reaction against the soul spiritual world view coming in. One could say: By Europe accepting the rhetoric of Wilson based on the autonomy of blood related peoples it is declared: we want to know nothing about soul-spiritual impulses. — It is an opposition against the inclusion of the soul-spiritual.

This is not criticism but simply a description of the evidence because what makes itself valid is actually the social practice, the kind of racial opposition against the validity of the self in the soul-spiritual. This soul-spiritual however, by apprehending the fundamental attitude of people, also grips practical life. This is an urgent necessity which can't be seized quickly enough by people of the present day: those who start to understand something about the practical meaning of anthroposophically orientated spiritual science through transforming ideas of this spiritual science into vigorous business impulses for people, must make every effort, wherever possible, to work against that which is purely anthropological. We notice today how the world through anthropology — in the widest sense of anthropology — rattles into a decline. It must be shielded from this decline through Anthroposophy.

These are actually the two streams in the evolution of humanity, which must fight a hard battle between them. On the one side is the purely anthropological which goes through political measures even in its most diverse forms, and on the other, the Anthroposophical, which is still being frowned upon today. We see everywhere how contemporary people gradually need to develop themselves towards strong inner initiatives through which they can feel called into making a choice to the one or the other side. This choice is not to merely, I might say, be secluded in a little theory chamber, in a little world-view chamber, it needs to find its application throughout our world view in practice. In particular it is taken amiss that whoever can really not remain steady as an anthroposophical world view supporter to a certain degree, but who see the meaning of the spiritual specifically in the spirit as controlling matter, learning to dive into matter, everyday life is also seen from this same point of view. A real awakening of humanity — I have often said this — is necessary, such an awakening that humanity will develop inner courage to come to a decision. That is needed in humanity today.

In this regard real depressing impulses are to be found at the basis of so-called civilized humanity today. We have ample opportunity in the present time to notice how everything is still rejected when people are demanded to make some or other decision within themselves. We need not decline into some kind of convention when drawn into everyday life, but need to draw into everyday life that which will become the future signature of development directly before us, in order to examine it from a higher perspective.

Haven't we actually yet again seen an event which basically really elucidates the sleeping character of the present-day soul? I have not felt embarrassed for having referred for many years to the love of abstraction which has made the largest part of humanity into Wilsonians, and I have characterised what that really means at present. Now, we have lately experienced, also even with smaller populations, what to a certain extent belongs to civilization, that a decision should have been made. It is presented in many ways as problematic in character but which was needed by this nation to wake up to some extent. We have experienced, I might say, how through a real paradox this personality would be eliminated and the nation had decided to call for a nobody, a person regarded as a nothing to be their leader.

These things certainly affect the most everyday aspects, but this is it, something which is so close that one fails to grasp them as symptoms, that one disregards them with a cold heart and do not see what kind of symptoms of decline exist in humanity and how necessary it is to call up the forces which will enable humanity to wake up their souls. It has already been necessary for educated people today to research current events and take part in them with greater liveliness to what happens within them.

A person is not regarded as great by indifferently passing by these events which are so deeply symptomatic, but by allowing these events to show them what really works from within. How often have I pointed out how the ahrimanic powers currently course through humanity? This influence of ahrimanic powers through humanity can outwardly be seen when one is unprejudiced. But how can one penetrate to the truth when historical events which could verify outer truth, is indifferently and sleepily passed by and taken note of in this manner people are used to do today? Spiritual science will certainly not want to go according to convention; spiritual science must bear the reality of life within it. Today the world must be seen by how strong ahrimanic powers rise up in opposition to everything which is emphasized by the spirit. It is needed in these days — which of course include years — to decide if the Father was right, who abolished the Spirit in 869 during the Ecumenical Council, if it should remain like this or if the Spirit should again be included in the evolution of humanity. This however will not be enlivened again through mere theoretical observations but through it becoming a practice in life.

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