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Hereditary Impulses and Impulses from Previous Earth Lives

Western Brotherhoods

Schmidt Number: S-3300

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A Lecture by
Dr. Rudolf Steiner
Dornach, November 19th, 1916
Bn/GA 172

This is the 7th of 10 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach, in November of 1916. The title of this series of lectures is: The Karma of Human Vocation as related to Goethe's Life. They were published in German as: Das Karma des Befurs des Menschen in Anknuepfung an Goethes Leben. Kosmische und menschliche Geschichte.

This lecture appears in the book: The Karma of Human Vocation, and is also known as, Western Brotherhoods. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland. From Bn/GA 172. The London Reference number is, S-3300.

Copyright © 1928
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Anthroposophical Movement

Weekly News for English-speaking Members of
the Anthroposophical Society

VOL. V. No. 3

15th January, 1928


Published at the Offices of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain, 46, Gloucester Place, London, W.1, England. Subscriptions: Great Britain and Dominions, 15s. yearly, 3s. 9d. quarterly. Single Copies, 3d. America, $4.00 yearly, $1.00 quarterly. All right reserved.

Lecture by Rudolf Steiner

Dornach, 19th November, 1916.
Shorthand Report unrevised by the Lecturer. For the preceding lectures of this Course on the
‘Karma of Vocations,’ see Anthroposophical Movement, Vol. IV, Nos. 37, 38, 41, 44, 46, 49 and 51.

I

 T is my task at this time to explain certain matters directly related to practical life and to the outer existence of mankind in general. This is to some extent an interlude in our present studies, in order to bring out the quality which Spiritual Science in our time must above all possess — that of immediate relation to real life. We shall presently come to those parts of our subject which deal more with the inner life of man. All in all, this is the focus and aim of our present studies: On the foundations of Spiritual Science, to gain an idea of the individual man's position in practical life, even in his calling or profession. I would entitle the whole of this course of lectures (including the last three or four) ‘The Karma of Vocation.’ But it is necessary first to gain a broader basis; I must explain some other things, connected with our question in a wider sense.

As we have already seen, what man achieves for the world — no matter in what profession — is connected, intimately, even with the farthest cosmic future of mankind; it cannot be set aside as mere prosaic toil. Man enters into the social order of life in a certain way. His Karma impels him to some particular calling. While we are speaking of this question, no calling need be thought inherently prosaic or poetic. For we now know that what man does within the social order, is the first seed of something, which is not only of significance for our Earth, but will go on and on evolving when the Earth passes through the Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan states. A living grasp of our several callings, a recognition of simple and straightforward human life in its significance, can be brought home to us most intensely through these spiritual studies. For it is the task of our spiritual-scientific movement not only to provide euphonious theories, but to bring to our souls that which will tend to place us rightly into life according to the Spirit of our Time — each in his place. Therefore, our Truths are always such as to be strong enough, for life itself really to be judged and understood through them. We will not just enthuse in a multitude of pleasing, comforting ideas; we will receive ideas which can carry and sustain us throughout life.

If you will remember something I have often emphasised, you will see how this spiritual-scientific movement tends to bring near to our souls what is of real significance for life. I have often pointed to an important fact of life; and if those whose task lies in the sphere of learning are not too obtuse, it may well be that this fact will play an important part in Science comparatively soon. Nowadays there is much emphasis on Heredity and all that is connected with it in man's life. Repeating as they generally do, like parrots, the scientific world-conception of to-day, educationists, when they speak of the choice of callings, will also tell us of the inherited qualities which the teacher must take into account if he wishes to pass judgment on the questions that so frequently arise as to the future calling of a young person who is about to enter into life. But the question of heredity is generally treated, nowadays, only in this wise: — Children, they say, inherit certain characteristics from their parents or earlier ancestors. And in this connection they are generally thinking more or less of physical heredity — that which is entirely contained in the physical line. For the external scientists of to-day cannot yet take the step of recognising the repeated earthly lives of man — the carrying-over of human qualities from former incarnations.

They talk of heredity; but they will only gain a right idea of the question of heredity when they consider it in conjunction with what you may already know, even if you only understand the content of the booklet on ‘Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy’ Human life runs its course in this way: There is a first section, approximately to the seventh year — to the change of teeth; a second, lasting until the fourteenth year; a third, until the twenty-first; and so on. (For instance, there is another period until the twenty-eighth year.) You will find some further details in a booklet reproducing the content of my recent lecture at Liestal, where I pointed out once more, from another standpoint, these truths of human evolution between birth and death and its division into seven-year periods. Broadly speaking, as you know, the physical body is to some extent inwardly perfected between birth and the change of teeth, the etheric from then onward to the time of puberty, and afterwards the astral body.

Let us to-day consider this time of puberty, which takes its course from about the fourteenth to the sixteenth year. (It varies, as you know, with climate, nationality, etc.) At this time the human being becomes ripe to bring descendants into life. The study of this period is therefore immensely important — especially for a natural-scientific theory of heredity. For up to this time the human being must have developed all those qualities which make him able — out of himself — to convey such qualities to his descendants. He cannot wait until a later time for the development of these faculties. In a subordinate sense, no doubt, characteristics subsequently acquired can also be transmitted to the descendants; but speaking in the sense of natural science, man is undoubtedly so organised that at the age of fourteen to sixteen he becomes completely ripe for inheritance. We cannot therefore say that the main qualities which enter into his development after this time of life are of any great significance for the question of heredity. Natural Science will therefore have to find out the reasons why man ceases, from this moment onward, to develop in himself foundations of heredity. In the animal the thing is different. Throughout its life, the animal does not essentially get beyond this point of time. This is what we must really comprehend.

Without entering further into many things which would have to be considered in this connection, I wish to say at once what really underlies this matter from the point of view of Spiritual Science. Take now the moment of birth. Before it, we have a long period of time which man spends in the spiritual life between death and a new birth. There, the processes take place which I have so often described in outline in a certain way. Naturally, all that takes place in that time between death and a new birth influences the human being. But above all, that which takes place in the spiritual between death and a new birth contains much that is related to the development of the bodily nature between birth and the age of fourteen to sixteen. What man works out, on Earth, very largely in his unconsciousness, this above all he works out between death and a new birth from the standpoint of a higher consciousness. Here upon Earth, man looks through his eyes and other senses upon the mineral, plant and animal world. ... When he is in the spiritual world with the Angeloi, Archangeloi, Archai and Exusiai, ... and with those human beings who have also passed through the gate of death and who in some way can be near to his soul, then, looking downward, his attention is directed above all to that which is connected with the life of humanity during this time. And from thence, as I have explained even in exoteric lectures, all that which underlies heredity is likewise determined. And as you know from an earlier lecture, the result of the past vocational life also emerges like a relic of the processes between death and a new birth — appearing physiognomically as it were, in the gestures and in the whole inherited tendencies too. In the human being at this time of life — even in the way he walks and moves his hands and in other respects deports himself — you can see the result of his vocational life in the last incarnation. Then comes the period from the fourteenth to the twenty-first year, which is to some extent in opposition to the preceding one. During this period, the hereditary impulses cannot work on in the same way, for as we have seen, the point of time at which man has these impulses fully developed is already passed. External science takes no account of such questions; but it will have to do so, unless it wishes to be void of all reality.

Now this is also the point of time when man is led by vague unconscious impulses towards his new calling; and into this, the processes which lie between death and a new birth do not work nearly so much. For in this epoch the impulses of his former incarnation are especially at work. When circumstances work so as to drive him into this or that calling, the human being believes — and others around him too believe — that outer circumstances alone are in reality bringing it about. But the outer circumstances are subconsciously connected with what is living in the human soul — living in it directly from the conditions of the former incarnation. Observe the difference: In the preceding period — from the seventh to the fourteenth year — our former incarnation, fertilised by what takes place between death and a new birth, goes into our bodily organisation, making it the image of our former calling. But in the following period the impulses no longer work into us — no longer impress their gestures on us — but lead us along the paths of life to our new calling.

See what an infinitely fruitful thought will arise from these considerations, for the whole educational system of the future. If only our outer worldly culture could make up its mind to reckon with repeated lives on Earth instead of setting up fanciful theories — theories which cannot but be fanciful, because they do not reckon with the true reality but with a fragment of it — with the realities which are immediate and present between birth and death.

Here we can gain an outlook, of what untold importance it will be for Spiritual Science to enter into those circles which have to do with the human being's education and development, and with the influences which are brought to bear upon the life of man in the external social order. Of course we are here looking out upon wide perspectives, — but they have very much to do with the reality. For in the evolution of the world, chaos does not prevail. Order prevails — or, if it be disorder, even so it will always be explicable out of the spiritual life. He, therefore, who knows the laws connected with repeated lives on Earth, can meet life in a very different way with his advice and active help. He can say things and institute things, connected with the real course of life.

You must remember, in a certain sense everything in the world is cyclic. We know the great cycles of post-Atlantean time: the Indian, ancient Persian, Egypto-Chaldean, Graeco-Latin, our own, and that which will follow it. The souls of men return in each of these cycles — more than once, or in some cases only once. But life on this Earth is not only cyclic in this all-embracing sense. It is also cyclic in the sense that certain conditions can be determined if we are able rightly to understand those that preceded them. For instance, if someone understands what was spiritually at work in the first centuries of Christian evolution — say, from the third to the seventh century A.D. — if he knows these spiritual impulses, then he can also understand what social needs can be at work in our time. There is a cyclic evolution, and if a man is destined to place himself into this cyclic evolution in a certain way, we make him unhappy if we advise him to behave differently. Now in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch men will have to place themselves into life more and more consciously. Therefore a knowledge of these laws will also have to emerge increasingly. It must be made possible for a man to see himself in real connection with all that is going on in his environment. It is not only that we should learn to choose the right callings for our children; but that we ourselves should be able to develop the right thoughts as to our own relation to the world, no matter where in life we may be placed. For as you know, thoughts are realities. In future it will matter more and more what a man thinks about his connection with all that is going on in the world around him — in the evolution of the Spirit of the Time. In these matters, more and more consciousness will have to take hold of the human soul.

Remember how I tried to characterise the streams of life that arose with the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. I showed how there arose throughout the Western regions that stream which rather tends to make the human being a Bourgeois. (For so we called it, choosing a comprehensive and, as it were, approximate term). Bourgeoisdom has come to expression in Western Europe and in America. With this ideal of the Bourgeois we then contrasted the Eastern goal. (It is only a goal for the present: it is not so clearly expressed, for the Western culture is comparatively more advanced than the Eastern.) What is the Eastern goal? It is the ideal of the Pilgrim. These two ideals — Bourgeois and Pilgrim — stand over against each other. Unless we realise how much this signifies for life, we cannot possibly enter into that understanding of life which is dawning more and more. The people of former centuries and millennia — they could confront life without conscious understanding. For they were guided by the Divine-spiritual powers. We must approach life with conscious understanding — increasingly, the more we develop into the future which is now at hand.

Such things as I just now explained to you — the two streams, one of which is based on heredity and the other on salvation, liberation, — such things must be thoroughly understood if we would claim any judgment upon the life of present time. For these things force themselves upon us. It is not merely my statement; it can be said out of the realities of the time, for it has been felt and to some extent even known for a long time past by those who have confronted life not sleepily and obtusely but with full, wide-awake attention. I have already spoken of this peculiarity of our time: there are many human beings in our time who have a real feeling for the things which are emerging, but are unable (remember what I told you about Jaurès) — unable to rise to an understanding of reincarnation and Karma. Unable to take hold either of individual Karma or of World-Karma, they cannot penetrate what they so well perceive.

In many places in modern history, we find human beings who had an open eye for what was happening, though they could never rise to the point of explaining things from the standpoint of repeated earthly lives; — nay more, though they themselves, just because they could not accept repeated earthly lives, largely contributed to bring about the very things they criticised so sharply. That indeed is characteristic of the men of to-day, even of those who see most clearly. They criticise existing things, while they themselves are working to bring about the very things they judge so truly. So do unconscious impulses play into our human life.

Take for instance a man who saw many things with extreme clarity; a man who clearly observed the life around him, notably his own particular surroundings. I refer to John Stuart Mill, the famous English philosopher, — born in 1806 and died in 1873. Many people of our time regard him as the renewer or essential continuer of Logic; but he also developed social insight, far-reaching social ideas. He turned his attention to the social evolution of that world especially, with which he was familiar in his own environment. And he wanted to find an answer to the question, which for him assumed a tragic form: Into what harbour are we steering? What is the tendency and ultimate goal of that social character which has been stamped, to begin with, upon the life of the nineteenth century? The type of humanity, said Mill, which the nineteenth century developed, is essentially the Bourgeois. Wherein does the Bourgeois differ from the earlier types of humanity which evolved in the course of ages? He asked himself this question, and he replied, The Bourgeois differs in this respect: In former times the individual was of far greater importance. (I am clothing it now rather in our ideas; John Stuart Mill expressed practically the same in other words.) Through the man of former time, a stronger individuality was speaking; one felt the active rising of the soul beyond the immediate and outward physical realities. The Bourgeois type tends to reduce everything to a dead level — tends to equalise all men in the social order. And what is the upshot of this equalising process? Not the equalising in greatness of the human soul, but in nonentity, — so says John Stuart Mill. And he outlines a human future for this fifth post-Atlantean age. Human beings, in their social life together, will more and more become the mincemeat of Bourgeois nonentity. He felt this as a tragical conclusion.

Men feel such things in different ways, however, according as they are born out of the Western or the Eastern culture. The Russian thinker Herzen made himself thoroughly familiar with these observations by John Stuart Mill, but in his soul the thing worked differently. While the Western thinker describes this perspective of Bourgeoisdom with a certain nonchalance, the Eastern suffers terribly to think that Europe — as Mill and Herzen even said — should be steering towards a kind of Chinese state. Both Mill and Herzen (as you may see from Herzen's book, published in 1864) — the one with a more Eastern, the other with a more Western colouring, — regard what has arisen in China as a stage already attained, compared to which Europe is only tending in the same direction — tending to a new China, a senile civilisation where men are the mere mincemeat of Bourgeois nonentity. A narrowing of intellect will come, says John Stuart Mill, — a narrowing of intellect and vigour, a wearing down of individuality; in a word, all that will tend to a dead level, — a constant flattening of life, greater and greater superficiality, to the exclusion of the all-embracing human interests. So says John Stuart Mill, and Herzen only confirms it with a more tragic feeling: reduction of all things to the interests of the ledger, mercantile Bourgeois prosperity. Thus, in the 1860's, John Stuart Mill and Herzen! Mill, speaking in the first place of his own country, declares: England is on the way to become a modern China! Herzen replies: Not only England but all Europe! As you may see from Herzen's work of 1864, Herzen and Mill at that time were more or less agreed as to what Herzen thus expresses: If an un-awaited resurrection does not occur, — leading to a re-birth of human personality, giving it strength to overcome this Bourgeoisie, — Europe despite its noble ancestry and Christianity will become a modern China.

These words were spoken in 1864. But Herzen had no opportunity to reckon with repeated earthly lives and Karma. Such a perception, therefore, he could only receive in deepest tragedy, and he expressed it thus: We are not the doctors, we are the pains of our time. Conglomerated mediocrity — that is the state we are approaching. (It can perhaps better be expressed by the English term which Herzen and Mill employed — ‘conglomerated mediocrity’ — than by any German words.) And Herzen says, out of deep tragical feeling: The time will come in Europe, when modern scientific realism will have gone so far that men will no longer seriously believe in anything belonging to the other world — the super-sensible. People will say that the only goal we have to follow is in the outer physical realities. Men will be sacrificed for these realities, nor will there be any other perspective than that the human beings sacrificed are the mere bridge for those who follow after them. Thus will the individual be sacrificed to the polyp-state of the future.

Such words were really spoken at that time. Europe, says Herzen, has only one difficulty in becoming very rapidly a modern China, and that is Christianity. Christianity cannot so easily be overcome. But he still sees no hopeful outlook, for he finds even Christianity made flat and superficial — superficial in the Revolution, and the Revolution, he says, made still further superficial in the middle-class Liberalism of the 19th century — conglomerated mediocrity! ... Looking to what was said by Mill, and mindful of the downfall of ancient Rome, Herzen declares: I see the unavoidable breakdown of old Europe. At the portals of the old world (meaning Europe) there stands no Catilina, but only death.

There is another author, who learned very much from Mill and Herzen, — I refer to the contemporary Russian writer Merejkowsky. He, too, sees clearly many things that are there around him in the present time. But he cannot make up his mind to receive the sustaining ideas of Spiritual Science. Merejkowsky says, not without justification, The sceptre of former ages has been replaced by the yard-rule, the bible by the ledger, and the altar by the counter.

But the fault is, these things are merely criticized. For as you know, it is inevitable for the yard-rule, the ledger and the counter to play the part they actually play in this fifth post-Atlantean age. It must be so. It is according to an unavoidable World-Karma. The point is not to criticize or to condemn, but to pour into this world of yard-rule, counter and ledger the Spirit which alone can grapple with them, — that is, the Spirit of Spiritual Science.

These things are very serious. I want to let you feel, as I always do on such occasions: I am not setting forth what I myself happen to want to say. What I express, is said in agreement with those men who have observed life openly and un-asleep. Views and opinions everyone can have, but the question is: How do we stand in our time with our opinions, how are they rooted in the soil of our time? Can we confirm them by the facts? Our age is assuming a certain character, — a character clearly perceived by those who want to see. We cannot give to our age any character we like; that is out of the question. We must see how the spiritual evolution of mankind progresses, from cycle to cycle.

As I have told you, there are occult societies who have knowledge of these things out of old tradition — out of the ancient atavistic secret doctrine. And as you also know from former lectures, these societies, notably in the West — (but Eastern people have become their followers) — have assumed an impure character. That does not prevent them from preserving certain secrets of existence. But they preserve them in a way which is not allowable in our time. He above all, who, obedient to the spiritual message of the time, communicates that part of Spiritual Science which is now being made public according to the true spirit of our age, — he above all encounters opposition. Opposition which undoubtedly often proceeds from unclean sources. For the opposition is guided and directed everywhere by spiritual powers; that we must not forget.

So we can understand it, if opposition arises on all hands precisely to that form of Spiritual Science which has to live within our movement. These thing's are so easy to manipulate nowadays. Time and again they declare: ‘It must not be; it is not allowable for such a science to be created for wider circles.’ And then they summon up all kinds of powers which have the public ear to-day, so as to render Spiritual Science harmless. University Professors go from country to country proclaiming themselves in duty bound to stand up against my Spiritual Science above all, because — as they say — our time must concentrate on the Reality (meaning that Reality which they alone can see) and not on these things which divert men from it.

There is sometimes no little method in such attacks. Anyone who is not blind, can see how they select the right places according to the political constellations; the places where they think their reputations as Professors will be most effective, or where they think they will best be able to heave us out of the saddle. They think they will make most headway by choosing the right places and using the right words, (I mean not inherently right, but according to the passions of today).

These things, however, are all of them part of a larger whole. Nothing is more feared, nothing is more anathematised in certain quarters, than the possibility that a number of people might discover something of the real character of life in our time. For in those quarters especially, where the aforesaid occult brotherhoods exist, they have the deepest interest in keeping people in the dark, as to the things which are connected with the real laws of life. If one keeps people in the dark, one can work among them most effectively oneself. One can no longer work effectively when they begin to know how they are really standing in the present time. That is a danger for those who want to fish in clouded waters, — who want to keep their esoteric knowledge to themselves and apply it so as to mould men in their social relationships in the way they want to have them.

There are members of occult brotherhoods to-day, fully convinced within their brotherhoods that spiritual powers everywhere prevail in our surroundings, and that a bond exists between the living and the dead. Within their occult brotherhoods they speak in no other terms than of the real laws of the Spiritual World, — those laws of which we in our Spiritual Science possess a part which must be made public to-day. They speak of all these things, inasmuch as they have received them from old atavistic tradition. Thereupon, they will write newspaper articles against the very same things, branding them as medieval superstitions. Often they are the very same people, who in the occult societies cultivate Spiritual Science as a traditional doctrine, and in the public journals write against it, characterising it as ‘medieval superstition,’ ‘outworn mysticism’ and the like. They think it right that they should keep this knowledge to themselves, while other men remain stupid, ignorant of the principles by which they are being led and guided. (Of course there are also many very peculiar members of occult brotherhoods, who know about as much of the world as they can reach with the ends of their noses. They too join in the chorus, saying how impossible it is to make public in our time ‘the content of the Mysteries.’)

But there are many ways of keeping people befogged. Just as Spiritual Science gives us certain ideas and concepts as a true key to find our entry into the Spiritual World (I mentioned this in the Liestal and in other public lectures) so one can find certain concepts wherewith to ‘have on toast’ that part of the population which cannot abide the complete flattening of the intellect by the Natural Scientific outlook, whereof Mill and Herzen speak. It is always possible to form concepts in a certain manner. If only people knew how concepts are formed in public life to-day, in order to prepare the souls of men for what one wants! Many a man, if he knew this, would presently bestir himself to approach true spiritual science, which tells of these things in a honest and upright way. To-day I will not refer to all manner of lofty concepts which are being proclaimed to men as high ideals, not with the object of their attaining what these ideals imply, but with an altogether different purpose. I will not speak of that to-day, but will make clear by a simple example how easy it is to ‘have on toast’ people who feel a certain need to satisfy their mystic longings.

I will choose the silliest example I can. Someone might say: Number, even by the Pythagoreans of old, was held to contain the secrets of the World-order. Much is contained in the relationships of number. Take for instance these two sets of numbers. Nicholas II. of Russia — he was

born in the year

1868

came to the throne in

1894

has reigned for

    22 years

and is now

    48 years old

 


Add up the numbers:

3832

Halve it and we get:

1916, —

the most important year of the War. A very occult relationship of numbers; for now take George V. of England:

He was born in the year

1865,

his reign began in

1910;

he has reigned for

      6 years

and he is

    51 years old

 


Add up the numbers:

3832

Halve it:

1916.

How intimately the destinies of these two coincide! See how great a part the Pythagorean laws of Number are playing in the world! But that is not all, for there is Poincaré:

He was born in

1860,

he reigned since

1913.

That is,

      3 years

and he is

    56 years old

 


Add up the numbers:

3832.

Halve it:

1916.

See how the Numbers correspond among the three Allies!

One of the silliest examples, of course, for if I were now to step down and ask one of the ladies — needless to say, I shall not do so — when she was born, since when she has been a member of the Anthroposophical Society, how old she is (of course, I shall ask no such question), and how many years she has been in the Society, and if I were then to add up the numbers and halve the sum, I should get the very same number — exactly the same. An ideal example! Assume, for instance, some lady or gentleman, X. or Y,

was born in

1870,

joined the A.S. in

1912

has been in it for

      4 years,

and is now

    46 years old.

 


Add up:

3832,

Halve it:

1916.

A very silly example, no doubt. But I can assure you, many things, in which such ‘Mysteries of Number’ are sought out, depend upon no more than this. They are only a little less obvious. And it is just as easy in other spheres to put concepts together so as to throw sand in people's eyes. You only need skilfully choose your paths and not let people know what lies behind it. Even in the example I have just given, many people fall into the trap. How deeply significant, that destiny should choose the year 1916! But if we had reckoned it for 1914 it would have come out just as well. The fateful year for the three Allies would have coincided with the outbreak of the War. Any number can be put together on the same principle. Many a thing that is construed to-day — only out of somewhat different foundations of thought — is no more profound than this. Only, when it is a little more hidden, people do not see through it. If plenty of words are added — ‘profound,’ ‘cosmic,’ ‘abysmal depths’ and so on, — and especially if all manner of numerical relations are adduced, one can gain countless followers and make it appear that one is speaking out of very special depths of human knowledge.

Nevertheless, there is something more in the methods chosen by certain people to throw sand in other people's eyes. Such and such ideas are proclaimed in this quarter or that, and certain statements are then added. The origin lies in some occult association which wishes to attain a certain purpose. One only need know the ways and means that are adopted.

Such things should become impossible in future; and to this end a number of people must develop, not the narrow, limited intelligence and vigour to which Mill refers, but the sustaining intelligence and vigour of life which come from Spiritual Science. This Science will fertilise our human intellect and energy of life. Then only shall we face the facts of life, in such a way that we cannot be deceived.

You see, it is not unconnected with these things: — There was a certain fear and horror when from the European East to the West there shone across the strange phenomenon of such an individuality as Blavatsky, who appeared as it were from the blue sky. (For her appearance made itself felt, long before it was fulfilled.) I have often pointed out how important this really was for the whole course of the nineteenth century. She appeared at the very moment when the conflict raged most furiously between the so-called ‘esotericists’ and the so-called ‘progressive’ occultists. It was the reactionarists who in this connection called themselves the esotericists. Those who wanted to keep everything from the world — those who wanted to keep all the occult secrets for themselves — called themselves ‘esotericists.’ They applied the word with this meaning. Into the midst of this conflict, the life of Blavatsky fell; and through her peculiar constitution — for immense forces were working out of her subconsciousness — there was a danger that the spiritual secrets might be revealed. People might discover something in the true and real sense; such was the danger. Beneath this danger they lived from 1840 onward — practically since Blavatsky was born, since her early childhood. And ever since that time, efforts were made so to arrange things as to enlist Blavatsky in the service of the Western Occult Brotherhoods. Had this succeeded, only what the Western brotherhoods considered suitable and in their interests would have emerged. But it all took a strange turn. I have told you how the ‘Grand Orient’ first made efforts to get hold of her. But she made conditions which could not be fulfilled. The effort failed. Thereupon she made a great deal of trouble for an American, Western brotherhood; for with her temperament, she constantly boiled over and eluded them, — escaped from what they wanted of her. Thereupon she was expelled, and they knew of no other resource than to condemn her to a kind of occult imprisonment and so bring her into an Indian occult brotherhood whose pursuit of occultism they considered harmless for the so-called Western brotherhoods, because it went along their lines. For they said to themselves: What if all manner of things are brought to light from Indian sources, that will not greatly disturb our circles. Most of the occultists who were working with serious occultism in those quarters said: What, after all, will emerge, now that we have surrounded Blavatsky with all the pictures which shut her off from a real knowledge of the Spiritual World! She will only absorb such things as may happily unite at their tea-parties so many old maids of both sexes (I am really quoting!) She will not greatly disturb our circles.

In reality, things only became unpleasant when our stream emerged, which took things in real earnest, giving access to the sources of a real Spiritual World. Here you will see how deep-seated were the foundations of the conflicts which resulted. For in fact there was something in Blavatsky of those impulses which must come from the Eastern World, and, moreover, there was a certain necessity for a kind of synthesis with the Western world. But the point was this: — In recent times they had fallen more and more in the pursuit of certain purposes and aims, which, as I indicated once before, were not the purposes of truth alone, — purposes which they pursued in the way I recently described to you. Of a truth, these were sometimes quite other aims than those of truth alone!

You must consider this: — If one knows how the cycles of humanity take their course, — if one knows what character the world to-day must have according to its Archai, this or that having prevailed in former times, each at its proper place in evolution, — if one is cognisant of these things, then one can work in a certain way. If on the one hand one possesses traditional Occult Science, while on the other hand in public journals and in public life one attacks the same Occult Science as mere medieval superstition, then indeed one can work in muddy waters and attain important objects, — whatever it may be that one desires to attain. For things in the world are connected, only people need not always know what the connection is. For many human beings, the connection can take place in the unconscious.

We must be able to turn our gaze, as I said before, in the right directions. Much depends on this. We must look to the right places. Often something quite insignificant will appear there; but the insignificant, seen in the right connection, often explains far more than is explained by what would seem important or significant. For in many things in the world it is indeed as Hamlet says of good and evil: Nothing in itself is good or evil, but man makes it so in thought. So it is with many other things. A thing is important not by virtue of what it appears to be, directly, in the outer Maya — in the great illusion. Things are only recognised in their true significance when we unite them with the right concepts. I will give you an example from the most recent times in Europe, without thereby wishing to encroach on any party or political tendency.

People to-day are fond of thinking at short range, and so there may be those who in their thought refer the outbreak of the present War in Europe to the murder of the heir apparent, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I do not say that that is wrong, I do not say that there is not some truth in it. They can explain certain events by referring them back to that assassination, which took place in July, 1914. But there may also be those who point out that it was printed in a Western journal in January, 1913, that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand would be murdered in the near future for the good of European humanity.

We can go back, that is to say, to the actual murder; but we can also go back to what was printed in a Western paper already in January, 1913, namely, the statement that he would be murdered.

Or again, we can go back to the murder of Jaurès on the eve of the war, which, as I indicated recently, will in all probability never be fully cleared up. But we can also go back further, and point to the time to which I just referred. Almost as far back as the other saying — that is to say, in the year 1913, — we can find this statement: — If the conditions in Europe should lead to war, Jaurès will be the first to die. We can look up a certain so-called occult almanac, which was sold for 40 francs. Here in this almanac, which, destined for the year 1913, must have been printed in 1912, we can read the following: In Austria, the man of whom it is commonly supposed that he will rule, will not come to the throne, but in his stead a young man, of whom it is not yet supposed that he will rule after the old Emperor. This was printed in a so-called occult almanac for 1913, — printed therefore already in the autumn of 1912. And in the same almanac for 1914 (printed, therefore, in 1913), the same remark was repeated. Evidently, in 1913, the attempted assassination had failed. In all these things the connections will be exposed, once people see things clearly. I mean the connection between what is there in the external reality, and what is brewed in unclean, hidden waves beneath. Some men will begin to recognise the threads that run from public life into this or that brotherhood. And they will recognise moreover, how foolish it is of other brotherhoods still to declaim, even to-day, that certain Truths of the Mysteries must be preserved in silence. These people may be quite innocent; for they are children, albeit they may be old members of this or that Masonic order for example, claiming also to have occult sources. They may be quite innocent. Nevertheless, they too assist the gloom and darkness which are prevailing among men.

I recently chose the example of a very ‘enlightened’ pastor and professor. I pointed out especially the discontinuity prevailing in his thought. (I mentioned it quite briefly here, and dealt with it further at St. Gall and Zurich.) He too, it must be admitted belongs to an occult brotherhood. But he is not one of those who work unfavourably, save by his limitations. For in their occult brotherhood they do acquire a certain limitation. They are purposely kept in a certain narrow sphere. This too, some heads of occult brotherhoods make it their task to bring about.

Above all, it is necessary for people to open their eyes. But our eyes must first learn to see. And we can only learn to see if we allow the direction of our sight to be guided by the understanding we have first received of the Spiritual World. These people always reckon upon qualities on which one seldom calculates in vain in human affairs. Thus, as I mentioned once before, they tried to put me off the track on one occasion. At the time when Alcyone was nominated, I also could have been nominated in a certain way. Thereby, all that pulses and flows through our movement could have been nicely swept out of the world, — if I had let myself in for what was suggested to me pretty strongly: I was to be nominated as the reincarnated St. John! In certain quarters they would then have undertaken to proclaim: Alcyone is so and so; and he — he is the reincarnated St. John. Then the whole movement would not have had to undergo what afterwards ensued.

Vanity, needless to say, is one of many things that make men stupid. Catch people's vanity, and you can attain much, especially if you also know the ways and means of joining certain concepts. As I said before, it was done in the Theosophical Society, but in a too amateurish way. The others do it more skilfully, — more in accordance with realities. One cannot do much to the purpose if one has to reckon with a personality like Annie Besant, who herself is full of passions, and under whom those who were near her heaved many a bitter sigh. One need only know the sighs of those who were in Annie Besant's environment for years, their sighs and their anxieties: what situation would she not bring them into through the fact that she, too, had now been caught in the aura of a certain Indian occultism. For in this connection she had brought with her some strange qualities, coming from strange foundations, — qualities which proved highly inconvenient to a number of people in the Theosophical Society. Many people (men especially) sighed bitterly when they had tried again and again to bring Annie Besant into a sensible line. And there were women too, who sighed, but they subjected themselves time and again. They wanted to cultivate Theosophy in the way that is customary in those circles. But they pursued it in such a way, that it also became — in the theosophical domain — rather like ‘conglomerated mediocrity.’ They tried to carry what John Stuart Mill describes as conglomerated mediocrity, into the pursuit of Spiritual Science. I myself experienced it. A missionary of the Theosophical Society was working in a town belonging to the Section of which I was General Secretary. I went there to give lectures; indeed, I was invited by the said missionary. But when I arrived there, she said to me: We will gradually learn to do without the lectures. After all, they are of no real use. We must arrange afternoon tea-parties and invite the people. They will learn to know each other at afternoon tea — and, she opined, especially over the bread-and-butter. But the lectures (and she said all this with a certain gesture of deprecation) — the lectures will in time grow less and less important. She too, one must say, was wrapped in a regular veil from certain quarters; and indeed there are many such, who. work as missionaries and often do not know what wires they are pulled by. Sometimes not even wires are necessary; very thin cords or even strings are sufficient. Truly, it is piteous, to see how the most sacred and solemn affairs of mankind are sometimes treated.

Now they were especially afraid of this: What would happen if Blavatsky remained sound and healthy, and yet brought to light that which was there in the depths of her nature? Then, they thought, the situation might become very dangerous even politically, owing to her special constitution and her peculiar connection with her own, Russian nationality. So they made a very special effort to eliminate — to put out of action — the object of their fears. And indeed, if what was living in Blavatsky had been able to come forth effectively already at that time (beginning in the 1860's and 70's) many things would have taken a different course — things with respect to which people like Mill and Herzen saw quite truly. But alas, Ahrimanic powers succeeded at that time in eliminating or side-tracking many things. Well, we shall presently see how our own Spiritual Science may yet be treated under the present sorrowful conditions. Those who can recognise its significance for the great tasks of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch will think rightly about it. For it is really true, this Spiritual Science reckons only with the interests of pure humanity. You, by this time, should be in a position to know that this is so, and to perceive the true distinctions. Take for instance the way we have frequently discussed Goethe's Faust, and even presented it on the stage. One need have absolutely no national motives in the background, to present Goethe's Faust to mankind in its occult depths. On the other hand I leave it to you to judge, whether or no one need have national motives in the background, and very peculiar ones at that, — to do as Maeterlinck did recently: to represent Goethe and Schiller and Lessing as ‘mediocre minds’ and write long articles upon their mediocrity, for which articles one gains the support of the great newspapers in the world to-day. Whether or no there are national motives behind such an action, I leave to you to judge. (Nay, perhaps there are motives far deeper than merely national ones.)

But I will ask you now to place two things side by side. I have told you in these lectures of a book recently written by the Chinese author Ku Hung Ming — a work of genius in some respects. In this book Ku Hung Ming explains that it is the only salvation for the Europeans at the present time to turn to Chinese culture. For, says Ku Hung Ming, the Europeans will then be able to replace their worthless ‘charters of liberty’ by the ‘charters of faithfulness’ which can only come out of the Chinese spirit. Ku Hung Ming is a brilliant and incisive thinker, and he confirms at this point what was long ago foreboded by John Stuart Mill and Herzen; confirms it, moreover, out of a deep knowledge of the Chinese culture. Not only so; we find the same foreboding in a thinker who came forward, not as a philologist or schoolmaster or theologian, but as a man of practical affairs. I refer to Max Eyth, of whom I spoke the other day, who was a business man to begin with, passed through several other callings and had a real knowledge of life.

Ku Hung Ming describes the Chinese life and culture, and from his graphic descriptions we can gain a vivid idea of what it is. And we get this impression: How right were John Stuart Mill and Herzen (you need only read Herzen's work of 1864) — how right were they when they described the doctrines of Confucius and Laotze as the final and logical consequence which must result if Europe is taken hold of by the so-called positive realism, born of the conglomerated mediocrity of Bourgeois nonentity. For the logical conclusion of what is pursued in our Universities to-day and passes thence into the people as the modern World-conception, is the Chinese spirit; with the sole difference that the latter found its way to this conclusion, out of an earlier history and civilisation, 600 years before the Christian Era. Ku Hung Ming clearly outlines what the Chinese spirit is. Mill and Herzen described the path which is being trodden by that civilisation of Europe which will only take its stand on external, positivist realism. There you have it from both sides at once: from the one side, the prophecy that the Chinese spirit will take hold of Europe, and from the other side the dictum that the Chinese spirit is Europe's only salvation.

Maybe there is yet a third side! I may perhaps raise this very question now at the conclusion of this lecture: What if there be yet a third side, where they may find it very convenient and in their interest that a Chinaman of all people should now be giving the Europeans good advice, to choose the only possible salvation? What if it were no mere matter of chance that the teaching of Ku Hung Ming, of all people, should now be thrown into Europe? — a teaching, however brilliant from the Chinese standpoint, well enough adapted to confuse those who do not receive it with clear and open minds — minds awakened by Spiritual Science. A teaching, I repeat, only too well adapted to confuse men, and, maybe, to lead them in the very direction in which one wants them to go, — into a Chinese state. John Stuart Mill and Herzen recognised quite truly how the sails are set, by certain occult brotherhoods, in this direction. They really want a Chinese system. For the intentions of certain brotherhoods can most readily be instilled into a Chinese Europe. Why should it not be according to the will of such a brotherhood that a Chinaman of all people should now be advising Europe to lend an ear to all the good that might come to them out of the Chinese spirit? May they not well expect that even the most ‘enlightened’ will be carried away by the good advices which a Chinaman can give, now that in Europe herself they no longer know which way to turn?

I have told you how important is this Chinese book. But I also feel obliged (from the standpoint which must always be maintained in our Spiritual Science) to draw your attention to this fact: Such publications as the book — or rather, books — of Ku Hung Ming (for two have already appeared) should be followed with attention, but one should also know that there are definite purposes behind them — far-reaching purposes. We do wrong not to make ourselves acquainted with them, but we do equally wrong to be ‘taken in’ by them. And it is especially important to observe with care and attention all that sets itself up to-day as mysticism or occultism, arising frequently from very cloudy sources. Those who will bear in mind what I have frequently set forth, will certainly endeavour to see truly in these matters. For the modern world stands in the midst of many other streams. And the question is whether individuals have the goodwill to see clearly and openly.

For instance we must be able to appreciate the difference between the stream we have already mentioned and a certain other stream, which to this day possesses far more power than is commonly imagined. I mean the stream proceeding from certain Roman Catholic sources, behind which there are often real principles of Initiation, though, needless to say, those who are brought out into the world from this quarter are led by the leading-strings. Let us now contrast what may well be contrasted: On the one hand the Roman Church, and on the other hand those Occult Brotherhoods of which I spoke — the Roman Church which works in the way that is well known to you, and on the other hand the Brotherhoods, which, needless to say, attack the Roman Church to the knife. Yet they themselves go to such lengths as I described: While they possess the occult knowledge and make use of it, in public they stigmatise it as ‘medieval superstition,’ in order to keep men in the stream which they desire, — in order to make use of them. Contrast with this the Roman Church. You need only take such an event as the Encyclica of the 8th December, 1864, where the standpoint of the Roman Church concerning freedom of conscience and of religious ceremonies is proclaimed ex cathedra. The principles of freedom which are commonly believed are quoted and condemned somewhat in this fashion: — Some people say, Freedom of conscience and religious ceremony is the right of every man. That is delirium — madness, in other words. It is madness, delirium, for an orthodox Catholic — following the Roman see — to claim freedom of conscience and religious ceremony!

That is the one stream. The other finds it preferable not to say such things, but to do things whereby the freedom of conscience — and, above all, the freedom of individual conviction, the placing of individual convictions, into the general life of mankind, — shall be effectively annulled. There you have two contrasting movements — movements which are very important in the present time, and on which much depends.

Considerations such as these at the close of the present lecture, are given with a definite purpose, so that those who stand within our spiritual-scientific movement may resolve within their souls not to be among the sleepy ones, but to be among those who try to see life as it is. You are not a spiritual scientist by merely receiving the knowledge of Spiritual Science and believing in it. You are only a true spiritual scientist when the spiritual-scientific truths transform you into a man who sees clearly and has the will to observe with attention what is going on around him, — to observe it in the right way and at the right points in life, so as to gain a true judgment of the position into which he himself is placed in the world. This, too, is necessary, if we would speak in a fruitful way about the ‘Karma of Vocation.’

These studies we shall presently continue. Then will the necessary light be thrown on what belongs more to the every-day life — the immediate human life of the individual — the Karma of Vocation.




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