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The World Development in the Light of Anthroposophy

The World Development in the Light of Anthroposophy

A Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Single Lecture

The lecture presented here was given at the University of Christiania on December 1, 1921, and is the 7th of 8 lectures in the series entitled: The Reality of the Higher Worlds. It appears in the original German in Die Wirklichkeit der Hoeheren Welten, Bibliographic Nr. 79, Dornach 1978. This lecture is in a 3 lecture series entitled: Foundations of Anthroposophy, and a 10 lecture series entitled, Self-consciousness: The Spiritual Human Being. The translator is unknown.

A lecture by
Rudolf Steiner
Christiania, December 1, 1921
GA 79

The lecture presented here was given at the University of Christiania on December 1, 1921, and is the 7th of 8 lectures in the series entitled: The Reality of the Higher Worlds. It appears in the original German in Die Wirklichkeit der Hoeheren Welten, Bibliographic Nr. 79, Dornach 1978. This lecture is in a 3 lecture series entitled: Foundations of Anthroposophy, and a 10 lecture series entitled, Self-consciousness: The Spiritual Human Being. The translator is unknown.

This English edition is published in agreement with, and the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

Copyright © 1944
This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
The General Anthroposophical Society
Dornach, Switzerland
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Anthroposophic News Sheet


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16th vol. No. 7/8 22nd of February, 1948.


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THE WORLD DEVELOPMENT IN THE LIGHT OF ANTHROPOSOPHY

Lecture by Dr. Rudolf Steiner

Given at the University of Christiana

December 1, 1921

(From stenographic notes unrevised by the lecturer.)

The explanations which I took the liberty to give you, will have shown you that the acquisition of real super-sensible knowledge entails above all, with the aid of the exercises already characterized, that the two sides of human nature which are usually incorrectly designated as man's inner and outer being should be distinctly separated. Perhaps I may point out that in ordinary consciousness one does not carefully distinguish man's inner and outer being, when speaking of these. The way in which I characterized the exit of man's sentient and volitional being during sleep and the acquisition of conscious super-sensible knowledge outside the physical body, shows us that just this super-sensible knowledge enables us to separate distinctly those parts which are usually designated vaguely in ordinary consciousness as man's outer and inner being.

I might say that by this separation man's inner world becomes his outer world, and what we usually consider as his outer world becomes his inner world.

What takes place in that case? During sleep, man's sentient and volitional being abandons what we designated man's physical and etheric body, or the body of formative forces, and then this sentient-volitional being looks back objectively upon the physical body and upon the etheric body as if they were objects. We showed that in this retrospection the whole woof of thought appears outside man's inner being. The world of thoughts which fills our ordinary consciousness and which reflects the external world, does not go out with man's true inner being during sleep, but remains behind with the physical body, as the etheric body's real forces. In this way we were able to grasp that during our waking state of consciousness we cannot grow conscious of that part which goes out during sleep and which remains unconscious for the ordinary consciousness. (Self-observation can easily convince us that during our ordinary waking consciousness the world of thought produces this waking state of consciousness).

In that part of the human being which goes out of the physical and the etheric bodies during sleep, there is a dull twilight life, and we only learn to know this inner being of man when super-sensible knowledge fills it, as it were, with light and with warmth — when we are just as conscious within this inner being as we are ordinarily conscious within our physical body. But we also learn to know why we have an unconscious life during our ordinary sleeping condition. Consciousness arises when we dive down into our physical and etheric bodies at the moment of waking up. By diving down into the physical body, we make use of the senses which connect us with the external world. As a result, the sensory world awakes and we thus grow conscious of it.

In the same way we dive down into our etheric or life body; that is to say, into our world of thoughts, and we grow conscious within our thoughts. Ordinary consciousness is therefore based upon the fact that we use the instruments of our physical body, and that we make use, so to speak, of the etheric body's woof of formative forces. In ordinary life, man's true inner being, woven out of feeling and will, simply cannot attain consciousness, because it has no organs. By making the thought and will exercises of which I have spoken, we endow the soul itself with organs. This soul element, which is at first indistinct in our ordinary consciousness, acquires plastic form, even as our physical body and our etheric body acquire plastic form in the senses and in the organs of thought. Man's real soul-spiritual being therefore obtains a plastic form.

In the same measure in which it is moulded plastically and acquires (if I may use this paradoxical expression) soul-spiritual sense organs, the soul-spiritual world rises up around our inner being. That part of our being which ordinarily lives in a dull twilight existence and which can only perceive an environing world; namely, the physical world (when it uses the physical and etheric organs of perception), thus acquires plastic form and enters in connection with a world which always surrounds us, also in our ordinary life, even though we are not aware of it, a world in which we lived before descending into our physical being through birth or conception, as described the day before yesterday, a world in which we shall live again when we pass through the portal of death, for then we shall recognize it as a world which belongs to us and which is not limited by birth and death.

But there is one thing which rises up before us when we enter the soul-spiritual world. We cannot enter the soul-spiritual world in the same abstract, theoretical manner with which we can live in the physical world and in the world of thoughts or of the intellect. In the physical world and in the world of thoughts we use ideas and thoughts, which as such, leave us cold. With a little self-observation anyone can discover that when he ascends to the sphere of pure thinking, when he surrenders to the external sensory world without any special interest or a close connection with it, the external physical world, as well as the world of ideas, really leaves him cold. We must learn to know this in detail from single examples in life. We should note, for instance, how different are the inner feelings with which we consider our home, from these with which we look upon any other strange country which is indifferent to us. This will show us that in order to have a living interest for the environing world, our feeling and our will must be drawn in through special circumstances; we must include the feeling and the will which ordinarily dive down into the physical world only when we awake, obtaining from this physical world a connection with the senses and the understanding. The fact that love or perhaps hate are kindled in us when we encounter certain people in the physical world, the fact that we feel induced to do certain things for them out of compassion, all this demands the inclusion of our feelings and of everything which constitutes our inner being, when we come across such things in the external physical world. How conscious we are of the fact that our inner life grows cold, when we rise up to spheres which are generally called the spheres of pale, dry thought and of theoretic study!

The being which lives in a dull twilight state from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, must, as it were, connect itself during the waking daytime condition with our thoughts and with our sensory experiences through an inner participation in these processes, thus giving rise to the whole wealth of interest in the external world.

We thus recognize that in life itself feeling and will must first be drawn into the sensory world and into the world of thoughts. But we perceive this in the fullest meaning of the word only when super-sensible knowledge, which has become emancipated from the physical and etheric bodies, enables us to have experiences outside these bodies within our sentient-volitional being.

There we see that we simply must begin to speak of the world in a different way than is the case in ordinary life, during the ordinary state of consciousness. The dry ideas, the laws of Nature which we are accustomed to find in science and which interest us theoretically, though they leave us inwardly cold, these should be permeated with certain nuances and expressions which characterize the external world differently from the way in which we usually characterize it.

Our inner life acquires greater intensity through super-sensible knowledge. We penetrate more intensively into the life of the external world. When we try to gain knowledge, we are then no longer able to submit coldly to inner ideas. Of course, this gives rise to the objection that the objectivity may suffer through a certain inner warmth, through the awakening of feeling and of a subjective sense. But this objection is only raised by those who are not acquainted with the circumstances.

The things perceived through super-sensible knowledge make us speak differently of the super-sensible objects of knowledge. These do not change; they do not become less objective, for they are objective. When I look upon a wonderfully painted picture, it does not change through the fact that I look upon it with fire and enthusiasm; I would be a cold prosaic person if I were to face one of Raphael's Madonnas or one of Leonardo's paintings with a purely analytical artistic understanding, quite coldly and without any enthusiasm. It is the same when the spiritual worlds rise up in the super-sensible knowledge. Their content does not change through the fact that we connect ourselves with these worlds with inner feelings, far stronger than those which usually connect us with the external world and its objects.

When speaking from a knowledge of the higher worlds, many things will therefore have to be said differently, the descriptions will have to be different from those which we are accustomed to hear in ordinary life. But this does not render these worlds less objective. On the contrary, we might say: The subjective element which now comes out of the physical and etheric bodies becomes more objective and less selfish in its whole experience. The first experience which we have when going out of the physical body and experiencing our inner being consciously (whereas otherwise we always experience it unconsciously) is therefore the feeling of absolute LONELINESS.

In our ordinary consciousness we never have the feeling that by dwelling only within our inner self, independently of anything in the world pertaining to us, complete loneliness fills our soul, that we ourselves, with everything which now constitutes our soul-spiritual content, must rely entirely upon ourselves.

The feeling of loneliness which sometimes arises in the physical world, but only as a reflection of the real feeling, though it is painful enough for many people, becomes immensely intensified when we thus penetrate into the super-sensible world. We then look back upon that which reflects itself in the mirror of the physical and etheric body, as the spiritual environment which we left behind. We grow aware, on the one hand, of a complete feeling of loneliness, which alone enables us to maintain our Ego in this world … for we would melt away in this world of the spirit, if loneliness would not give us this Ego-feeling in the spiritual world, in the same way in which our body, our bodily sensation, gives us our Ego feeling here on earth. To this loneliness we owe the maintenance of the Ego in the spiritual world. We then learn to know this spiritual world as our environment. But we know that we can only learn to know it through the inner soul-spiritual eye, even as we see the physical world through our physical eyes.

It is the same when the human being abandons his physical and etheric bodies by passing through the portal of death, and in this connection I shall enlarge the explanations already given yesterday. It is true that in this case the physical body is given over to the elements of the earth and that the etheric body dissolves, as described, in the universal cosmic ether. But what we learned to know as our physical world, through our feeling and will, the world in which we experienced ourselves through the ordinary consciousness between birth and death, this world remains. The physical body filled with substance and the body of formative forces permeated by etheric forces, are laid aside with death, but what we experienced inwardly remains as a mirroring element.

From the spiritual world we look back into our last earthly life through death, through which we passed. Just because we have before us this last earthly life as a firm resistance which mirrors everything, just because of this, everything which surrounds us as we pass through the soul-spiritual world between death and a new birth, can also reflect itself. Through these experiences we perceive everything rising up in a far more intensive life than the one which we learned to know here in the physical world. And we first perceive as a soul-spiritual being everything with which we were in some way connected through our destiny, through our Karma. The people we loved, stand before us as souls. In our super-sensible vision we see all that we experienced together with them.

Those who acquire spiritual, super-sensible knowledge, already acquire the imaginative vision here in the physical world, through everything which I described to you. Those who pass through the portal of death in the ordinary way, acquire this faculty, though it is somewhat different to the spiritual vision on earth; they acquire it after having passed through the portal of death. From the sheaths of the physical and etheric bodies which were laid aside, emerges everything with which we were connected by destiny, or otherwise, in this earthly life — it undoubtedly arises in a different way, when those whom we left behind, still live on the earth, where the connection with them is more difficult, but when they follow us through death, this connection exists in the free, soul-spiritual life. Everything in our environment with which we were connected as human beings rises up before us. To super-sensible knowledge, the fact that people (if I may now express myself in words of the ordinary consciousness) who belonged together here in the physical world find each other again in the soul-spiritual world, after having passed through the portal of death, is not a belief to be accepted as a vague premonition, but it is a certainty, a fact just as certain as the results of physics or chemistry. This is something which the spiritual science of Anthroposophy can add to the acquisitions of modern culture.

People have grown accustomed to a certain feeling of certainty through the gradual popularization of a scientific consciousness. They strive to gain some knowledge of the super-sensible worlds, but no longer in the form of old presentiments handed over traditionally in the religious beliefs, for they were trained to accept that certainty which the external world can offer. In regard to that which lies beyond birth and death the spiritual science of Anthroposophy seeks to pave the way to this same kind of certainty. It can really do this. Only those people who tread the path already described, the path leading into the spiritual worlds, can lead the knowledge acquired in physics or chemistry beyond, into worlds which we enter when we pass through the portal of death.

Of course, not everything appears to us in this way when we look back upon our physical body through super-sensible knowledge outside the body. There is one thing which then appears to us very enigmatic, and this enigma can show us best of all that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy does not translate the truths which it includes in its spheres of knowledge into a prosaic, dry rationalism. It leads us to spiritual vision, or by communicating its truths it speaks of things which can be perceived through spiritual vision. But in being led to spiritual vision, we do not lose the full reverence towards the mysteries contained in the universe, towards everything in the universe inspiring reverence and which can now be clearly perceived, whereas otherwise they are at the most felt darkly. This enigmatic something which I mean and which appears to us, is that we now learn to know man's relationship with the earth, particularly his relationship with the physical-mineral earth.

I have already explained to you from many different aspects how our woof of thoughts, which is connected with the physical body, remains behind, and in addition to what has been described to you, in addition to what reflects itself and leads us to a knowledge of man's everlasting being, we can also recognize the true nature of this mirror which stands before us.

I might say: Even as in the physical world we face a mirror and in this mirror the environing world appears simultaneously with our own self, so in super-sensible knowledge the spiritual world appears through this mirror. And in the same way in which we can touch the material mirror with its foil and investigate its composition, so we can also investigate this super-sensible mirror; namely, our physical body and our etheric body, when our real soul-spiritual being is outside.

There we see that during his earthly life the human being constantly takes in substances from the external world in order to grow and to sustain his whole life. We absorb substances from the animal and vegetable kingdoms, but all these substances which we absorb from the animal and vegetable kingdoms also contain mineral substances. Plants contain mineral substances, for the plant builds itself up from mineral substances. By taking in vegetable nourishment we therefore build up our own body out of mineral substances.

By looking back upon our physical body from outside, we can now perceive the true significance of the mineral substances which we absorb. Spiritual vision reveals something of which our ordinary consciousness has not the faintest inkling; namely, the activity of thinking. We have left behind our thinking. Our thoughts continue, as it were, to glimmer and to shine within the physical body. Now we can observe the effect of thoughts in the physical body from outside, as something objective. And we perceive that the effect of thoughts upon man's physical body is a dissolution of its physical substances, which fall asunder, as it were, into nothing.

I know that this apparently contradicts the law of the conservation of forces, but there is no time now to explain more fully its full harmony with this law. The nature of my subject entails that I express myself in more popular terms. But it is possible to understand that the purely mineral in man, what he bears within him as purely mineral substances, must be within him because his thoughts must dissolve these substances. For otherwise his thoughts could not exist — this is the condition for their existence — his thoughts could not exist if they did not dissolve mineral, earthly substances, a fact also revealed by the spiritual sciences of earlier times, based more on feeling. This dissolution, this destruction of physical substances constitutes the physical intermedium of thinking.

When our sentient-volitional part, our true inner being, lives within the physical body and within the etheric body and is filled by the activity of thinking, we learn to recognize that this activity takes its course through the fact that physical substance is continually destroyed. We now learn to recognize how our ordinary consciousness really arises. It does not arise in such a way that forces of growth hold sway in us, forces which develop in the remaining organism through nutrition. For in the same measure in which the forces of growth are active within us, thinking is dulled. When we wake up, thinking must, so to speak, have a free hand to dissolve physical substances, to eliminate them from the physical body. To the spiritual science of Anthroposophy, the nervous system appears as that organ which transmits this elimination of mineral-physical substances throughout the whole body. This elimination gives rise to that thought activity which we ordinarily carry with us through the world.

You therefore see that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy not only enables us to recognize the eternal in man, but also how it works within his physical body; that, for instance, thought can only exist through the fact that man continually develops within himself the mineral substances; that is, something dead.

We can therefore say: If we learn to know man from this aspect, we also learn to know death from another aspect. Ordinarily death confronts us as the end of life, as a moment in life, as an experience in itself. But when we throw light upon man's physical and etheric body in the manner described, we learn to know the gradual course of death, or the elimination of physical-mineral substance — for death is nothing but the complete elimination of man's mineral-physical substance — we learn to know the continual elimination of a dead, corpse-like element within us.

We recognize that from birth onwards, we constantly pass through a partial process of death, and real death sets in when the whole body does that which we ordinarily do through the nervous system, within a small part of the body.

We therefore learn to look upon the moment of death by gaining insight on a small scale into its being through the activity of thinking in the human organism. Throughout the whole time after death, we can only look back upon our physical body because the following fact exists: Whenever a thought lights up within you during your ordinary life, this is always accompanied by the fact that physical matter is eliminated in the physical body, in the same way in which, for instance, physical substance separates from a precipitated salt solution. This lighting up of thought you owe to this obscuring, to this casting-off of physical mineral substance. When you abandon the physical body, you sum up in a comparatively brief space of time what lives in the continual stream of your thoughts. You confront the fact that in death there flares up all at once that which slowly glimmered and shone throughout your earthly life, from birth to death.

Through this strong impression, in which the life of thoughts illuminates the soul like a great flash of lightning, we acquire the memory of our physical lives on earth. The physical body may be cast off, the etheric body may dissolve completely in the universal ether, but through the fact that we obtain in one experience this powerful thought impression (to mathematicians I might say: this thought-integral in comparison with thought differentials, from birth to death), we always have before us, throughout the time after death, as a mirroring element, our physical life on earth, even though we have laid aside our physical and etheric parts — and this mirroring element reveals everything which we experience when the human beings with whom we were connected by destiny in love or in hate, gradually come up, when the spiritual Beings who live in the spiritual world and do not descend to the earth, whose company we now share, rise up before us.

The spiritual-scientific investigator may state this with a calm conscience, for he knows that he does not speak on the foundation of illusionary pictures; he knows instead that to super-sensible vision, when super-sensible vision arises through the organ of the physical and etheric bodies which are now outside, these things are just as real, can be seen just as really as physical colours are ordinarily perceived through physical eyes, or physical sounds through physical ears.

This is how the evolution of humanity forms part of the evolution of the world. If we study the development of the world, for instance the mineral life on earth, we understand why there should be mineral, earthly laws. They exist so that they might also exist within us, and thinking is therefore bound up with the earth. But in perceiving how the beings whose thinking is connected with the earth emerge from that which produces their thought, we also learn to recognize how man's true being rises above that which pertains only to the earth. This is what connects the development of the world with the development of humanity and unites them.

We learn to know the human being and at the same time we learn to know the universe. If we learn to know man's physical body and its mineralization through thinking, we also learn to know through man's physical body the lifeless mineral earth. This creates a foundation for a knowledge of the evolution of the world also from its spiritual aspect.

When we thus learn to know man's inner being, the development of the world appears in the same way in which the ordinary earthly experiences appear before us, the experiences through which we passed since our birth.

When you draw out of your memory-store an experience which you had ten years ago, this past event rises up before your soul as an image. You know exactly that it rises up as a picture. Yet this picture conveys a knowledge of something which really existed ten years ago.

How does this arise? Through the fact that in your organism certain processes remained behind which now summon up the picture. Certain processes remained behind in your organism and these summon up in you the picture, enabling you — as I once designated it — to construct what you experienced ten years ago. But super-sensible knowledge leads us deeper into man's inner being. We can perceive, for instance, that the physical body becomes mineralized during the thinking process; we perceive this in the same way in which we learn to know some past experience of our earthly life through the traces which it left behind within our being.

In the same way the development of the earth can be understood by envisaging the development of man; through the activity of the mineral in man we learn to know the task of the mineral kingdom within the development of the earth. And if, as already set forth, we learn similarly to know (I can only mention this, for a detailed description would lead us too far how the vegetable kingdom is connected with man, and how the animal kingdom is related with him (for this, too, can be recognized) the development of the world can be grasped by setting out from the human being.

Within the development of the world we can see something which is again of immense importance to those who are interested in modern civilization, just as interesting as the facts which I explained in connection with a knowledge of the human being, of the eternal inner kernel of man.

Modern civilization shows us that up to a certain point it is possible to consider man's relationship to the development of the world by linking up the human being with the evolution of the animals — even though the corresponding theories, or the hypotheses, as some people say, still contain many unclear facts, requiring completion and modification. We follow the development of the simplest organic beings up to the highest animals, and if we continue this line of observation we come to the point of placing man at the summit of animal development. One person does it in this way, and the other in that way; one more idealistically, and the other more materialistically in accordance with Darwin's theory of evolutionary descent, but methodically it can hardly be denied that if we wish to study man's physical nature according to natural-scientific methods, we must link him up with the animal line of descent (this has been done for some time).

We investigate how his head changed in comparison with the heads of the different animal species; we investigate his limbs, etc., and we thus obtain what is known as comparative anatomy, comparative morphology, comparative physiology, and also ideas on the way in which man's physical form gradually developed out of lower beings in the course of the world's evolution. But we always remain in the physical sphere. On the one hand people take it amiss today if the anthroposophical spiritual investigator speaks of the spiritual world as I take the liberty to do in this lecture; from many sides this is viewed as a pure fantasy, and although many people believe that it is well meant … they nevertheless look upon it as something fantastic.

Those who become acquainted to some extent with the things described by me, those who at least try to understand them, will see that the preparations and preliminary conditions for them are just as serious as, for instance, the preparations for the study of mathematics, so that it is out of the question to speak of sailing into a fantastic region. But just as on the one hand people take it amiss if a person describes the spiritual world as a real, objective world, so they take it amiss on the other hand if in regard to man's physical development one fully accepts those who follow man's development darwinistically, with a natural-scientific discipline, along the animal line of descent, as far as man. No speculations should enter the observations made in the physical sphere, as is, for instance, the case today in Neovitalism. This is full of speculations; the old vitalism was also full of speculative elements. But whenever we consider the physical world, we must remain by physical facts.

For this reason, the anthroposophical spiritual investigator who on the one hand ventures to speak in a certain way of the conditions after death and before birth, as I have done, does not consider it as a reproach (i.e., he is not touched by it) when people tell him that his description of the physical world is completely in the meaning of a modern natural scientist. He does not bring any dreams into the sphere which constitutes the physical world. Even though people may call him a materialist when he describes the physical world, this reproach does not touch him, because he strictly separates the spiritual world, which can only be observed with the aid of a spiritual method, from the physical-sensory world, which has to be observed with the orderly disciplined methods of modern natural science.

A serious spiritual-scientific investigator must therefore feel particularly hurt and pained at reproaches made to him on account of certain followers of spiritual science who sometimes rebuke natural science out of a certain pride in their spiritual-scientific knowledge and out of their undoubtedly shallow knowledge of natural science; they think that they have the right to speak negatively of science and of scientific achievements, but the spiritual-scientific investigator can only feel deeply hurt at their amateurish, dilettantish behaviour. This is, however, not in keeping with spiritual science. The spiritual science of Anthroposophy is characterized by the fact that it deals just as strictly and scientifically with the external physical world, as with the spiritual world, and vice-versa.

With this preliminary condition, the anthroposophical spiritual investigator entirely stands upon the ground of strictest natural-scientific observation in regard to the study of the world's development, but at the same time he turns his gaze towards the soul-spiritual world. And even as he knows that not only a physical process is connected with man's individual embryonic origin in the physical world, but that a soul-spiritual element unites with the human embryo, with the human germ, so he also knows that in the whole development of the world — though to the physical body it appears as a tapestry of sensory objects, and though it manifests itself to the woof of thoughts; i.e., to the etheric body, in laws of Nature — he also knows that the physical world is permeated and guided in its whole development by spiritual forces, handled by spiritual Beings, that can be recognized in their own appropriate way, as already described.

The anthroposophical investigator therefore knows that when he contemplates the external physical world in the meaning of genuine science, he comes to the true boundary, where he may begin with his spiritual investigation.

If we conscientiously trace the evolutionary development through animal descent up to man, as Darwin or other Darwinians or Haeckel did, and if we penetrate into the justifiable scientific aspects of the world development of man, we can continue this in a spiritual-scientific direction, after having reached the boundary to which we are led by natural science.

We now discover that a CONTEMPLATION OF THE FORM into which we penetrate through super-sensible knowledge, shows us all the SIGNIFICANCE OF FORMS, as they appear in the kingdom of man on the one hand, and in the animal kingdom on the other; we discover the whole significance of these forms.

Equipped with the knowledge supplied by super-sensible research, we see that the animal (this is at least the case with most animals, and exceptions can be easily explained) stands upon the ground with his four limbs, so that its spine is horizontal, parallel with the surface of the earth, and so that in regard to the spine, the head develops in an entirely different position from that of man. We learn to know the animal's whole form, as it were, from within, as a complex of forces, and also in relationship with the whole universe. And we thus learn to make a comparison: We perceive the transformation, the metamorphosis in the human form, in the human being whom we see standing upon his two legs, at right angles, so to speak, with the animal's spine, with his own spine set vertically to the surface of the earth and his head developing in accordance with this position of the spine.

By penetrating into the inner art of Nature's creative process, we learn to distinguish the human form from the animal form; we recognize this by entering into the artistic creative process of the cosmos. And we penetrate into the development of the world by rising from otherwise abstract constructive thoughts to thoughts which are inwardly filled with life, which form themselves artistically in the spirit.

The most important thing to be borne in mind is that when it seeks to know the development of the world, anthroposophical spiritual research changes from the abstract understanding ordinarily described — and justly so — as dry, prosaic, systematic thought, or combining thought, into concrete, real thought. Not for the higher spiritual world, in which concepts must penetrate in the manner described, but for the physical world, the forms in the world development should first be grasped through a kind of artistic comprehension, which in addition develops upon the foundation of super-sensible knowledge.

By thus indicating how science should change into art, we must of course encounter the objection raised by those who are accustomed to think in accordance with modern ideas: “But science must not become an art!” My dear friends, this can always be said, as a human requirement; people can say: I forbid the logic of the universe to become an art, for we only learn to know reality by linking up thought with thought and by thus approaching reality. If the world were as people imagine it to be, one could refuse to rise up to art, to an artistic comprehension of forms; but if the world is formed in such a way that it can only be comprehended through an artistic comprehension, it is necessary to advance to such an artistic comprehension. This is how matters stand. That is why those people who were earnestly seeking to grasp the organic in world development really came to an inner development of the thinking ordinarily looked upon as scientific thought; they came to an artistic comprehension of the world. As soon as we continue to observe with an artistic-intuitive eye the development of the world from the point where the ordinary Darwinistic theory comes to a standstill, we perceive that man, grasped as a whole, cannot simply be looked upon by saying that once there were lower animals in the world, from which higher animals developed, that then still higher animals developed out of these, and so forth, until finally man arose.

If we study embryology in an unprejudiced way, it really contradicts this idea. Although modern scientists set up the fundamental law of biogenetics and compare embryology with phylogeny, they do not interpret rightly what appears outwardly even in human embryology, because they do not rise to this artistic comprehension of the world's development. If we observe in a human embryo how the limbs develop out of organs which at first have a stunted aspect, how everything is at first merely head, we already obtain the first elements of what reveals itself in the artistic comprehension of the human form. It is not possible to link up the whole human being with the animals. One cannot say: The human being, such as he stands before us today, is a descendant of the whole animal kingdom. No, this is not the case. Just those who penetrate with genuine scientific conscientiousness into scientific Darwinism and its modern description of the development of the world, will discover that through a higher understanding it is simply impossible to place man at the end, or at the summit of the animal chain of development; they must instead study the human head as such, the head of the human being. This human head alone descends from the whole animal kingdom. Though it may sound strange and paradoxical, the part which is generally considered as man's most perfect part is a transformation from the animal kingdom.

Let us approach the human head with this idea and let us study it carefully. Observe with a certain morphological-artistic sense how the lower maxillary bones are transformed limbs, also the upper maxillary bones are transformed limbs, how everything in the head is an enhanced development of the animal form; you will then recognize in the human head that upon a higher stage it reveals everything which appears in the animals under so many different forms. You will then also understand why it is so.

When you observe the animal, you can see that its head hangs upon one extremity of the spine and that in a real animal it is entirely subjected to the law of gravity. Observe instead the human head; observe how the human being stands within the cosmos. The human head is set upon a spine which has a vertical direction. It rests upon the remaining body in such a way that the human being protects the head, as it were, against falling a prey only to the force of gravity. The human head is really something which rests upon the remaining organism with comparative independence. And we come to the point of understanding that through the fact that the human head is carried by the remaining body, it really travels along like a person using a coach; for it is the remaining body which carries the human head through the world. The human head has transformed limbs which have become shriveled, as it were, and it is set upon the remaining organism. This remaining organism is related to the human head in the same way in which the whole earth with its force of gravity is related to the animal. In regard to the head, the human being is related to his whole remaining body in the same way in which the whole animal is related to the earth.

We now begin to understand the human being through the development of the world. And if we proceed in this knowledge of the human form with an artistic sense and understanding, we finally comprehend why the human head is the continuation of the animal chain and why the remaining body of man developed later, out of the earth, and was attached to the human head. Only in this way we gradually learn to understand man's development.

If we go back into earlier times of the past, we can only transfer into these primordial epochs that part of man which lies at the foundation of his present head development. We must not seek the development of his limbs or of his thorax in those early ages, for these developed later. But if we observe the development of the world by setting out, as described by me, from the human being, if we observe it in the same way in which we would look upon some past experience, we find that the human being had already begun his development in the world at a time when our higher animals, for instance, did not as yet exist.

We can therefore say (let us now take a later epoch of the earth): In the further course of his development man developed his head out of earlier animal beings through the fact that his spiritual essence animated him. That is why he could raise his head above the former stage of development. He then added his limbs, which developed out of the regular forces of the earth. The animals which followed could only develop to the extent in which man developed with the exclusion of his head. They began their development later, so that they did not go as far as the human development of the head; they remained connected with the earth while the human being separated himself from it.

This proves that it has a real meaning to say: Man belongs to the development of the universe in such a way that he is related with the animal kingdom, but he rises above it through his spiritual development. The animals which followed man in their development could only develop as much as man had developed in his limbs and thorax … the head remained stunted, because a longer time of development should have preceded it, such as that of man, in order that the real head might develop.

Through an artistic deepened contemplation of the forms in the world's development the conscientiously accepted Darwinistic theory changes, insofar as it is scientifically justified today. We thus recognize that in the development of the world the human being has behind him a LONGER TIME OF DEVELOPMENT than the animals — that the animals develop as their chief form that part which man adds to his head. In this way man reaches the point of lifting one part of his being out of the force of gravity, whereas the animals are entirely subjected to the force of gravity. Everything which constituted our head with its sense organs is raised above the force of gravity, so that it does not turn towards ponderable matter but towards the ether, which fills the sensory world. This is the case above all with the senses; we would see this, could we study them more closely. In this way, for instance, the human organ of hearing depends upon an etheric structure, not only upon an air structure.

Through all this the human being forms part not only of the material world, of the ponderable physical world, but he forms part of the etheric world outside. Through the etheric world he perceives, for instance, what the light conjures up before him in the world of colours, etc., etc. Even through his external form he rises above heavy matter, up to the free ether, and for this reason we see the development of the world in a different way when we ascend from natural science to spiritual science.

But when we rise up to an artistic conception, we perceive the activity of the soul-spiritual in man, and we must rise up to such a conception if we wish to understand the human being. We should, for instance, be able to say: In regard to his soul-spiritual, sentient-volitional being, we must speak of loneliness and of a life in common with others, as if these were theoretical concepts, as described today; we must rise up to the moral world and finally we come to the religious world. These worlds belong together and form a whole.

If we study the human being in accordance with a natural-scientific mentality and in the meaning of modern civilization, we find on the one hand the rigid scientific necessity of Nature to which also the human being belongs, and on the other hand we find that man can only be conscious of his dignity — that he can only say “I am truly man” — if he can feel within him the moral-religious impulses. But if we honestly stand upon the foundation of natural science we only have hypotheses in regard to the beginning and the end of the earth, hypotheses which speak of the Kant-Laplace nebula for the beginning of the earth and of a death through heat for the end of the earth.

If in the face of the natural-scientific demands we now consider, in the meaning of modern civilization, the moral-religious world which reveals itself intuitively (I have shown this in my “PHILOSOPHY OF SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY,” if we consider this world we must say: We really delude ourselves, we conjure up before us a fog. Is it possible to believe that when the earth passes through the death by heat, in accordance with the natural-scientific concept, that there should still exist anything besides the death of all ideals?

At this point spiritual science, or ANTHROPOSOPHY, sets in, and shows that the soul-spiritual is a reality, that it is active within the physical and that it placed the human form, the human being, into the evolution of the world; it shows that we should look back upon animal beings which are entirely different from the present animals, that it is possible to adhere to the methods of modern science, but that other results are obtained. Anthroposophy thus inserts the moral element into the science of religion, and Anthroposophy thus becomes a moral-religious science.

Now we no longer look upon the Kant-Laplace nebula, but we look at the same time upon an original spiritual element, out of which the soul-spiritual world described in Anthroposophy developed in the same way in which the physical world developed out of a physical-earthly origin. We also look towards the end of the earth and since the laws of enthropy are fully justified, we can show that the earth will end through a kind of death by heat, but at the same time we can envisage from the anthroposophical standpoint the end of the single human being: his corpse is handed over to the elements, but the human being himself passes over into a spiritual world. This is how we envisage the end of the earth. The scientific results do not disturb us, for we know that everything of a soul-spiritual nature which man develops will pass through the earth's portal of death when the earth no longer exists; it will pass over into a new world development, even as the human being passes over into a new world development whenever he passes through death.

By surveying the development of the earth in this way, we perceive IN THE MIDDLE OF ITS DEVELOPMENT THE EVENT OF GOLGOTHA. We see how this event of Golgotha is placed in the middle of the earth's development; before this event, there only existed forces which would have led man to a kind of paralyzation of his forces. We really learn to recognize (I can only allude to this at the end of my lecture) that in the same way in which through the vegetable and animal fertilization a special element enters the fertilized organism, so the Mystery of Golgotha brought something into the evolution of the world from regions outside the earth, and this continues to live; it accompanies the souls until at the end of the earth they pass on to new metamorphoses of earthly life. I would have to describe whole volumes were I to show the path leading in a strictly conscientious scientific way from what I have described to you today in connection with the evolution of humanity and of the universe, to the Mystery of Golgotha, to the appearance of the Christ-Being in relationship with the earth.

But through a spiritual-scientific deepening many passages in the Gospels will appear in an entirely new light, in a different way from what it has hitherto been possible through the occidental consciousness. Let us consider only the following fact: If we entirely stand upon a natural-scientific foundation, we must envisage the physical end of the earth. And those who continue to stand upon this scientific foundation, will also find that finally the starry world surrounding the earth will decay; they will look upon a future in which this earth will no longer exist, and the stars above will no longer exist. But spiritual science gives us the certainty that even as an eternal being goes out of the physical and etheric body every evening and returns into them every morning, so an eternal being will continue to live when the single human bodies shall have decayed. When the whole earth falls away from all the soul-spiritual beings of men, this eternal part of the earth will continue to live and it will pass over to new planetary phases of world development.

Now Christ's words in the Gospels resound to us in a new and wonderful way; “HEAVEN AND EARTH SHALL PASS AWAY, BUT MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY,” and connected with these words are those of St. Paul: “NOT I, BUT CHRIST IN ME.” If a Christian really grasps these words, if a person who really understands Christianity inwardly and who says, “Not I, but Christ in me,” understands Christ's words, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away” — that is, “what lives within my everlasting Being shall not pass away” — these words will shine forth from the Gospel in a peculiar manner, with a magic producing reverence, but if one is really honest they cannot be understood without further ado.

If we approach such words and others, with the aid of spiritual science and in the anthroposophical meaning, if we approach many other sayings which come to us out of the spiritual darkness of the world development, of the development of the earth and of humanity, a light will ray out of them. Indeed, my dear friends, it is as if light were to fall upon words such as “heaven and earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away” — light falls upon them, if we hear them resounding from that region where the Mystery of Golgotha took place, and the whole development of the earth only acquires its true meaning through such words!

Thus we see that spiritual science in the meaning of Anthroposophy strives above all after a conscientious observation of the strict methods of the physical world, but at the same time it seeks to continue these strict scientific methods into regions where our true eternal being shines out towards us, regions where also the spiritual being of the world development rays out its light towards us, a light in which the world development itself with its spiritual forces and Beings appears in its spiritual-divine character.

My dear friends, at the conclusion of my lecture (I thank you that you showed so much interest in it) let me express the following fact: Spiritual-scientific Anthroposophy can fully understand that modern humanity, particularly conscientious, scientifically-minded men, have grown accustomed to consider as real and certain the results of causal natural-scientific knowledge, the results of external sense observation, intellectual combinations of these sensory observations, and experiments. This gave them a feeling of certainty. And by acquiring this certainty, they acquired a certain feeling in general towards that which can be “sure.” Up to now no attempt has been made to study super-sensible things in the same way in which physical things are studied. This certainty could therefore not be carried into super-sensible regions. Today people still believe that they must halt with a mere thought at the threshold of the super-sensible worlds, that feelings full of reverence suffice, because otherwise they would lose the mystery, and the super-sensible world would be rationalized. But spiritual science does not seek to rationalize the mystery, to dispel the reverent feeling which one has towards the mystery: it leads to these mysteries through vision. Anthroposophy leaves the mystery its mystery-character, but it sets it into the evolution of the world in the same way in which sensory things exist in the sphere of world evolution.

And it must be true that people also need certainty for the spheres transcending mere Nature. To the extent in which they will feel that through spiritual science in the meaning of Anthroposophy they do not hear some vague amateurish and indistinct talk about the worlds, but something which is filled by the same spirit which comes to expression in modern science, to this same extent humanity will feel that the certainty which it acquired, the certainty which it is accustomed to have through the physical world, can also be led over into the spiritual worlds. People will feel: If certainty exists only in regard to the physical world, of what use is this certainty, since the physical world passes away? Man needs an eternal element, for he himself wants to be rooted in an eternal element. He cannot admit that this certainty should only be valid for the transient, perishable world. Certainty, the certainty of knowledge, must also be gained in regard to the imperishable world.

This is the aim pursued in greatest modesty (those who follow the spiritual science of Anthroposophy know this) by Anthroposophy. Its aim is that through his natural certainty man should not lose his knowledge of the imperishable; through his certainty in regard to perishable things he should not lose the certainty in regard to imperishable things. Certainty in regard to the perishable; that is to say, certainty in regard to the riddle of birth and death, the riddle of immortality, the riddle of the spiritual world developments, this is what Anthroposophy seeks to bring into our civilization.

Anthroposophy believes that this can be its contribution to modern civilization. For in the same measure in which people courageously recognize that certainty should be gained also in regard to imperishable things, and not only in regard to perishable things, in the same measure they will grow accustomed to look upon Anthroposophy no longer as something fantastic and as an individual hobby, but as something which must enter our whole spiritual culture, like all the other branches of science, and thereby our civilization in general.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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