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The Riddles of the World and Anthroposophy

Schmidt Number: S-1131

On-line since: 15th August, 2016

Haeckel, the Riddles of the World and Theosophy

Berlin, 5th October 1905

Speaking about the subject: Haeckel, the Riddles of the World and Theosophy, I know that this subject causes extraordinary difficulties to the explorer of the spiritual life, and that my explanations may scandalise the left and the right. However, it seems to be a necessity for me to speak once from the theosophical point of view about that, because on the one hand the Gospel, which Haeckel has gained from his researches, has found access to thousands and thousands of human beings by means of his book The Riddles of the World (1899). Ten thousand copies were sold after a short time, and it was translated into many languages. Seldom has such a serious book found such a big spreading.

If theosophy or spiritual science should spell out its purposes, it must discuss such an important phenomenon, which also deals with the deepest questions of existence, and must express its standpoint. In principle, the theosophical or spiritual-scientific consideration of life is not there for struggle, but for reconciliation, for the balance of contrasts. I am also in a particular position compared with the worldview of Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919). For I know the sensations and feelings, which lead the human being partially from his scientific conscience, partially from the general international situation and worldview, into the fascinating, simple, big lines of thought which Haeckel's worldview consists of. I would not dare to speak so impartially today if I were an adversary of Haeckel, if I did not exactly know what one could experience, if you immerse yourselves in this miraculous construction of his ideas.

However, somebody who looks at the development of the spiritual life with an open sense must recognise the moral strength of Haeckel's working. With tremendous courage, this man has fought for his worldview since decades, has hard fought and had to overcome manifold opposition. On the other side, we may not misjudge that in Haeckel a big strength of comprising representation and thinking lives. He has in a great measure what is absent to many naturalists in this respect. He has ventured to summarise the results of his researches in a worldview, even though in the last decades the actual scientific currents were directed against such an enterprise. This must be acknowledged as an action of a particular kind, compared also with the theosophical worldview. I am in a peculiar position if I speak about Haeckel.

Who has dealt with the development of the theosophical movement knows that the theosophists and just the founder of the theosophical movement, Mrs. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, fought with sharp words against the consequences, which Ernst Haeckel drew from his researches. She fights in the Secret Doctrine (1887-1897) against few phenomena in the fields of worldviews with such passion as just against Haeckel's arguments. I may be allowed to speak impartially because I believe, partly in my writing Haeckel and His Adversaries (1900, now in GA 30), as well as in my book about The Worldviews and Approaches to Life in the Nineteenth Century (The Riddles of Philosophy) to have satisfied the real truth contents of Haeckel's worldview in its entirety. I believe to have picked out of his works, what is imperishable what is fertile.

Look at the situation of the worldview, as far as it rests on scientific reasons. Still in the first half of the 19th century, the spiritual orientation was different from in the second one. Haeckel appeared at a time in which it seemed very much reasonable to give a materialistic consequence to the new so-called Darwinism. It suggested itself immediately at that time, when Haeckel entered the natural sciences as a young enthusiastic researcher, to interpret all scientific discoveries materialistically. Then you understand the materialistic tendency and you take the way of peace endowment and less that of struggle. If you look at those who have directed their look freely at the big human riddles in the middle of the 19th century, you find two attitudes.

On the one side, there is a complete resignation towards the highest questions of existence, a concession to be unable to penetrate from the scientific standpoint to the questions of immortality, of the freedom of will, of the origin of life, briefly to the real riddles of the world. On the other side, you find except for this resigning mood still leftovers of an old religious tradition also with the naturalists. You find courageous advance with the investigation of these questions, from the scientific point of view, in the first half of the 19th century only with the German philosophers, for example, with Schelling, Fichte or also with Oken (Lorenz O., 1779-1851, German naturalist), a man of freedom unparalleled also in other fields of life. You can already find along general lines with Oken what haunts today with the naturalists who want to found worldviews. However, a peculiar breath of wind still blows above it, the sensation of the old spiritualism still lives in it, which realises that behind everything that you can perceive by the senses and investigate by the instruments you have to look for something spiritual.

Haeckel himself told repeatedly how through the mind of his great teacher, the unforgettable naturalist Johannes Müller (1801-1851), this peculiar breath blew. When Haeckel was occupied on the Berlin university with Johannes Müller and studied the anatomy of the animals and the human being, the big anatomical resemblance of man and animal struck him, not only the resemblance of the external form, but also of that which comes to the fore in the form. You can read it up with Haeckel. How he expressed then towards the teacher that this points to a mysterious relationship of the animals and the human being. Johannes Müller, who had looked so deeply into nature, answered, yes, someone who once fathoms the secret of the species arrives at the highest. — You have to immerse yourselves just in the soul of such a researcher who would certainly not have stopped if he ran a chance to penetrate into the secret. Another time, when the teacher and his student were on an expedition, Haeckel expressed again which big relationship existed among the animals, and Johannes Müller said once more something quite similar. Herewith, I only wanted to mark a mood. If you read up with any significant naturalist of the first half of the 19th century, for example, with Burdach (Karl Friedrich B., 1776-1847, German physiologist), you always find a tip to the fact that not only physical and chemical forces have an effect, but also something higher in the realm of life.

However, when the improvement of the microscope allowed looking into the peculiar composition of the living being and when one was able to observe that one dealt with a fine tissue of the smallest living beings, there it changed. This physical body, which serves plants and animals as a dress, disintegrates for the naturalist in cells. The naturalists discovered the cellular life at the end of the thirties of the 19th century. Because one could investigate a lot of the life of the smallest living beings in a sensuous way by means of the microscope, it was obvious that one forgot and overlooked what works as an organising principle in the living being because it cannot be recognised by any physical sense or generally by anything external.

At that time, Darwinism did not yet exist, but under the impressions of these big results, which were done in the field of the investigation of the sensuous, the materialistic natural sciences developed in the forties and fifties. One thought that one could also understand the whole world from that which one perceives with the senses and can explain. What seems to be rather childish today caused a tremendous sensation and formed, so to speak, a Gospel for humanity at that time. Matter and energy were the catchwords, and Büchner, Moleschott and others were the leading men. One regarded it as an expression of childish imagination of former human epochs, if one supposed anything that goes beyond the obvious, the sense-perceptible with that which one could investigate in the minutest details with the eyes.

You have now to consider that beside any power of judgement, beside any research, feelings and emotions play a great role in the development of the spiritual life. Somebody who believes that worldviews are formed only with the cool considerations of the power of judgement is wrong. There also the heart has a say if I may express myself radically. There also secret education reasons are working. Humanity went through a materialistic education in its last developmental phase. Indeed, this goes far back in its beginnings; however, it arrived at its summit only at the time of which we speak. We call this epoch of the materialistic education the age of Enlightenment. The human being had to find its way on this firm ground of reality. This was also the last consequence of the Christian worldview.

He should search for God, Whom he had searched for so long beyond the clouds, in his own inside now. This had a deep effect on the development of the 19th century. Somebody who wants to study the development of humanity in the 19th century as a psychologist understands all phenomena, which appear in it — as for example the liberation movement in the thirties and forties — only as single, regularly proceeding storms of the developing feeling of the importance of physical reality. One deals with an educational direction of humanity that tore any view of a spiritual life out of the human heart. The natural sciences did not draw the consequence that the world consists of sensuous phenomena, but one drew materialism, because of the human education of that time, into the explanation of scientific facts. Who really studies the matters impartially, how they are finds that it is in such a way as I say, although I cannot express myself about that in detail in a short talk.

The quite tremendous progress in the fields of physical knowledge, of astronomy, physics and chemistry, by means of spectral analysis, by means of the enlarged theoretical knowledge of heat and Darwin's evolution theory falls in this period of materialism. If these discoveries had happened at a time in which one would have thought as around the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, when one still had a more spiritual sensation, then one would have still regarded them also as proofs of the workings of the spirit in nature. The miraculous discoveries of the natural sciences would have led just to the proof of the primate of the spirit. You realise that the scientific discoveries did not have to lead in themselves inevitably and under all circumstances to materialism; only because many bearers of the spiritual life were materialistically minded at this time, these discoveries were interpreted materialistically.

Materialism was brought into the natural sciences, and naturalists like Ernst Haeckel accepted it unconsciously. Darwin's discovery would not have had to press to materialism. In his first work, you find the sentence: I am of the opinion that all living beings, which have ever been on earth, are descendants of a prototype to which the Creator breathed life. You read these words in Darwin's book about the origin of species, that work, which materialism uses as its support.

It is clear that a materialistic thinker facing these discoveries had to give Darwinism a materialistic colouring. By Haeckel's materialistic courageous way of thinking, Darwinism received its present materialistic tendency. It had a big effect, when in 1868 Haeckel announced the connection of the human being with the apes. At that time, one could understand that in no other way than that the human being is descended from the apes. However, the thinking has experienced a peculiar course of development up to now. Besides, Haeckel persisted in his opinion that the human being is descended from the apes, these again from lower animals and these lower animals again from the simplest living beings finally.

Thus, he develops the whole pedigree of the human being. For him, any spirit was eliminated from the world and it existed only as a manifestation of the material. Haeckel still tries to help himself, because he has in his core, beside his materialistic thinker's soul, a peculiarly disposed, spiritualistic sentient soul. These both could never compensate one another in him, could never find a brotherly agreement. Therefore, he gets around to attributing a kind of consciousness to the smallest living being; however, it remains inexplicable how the complex human consciousness develops from the consciousness of the smallest living being. Haeckel said once in a conversation, people are irked by my materialism; but I do not at all deny spirit, I do not at all deny life; nevertheless, I would want only that people think that if they bring in substances to a retort soon everything lives and weaves. — This shows rather clearly, how Haeckel has a spiritualistic feeling soul beside his scientific thinker's soul.

At that time when Darwin appeared, one of those who also asserted the origin of the human beings from the higher animals was the English researcher Huxley (Thomas Henry H., 1825-1895, biologist). He pronounced that such a big resemblance of the external construction exists between the human being and the higher animals that this resemblance is bigger than the resemblance between the higher and lower simian species. One can conclude only that the human being is descended from the higher animals. In newer time, the researchers have found new facts; also those sensations changed which trained heart and soul for centuries of education. Thus, it happened in the nineties that Huxley pronounced a view strange to him, shortly before his death: we recognise a sequence of life in nature, from the simplest and most imperfect up to the composite and most perfect. We can survey this order. Why should this order not continue in a field that we cannot survey?

In these words, the way is suggested how the human being can achieve the idea of a divine being from the physical research. This divine being outranks the human being more than he himself outranks a simple cellular being. Once Huxley said: I prefer to be descended from such forefathers who are similar to animals than from such who deny the human reason.

The concepts and sensations have changed that way. Haeckel continued his researches his way. Already in 1868, he published his popular book The History of Creation. One can learn a lot from it; one can learn how the realms of life are connected. One can look into the grey times of the past and connect the living with the extinct whose last leftovers exist on earth. Haeckel had exactly understood this. I can make clear the world-historical that happens further on only using a comparison. Somebody who shows interest in such matters finds that this comparison is not lamer than all comparisons are lame, which can be suitable, however, in spite of all that. Imagine that an art historian describes the big realm of painting from Leonardo da Vinci up to now in a nice art-historical treatise. Everything that has been created in this period faces your soul and you believe to look into this freely developing weaving and working of the human mind. Imagine also that somebody comes and says with regard to this description: everything that the art historian shows here is nothing real, it is something that does not exist. This is only a description of phantasms, which do not exist. What do these phantasms concern me? One has to investigate the real to get a correct art-historical representation.

Hence, I want to examine the skeletons of Leonardo da Vinci and try to put together his body again. I also want to examine his brain and how this has worked. — The art historian, as well as the anatomical physical historian describes the same matters. No mistake needs to occur, everything may be right. Then the anatomical historian means: we have to fight to the death what the idealistic art historians tell us, we must fight against it as an imagination, because this is almost in such a way as if a kind of superstition had overcome the human beings which tries to make us believe that beside the figure of Leonardo da Vinci also a gaseous whirl existed as soul.

This comparison is suitable, although it may seem stupid. In such a situation is somebody who swears on the sole correctness of Haeckel's Anthropogeny (1874). One cannot combat Haeckel in such a way that one demonstrates mistakes to him. Indeed, they may exist, but here it does not matter at all. It is important that the sense-perceptible was shown once according to its internal connection. Haeckel achieved this in a big and comprehensive way. It has happened in such a way that also somebody who wants to see can see how just the spiritual is effective with the creation of the forms where apparently only the matter prevails and works. One can learn a lot from it; one can see how one spiritually grasps the material connection in the world with severity, dignity, and perseverance. Someone who studies Haeckel's Anthropogeny sees how the form builds itself up from the simplest living beings up to the most complex ones, from the simplest organisms up to the human being. Who still knows how to add the spirit to that which the materialist says studies the nicest elementary theosophy with this Haeckelism!

Haeckel's research results establish, so to speak, the first chapter of theosophy or spiritual science. You can familiarise yourselves much better than with anything else with the origin and transformation of the organic forms if you study his works. We have every reason to show which great things were performed by the progress of this thorough physical knowledge.

In the times, when Haeckel erected this wonderful construction, one considered the deeper riddles of humanity as unsolvable problems. In a rhetorically brilliant speech, Du Bois-Reymond (Emil D., 1818-1896, German physician and physiologist) spoke about the limits of physical research and knowledge in 1872. One has not spoken more about few things in the last decades than about this speech with the famous “ignorabimus” (we do not know and we shall not know). It was an important action and shows an important contrast to Haeckel's own development and his theory of the origin of the human being. In another speech, Du Bois-Reymond put the big questions of existence that the naturalist can answer only partially or not at all, the “seven world riddles,” namely:

(1) The origin of energy and matter.

(2) How did the first movement come into being in this resting matter?

(3) How did life originate within the moved matter?

(4) How can one explain that so many things exist in nature, which carry the stamp of usefulness on themselves, as only the actions have that the human reason carries out?

(5) If we were able to investigate our brain, we would find whirling small beads. How does one explain that these beads achieve that I see red, that I hear organ tones, that I feel pain etcetera? — Imagine the whirling atoms and you will realise immediately that the sensation can never originate from it, which expresses itself in the words, “I see red, I smell a rose” etcetera.

(6) How do reason, thinking and talking develop within the living beings?

(7) How can a free will originate in a being, which is so bound that any action must be caused by the whirls of the atoms?

Following these “world riddles” of Du Bois-Reymond, Haeckel just called his book The World Riddles (1895-1899, English edition “The Riddle of the Universe”, 1901). He wanted to give the answer to the explanations of Du Bois-Reymond. A particular passage is in that speech of Du Bois-Reymond about the limits of the knowledge of nature. We are led to this important passage and can be led to theosophy by them.

When Du Bois-Reymond spoke in Leipzig before the naturalists and physicians, the spirit of physical research was on the lookout for a pure, freer and higher air, for the air, which led to the theosophical worldview. At that time, Du Bois-Reymond said the following: if we look at the human being scientifically, he appears to us as a cooperation of unaware atoms. Explaining the human being scientifically means to understand these atomic movements down to the last detail. — He is of the opinion that one has solved this problem scientifically, if one is able to indicate any movement of the atoms at any place of the brain if one says, I think, or, give me an apple. Du Bois-Reymond calls this the “astronomical” knowledge of the human being. Like a starry sky in microcosm the moved groups of human atoms would look. What one did not understand is the origin of feeling and thinking in the consciousness whose movements of atoms I know exactly. No natural science can determine this. No natural science can say how consciousness originates. Du Bois-Reymond concluded then as follows: with the sleeping human being who is not aware of the sensation which expresses itself in the words, I see red, we have the physical group of the moved body parts before ourselves. With regard to this sleeping body, we do not need to say, we shall not know, ignorabimus. We can understand the sleeping human being. However, no naturalist can understand the awake human being. In the sleeping human being that does not exist which exists with the awake one, namely the consciousness by which he faces us as a spiritual being.

At that time, the despondency of the natural sciences made a further advance impossible; one could not yet think of theosophy or spiritual science because the natural sciences marked sharply the limit, had put the point up to which they want to go their way. Because of this self-restriction, which the physical research has imposed on itself, the theosophical worldview started in the same time. Nobody states that the human being, when he falls asleep in the evening and wakes in the morning again, stops being in the evening and comes into being the next morning anew. However, Du Bois-Reymond says that at night that does not exist with the human being, which exists in him at daytime. Here is for the theosophical worldview the possibility to start. The sensory consciousness does not speak in the sleeping human being. However, while the naturalist rests on that which this sensory consciousness provides, he can say nothing about that which goes beyond it, about the spiritual, because he just lacks that which makes the human being the spiritual being.

With the means of physical research, we cannot penetrate into the spiritual. The physical research rests on the sense-perceptible. That which is no longer perceptible if the human being sleeps cannot be an object of this research. However, we have to look for the being, which makes the human being a spiritual being, in this something that one can no longer perceive with the sleeping human being. One cannot state anything sooner about that which goes beyond the purely material, the sensuous, until — the naturalist can know nothing about that — organs, spiritual eyes are created, which also see that which exceeds the sensuous. Therefore, one must not say, here are the limits of knowledge, but only, here are the limits of the sensuous knowledge. The naturalist perceives with the senses, however, he is not a spiritual seer. Nevertheless, he must become a seer to be able to behold the spiritual of the human being. Any deeper wisdom in the world strives for that, not for mere extension of the circumference of sensuous knowledge, but for the increase of the human abilities. This is also the big difference between the modern natural sciences and theosophy. The naturalist says to himself, the human being has senses with which he perceives, and reason with which he combines the sensory perception. What one cannot reach with it lies beyond the scientific knowledge. — Theosophy has another view. It says, you are right, naturalist, if you judge from your point of view, you are just right, as the blind person is right to say from his point of view that the world is without light and colours.

I do not raise any objection against the scientific point of view; I would like to confront it only with the view of theosophy or spiritual science which says: it is possible, nay, it is sure that the human being does not need to stop at the point of view on which he stands today. It is possible that organs, spiritual eyes develop in a similar way as in this physical body senses, eyes and ears have developed. If these organs are developed, higher abilities appear.

One has to believe this at first — no, one not even needs to believe it; one accepts it only impartially as a story. However, as true as not all believers of the “history of natural creation” have seen what is stated in it as facts — for how many are there who have seen these facts really —, just as little one can show the fact of the extrasensory knowledge here to everybody. The usual sensuous person cannot come into this field. We are only able to get into the spiritual fields with the methods of esoteric research. If the human being transforms himself into a tool for the higher forces to look into the worlds concealed to the sensuous human being, then particular phenomena appear in him. I speak about that in detail in my ninth talk about the internal development. The usual human being cannot see himself or perceive the objects in his surroundings consciously if his senses sleep. However, if the human being applies the methods of esoteric research, this inability stops, then he starts perceiving the impressions in the astral world consciously.

At first, there is a transition, which everybody knows, between the exterior life of the sensory perception and that life, which does not die down even in the deepest sleep. This transition is the chaos of the dreams. Everybody knows it, mostly only as an echo of the experiences of the day. How should he absorb anything new in sleep? The internal human being has still no perception organs. Nevertheless, something exists. Life is there. What has come out of the body with the sleep remembers, and this memory ascends in more or less muddled pictures during sleep. If you want further information about these matters, take the essays How Does One Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds? Then gradually order and harmony start coming into the realm of dreams. This is a sign of the fact that the human being starts developing spiritually; and then he does not only see echoes of reality chaotically in the dreams but also things that do not exist for the usual life.

Indeed, those who want to remain in the sensuous field say, these are only dreams. — However, if you attain insight into the highest world secrets, you can be quite uninterested whether you have received them in your dreams or in a sensuous way. Assume that Graham Bell (Alexander G.B., 1847-1922) would have invented the telephone in his dreams. It would not matter today if the telephone had become a significant and useful equipment at any rate. The clear and regular dreams are the beginning. If the human being settles down in the dreams in the silence of the nightlife, if he has got used for a while to perceiving quite different worlds, then the time also soon comes when he learns to step out into reality with this new perception. Then this whole world gets a new appearance to him, and he is aware of this new, as we are aware of the sensuous, if we go through these rows of seats, through everything that you see here.

Then he is in a new state of consciousness; it presents itself something new, something essential in him. Then the human being thereby advances in his development, finally to the point of view where he perceives not only the peculiar phenomena of the higher worlds as light phenomena with the spiritual eye, but hears also tones of the higher worlds sounding, so that the things say to him their spiritual names and face him with new meaning. The language of the mysteries expresses this with the words: the human being beholds the sun at midnight. That means that no spatial obstacles are there to see the sun on the other side of the earth. Then also, the actions of the sun become obvious to him, and then he perceives the harmony of the spheres, which the Pythagoreans represented as truth. This sounding, this harmony of the spheres becomes something real for him. Poets who were seers at the same time knew that there is a sort of sphere harmony. Only somebody who grasps Goethe from this point of view can understand him. For example, one can accept the words in The Prologue in Heaven (Faust I) either only as a phrase or as a higher truth. Where Faust is introduced into the spiritual world in the second part, he speaks again of this sounding, “in these sounds we spirits hear the new day already born.”

There we have the connection between the physical research and theosophy or spiritual science. Du Bois-Reymond pointed to the fact that only the sleeping human being can be an object of the physical research. However, if now the human being starts opening his internal senses if he starts hearing and beholding a spiritual reality, then the whole building of elementary theosophy, which Haeckel has built up so wonderfully, starts getting a quite new shine, a quite new meaning. In this miraculous construction, we see a simple living being as primal being, but we can also trace back our being spiritually to a former state of consciousness.

I deal now with the theosophical or spiritual-scientific teaching of evolution. Of course, one has completely to ignore “proofs” in a single talk. It is natural that for everybody, who only knows the usual ideas of the origin of the human being, everything sounds implausible and fantastic that I have to say. However, all these ideas have arisen from the ruling materialistic circles of thought. Nevertheless, many people, who reject the reproach of materialism far from themselves, are only biased in — indeed, comprehensible — self-deception. One hardly knows the true theosophical or spiritual-scientific teaching of evolution today. If opponents speak of it, someone who knows it notices immediately that their objections come from a caricature of this teaching. For to all those who only accept a soul or a mind, which express themselves within the human or animal organisations, the theosophical way of thinking is quite incomprehensible. With such persons, any discussion about this object is infertile. They would have to emancipate themselves from the materialistic suggestions first, in which they live, and they would have to familiarise themselves with the basis of the spiritual-scientific way of thinking.

As well as the sensuous-scientific method of research traced back the physical-bodily organisation to distant uncertain primeval times, the spiritual-scientific way of thinking does it relating to soul and mind. The latter does not conflict with the known scientific facts; it only cannot accept the materialistic interpretation of these facts. The natural sciences pursue the physical living beings backward to their origins. They get to simpler and simpler organisms. They say now that the perfect living beings are descended from these simple, imperfect ones. This is true, as far as one considers the physical corporeality, although the hypothetical forms of the primeval times of which the materialistic science speaks do not completely comply with those, which the theosophical or spiritual-scientific research knows. However, this may not concern us for our present purpose.

In the sensuous-physical respect, spiritual science also recognises the relationship of the human being with the higher mammals, with the great apes. However, one cannot speak about a descent of the modern human being from a being that equals the present apes mentally. The situation is different. Everything that materialism brings forward in this respect is based on a simple error in reasoning. One may make clear this error using a trivial comparison, which is not incorrect, although it is trivial. One takes two persons. The one is morally inferior, intellectually insignificant; the other is morally of high standing, intellectually significant. Assume that you can determine the relationship of both. Are you allowed to conclude now that the outranking person is descended from such an undeveloped person? By no means. One could be surprised by the other fact that both persons are related; they are brothers. However, the common father was neither equivalent to the one nor to the other brother. One of the brothers became degenerate; the other has worked his way up. The materialistic natural sciences commit the mistake indicated in this comparison. According to the facts known to them, they have to assume a relationship between ape and human being. However, they are not allowed now to conclude: the human being is descended from the animal identical to an ape. They would rather have to assume a primal being — a common physical ancestor; but the ape became degenerate; the human being is the higher developed brother.

What raised that primal being, on one side, to the human being, and what pushed the other down to the apes? Theosophy or spiritual science says, the human soul itself has done it. This human soul already existed at that time, when there on the physical-visible surface of the earth as the highest sensuous beings only those common ancestors of the human being and the ape walked around. The best of these ancestors were able to submit to the higher education process of the soul; the inferior ones were not. That is why the present human soul has a soul ancestor as the body has a physical ancestor. However, for the sensuous perception the soul would not have been recognised in the body at the time of those “ancestors” in the modern sense. It belonged in a certain respect still to the “higher worlds.” It also had other abilities and forces than the present human soul. It lacked the present mental activity and moral attitude. It did not produce tools from the things of the outside world and did not establish states. Its activity was still directed considerably to the transformation, to the reorganisation of the “forefathers' bodies.” It transformed the imperfect brain, so that this could later be the bearer of the thinking activity. As the soul directed outwardly builds machines today, the ancestor's soul still worked on the human ancestor's body itself. One can object, of course: why can the soul no longer build the own body to such an extent? — This just results from the fact that the strength, which was once used up for the transformation of organs, was later directed outward to the control and regulation of the natural forces.

Thus, one gets to a double origin of the human being in the primeval times. This did not originate mentally only by perfection of the sensuous organs. However, the human “soul” was there already when the “forefathers” still walked around on earth. It selected — this is, of course, only comparatively spoken — a part of the “forefathers' host” to which it gave an external physical expression, which made him the present human being. The other part of this host atrophied, became degenerate, and forms the present great apes. These formed — in the true sense of the word — from the human ancestor as his branch. Those “ancestors” are the physical human ancestors; but they could be it only because they could transform the human souls in themselves. Thus, the human being is descended from this “forefather” physically; his soul, however, is descended from his “soul forefather.”

Now one can go back again farther in the pedigree of the beings. There one comes to a physically even more imperfect ancestor. However, also at this time the “soul forefather” of the human being already existed. This had raised this ancestor to the ape existence, again leaving behind the brothers incapable of development on the concerning level. Beings originated from them whose descendants are mammals below the apes. Thus, one can go back to that distant past when on the earth only those simplest living beings existed from which Haeckel lets originate all higher ones. In addition, their contemporary had been already the “soul ancestor” of the human being. He transformed the useful ones and left behind the useless ones on every particular level. The whole sum of the earthly living beings is descended from the human being in reality. What thinks and acts as “soul” in him today has caused the development of the living beings.

When our earth was in the beginning, the human being was still a soul being. He began his career, while he formed the simplest body. The whole sequence of the living beings signifies nothing else than the backward stages through which he developed his body up to present perfection. The present living beings do no longer reproduce those figures, which their ancestors had on a certain stage when they separated from the human pedigree. They have not stopped, but they have atrophied according to a certain principle that I cannot take into consideration here because of the necessary shortness of this representation. The interesting is now that one gets externally also to a pedigree of the human being by means of spiritual science that is not so unlike to Haeckel's pedigree. However, Haeckel everywhere makes — hypothetical — animals from the physical “ancestors” of the human being. However, one has to put the still imperfect forefathers of the human being to all places where Haeckel inserts the names of animals, and the animals — indeed, all beings — are only the atrophied, degenerated forms which have maintained those stages through which the human soul has formed. There is an external resemblance between Haeckel's and the theosophical or spiritual-scientific pedigrees; internally, they are worlds apart from each other.

That is why one can learn elementary spiritual science so well from Haeckel's executions. One needs only to penetrate the facts worked on by him theosophically or spiritual-scientifically and to raise his own naive philosophy to a higher one. If Haeckel reprimands and criticises such “higher” philosophy, he is just naive himself. One may compare him, for example, with somebody who has brought it only up to the multiplication table and says, what I know, is true, and the higher mathematics is only a fantastic stuff. — Nevertheless, the thing is not at all in such a way that a theosophist wants to disprove what an elementary fact of the natural sciences is; but only in such a way that the researcher taken in materialistic suggestions does not at all know about what theosophy talks.

It depends on the human being which philosophy he has. Fichte said this with the words: who does not have a perceiving eye cannot see the colours and who owns no receptive soul cannot see the spirit. Goethe expressed the same thought in the famous saying:

Unless the eyes were like the sun,
How could we see the light?
Unless God's own force lived in us,
How could delight us the divine?

Presenting a remark of Feuerbach (Ludwig F., 1804-1872, German philosopher) in the proper light, one can say, everybody sees the picture of God in such a way as he himself is. The sensuous one makes a sensuous god to himself, someone who perceives the mental finds the mental also in his god. — A philosopher of the ancient Greece already noted, if lions, bulls, and oxen made gods to themselves, they would be similar to lions, bulls, and oxen. In the fetishist, something also lives as the highest spiritual principle. However, he has not yet found it, he did not yet get around to seeing more in his god than the wood block. The fetishist cannot worship more than he feels in himself. He judges himself still like the wooden block. Who does not see more than whirling atoms, who sees the highest only in the material little points has just recognised nothing of the higher in himself.

Indeed, Haeckel honestly acquired to himself what he presented to us in his writings, and, hence, we have to allow him the mistakes of his virtues, too. The positive effect of his work remains, the negative one disappears. From a higher point of view, one can say, the fetishist worships the fetish, a lifeless being, and the materialistic atomist does not worship one small idol only, but many small idols, which he calls atoms. The word “worship” is not to be taken literally, of course, because, the “materialistic” thinker has not given up fetishism but praying. As big as the superstition of the fetishist is, as big is that of the materialist. The materialistic atom is nothing but a fetish. Atoms are even in the wooden block. Haeckel says in a passage, “we see God in the stone, in the plant, in the animal, in the human being. Everywhere is God.” However, he sees only that God whom he understands. Goethe lets the Earth Spirit speak to Faust characteristically:

Your peer is the spirit you comprehend:
Mine you are not!

Thus, the materialist sees the whirling atoms in the stone, in the plant, in the animal, and in the human being and perhaps in the piece of art, and refers to the fact that he possesses a uniform worldview and has overcome the old superstition. The theosophists also have a uniform worldview, and we can use the same words as Haeckel. We see God in the stone, in the plant and in the human being, but we see no whirl of atoms, but the living god, the spiritual god whom we attempt to find in nature outside because we also seek him in ourselves.




Last Modified: 04-Jul-2018
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