Balance in Life
4th July, 1916
GA 169: 5 of 7
is connected with the broader theme we have talked about here so
often recently. As we have seen, we need to look at the activities,
thinking, and beliefs of our times that resist and oppose spiritual
science as we understand it. We believe this spiritual science must
become a necessary part of human cultural development in the present
and the near future. Thus, what I have presented here is connected to
the outlook of spiritual science as well as to the whole impulse or
force on which our movement is based. And in this context I want to
add a few remarks today.
Again and again we have to caution people
against letting certain ideas and concepts that are meaningful in our
spiritual science become merely empty words. We have to warn particularly
against approaching the ideas of spiritual science — in many respects
a new acquisition of humanity — with old ways of thinking and
old habits of soul. For instance, we must not approach such conceptions
as “ahrimanic” and “luciferic” with all the
usual feelings and ideas these words evoke. We need only picture how
the name Lucifer in southern regions brings up the concept of demons
prevailing there. However, when we arrive at the spiritual scientific
view of Lucifer, we should not have the same negative ideas and feelings
connected with the old idea of demons. Nor should the ideas that arose
in human souls when the medieval views of the devil were alive be applied
unhesitatingly to our concept of the ahrimanic.
We must be aware that the world as it presents
itself to us is in a state of equilibrium or balance. The beam of a
scale does not come to rest in a straight horizontal position just because
it is a beam, but only because equal weights hang down from it on both
sides and balance each other out. It is the same with everything in
our world. The world exists neither because of a state of rest nor because
of nothingness, but because of the balance created by the possibility
of deviating radically from what is right and good either toward Lucifer
or toward Ahriman.
Anyone who says that we simply have to guard
against everything ahrimanic and luciferic is in the same position as
people who say they want a scale, but don't want to put weights on either
side. For instance, we know there would be no art if the luciferic element
did not play a role in the world. On the other hand, we also know there
would be no observation and understanding of nature if the ahrimanic
element did not play a part, too. It is only a matter of establishing
a balance in the human heart and soul. And that is why we can fall prey
to the ahrimanic and luciferic elements just when we think we are rejecting
everything ahrimanic and luciferic. We can sin against reality, but
we cannot suppress it!
Thus, those who want to avoid everything
ahrimanic will easily fall prey to the luciferic, and those who are
trying to avoid the luciferic will be easy prey for Ahriman. The point
is to find the balance, to fear neither the one nor the other, and to
have enough courage to face both ahrimanic fear as well as luciferic
hope or desire. But our culture does not like this; on the contrary,
our contemporary culture, unknowingly and without wanting to, loves
the ahrimanic and the luciferic. Believing it is avoiding them, it becomes
all the more completely their prey.
Talking in general terms and abstractions
usually leads absolutely nowhere. We can only get somewhere if we approach
these important problems in life in a concrete way. That is why I chose
so many specific examples that show how one can find a balance in life,
the balance between rest and movement, between unity and diversity.
Now there are philosophers, or people dealing
with world views, who say they are striving for unity. That sounds very
fine but is purely luciferic. Others are striving for diversity and
don't want to have anything to do with unity. Though this can be fruitful
today, it is ahrimanic. Only those really strive for balance who seek
unity in diversity and look for diversity in such a way that it reveals
unity. It is simply a matter of finding a way to really do this. I can
only mention a few sins against this balance.
In our times, one such sin is perpetrated
primarily in the way people view history. How do they view history?
They study how events follow each other and how they are connected in
time through the law of cause and effect — at least that's what
people think. What happens immediately after one event is taken as its
consequence, and people try to explain the latter on the basis of what
preceded it. However, as a rule people's memory these days is very short,
as we can see from the fact that for nearly two years now people have
been talking about historical events, the events leading to this terribly
tragic war, as if the world had only begun in July of 1914! They forget
so easily what happened before that. From our reading we know people
have forgotten what happened prior to that date. But aside from that,
when people look at history at all, they link events to the ones that
preceded them, and those in turn they connect with other preceding events.
Thus, the individual events are strung up like beads on a necklace,
and the result is then called history.
This way we will never find the truth, at
least not the kind of historical truth that will help us in life. Although
events do indeed follow upon one another, one of them may be far more
important than another. Sometimes a particular event taking place at
a particular time may mean much more for the understanding of what follows
than other events happening at the same time. The point is to find the
right events, the right facts. I have often called this way of looking
at history a symptomatic view of history, in contrast to the merely
pragmatic view so popular nowadays. The symptomatic approach to history
tries to understand our inner, spiritual evolution on the basis of symptoms,
and it finds at certain times particular events that are of far greater
significance than other, concurrent happenings.
This approach to history is basically a Goethean
one. Goethe made it part of his whole outlook not to see events simply
lined up side by side. Instead, he saw events as significant for the
course of human history depending on whether the spiritual revealed
itself in them to a greater or lesser extent. Someday people will write
the history of the current tragic conflicts by describing certain specific
events of recent decades, and from these they will understand why the
current situation has come about. Today is not the time to explain these
facts; they would only be misunderstood. But in the future historians
will report events that people now ignore when they read about them.
However, if I may say so, truth shines forth from these events.
Over the last few years I have told you about
all kinds of facts with the intention to speak about the true spiritual
course of events by means of them. Now, I have spoken more abstractly
about the issue of history because if I had discussed certain facts
in more detail — which would have clarified contemporary events
— I would have had to talk about things that people don't want
to hear about nowadays.
Those who do not look at history in this
symptomatic way do not find the balance between the ahrimanic and the
luciferic and fall prey to an ahrimanic view of history. The modern view
of history is largely ahrimanic. Facts are not weighed properly. People
believe they are evaluating facts and events but are not really doing
it. Generally, they do not even know what the most important facts are
because those are just the ones they consider the least important. But
the opposite also happens, and we can talk about that in more detail.
The opposite happens when people don't take facts into account at all,
but develop general truths out of their hearts and souls; they carry
these with them throughout life, trying to apply them everywhere. No
matter how different the situations they may be in, they always try
to apply the same tmth. That is really a kind of luciferic exaggeration,
but it is what people prefer these days. They want to have a kind of
essence of tmth that will never change and will carry them through each
and every situation — that is what they would like. But that won't
do at all. We have to find the balance.
Now I would like to explain what I mean.
You see, people may go through the world, they may stand on a mountain
and take in the wide expanses of nature. Well, they look at everything
but don't connect it with the spiritual. Or people may go into homes
where misery reigns; they look at everything, are touched by it, and
feel sympathy. But what they think about the deepest mysteries of human
existence is always the same; they carry the same thoughts into every
situation. In the old folk wisdom, which is now on the decline, we can
find a clear striving for balance in the soul. Thus it could happen
that someone walked through a village at the time when there were still
sundials — of course, nowadays sundials could not very easily
be used for they cannot be set an hour back or ahead; that is impossible!
But in the days when sundials were still of importance, someone might
have passed through a village, seen a sundial, and found words written
under it that were quite impressive. For example, people could find
the following words under a sundial:
I am a shadow.
So too art thou!
I reckon with time;
Just think, such profound words under a sundial,
“I am a shadow. So too art thou!” A shadow cast by the sun.
“I reckon with time. And thou?” Here, out of direct perception
of a concrete reality, speaks the profound truth that human life is
but a shadow of what works and weaves in the spiritual world. How vividly
this comes to meet the weary wanderer, imprinting itself in his heart,
when he steps before the sundial and sees the shadow! The sundial then
points out to him: “A shadow so too art thou! I reckon with time.
And thou?” Just imagine, these are profound and powerful questions
for us, for our conscience: “Do you reckon with time? Are you
finding your place in your time?” That is what I mean by saying
balance must be sought.
It is important that people stop letting
facts work side by side, each as important as the others and instead
realize that there are important facts that can speak to us of great
and eternal truths. Then what lives in the human soul and what is spread
out in the universe can unite. We find ourselves truly united with the
truth of the world only if we continuously come upon the truth in our
interaction with the world, only if we don't insist on carrying a priori
truths in us and don't walk by a sundial as we would by a plow or something
like that. Instead, in looking at things, we must be instructed about
the most noble and greatest striving that can light up in human souls.
This living together with outer reality,
with all that is spread out throughout the universe, this feeling oneself
at the right moment face to face with the eternal, is something quite
different from learning out of books that this or that is an everlasting
truth. No matter how often we abstractly impress upon ourselves that
human life is a shadow of what happens to us in eternity, no matter
how many beautiful ethical truths about the use of time we impress upon
our memory, none of them will ever reach as deep as the finding of a
right relationship between ourselves and outer reality. Then we will
see a significance in the individual concrete fact, and only then will
we find the balance in life we can never find by losing ourselves in
the external world or by merely immersing ourselves deeply into our
inner being. Mysticism is one-sided and luciferic; natural science is
onesided and ahrimanic. But mysticism developed through observation
of external nature or observation of nature deepened to mysticism, that
Let us take another example. Suppose someone
were hiking one morning in a beautiful area in the Alps, noticing the
song of the birds, the beauty of the woods, perhaps even the marvelous
virginal purity of the water as it babbles its way downhill in brooks,
and so on. Imagine the hiker wandered for an hour, maybe, or an hour
and a half, and then came upon a simple wooden crucifix. The hiker may
be inwardly glad, having all the forces of gladness in his soul shaken
awake because he or she has seen beautiful, great, noble, and sublime
views. But the hiker is also weary and approaches this place where a
simple wooden crucifix stands in the midst of beautiful and wonderfully
sublime nature. On the crucifix there are the following words:
Stay your steps, wanderer,
Look on my wounds.
Take heed, and guard thy way,
Beware what on the judgment day
O'er thee as verdict I shall say.
The experience we can have on reading these
words can be greater and can touch our hearts more profoundly than what
we may experience on seeing the figure of Christ in Michelangelo's famous
painting in the Sistine Chapel. The author of the words I have just
spoken is unknown. Yet, all those who understand anything about poetry
know that the person who wrote the words: “Wounds abide, hours
glide,” is one of the greatest poets of all time. But first one
has to have a feeling for this and know that true poetry is the poetry
that pours out of the human soul in the right place. Not all words that
rhyme, not all that passes for poetry is true poetry. But it is true
poetry when out of Christianity's eternal truths there pours forth:
Stay your steps, wanderer,
Look on my wounds.
Take heed, and guard thy way,
Beware what in the judgment day
O'er thee as verdict I shall say.
These are simple words, sublime words —
grandest poetry! To be made aware of the greatest event in the evolution
of the earth while surrounded by sublime nature and its graceful beauty
means to experience with the soul the reality in the universe. This
is only an example and a more profoundly touching one than the previous
one of the sundial. The important thing is to develop in life so that
when we meet with such things, we do not pass by reality but experience
the human soul growing together with reality and maintain the balance
even in our relation to what was not made by human beings, but was given
by the eternal powers. We can perceive the spiritual world only when
our striving is neither only one-sided mysticism, nor only one-sided
observation of nature, but instead is directed toward the union of both.
I have to say this because it is part of
what present-day humanity has the least real feeling for and what it
can least experience. That is why spiritual science is so difficult
for people to understand nowadays. What it offers is obliterated as
much by a one-sided search for an all-purpose insight as by accepting
the external world pretty much without seeking the symptomatic traits
and the revelation of the spiritual in various events. That is what
our contemporaries have the least understanding for. If they had it,
there would be much less versifying and, if I may say so, much less
defining. For definitions only lead people to overestimate words, and
versifying leads them to misuse words. A poem such as the one under
the simple crucifix — well, nobody knows who wrote it —
surely originated in a time when a profound poetical sensibility lived
in the hearts and souls of the people and true balance reigned in their
Alas, people in our age have become inured
to true poetry because there is much too much verse around, and poetry
begets more poetry just as unhealthy living produces cancer. Encouraging
everybody to write poems based on what already exists in poetry is the
same on the cultural and spiritual level as stimulating the life process
to produce cancerous growth. In this respect we have seen the most precious
fruits of the art of versifying at the end of the nineteenth century.
As you may know, one of the most biting critics in Berlin had to call
himself Alfred Kerr, because his real name was Kempner, a name that
could not be used at the end of the nineteenth century since it brought
to mind Friederike Kempner.
Yes, she, too, was a poet. We need only remember one of her pretty poems
— I won't recite many such verses, but just this one:
America, thou land of dreams,
Thou world of wonder, broad and long!
Thy trees of coconut how fair,
Thy busy solitude how strong!
This is a very striking example, but many
contemporary poems, though less striking are just like this one, and
many concepts formed are just like Friederike Kempner's “busy
solitude.” For people nowadays often have no feeling for how strongly
the adjective contradicts the noun when they speak or write. These things
simply must be realized,- there is no other way. After all, quite a
few people nowadays speak as though they did not take language to be
just gesture, which is all words really are. I have pointed out to you
how clumsy a theory like Fritz Mauthner's is.
He wants to reduce all philosophy and all world views to mere
semantics and wrote three hefty volumes as well as a whole dictionary
in two volumes, which lists alphabetically all philosophical terms but
not a single philosophical concept.
He completely disregards the fact that a word relates to its
concept like a gesture. People always forget this in their world view.
In everyday reality it cannot be forgotten; there we cannot easily confuse
a table with the word “Table,” and we won't expect to learn
about tables from the word “table.” But in philosophy and
in matters of world view that is what happens all the time.
Well, Fritz Mauthner should just meet what
we call in Austria a “Bohemian Privy Counselor” (“böhmischer
Hofrat”). He would enter “Bohemian” in his dictionary
and explain all sorts of things and then do the same with “Privy
Counselor.” However, a “Bohemian Privy Counselor”
is neither a Bohemian nor a Privy Counselor, in fact, he can be a Styrian
office messenger. In Austria, we call all people “Bohemian Privy
Counselor” who advance in their careers on shoes that make no
more noise than slippers and who push aside their rivals without the
latter noticing anything. In other words, they don't have to be Bohemians
or Privy Counselors. Clearly, the meaning of this expression cannot
be gotten from the words alone; they are merely a gesture.
That is what we have to realize: words are
gestures. The larynx makes gestures, which become audible by means of
the air, just as our hands or arms make gestures, which we cannot hear
only because they are too slow. The larynx makes its gestures so quickly
they become audible. The only difference lies in the quickness of the
larynx. And just as it is wrong to describe somebody's gesture pointing
to the table rather than describing the table, so it is wrong, in the
cultural and spiritual realm, to use words to get to any truths about
their concepts or the things they name.
Errors of this kind occur very frequently
these days. People rely completely on words. When I was a young man
— well, actually not yet a young man; I was only a boy and went
to school in Wiener-Neustadt in lower Austria — I learned a little
verse that has kept me from setting great store by definitions and explanations
of words in general. This little verse was written on a building as
the motto of the house, so to speak; it reads as follows:
I, Hans Carouser,
Prefer wine to water.
If I preferred water to wine,
Carouser would be no name of mine!
That is roughly what the modern definitions
of words are often like. That is, one first makes up a definition and
then formulates the explanation so that it fits, for if it didn't fit,
then things would not be as they are. If you remember this little verse,
you will be shielded from so much that emerges these days and is clearly
visible in our so-called cultural life. Much, very much appears in our
age. All these things are likely to divert our attention more and more
from looking at the spiritual, from realizing that spirit reigns and
weaves in what is real, in everything around us.
To an ever greater extent, we, and indeed
the world, are losing all connection with the spiritual. For just talking
about the spiritual does not bring it to us. A gesture pointing to a
reality does not have the same meaning in regard to the reality concerned
as the imitation of that gesture by another person in another room does.
But what will become of our world if it loses all contact with the spiritual,
if it casts off all that is spiritual? It is strange that people hardly
seem to notice that they are losing the connection to the spiritual
world. Humanity needs world views; people do not want to live without
a world view. Yet, our modern time is largely without spirituality, without
faith, or even an inclination to spirituality. However, not all those
who are not inclined to spirituality can make do without a world view.
And then strange justifications for a world view appear!
For example, in these last few weeks, I have
been thinking about a man I spent much time with around the turn of
the century, between 1898 and 1901 or so. Back then he was striving
for a world view but unable to construct one. He was searching for it
in Haeckelism, but apparently did not find that satisfactory. Then I
completely lost touch with him. Now I see that this same man, thoroughly
educated in the natural sciences, is indeed still striving for a world
view, but he has the most peculiar ideas about the reasons why people
arrive at world views. And incidentally, he also includes religion under
the category “world view.” Someone who lives totally in
the merely external, material understanding of facts, in the ahrimanic
reality, cannot really feel justified integrating these facts into a
world view. Now if he is nevertheless looking for a world view, how
is he supposed to justify this search? We can see especially from this
example how misguided people can be these days. Still, they are all
honestly striving people.
Now this man I mentioned admits that on the
basis of what the conventional sciences give us, on the basis of what
is simply “the truth,” one cannot build a world view. How
then do we arrive at a world view? We do not get it through our senses;
our intellect, which is necessarily bound to the senses, also does not
lead us to a world view — so what is left?
Well, this man hit upon the idea to look
for the source of a world view in a place typical for our times, namely
in psycho-sexuality! How do people build their world views? Through
the fact that they are sexual beings! If we were not sexual beings,
we would not integrate events and facts into a world view but would
merely perceive them. I would like to read you a passage typical of
this man's thinking:
If we follow Schopenhauer's thoughts to their
logical conclusion, we can say that in psycho-sexuality there are supra-individual
tendencies and strivings that ultimately have to be seen in connection
with the metaphysical needs of human beings. These are expressed in
the creation of religious feelings and ideas as well as in the formation
and elaboration of integrated world views. At the same time, we find
in psycho-sexuality an opposite pole, namely, a force that pulls human
beings down into the depths of their darker side. Criminal instincts
also spring from psycho-sexuality.
In other words, there are two poles in human
nature, and both originate in psycho-sexuality. The one pole is religious
feeling and thinking about a world view, the other, criminal instincts.
Isn't it — I do not say sad, I say tragic — isn't it tragic
to see where our time is heading?
These ideas are not to be taken lightly.
Those who observe matters closely can see with what enormous speed these
ideas are spreading. In my youth psychoanalysis, the Freudian theory,
did not yet exist, and back then anyone who would have wanted to found
it would have been considered a lunatic. Nowadays we have not only the
Freudian theory, with its publications and with its representatives
in all countries, but also psychoanalytical institutions all over the
world where this psychoanalysis nonsense is practiced. These days, the
most important and, as you have seen, even the most sacred experiences
of the human soul are traced back to psycho-sexuality.
Humanity has indeed strayed very far from
the paths it used to travel and to which spiritual science must lead
it again. For what we are dealing with here cannot be refuted easily,
because what is at stake when we speak about these things is the overall
tendency of the soul, the whole form and understanding of the soul.
When a pamphlet on psychosexuality appeared in our own Society —
and a very superficially and badly written one at that — we had
a big fight on our hands, which is not yet over. People could not understand
why we thought such a booklet unsuitable. I told the author that the
occultist is cautious in these matters because here only a very fine
line, a thin spiderweb, so to speak, separates misunderstanding from
the truth, and what is important is the whole attitude of the soul,
and it is dangerous to speak of these things.
We will have to speak about these things
for they are investigated by external science, where they will come
to play a certain role. But first we must return to the direction the
soul has to take so humanity can find its way to the spiritual.
In connection with the grotesque idea to
look for the source of world views in psycho-sexuality, let me tell
you about another fact, one sacred to all of us. I mean the fact that
in the section on Paradise in the Bible, the Hebrew has been translated
appropriately into our language, and we read: “And Adam knew his
wife.” There you have knowledge, the concept of knowledge brought
into connection with sexuality. But how? It is done exactly in the opposite
way! This conceals a deep mystery. Only when people will come to things
that are true on this opposite path, only then will light be shed upon
these things. These truths must be looked at from the point of view
of the spiritual if they are not to lead us astray. In the present age
we must guard against the lack of respect for spiritual research, a
lack that definitely exists. In the truest sense of the word, there
is a general disrespect for the spiritual world. People believe that
based on their experience of what is immediately in front of them, or
on yesterday's experiences, they can intervene in the course of the
world to reform and improve it.
A pathetic example of this has recently caught
my attention. A man allowed himself to be so affected by the present
tragic events of this terrible war that he concluded it would be a disaster
if peace were ever to return to the world. He concluded that the war
must continue because warfare is the natural condition of humanity.
War is not leamt in a day. It is really fortunate
that the threats of our enemies are speeding up the process of adaptation,
above all this last threat of the complete destruction of our export
trade. [You see, this must have been published very recently for it
takes into account the Economic Conference in Paris.] Now nobody can
evade the logical conclusion that peace would be a catastrophe, that
war remains the only possibility. Up to now, war has been a reaction
against provocation and a means to an end; from now on it will become
an end in itself. From now on all those unredeemed German souls, and
possibly even the most stalwart pacifists, will realize the error of
their ways and see that their ideals are not relics but fossils. The
whole nation as one man will demand eternal war ...
Educate people to hate, to revere hatred,
to love hatred, to organize hatred! Away with immature timidity, away
with a false sense of shame in the face of brutality and fanaticism!
Even in terms of politics Marinelli's words hold good: “More slapping,
less kissing.” We must not hesitate to announce blasphemously:
“Ours are faith, hope, and hatred.” But hatred is the greatest
Yes, my dear friends, such things exist.
It can never be a matter of sticking one's head in the sand like an
ostrich, but only of knowing where materialism leads, especially in
its latest phase, when it is denied even by its adherents. In fact,
things were better in the nineteenth century, in the days of Büchner,
David Friedrich Strauss, and chubby Voit, the one who analyzed the metabolism,
and all the others who at least declared themselves materialists.
Nowadays materialism wears a hypocritical air, and people say
it has long since been overcome. However, what they have put in its
place, hypocritically denying it is materialism, is nothing else but
materialism, an increasingly fierce materialism.
What we need, my dear friends, is Goetheanism;
we need a world view that allows the soul to grow together with reality in
its particular, characteristic phenomena. This Goetheanism is nothing else
but the renewal of the true Christian life of feeling and experience.
Why do Orientals not understand the Mystery
of Golgotha? They do not understand it because they cannot understand
that one event is more significant than another. We understand the Mystery
of Golgotha only when we know the difference between events, for only
then can we realize that one event can give the earth its meaning. Only
when we can see differences between events can we see one event as more
important than another. In the Orient, we find at most a continual play
of cycles, where everything is said to repeat itself. That the earth
is based entirely on the fact that we have a time of preparation for
the Mystery of Golgotha followed by the Mystery of Golgotha itself as
the zenith of earth evolution, and then the living into it, this truth
is what humanity will gradually have to understand, based on the
symptomatic view of history, of course.
Everything spiritual science can give us
will ultimately culminate in the Christian view of the world, which
will prevail. As I have often said, spiritual science does not want
to be a new kind of religion. Rather it wants to provide the tools for
humanity, which would otherwise completely fall prey to materialism,
to fully understand again the spiritual that is contained in Christianity.
It is absolutely necessary to look with open eyes at our age, and that
is much more important than any sentimental looking into it.