23rd October, 1921
You will have seen from
several earlier contemplations, that I do not like the phrase: “We
live in a time of transition”, because every age is a time of
transition — a transition from the earlier time to the later one.
It is only a question of in how far a time is the time of transition
— and just what is changing?
For the person who can see
into the spiritual world, ours is indeed the time of an important transition.The
wisdom of oldest time has always pointed to this important transition.
During the epochs in which a spiritual world was still spoken of truthfully
— if only out of dreamlike knowing — it was always said:
after a certain time had passed, the so-called Dark Age will come to
an end and a light-filled age would begin. If one now examines the words
of the old wise men and takes them seriously, one indeed comes to realize
that they meant that the transition from the Dark to the Light Age would
occur around the turn of the 19th and 20th century — the time
in which we now live. But we do not have to go through Anthroposophy
to a renewal of the old dreamlike wisdom. I often have said that this
is not the case, that with Anthroposophy it is the question of what
one can acquire as knowledge in our time through spiritual research.
Anthroposophy shall therefore not be the renewal of any kind of old
wisdom, but a present-day mode of cognition. But as regards the transition
from the Dark Age into the Light Age, present cognition has to completely
concur with the old wisdom.
Although one can hardly
say that we as mankind, especially as civilized European mankind, enter
from worse conditions into better ones, what the old wisdom had in mind
regarding the passing over into the light age, and what we also must
think today, is nevertheless true. Only we must understand matters in
the right way. I would like to make clear, with the help of an example,
what the difference is between a Light Age — meant in this way
— and a Dark Age.
Those people who once —
in about the 5th pre-Christian millennium — spoke about such Dark
and Light Ages, looked at this dark age as at the continuation of an
earlier Light Age, and they expressed the opinion that, after the Dark
Age had lasted for some time, a Light Age would come again. It would
be instructive to look back and see how — mainly in human affairs
— the Light Age, which once existed (approximately in the 7th
or 8th millennium) was different from the later Dark Age, out of which
we as mankind shall now emerge.
I would like to make that
clear by an example — as I said — through the example of
healing. The example of healing is very suitable in this respect, because
one can see much by it. Namely, during that Light, or illuminated age,
we did not look to the physical human body. One did not think of that
at all. Altogether, one did not speak during that old Light Age of illness
in the manner that one still speaks today of illness, but will speak
no longer in the future. Of course one had in those olden times also
the phenomenon that a person experienced the decay of his organs in
this or that direction, that he simple was not healthy. However, one
did not speak of illness, but said right out: Death exists and He
takes hold of man. One saw something like a struggle between life and
death in the situation where we would say today: this person is ill.
So in those olden times one did not speak of illness and health when
a person had become ill in the sense we understand, but one spoke about
it in this way: in him death is fighting. And making well one regarded
as combating, as driving out death in this way. Illness was only a special
case of death, one might say, "a little dying", and health
Why did one speak that way?
One spoke that way because healing was then done entirely from the etheric
body of man. One did not pay attention to the physical body; instead
one was healing altogether in relation to the etheric body.
How was this done? Let us
assume now, that a human being had become ill of something we would
call pneumonia today. The form of illness in case of pneumonia was of
a somewhat different type at that time, but one can nevertheless speak
of this type of illness. One then said to oneself: this person has become
too dependent on the region of the earth where he lives. This took place
in times when migrations of people, when the moving away from places,
was more unusual than today. People — at least the majority of
people--mostly spent all their life at the same place. Nevertheless
in such a case one said: this person has become too dependent upon the
earthly spot where he was born. In those olden times one knew very specifically:
man has already had a pre-earthly existence; through the survey, so
to speak,through his destiny, he had decided about the place on earth
himself. Therefore one said to oneself if a person has been taken ill
before his 40th year or earlier by pneumonia, then he simply has not
chosen his place on earth in quite the right way. He does not quite
fit on this place on earth. In short, one derived the illness from the
relation his human organization had to the spot on earth on which he
Click image for large view
If I would sketch this,
it would be this way: (diagram 1). If one imagined the earth this way,
one said to oneself: if the person lives there, then he is too strongly
dependent upon this particular spot on earth. One has to heal him by
freeing him inwardly from the outer dependence on this earthly spot.
One can do this by bringing him into connection with the surrounding
cosmos to the outer heavenly cosmos. Heaven is that which had been man's
home before he came down to earth. He does not quite fit into the earthly
surroundings. One has to heal him in bringing him into the right relationship
to the cosmos. One did this in such a way that one said: since this
person has too many effects of the earth in himself — because
there is too much gravity, and what is connected with gravity, in him,
one has to give him relief — one has to bring super-earthly forces
into him. One said to oneself: In these or other plant-blossoms, super-earthly
forces are working. Therefore one prepared these or other plants by
extracting their juice. One said to oneself: this plant is blossoming
at a certain season, it is blossoming at this season through the influence
of the cosmos. One investigated now, how far this person is influenced
by this season in particular. In olden times the dependence of a person
upon the cosmic forces was investigated through a kind of horoscope.
One gave then as medication something that brought his ether-body into
a general vibration. One expressed it to oneself in the following way:
If this is a man (diagram 2, red), then this will be his ether body.
He became ill of pneumonia because his ether body in the region of the
lung is too much inclined towards the earth (blue) and because the forces
of the earth have too great an influence on him. Mow one simply imparts
to him juices from plant blossoms, which will work in him and help him
to overcome these forces (Yellow). In this way one imparted forces to
him which brought him into connection with the cosmos. One was striving
through this treatment to place the whole ether body into the right
vibration to balance the different single incorrect vibrations. So one
always was asking: what does one have to do regarding the ether body?
Click image for large view
Altogether, how could one
proceed in such a way? One could do that, because one had a distinct
picture of the human ether body. One did not only see the physical human
body in those old times, but one saw the physical human body luminous,
one saw the ether body. Man was a being of light, and as one judges
today by a person's complexion, e.g., if someone is pale, that he is
ill — in the same way one formed an opinion about his state of health
by his ether body, by the color, if it became red, or blue or green.
On what did one base one's knowledge of the human being in those times?
On the light, on that which was Light in man. One has to take it quite
literally: it was the Light Age, it was the age in which one really
saw what was living in man as Light.
If you look at man from
today's point of view in regard to health and illness, you will find
that today, also, it must be said: light has a tremendous strong influence
on human health. People have to take care that they receive the right
quantity of light into their organism. We know that children who at
a delicate age suffer from lack of light, will contract rickets or other
illnesses ,which are throughout related to a lack of light. Of course
these are related to other factors, too — an illness can never
be derived from only one cause — but such cases as rickets, can
connected throughout with lack of light. One can relate with certainty
how frequently rickets occurs among children who live in city apartments,
where little light enters, and how little children are inclined to rickets
— approximately, of course — who can be exposed to light
in the proper way. So we can rightly say today as well that the human
being takes light into himself.
But the light that man receives
today is — if I may express myself that way — mineral light.
Man takes up that light which is radiated onto the earth, onto the minerals,
and is radiated back to him, or else the light which he receives directly
from the sun. It is mineral light. The light that falls on the meadows
and on the trees is also conveyed to us in a mineral way. It is dead
light that we absorb through our skin, throughout our whole human being.
During that old light-filled age, which preceded our dark age, men were
conscious that this dead light was of no meaning to them.
The research historian of
today, as well as the cultural historian know absolutely nothing about
such things. The light that we appreciate so much today was not considered
worthy of appreciation by men of olden times. They differentiated between
the light they appreciated and the light that is so much esteemed today.
For example — we sit down at the table and have plates and forks and
knives, and on the plate some kind of cake or something else that is
edible. We then eat the cake; naturally, we also appreciate knives and
forks, but we don't eat them, they are just there. What we value as
light stood in relation to what the ancients valued as light much as
the utensils stand in relation to the cake. But what they regarded as
light comes from the plant kingdom. This we do not take up at all any
more, as it was taken up in the old light ages. We enjoy ourselves today
when we can walk in the sun. The man of old enjoyed himself when he
walked over a meadow, or through the woods, because he absorbed into
himself — through his skin — the light that the woods had
first absorbed, which had been enlivened in the woods, enlivened on
the meadow. The other, the dead light — that was an addition,
“trimmings,” as it were. For us, the trimmings have become
the main thing. The man of old lived in the light, which the flowers,
the trees of the woods gave to him. For him that was a source of being
quickened inwardly with light, with inner living light and not with
dead light. With our abstract joy of the woods, with our abstract joy
about flowers, with all that, we have, basically, what I might call
philistinism, in the cosmic sense. It may still be very beautiful, but
it is philistine in contrast to what was existing in the old people
as inner jubilation of the soul in face of the wood, of the meadow,
in face of all that was living outside. The man of old felt himself
related with his trees, with all that was for him precisely the suitable
plant. He felt sympathy and antipathy in the most animated way with
this or that plant. We, for example, walk across such meadows as those
around the Goetheanum in autumn. We judge in a philistine way: the meadow
saffron, the colchium autumnale might perhaps be beautiful.
The man of old passed by these plants and became sad, so that even his
skin seemed to become somewhat dry. He even sensed something like his
hair becoming limp. While, when he passed — let us say, by red blooming
plants, they might be such plants as the poppy is today, his hair became
downy, soft. Thus he experienced the light of the plants in an absolute
way. It was the light-filled age, and his whole cultural life was directed
accordingly. Accordingly it was also directed that he could heal —
that is, could combat death — through observation and treatment
of the ether body.
This remained effective
for a long time and we still see, when we go back to the older Greek
medicine, to Hippocrates, how one spoke then of the “humors”
of man, of a black or light bile, of blood and of phlegm. This was really
thought about as remembrances of the old light age. Phlegm was essentially
taken to mean the ether body and blood, those vibrations which
the astral body effects in the ether body, and so on, So these after-effects
were still there, and basically only at the time of Galen did one start
to rely on the mere physical world, including the remaining human cultural
life. The conception of man, in as far as it should be the foundation
for processes of healing, received a physical character. One looked
at the physical body.
But it was in fact only
at the great turn in the first half of the 15th century that one did
not know anything at all any more of the human ether body, not even
how it expresses itself in the temperaments; that one began to look
more and more only at the physical body of man. The older physical medicine
was still something else than it was to become later, mainly in the
18 and 19th centuries. The old physical medicine always had traditions,
at least, of the earlier healing through the ether body. One really
has the impression that in this older European medicine, one had retained
old principles and had only carried them over into the physical. In
a certain way the physical human organism still continued to be seen
as under the influence of the etheric organism. Only in more recent
times — in the time of Copernicus and Galileo — did one
begin to observe more and more merely the physical human body and cease
to know something the earlier times had known in an exact way. Today
one thinks: if man eats this or that substance, which one finds out
there in nature, it will stay basically the same inside the human organism.
But that is not true. Only the salts remain approximately the same.
But all that is there in the animal and plant kingdom becomes something
entirely different in the human organism. The human organism changes
it completely. One knew that the human physical organism “is not
from this world” in its inner consistency and one knew fundamentally
that becoming ill is nothing else than a continuation of what happens
through eating. In fact there was a time, especially among the Arabian
physicians, when one regarded every digestion as a partial process of
illness, where one looked at digestion in a way that.was not really
wrong; when man has eaten, he has brought something foreign into himself
and that he really is “sick”. He must first, through his
inner organism, through inner organic functions, overcome the illness.
So that one continuously lives in a state of being “a little bit
sick,” and “a little bit overcoming the illness.”
One eats oneself sick and one digests oneself well again. This was in
fact for some time, especially
among Arabian physicians, a point of view which is altogether —
if I may express myself that way — something quite healthy, because
there exists no real borderline between what one calls today “eating
oneself well” and “eating oneself ill.” Just think
how easy it is to get one's stomach in disorder, something that —
as one says — could normally still be overcome, quickly goes over
into something one cannot overcome any more. Then one is simply sick.
But the borderline is really not to be drawn at all.
It is just as difficult
to draw a borderline regarding confusions between something that still
can be evened out in a completely natural way and something where one
has to come and give help through a process of healing. So once one
correctly saw illness as a continuation of eating — eating that
was not done correctly. One studied the daily process of digestion,
that is: digesting oneself into health; this one studied.
In this respect it is quite
a good practice if one person or another who cannot tolerate this or
that food unsalted, adds more salt for himself. Somebody else even has
to add pepper, others add paprika — isn't that so? Because he
cannot digest the things just as they are, he adjusts them to his needs.
There again is no borderline, if somebody needs pepper or paprika as
a healing factor; there again is no borderline, if one gives more pepper
or paprika, so one can digest oneself well, or if, when things get worse,
one takes something out of the mineral kingdom. It does not matter if
one then gives that as addition to the food, or as medicine. There again
things flow into each other, there is again no borderline.
What was therefore known
in a precise way was that if man takes something completely from the
outer world, this will injure his inner organism and he must by all
means overcome it. If finally I push a rusty nail into myself and my
organism has to fester it out, or if I bring something into my stomach,
which must not be allowed to stay that way, and my organism has to go
through all these processes so it can assimilate this — these
are only gradations of difference. But the knowledge that the human
organism is not of this earth, and that it can sustain itself on this
earth only if it is continuously stimulated to overcome the forces of
this earth — this knowledge did exist. Namely, we do not eat to
get this or that food into oneself, but we eat so that we can develop
the forces inwardly which can overcome this food. We eat to bring forth
resistance to this earth, and we live on this earth in order to bring
But this was gradually forgotten.
One just took the whole matter in a materialistic way and finally one
only still tried to see if this or that substance in these or other
plants might give help. Yes, you see that is what was once meant, and
what we again must have in mind regarding the dark age. Everything has
simply become dark. In earlier times one looked at the light ether-body,
and regarded this as man. Now one does not see anything of this light
any more. One perceives only where there is matter, and one holds on
to the dead light. But this dead light gives man only abstract conceptions,
it has brought forth only intellectualism. But today we stand in a transition
to the necessity to recognize the light again in a new way. Before,
man knew within himself: he had this light ether body. Now we must increasingly
develop such knowledge, and recognize the etheric in the outer world,
especially in the plant kingdom.
Goethe made a beginning
with this in his theory of metamorphosis, although he still put the
whole into abstract conceptions. This must develop more and more into
Imaginations. And we must be clear that we simply must reach the point
of perceiving the being of the plant in luminous pictures. While man
himself was luminous in the earlier light age, in the future nature
around us, as far as it is plant-world, has to become aglow in the most
manifold Imaginations of plant forms. And just with the help of these
plant forms, luminously shining forth, will we be able to find new remedies
in the plants. This necessity confronts us. While man in the earlier
light age saw an inner light, people of the present age have the obligation
of “seeing” in the outer world, to behold again a light,
this light in the outer world.
This light can be kindled,
if one deepens more and more the study of spiritual science. You may
say: spiritual science, Anthroposophy — there also I read only
concepts, and finally, if I read
I also find only concepts there; that does not give me an occasion
to really “perceive.” Yet, my dear friends, this
does have a twofold
goal. The first is that one learns to know what is related there; but
that is not the whole. If you have read my
like another book, then you will know only the match. But if you want to
have fire, you must not say: this match is no fire! It is nonsense to
say, if he gives me a match, that he gives me fire, it does not look
does not look like clairvoyance;
that is like saying the match does not look like fire. Yet it will look
like fire if you will but strike the match. And if it does not work
the first time, you will strike another time, and so on. That is how
it is with
If you have read it like another
book, then it is simply only “the match,” but if you have
rubbed it in the right way in your whole human being, then you will
see, it kindles! It has kindled only a little! But it does kindle, my
dear friends. And the person who says: this remains far away from what
one is striving for, namely clairvoyance, he will only look at the match
and not strike it. But the fact is, one must first know the match, otherwise
one will give oneself up to the illusion that one could kindle it with
a pin. Of course, you cannot kindle it with a pin — that is, with
modern science — you can do it only with a real match.
The human race is confronted
precisely by this necessity and it may be especially shown in something
such as medical knowledge and medical ability. If one will find the
transition from a mere looking at the darkness in substances —
in the way that one somehow looks at a plant blossom, as it is done
today — to an imaginative way of looking, by “striking the
match” — then one acquires the knowledge of how this or
the other substance will affect the human being. And if one now thinks
over the matter a little, one has to say to oneself: today's mankind
is confronted with that: out of the darkness it should enter again into
the light, it should learn to judge in a light-filled way.
Click image for large view
I want to make this clear
once more by an example. Let us assume that a physician of today is
making a diagnosis of, let us say, an enlargement of the heart. He does
it the way it is done today. One cannot do much with such a diagnosis.
Perhaps one has tried if this or that can help here. But the fact is
that one does not have any comprehensive connections. One does not have
anything comprehensive because one does not look through the whole matter.
A real penetration of the whole would result in the following: Assume
once that the human being, as I have, presented him quite often, renews
his organism after seven years. But I also mentioned last time how this
renewal comes about. There are always unfinished substances in a way
sent upwards or also forwards or downwards by the kidneys' system. From
the head the rounding off is done (diagram 3) so that continuously
such waves (blue) are coming from the head-system, which give form,
and that through the kidney-system such effects take place — four
times faster — which are broken off and formed by the waves (red)
as I described.
Take an organ such as the
heart (orange). There too such an exchange takes place in every human
after 7 or 8 years. The heart is being renewed. It is made anew. What
you see at the fingernails, that they grow outwards and always grow
again after one cuts them off, that is also the case with the whole
human being: he renews the material substance from the center. Now assume
once that the rhythmic man might not be in order, that it might be so
for his organization, that the rays from the kidney system burst forth
much too rapidly, so that the right relation of 4 to 2 is not there.
That varies for the individual — every person is an individuality
in this respect — but it is the case in regard to his whole construction
as a human being. Assume then, that this is not in order, that the radiation
from the kidney-system is pushing too fast. What will happen thereby?
Click image for large view
The following can happen.
The process of renewal is indeed happening continuously; let us then
imagine that the new heart moved in (red) before the old heart is completely
ejected (diagram 4, light). Then it goes too fast. If the renewal goes
on too fast, such phenomena as an enlargement of the heart occurs. First
and foremost you can detect in the beginning of an enlargement of the
heart that something is not in order in the activity of the kidney.
Just where you take this matter of a renewal of the human being in 7-8
years seriously you will see: if that which will come as renewed substance
is already there after 6 years, that which is there as the old heart
has not yet been removed sufficiently and the organ expands, or tries
at least to expand itself. That is how one must learn to look at things;
one must learn to see things in living movement. That is what confronts
us. One must see most of all what one always has seen in fixed limits.
How does the physician today make a diagnosis?
The physician of today comes
to a diagnosis in such a way that he likes best to trace down the contours
of the heart to what it is as a finished organ. It is not so much the
question of looking at what the finished organ is, since it simply is
an organ that is always floating away and getting pushed back again.
In this going away and pushing back there is something inwardly mobile.
If I lay hold of it, it is essentially as if I were to lay hold of lightning
— it is constantly in movement, Therefore if I want to comprehend
man, I have to grasp him in his liveliness. This liveliness I understand
and find today only if I understand the whole world, and man out of
the world and cosmos. This is what we are confronted with: every thing
has to pass over into knowledge that is flexible. It is something dreadful
if we keep the children in school immobile. For example, it is always
quite grievous for me to see the children use any kind of finished triangle,
with which they make all sorts of things. This fixed object is really
nothing. One should really have a kind in which the triangle can be
shifted. This is the point: that the children get the conception in
the right way that everything should be grasped in movement. (diagram
Click image for large view
It is, of course, dreadfully
difficult to get an understanding in regard to these things with such
people who want their peace and quiet, who are already angry, when children
are making a row — and now the tools for instruction are making
a row! It is, of course, something dreadful: but it is so, we have to
change over to liveliness. All this taken together results in the challenge
to move upward into the light, luminous
age. Out of the dark age we must enter into the light luminous age.
And because people can not
do it — that is, they imagine that they cannot do it — because
people do not want it, because people cling to the old, and don't want
to step into the new, and because the old does not fit any more —
it is because of this that we experience the terrible catastrophes in
our present time. And we will experience them still more if people don't
want to take the trouble to enter into the new.
What occurs as catastrophe
is the reaction of the dark age, which does not belong in our time.
But it is, of course, terribly difficult to come to an understanding.
At best something like an inkling appears in the contrasting attitude
between the old people and youth today, like an inkling of the new light:
filled age. Young people say as a rule: oh, the old people are philistines.
This also has its forerunners. The great German philosopher Johann Gottlieb
Fichte had something of an inkling beforehand of this in making the
classical declaration, that one really should kill all people at the
age of thirty because man is only a decent human being up to his 30th
year. This is a famous sentence of Fichte and since Goethe at the time
that Fichte made this sentence was already considerably older, he was
terribly annoyed and has ridiculed this whole theory in the second part
of his Faust. It was really provoking for Goethe, of course! So one
finds that youth agrees that the old people are philistines, but up
to now no serious results have come about in this matter, because young
people declare this up to a certain age and then become even greater
philistines than the old ones have been. Even this side must be looked
upon from an inner vantage point.
What I mean is the question
that we already know: either Spenglerism — that is, the decline
of the West — or taking the trouble to adjust ourselves to the
new appearance of the light age in contrast to darkness, during which
men were “earthworms” in regard to the cosmos. It cannot
be different. But for a while in the course of history man had to he
an earthworm because otherwise he would have been taken up completely
by the light. He could strive to gain his freedom only during the dark
age, and most of all during the termination of the dark age, in the
more recent times. He could acquire his freedom only because the light
left him unmolested so that he could lead an earthworm existence.
But now I tell you: men
of the light ages preferred to receive the light of the plant world.
The plants were, so to speak, drinking the cosmos light and man in turn
drank the light out of the cup the plants presented to him.
Today we have only the dead
light. But on the rays of the dead light Christ has come and has achieved
the Mystery of Golgotha. That is the great cosmic Mystery of the newer
time. Though we have the dead light — the dead light that cannot
make us blessed — yet on this dead light's rays has Christ entered
the earth and achieved the Mystery of Golgotha. And though outwardly
we have around us the dead light we can bring the Christ in us to life.
And with Christ in us in the right way we will enliven all of the light
on earth around us — we will carry life into the dead light, we
ourselves will have a reviving effect on the light. This means we must
enter the new age with the right Christ impulse. The denial of the Christ-impulse
is the basis of all that keeps men away from seeing rightfully how a
dark age transits into the light age.
Click image for large view
It is really so. Where the
plant grows out of the earth (diagram 6) it develops the seed bud —
as I have shown you already — still through the forces of the
previous year; only the petals grow out of this year's light. What pulls
the plant out of the earth really comes from the previous year. So it
was actually conserved light which the plants once gave to man during
the old light age. We have to find the possibility to comprehend the
dead light with the mind and heart that is engendered in us if we receive
the strength of Christ in the living perception of the Mystery of Golgotha.
Then we will revive the light as I have indicated. But we can do that
only if we learn to try to look at all things in the way I have tried
to describe to you in these lectures.