28th August, 1915
GA 163: 3 of 8
I want, as I've said, to use these days to lay the foundation we will
need to bring the right light to bear on the concepts chance, necessity,
and providence. But today that will require me to introduce certain
preparatory concepts, abstract counterparts, as it were, of the beautiful
concrete images we have been considering.
[ Note 01 ]
And to do the job as thoroughly as we must, a lecture will have
to be added on Monday. That will give us today, tomorrow (after the
eurythmy performance), and Monday at seven. The performance tomorrow will
be at three o'clock, and a further lecture will follow immediately.
For contemporary consciousness as it has come
into being and gradually evolved up to the present under the influence of
materialistic thought the concepts necessity and chance are indistinguishable.
What I am saying is that many a person whose consciousness and mentality
have been affected by a materialistic outlook can no longer tell necessity
and chance apart.
Now there are a number of facts in relation
to which even minds muddled by materialism can still accept the concept
of necessity, in a somewhat narrow sense at least. Even individuals
limited by materialism still agree that the sun will rise tomorrow out
of a certain necessity. In their view, the probability that the sun
will rise tomorrow is great enough to be tantamount to necessity. Facts
of this kind occurring in the relatively great expanse of nature and
natural happenings on our planet are allowed by such people to pass
as valid cases of Necessity. Conversely, their concepts of necessity
narrow when they are confronted with what may be called historical events.
And an outstanding example is Fritz Mauthner, whose name has often been
mentioned here; he is the author of
Critique of Language,
written for the purpose of out-Kanting Kant, as well as of a
An article on history appears in the latter. It is
extremely interesting to see how he tries there to figure out what history
is. He says, “When the sun rises, I am confronted with a fact.”
To take an example, we have been able today, the 28th of August 1915,
to witness the fact that the sun has risen. That is a fact. And now
he concludes that we can ascribe this rising of the sun to a law, to
necessity, only because it happened yesterday and the day before yesterday,
and so on, as long as people have been observing the sun. It was not
just a case of a single fact, but of a whole sequence of identical or
similar facts in outer nature that brought about this recognition of
But when it comes to history, says Mauthner,
Caesar, for example, was here only once, so we can't speak of necessity
in his case. It would be possible to speak of necessity in his existence
only if such a fact were to be repeated. But historical facts are not
repeated, so we can't talk of necessity in relation to them. In other
words, all of history has to be looked upon as chance. And Mauthner,
as I've said, is an honest man, a really honest man. Unlike other less
honest individuals, he is a man who draws the conclusions of his assumptions.
So he says of historical “necessity,” for example, “That
Napoleon outdid himself and marched to Russia or that I smoked one cigar
more than usual in the past hour are two facts that really happened,
both necessary, both — as we rightly expect in the case of the
most grandiose as well as the most absurdly insignificant historical
facts — not without consequences.” To his honest feeling,
something that may be termed historical fact, like Napoleon's campaign
against Russia (though it could equally well be some other happening)
and the reported fact that he smoked an extra cigar, are both necessary
facts if we apply the term “necessity” to historical facts
You will be amazed at my citing this particular
sentence from Mauthner's article on history. I cite it because we have
here an honest man straightforwardly admitting something that his less
honest fellows with a modern scientific background refuse to admit.
He is admitting that the fact that Caesar lived cannot be distinguished
from the fact of Mauthner himself having smoked an extra cigar by calling
upon the means available to us and considered valid by contemporary
science. No difference can be ascertained by the methods modern science
recognizes! Now he takes a positive stand, declaring his refusal to
recognize a valid difference, to be so foolish as to represent history
as science, when, according to the hypotheses of present-day science,
history cannot qualify as a science.
He is really honest; he says with some justification,
for example, that Wundt set up a systematic arrangement of the sciences.
[ Note 02 ]
History was, of course, listed
among them. But no more objective reason for Wundt's doing this can
really be discovered than that it had become customary, or, in other
words, it happens to be a fact that universities set up history faculties.
If a regular faculty were provided to teach the art of riding, asserts
Mauthner — and from his standpoint rightly — professors
like Wundt would include the art of riding in their system of the sciences,
not from any necessity recognized by current scientific insight, but
for quite other reasons.
We really have to say that the present has
parted ways to a very considerable extent with what we encounter in
Goethe's Faust: this can be quite shattering if we take it
[ Note 03 ]
There is much, very much in Faust that points to the profoundest
riddles in the human soul. We simply don't take things sufficiently
seriously these days. What does Faust say right at the beginning, after
he has spoken of how little philosophy, jurisprudence, medicine, and
theology were able to give him as a student, after expressing himself
about these four fields of learning? What science and life in general
have given him as nourishment for his soul has brought him to the following
No dog would endure such a curst existence!
Wherefore, from Magic I seek assistance,
That many a secret perchance I reach
Through spirit-power and spirit-speech,
And thus the bitter task forego
Of saying things I do not know,—
That I may detect the inmost force
Which binds the world and guides its course;
Its germs, productive powers explore,
And rummage in empty words no more
(Bayard Taylor translation)
What is it Faust wants to know, then? “Germs
and productive powers”! Here, the human heart too senses in its
depths a questioning about chance and necessity in life.
Necessity! Let us picture a person like Faust
confronting the question of necessity in the history of the human race.
Such an individual asks, Why am I present at this point in evolution?
What brought me here? What necessity, running its course through what
we call history, introduced me into historical evolution at just this
moment? Faust asks these questions out of the very depths of his soul.
And he believes that they can be answered only if he understands “productive
powers and germs,” understands, in other words, how outer experience
contains a hidden clue to the way the thread of necessity runs through
everything that happens.
Now let us imagine a personality like Faust's
having, for some reason or other, to make an admission similar to Fritz
Mauthner's. Mauthner is, of course, not sufficiently Faustian to sense
the consequences Faust would experience if he had to admit one day that
he could distinguish no difference between the fact that Caesar occupied
his place in history and the fact of having smoked an extra cigar in
the past hour. Just imagine transferring into the mind of Faust the
reflection on the nature of historical evolution voiced by Mauthner
from his particular standpoint. Faust would have had to say, I am as
necessary in ongoing world evolution as smoking an extra cigar once
was to Fritz Mauthner. Things are simply not given their due weight.
If they were, we would realize how significant it is for human life
that an individual who embraces the entire scientific conscience of
the present admits the impossibility of distinguishing, with the means
currently available to science, between the fact that Caesar lived and
the fact that Mauthner smoked an extra cigar, in other words, admits
that the necessity in the one case is indistinguishable from the necessity
in the other.
When the time comes that people sense this
with a truly Faustian intensity, they will be mature enough to understand
how essential it is to grasp the element of necessity in historical
facts, in the way we have tried to do with the aid of spiritual science
in the case of many a historical fact. For spiritual science has shown
us how the facts relative to the successive historical epochs have been
injected, as it were, into the sphere of external reality by advancing
spiritual evolution. And what we might state about the necessity of
this or that happening at some particular time differs very sharply
indeed from the fact of Fritz Mauthner smoking his extra cigar. We have
stressed the connection between the Old and the New Testaments, between
the time preceding and the time following the Mystery of Golgotha, and
stressed too how the various cultures succeeded one another in the post-Atlantean
epoch and how the various facts occurring during these cultural periods
sprang from spiritual causes.
The angle from which we view things is tremendously
important. We should be aware of the consequences of the assumptions
presently held to have sole scientific validity.
Days like yesterday, which was Hegel's birthday,
and today, which is Goethe's, should be festive occasions for realizing
how necessary it is to recall the great will-impulses of earlier times,
to recall Hegel's and Goethe's impulses of will, in order to perceive
how deeply humanity has become implicated in materialism. There have
always been superficial people. The difference between our time and
Goethe's and Hegel's is not that there were no superficial people then,
but rather that in those days the superficial people could not manage
to get their outlook recognized as the only valid one. There was that
slight difference in the situation.
Yesterday was Hegel's birthday; he was born
in Stuttgart on August 27, 1770. Since it was impossible for him, living
at that time, to penetrate into truly spiritual life as we do today
with the aid of spiritual science, he sought in his way to lay hold
on the spiritual element in ideas and concepts; he made these his spiritual
foothold. When we look at the phenomena surrounding us, we seek the
spiritual life, the truly living life of the spirit that underlies them,
whereas Hegel, since he could go no further, sought the invisible idea,
the fabric of ideas, first the fabric of ideas in pure logic, then that
behind nature, and finally that underlying everything that happens as
a spiritual element. And he approached history too in such a way that
he really accomplished much of significance in his historical studies,
even if in the abstract form of ideas rather than in the concrete form
of the spiritual.
Now what does a person who honestly adopts
Fritz Mauthner's standpoint do if, let us say, he sets about describing
the evolution of art from Egyptian and Grecian times up to the present?
He examines the documented findings, registers them, and then considers
himself the more genuinely scientific the less ideas play into the proceedings
and the more he keeps — objectively, as he thinks — to the
purely external, factual evidence. Hegel based his attempt to write
the history of art on a different approach. And he said something, among
other things, that we are of course able to express more spiritually
today: If we conceive, behind the outer development of art, the flowing,
evolving world of the ideal, then and then only will the idea that has,
so to speak, been hiding itself, try to issue forth in the material
element, to reveal itself mysteriously in the material medium. In other
words, the idea will not at first have wholly mastered matter, but expresses
itself symbolically in it, a sphinx to be deciphered, as Hegel sees
it. Then, in its further development, the idea gains a further mastery
over matter, and harmony then exists between the mastering idea and
its external, material expression. That is its classic form. When, finally,
the idea has worked its way through the material and mastered it completely,
the time will come when the overflowing fullness of the world of ideas
will run over out of matter, so to speak; the ideal will be paramount.
At the merely symbolic level, the idea cannot
as yet wholly take over the material. At the classic stage, it has reached
the point of union with matter. When it has achieved romantic expression,
it is as though the idea overflowed in its fullness. And now Hegel says
that we should look in the surrounding world to see where these concepts
are exemplified: the symbolic, sphinx-like form of art in Egypt, the
classic form in Greece, the romantic form in modern times. Hegel thus
bases his approach on the unity of the human spirit with the spirit
of the world. The world spirit must allow us thoughts about the course
of art's evolution. Then we must rediscover in the outer world what
the world spirit first gave to us in thought form.
This, says Hegel, is the way external history
too is “constructed.” He looks first for the progressive
evolution of ideas, and then confirms it at hand of external events.
That is what the Philistines, the superficial people, have never been
able to grasp, and it is their reason for reproaching Hegel so bitterly.
A person who is superficial despite his belonging to a spiritual scientific
movement wants above all to know about his own incarnation, and there
were of course people in Hegel's time too who were superficial in their
own way. You can see from one of Hegel's remarks that there was one
such. As you've seen, Hegel followed the principle of first lifting
himself into the world of ideas and then rediscovering in the world
around him what he had come to know in the ideal world.
Now the superficial critics had of course
risen up in arms against this, and Hegel had to make the following comment:
“In his many-sided naivete Herr Krug has challenged natural
philosophy to perform the sleight of hand of deducing his pen only.”
“Deducing” was the term used to denote a rediscovering in the
outer world of everything that had first been discovered in the inner
world. The person referred to in this remark was Wilhelm Traugott Krug,
who was teaching at Leipzig at that time.
[ Note 04 ]
Krug was the predecessor of Mauthner in having written a philosophical
dictionary, though he did not succeed in becoming a leading authority
in his day. But he said, “If individuals like Hegel search for
reality in ideas and then want to show, from the idea's necessity, how
external reality coincides with it, then someone like Hegel had better
come and demonstrate that he first encountered my pen as an idea.”
Krug remarks that Hegel with his “idea” is not convincing
in his assertions about the development of art from Egyptian to Greek
to modern times, but if Hegel could “deduce” Krug's pen
from his idea of it, that would impress him.
Hegel comments in the passage mentioned above,
“It would have been possible to give him the hope of seeing this
deed accomplished and his pen glorified if science had progressed so
far and so cleared up everything of importance in heaven and on earth
in the past and present as to leave nothing of greater importance in
doubt” than Herr Krug's pen. But in today's world the mentality
characteristic of superficial people is really dominant. And Fritz Mauthner
would have to say honestly that there is no possibility of distinguishing
between the necessity of Greek art coming into being at a certain time
and the necessity involving Herr Krug's pen or his own extra cigar.
Now I have already called your attention
to the prime importance of finding the proper angle from which to illuminate
these lofty concepts of human life. We need to find the right angles
from which to study necessity, chance, and providence.
I suggested that you picture Faust in such
relation to the world that he would have to despair of the possibility
of discovering any element of necessity. But now let's imagine just
the opposite and picture Faust conceiving of himself in relation to
a world where nothing but necessity exists, a world where he would have
to regard every least thing he did as conditioned by necessity. Then
he would indeed have to say that if there were no chance happenings,
if everything had to be ruled by necessity, “no dog would endure
such a curst existence,” and this not because of what he had been
learning but because of the way the world had been arranged. And what
would a person amount to if there were truth in Spinoza's dictum that
everything we do and experience is every bit as necessitated as the
path of a billiard ball which, struck by another, has no choice but
to move in a way determined by the particular laws involved?
[ Note 05 ]
If that were true, nobody could endure such a world order, and
it would be even less bearable for natures aware of “productive
powers and germs!”
Necessity and chance exist in the universe
in such a way that they correspond to a certain human yearning. We feel
that we couldn't get along without both of them. But they have to be
properly understood, to be judged from the right angle. To do that in
the case of the concept of chance naturally requires abandoning any
prejudices or preconceptions we may have on the subject. We will have
to examine the concept very closely so that we can replace the cliche
that this or that “chanced” to happen — as we are
often forced to say — with something more suitable. We will have
to search out the fitting angle. And we will find it only if we go a
bit further in the study we began yesterday.
You are familiar with the alternating states
of sleeping and waking. But we recognize that waking consciousness too
has its nuances, and that it is possible to distinguish between varying
degrees of awakeness. But we can go further in a study of that state.
It is basically true that from the moment we awaken until we fall asleep
again, our waking consciousness takes in nothing but objects in the
world around us, senses their action, and produces our own images, concepts,
and ideas. Sleeping consciousness, which has remained at the level of
plant consciousness, then lets us behold ourselves as described yesterday,
and, since our consciousness in this state is plantlike, this is a pleasurable
absorption in ourselves.
Now if we penetrate fully into the nature
of human soul life, we come upon something that fits neither day nor
night consciousness. I am referring to distinct memories of past experiences.
Consider the fact that sleeping consciousness doesn't involve remembering
anything. If you were to sleep continuously, you wouldn't need to remember
previous experiences; there would be no such necessity, in any case.
We do remember to some extent when we are dreaming, but in the plant
consciousness of sleep we remember nothing of the past. It is certainly
clear that memory plays no special part in sleep. In the case of ordinary
day-waking consciousness we must say that we experience what is around
us, but experiencing what we have gone through in the past represents
a heightening of waking consciousness. In addition to experience of
our present surroundings we experience the past, but now in its reflection
in ourselves. So if I draw a horizontal line (see drawing) to represent
the level of human consciousness, we may say that we look into ourselves
I will write “Looking into ourselves”
here; we can call it a subconscious looking. Day-waking consciousness
can be set down as “Looking out consciously into the world.”
Then a third kind of inner experiencing that doesn't coincide with looking
into the world is the conscious “Looking into ourselves in memory.”
So we have
“Conscious looking into ourselves”
“Consciousness looking into the world around us” = day-waking
“Subconsciousness looking into ourselves” = sleep
The fact is, then, that we have not just
two sharply different states of consciousness, but three of them. Remembering
is actually a deepened and more concentrated form of waking consciousness.
The important thing about remembering is more than just being aware
of something; we recapitulate awareness of it. Remembering makes sense
only if we are aware of something all over again. Think a moment: if
I encounter one of you whom I have seen before, but merely see him without
recognizing him, memory isn't really involved. Memory, then, is recognition.
And spiritual science teaches us too that whereas our ordinary day-waking
consciousness, our consciousness of the world outside us, has reached
the very peak of perfection, our remembering is actually only just beginning
its evolution; it must go on and on developing. Metaphorically speaking,
memory is still a very sleepy attribute of human consciousness. When
it has undergone further evolution, another element of experience will
be added to our present capacity, namely, the inner experiencing of
past incarnations. That experiencing rests upon a heightening of our
ability to remember, for no matter what else is involved, we are dealing
here with recognition, and it must first travel the path of interiorization.
Memory is a soul force just beginning its development.
Now let us ask, “What is the nature
of this soul-force, this capacity to remember? What really happens in
the remembering process?” Another question must be answered first,
and that is, “How do we arrive, at this point in time, at correct
You get an idea of what a correct concept
is if you are not satisfied with a meager picturing of it; in most cases
people have their own opinion of things rather than genuine concepts.
Most individuals think they know what a circle is. If someone asks,
Well, what is it? they answer, Something like this, and draw a circle.
That may be a representation of a circle, but that is not what matters.
A person who only knows that this drawing approximates a circle and
remains satisfied with that has no concept of what a circle is. Only
someone who knows enough to say that a circle is a curved line every
point of which is equidistant from the center has a correct concept
of a circle. An endless number of points is of course involved, but
the circle is inwardly present in conceptual form. That is what Hegel
was pointing out: that we must get down to the concept underlying external
facts, and then recognize what we are dealing with in outer reality
on the basis of our familiarity with the concept.
Let us explore what the difference is between
the “half-asleep” status of the mere mental images with
which most people are satisfied and the active possession of a concept.
A concept is always in a process of inner growth, of inner activity.
To have nothing more than the mental image of a table is not to have
a concept of it. We have the concept “table” if we can say
that it is a supported surface upon which other objects can be supported.
Concepts are a form of inner liveliness and activity that can be translated
into outer reality.
Nowadays one is tempted to resort to some
lively movement to explain matters of this sort to one's contemporaries.
One really has an impulse to jump about for the sake of demonstrating
how a true concept differs from the sleepy holding onto a mental image.
One is strongly prompted to go chasing after concepts as a means of
bringing people slightly into motion and enlivening the dreadfully lazy
modern holding of mental images that now prevails; one wants to devote
one's energies to clarifying the distinction between entertaining ordinary
mental images and working one's way into the real heart of a matter.
And why is one thus prompted? Because we know from spiritual science
that the moment something reaches the level of the concept, the etheric
body has to carry out this movement; it is involved in this movement.
So we really must not shy away from rousing the etheric body if we intend
to construct concepts.
What, then, is memory? What is remembering?
If I have learned that a circle is a curved line every point of which
is equidistant from the center, and am now to recall this concept, I
must again carry out this movement in my etheric body. From the aspect
of the etheric body, something becomes a memory when carrying out the
movement in question has become habitual there. Memory is habit in the
etheric body; we remember a thing when our etheric body has become used
to carrying out the corresponding movement. We remember nothing except
what the etheric body has taken on in the form of habits. Our etheric
bodies must take it upon themselves, under the stimulus of re-approaching
an object, being repeatedly brought into motion by us and thus given
the opportunity of remembering, to repeat the motion they carried out
in first approaching that object. And the more often the experience
is repeated, the firmer and more ingrained does the habit become, so
that memory gradually strengthens.
Now if we are really thinking instead of
merely forming mental images, our etheric bodies take on all sorts of
habits. But these etheric bodies are what the physical body is based
on. You will notice that a person who wants to clarify a concept often
tries to make illustrative gestures, even as he is talking about it.
Of course we all have our own individual gestures anyway. Differences
between people are seen in their characteristic gestures, that is, if
we conceive the term “gesture” broadly enough. A person
with a feeling for gesture learns a good deal about others from observing
their gestures and seeing, for example, how they set their feet down
as they walk. And the way we think when remembering something is thus
really a habit of the etheric body. This etheric body is a lifelong
trainer of the physical body — or perhaps I had better say that
it tries to train the latter, but not entirely successfully. We can
say, then, that the physical body, for example, the hand, is here:
When we think, we constantly try to send
into the etheric body what then becomes habit there. But the physical
body presents a barrier. Our etheric bodies can't manage to get everything
into the physical body, and they therefore save up the forces thus prevented
from entering the physical body. They are saved up and carried through
the entire period of life between death and rebirth. The way we think
and the way we imprint our memories upon the etheric body then comes
to the fore in our next incarnation as our instinctive play of gesture.
And when we see a person exhibiting habitual gestures from childhood
on, we can attribute them to the fact that in his previous incarnation
his thinking imprinted certain quite distinct mannerisms on his etheric
body. If, in other words, I study a person's inborn gestures, they can
become clues to the way he managed his thinking in past incarnations.
But just think what this means! It means that thoughts so impress themselves
upon us that they resurface as the next incarnation's gestures. We get
an insight here into the way the thinking element evolves into external
manifestation: what began as the inwardness of thought becomes the outwardness
Modern science, in its ignorance of what
distinguishes necessity from chance, looks upon history as happenstance.
In a list of words dating back to 1482, which Mauthner refers to, we read
the words, “geschicht oder geschehcn ding, historia res gesta.”
“Res gesta” is what history used to be called. All that is left
of this today is the abstract remnant “regeste.” When notes
are taken on some happening, they are called the “register.”
Why is this? The word is based on the same root as “gesture.”
The genius of speech responsible for the creation of these words was
still aware that we have to see something brought over from the past
in historical events. If what we observe in individual gesture is to be
understood as the residue of past lives on earth, born with the individual
into an incarnation, surely it is not complete nonsense to assume something
like gestures in what we encounter in the facts of history. A series
of facts surfaces in the way we walk, and these are the gestures of
our thinking in past incarnations.
Where, then, must we look for the facts
underlying history? That is the question now confronting us. In the case
of individual lives we have to look for the thoughts underlying gesture.
If we regard historical events as gestures, where must we look for the
thoughts behind them? We will take up the study of this matter tomorrow.