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Awakening Anthroposophy
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Lecture 4

Stuttgart,
June 13, 1920

One particular fact, a fact we have been discussing here a number of times, is causing concern to anyone wishing to work along the lines of a spiritual science in the spirit of anthroposophy. I am referring to the fact that modern humankind is basically failing to pay attention to the powers of decline that are clearly in evidence, to powers that must inevitably take our present civilization to the edge of the abyss if they are allowed to come into effect.

Surely we have to admit to ourselves that many things are coming up from the profound depths of human nature and coming to realization; or in other words that there is a great deal going on at present. On the other hand many of our fellow citizens simply cannot make up their minds to pay proper attention to what is really going on.

It is reasonable to say that at the present time little effort is made in cultural life to take a wider point of view and pay genuine attention to the forces that shape our world. There is one school — I have characterized it a number of times over the years — that has its roots mainly among the English-speaking peoples and is rather secretive about its work. It is however extraordinarily effective. A second school is the movement that has come together because people want to take account of the instincts of the masses, instincts that are understandable and indeed also justifiable. In its extremes this movement is represented by people who have no idea of human evolution, who know nothing of the principles that mean progress for the world. Certain conditions, however, — I shall refer to these later — enable them to hold a position of authority in spite of their narrow-minded views and in spite of a natural inclination for criminal activities that is in fact quite considerable. They are of course clever people and able to be to the fore in public life nowadays because they impress people.

The third movement that has an effect in cultural life is based on particularly energetic representatives of the different confessions — confessions of all kinds — who also know very well what they want. They are the fountainhead of everything that usually comes under the heading of Jesuitism. Many people talk about Jesuitism and the like, but still large numbers of our fellow citizens are little inclined to pay proper attention to what is really going on.

To get a proper idea of current events one would have to take account of a number of things. One thing to be particularly taken into account however is connected with a fact I also mentioned in my first public lecture here. [ Note 20 ] It is the fact that when it comes to their frame of mind, particularly as regards the way they form ideas, present-day people are in many, many instances continuing in a way that was only suitable for the forming of ideas during the Middle Ages. That was a great and significant way of thinking, but it is now out of date. Some people have gone very intensely into the medieval way of developing sensibilities and forming ideas. These are the people who hold more or less socialist views, and there are many of them all over the globe. The ideas current among them come to expression above all in a belief in authority that is almost limitless. They cringe before anything that assumes authority by simply taking a strong line among them. This has made it possible for people like Lenin and Trotsky [ Note 21 ] to impose their tyranny on millions of people with the help of just a few thousand. That particular movement is spreading from Eastern Europe into Asia at an incredible pace. It imposes a tyranny worse than anything seen during the worst periods of oriental tyranny.

All these things need to be considered in forming an opinion on current events. It has only been possible to give a rough outline. Basically the only opposition to these trends — and we are still thinking in terms of major forces in world history, forces shaping the world — comes from what should ideally be a truly honest, sincere and genuine spiritual-scientific movement. If we compare the interest brought to this spiritual-scientific movement with the interest those other movements have aroused within a relatively short time, and with the influence these movements have gained, we have to say that interest in this spiritual-scientific movement is as good as nil at the present time.

We do not fail to recognise of course that there are many people who go along with this spiritual-scientific movement, or at least tell themselves that they go along with it. There would be an enormous difference, however, if people really took note of the intensity with which those other three movements work for the things they want to bring to the fore, and then compared this with the intensity of Interest that there is for spiritual science. The spiritual-scientific movement is really approached in a very superficial way, superficial in the way people feel about it. The other movements on the other hand are arousing a limitless intensity of feeling.

Does anyone clearly understand — making it the centre of both heart and mind — that if spiritual science is to intervene to any serious extent in the forces that shape the world, people must first of all give recognition and proper value to initiation knowledge, or initiation science as we call it? Initiation science today also needs humanity's firm and decided interest. Many people believe they are sincerely devoted to it, yet the interest they muster is still rather superficial, subject to all kinds of unimportant considerations.

The people I have often called the real big shots in the Anglo-American movement have initiation knowledge, but certainly not for the benefit of humankind. Everything based on Jesuitism has initiation knowledge and in its own peculiar way Leninism also has initiation knowledge. Leninism knows how to put things cleverly, using rational ideas produced in the head, and there is a definite reason for this The cleverness of the human animal, the cleverness of human animal nature, is coming to the fore in human evolution through Leninism. Everything arising from human instincts, human selfishness, comes to interpretation in Leninism and Trotskyism in a form that on the surface seems very intelligent. The animal wants to work its way to the fore, to be the most intelligent of animals. All the ahrimanic powers that aim to exclude the human element, to exclude everything that is specifically human, and all the aptitudes that exist within the animal kingdom — I have often stressed this — are to become the forces that determine humanity.

Consider — and this is something else I have often stressed — the conceit shown by humans when they invented things such as linen paper, paper made from wood or the like; in short, paper of any kind. Well, wasps and similar creatures made this invention very much earlier, building their nests from the same materials as those from which we make paper. There you have human cleverness within animal nature. If you now take all the cleverness of this kind that exists within the whole animal kingdom, and imagine ahrimanic powers taking this up and making it come to life in human heads, in the heads of people who follow only their egotistical instincts, you can see that it may be true to say that Lenin, Trotsky and others are the tools of those ahrimanic powers. That is an ahrimanic initiation. It belongs to a different cosmic sphere than our own world does. It is however an initiation that also holds the potential for getting rid of human civilization on earth, getting rid of everything that has evolved by way of human civilization.

We are therefore dealing with three schools of initiation. Two are on the plane of human evolution and one is below that plane, though it is an initiation of tremendous will power, almost unlimited will power. The only thing that can bring order into all these developments, setting a goal that is worthy to be called human, is contained within genuine spiritual knowledge. A true goal and genuine sincerity will however only come from this spiritual science if it is made into something that involves the whole of our life, taking note how much empty chatter, how much conceit and inner egotism comes to expression in so much of what is usually said in its name. These things cannot be left unsaid. On the contrary, we need to discuss them over and over again. How else can we hope to give souls the power today that is needed to prevent civilization going into total decline.

Let me take a few minutes to give you a very concrete picture. Just a short time ago I read the following in a newspaper:

Religion is a fantasy that arises in human heads as a reflexive response to the way they relate to each other and to nature. It is doomed to die a natural death in the triumphant progress of a clear, scientific and naturalistic interpretation of the truth that is evolving hand in hand with the planned evolution of a new society. [ Note 22 ]

Considering what one comes up against nowadays with regard to souls fast asleep in the present age, we may well ask ourselves how many people reading this kind of thing in a newspaper article pull up short as though stung by a viper, because a truly dreadful symptom comes to expression in those lines. People do not reflect on what would happen on this earth if these words came to realization:

Religion is a fantasy that arises in human heads as a reflexive response to the way they relate to each other and to nature. It is doomed to die a natural death in the triumphant progress of a clear, scientific and naturalistic interpretation of the truth that is evolving hand in hand with the planned evolution of a new society.

‘Religion’ does not refer here to some confession on other, nor to some religious movement that one may quite rightly consider to be wrong, nor merely to religion in the narrower sense, but to all that is moral. If the thoughts expressed in those lines were to come true the result would be that human society in every part of the globe would very rapidly become a herd of animals, animals capable of very sophisticated thought, however. If a way cannot be found now for opposition to arise against the principle that is growing in the East of Europe and spreading across into Asia at an incredible pace, civilization will be doomed. The ideals expressed in those lines would then become reality.

In the light of such impulses in world history I do not think it is Justifiable for people in some places to wish to continue with the mystical small talk within closed circles, small talk that against my Wishes has in the long run also come up in spiritual science working towards anthroposophy. Some people even consider it the ideal! I do not think it is right to continue with this in any form, totally disregarding what is demanded of us in the wider interest of humanity on this earth. It must be our will to consider those wider interests of humankind without bias. We must make an effort and become truly serious about certain basic principles—not merely in theory, using our intellect, but instinctively. Those principles have been obscured by all the confessions in Europe and America and the intention is to obscure them yet further.

We know about the virulent propaganda campaign being launched against spiritual science working towards anthroposophy, we hear the bullets whistling all around. If therefore opposition arises in some corner or another it would be a pity to give oneself up to the harmful illusion — an illusion indeed that today merits punishment — that we may ever hope to achieve anything by converting people who after all are the authorized agents of something or other that belongs to the past. We cannot and must not be opportunists or go for compromise. That should be our special meditation every morning, as it were. There have been well-meaning people who have said we should simply try and explain to people in one direction or another how we are endeavouring to bring the Christ Mystery to the world. The more we do this, the more bullets whistle around our ears from certain quarters. Nothing goes more against the grain for instance with certain Catholic or Protestant groups today than that humankind should today gain true understanding of the Christ Mystery. It is not in their interest that the true Mystery of Christ comes to be known; all they want is to hold on to the old ideas. If we had some kind of strange and peculiar creed concerning Christ they would treat us as a harmless sect, as odd characters, and not fight us with the intensity we have come to experience. Within the two schools, quite apart from the third, there are however quite a number of people who know that our aim is to speak of the Christ Mystery out of the truth, and of social order out of the triune principle. This makes them sit up and listen; it makes them say: ‘It would take the ground away from under our feet if we were to go for the truth; let us therefore vow to destroy it.’ People do not fight us because we are in error, they fight us because it is realized in certain quarters that we want the truth. There is no point is saying anything else about some of the things that go on today. The cultural movement I am speaking of has a profound interest in absolute clarity, particularly also clarity of thought.

Remember some of the things I have told you. What is the essential point when we come to see what humankind needs above all else today? The essential point is that our powers of thought — everything we have by way of ability to form ideas, except for sensory powers — have come down to us from our life before birth or life before conception. Everything we human beings are able to think we have brought into the physical world when we were born; we have brought it with us from the life we had before we were born. All the thoughts we evolve whilst we are in our physical bodies are faculties that govern the whole of our essential human nature between our last death and the birth process that brought us into our present life on earth. When we are thinking here and now, the powers of thought we use, not the thoughts, are a shadow image of something that was at work before we were born or conceived.

Try and think of what we call the forces of nature today, of what goes 01 in lightning and thunder, in the movement of waves, in the way clouds are formed, in the rising and setting of the sun, in wind and rain,in the way the plants rise from the ground, in the way animals are conceived and born and grow. Think of all the natural processes You see all around; then think of them merely as a picture, not the reality. So, please, think of everything you have around you by way of natural forces casting its shadow somewhere or other, and of these shadows being taken up into a container and presenting themselves to us as pictures. The relationship that exists between nature as she actually is now and the reality that lies behind is similar to the relationship between life before birth and our faculties of thought in the present earth life. Just think that there you have everything that happens to your soul between death and rebirth — I am showing it in diagrammatic form — and then its shadow arises; a shadow arises of everything you have there and this shadow becomes the content of Your head, the content of your thoughts; it is your faculty of thought. What you are thinking now, those are the forces active before you were born. That is ‘nature’ in the spiritual world, if I may put it in such a paradoxical way. The evolution of humankind cannot progress unless we become aware that when we are thinking, the existence we had before birth influences our faculties of thought. Having entered into my present earth life, I am continuing the life I had before birth when I am thinking.

Who puts up the greatest opposition to this idea? The greatest opposition is put up by religious confessions that maintain more or less the following: ‘A human child is born. It pleases two people, a male and a female individual on this earth, to come together and God creates a soul in the spiritual world, a soul that then connects with what is created between two people in the act of begetting. That is how the human individual comes into being.’ This is of course very different from what I have just been saying. It is what confessions live on in our modern civilized worlds. They all teach that when two People copulate the spirit very kindly creates a soul up above, a fresh new soul; it is then sent down to unite with the physical body which has been created, and something new has come into existence. To whom do these confessions address themselves? They address themselves to terribly egotistical individuals who simply cannot bear the thought of being extinguished when they die. Yet they are able to bear the thought — for they have got used to it over the centuries, indeed soon it will be millenia — that it pleases God to create souls for human beings procreated here on earth. What their egotism does i not allow them to accept is the thought that death puts an end to it all.

Of course you all know what life after death is like. I do not need to go into it here. But let us turn our attention to something quite different. Preachers in their pulpits always need to assume that they are speaking to people who cannot bear the thought of death being the end of it all. The water they have to pour down from their pulpits—irrespective of the particular creed followed by the people who sit there below them—must make it clear to them—I mean unclear, of course—what happens after death. They have to choose words most liable to excite the egotism of people; they have to utter phrases that are fully in accord with the egotism in the souls of people.

Let us think what would happen for instance—to give a particular example—if someone were freely and in all seriousness to make certain aspects of the Roman Catholic confession his target, say the dogma that when two people copulate it must please God to send a freshly made soul down to them. What would happen if criticism were to be aimed at this? Someone going into the whole issue without prejudice would find that it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything to be found in the true Christian faith. They would find that during the Middle Ages the teachings of Aristotle infiltrated theology and that Aristotle represented these ideas on the basis of misunderstood Platonic ideas, saying that a fresh soul is created for every newly generated human body and unites with it. Something taken for granted as a fundamental tenet in Christian beliefs in fact has nothing to do with Christianity but is an Aristotelian principle. [ Note 23 ]

Let us move on to something else. One element in religious beliefs is the dogma of eternal punishment in hell. Again, entirely an Aristotelian thought. Aristotle assumed that once a soul had been created, lived on earth and then come into the spiritual world, there was nothing it could do in the spiritual world, as he saw it, but look back for all eternity on what it had done during its one and only life on earth. Aristotle imagined that a fresh soul was created for every child, that this soul lived on earth until the individual died and then for all eternity occupied itself with the contemplation of what had happened during one life on earth. If someone had committed murder, they would have to look back on this for ever. That is where the dogma of eternal punishment in hell originated. It is a purely Aristotelian concept.

Just think, if the truth were to become known, instead of Aristotelian thoughts presented as Christian dogma, the people wishing to represent such Aristotelian ideas masquerading as Christian dogma would be scared out of their wits that people might find out about this, that People might find out that their priests were not teaching Christian Ideas from their pulpits, but Aristotelian ideas that had crept into Christian teachings.

Christian beliefs also contain an infinite number of ideas deriving from gnostic teachings. The Roman Catholic sacrifice of the Mass has infinitely much in it that derives from the Egyptian Mysteries. Many of the rites of the Catholic Church — and the Protestant, too, in many respects—contain things the origin of which must be sought in all kinds of oriental religions. All they are after is that people do not find out where these things come from. What do they feel compelled to do? They have to resort to slander! They have to say that the people who are presenting the truth today are plagiarists borrowing from oriental and gnostic teachings and so on. ‘Traubism’ is the order of the day. They come up with learned calumnies like those presented by the clergyman Professor Traub [ Note 24 ] and all the people who parrot him. Why do people do such things? Because the truth is coming to light and they all have an interest in not letting it come to light. People will go on saying that what we are doing is taken from some source or other. They will provoke something that makes people go against gnosis and things that are part of the very fibre of their souls because they do not want it to come to light in its true form. Gnosis — one is supposed to say — is something terrible, something dreadful. Then people will ignore it, being afraid of it, and the preachers can talk about things that in fact have their origin in gnosis. It is the preachers who talk about things that originally came from gnosis, not the people who speak about what has grown in the soil of spiritual science working towards anthroposophy. What they are most afraid of is that there is such a thing as pre-existence of the soul, a life of the soul before birth and also conception, that the soul has its roots in the spiritual world through all the ages that any kind of knowledge and creed among humankind might cover. For if the truth were to become known there would be no room any more for such blasphemy as that the gods are obliged to send a newly made soul from the spiritual world for every single human body, so that they might unite. All these things have their origin of course in a desire for power that is getting very strong. Behind it all are thoughts of power. It is possible to put tremendous energies into such thoughts of power simply by following certain precepts.

What is going on in Dornach at the moment, for instance? All around, almost everywhere in Switzerland, articles on anthroposophy are being published not one sentence of which is true. [ Note 25 ] The whole campaign started when an article appeared that contained twenty-three lies. For weeks now, article on article has picked up on those twenty-three lies; they have appeared almost everywhere in the Catholic press in Switzerland and not a single sentence is true. Why is this happening? It happens because the many followers of these people are brought to a certain state of mind by being told untruths, a state of mind where it is no longer possible to tell the difference between truth and falsehood.

Think of all the efforts we go to in spiritual science working towards anthroposophy to form sufficiently clear ideas; for instance, as to how far the things we become aware of in human minds, in the form of dreams, may or may not be reflecting the truth. As human beings we cannot immediately distinguish truth from falsehood when something appears in the course of a dream. The same state of mind arises for a congregation when they are told lies by people who know that those lies will be believed. The soul is brought to a state, a mood. by those lies where it becomes the willing tool of those desiring power. It is easiest to get people into your power by planting illusions in their unsuspecting minds. Articles full of lies are systematically put out with the intention of creating the kind of mood that can be created with lies. That will be the inevitable consequence of the probabilism which the Jesuits have been teaching for a long time. It is merely a final consequence.

It is of course difficult to rouse modern souls from their general torpor to stand up against such people. The day before I left we were forced to arrange for a lecture—for we must fight, of course, even if we do not want to, against the lies that come up in Dornach. Dr BooS, one of the most courageous of our young protagonists, called on everyone who had anything to say on the subject of the lecture to join in the in the discussion — it was a public lecture, of course. When no one came forward he said openly and publicly that he publicly declared the cleric who had first written those twenty-three lies, a priest called Arnet in Reinach, to be unworthy of his priestly calling, for disseminating scurrilous lies.

One cannot help oneself. And then, even when this had been said, only one individual stood up among those present, a teacher, shaking in his boots if I may put it like that, and said: ‘Just wait. There are more articles to come, and in the end you will see!’ Well, all I could say was that there had been twenty-three lies to begin with, and the truth about those twenty-three lies will without doubt never emerge, however long it takes until there is an end to the matter even if the end does not come until the end of the world. Not the least attempt has been made in everything published so far — and a respectable number of articles have already appeared — to go into those twenty-three lies.

Other things have been tried, using a strange logic. The pamphlet by the Tübingen speaker was brought into play — it actually played a large role — but the people who bring professor Traub's pamphlet into play in their articles have not properly understood what he said. They will write that this man Steiner is borrowing from all kinds of ancient writings, from the Upanishads, the Egyptian Isis Mysteries and the ‘Akashic Records’ — well, I suppose the typesetter may have put that in, but on the other hand the clerical gentleman may have done so. I therefore said that it was not really my concern to correct printers' errors, but that it surely is a strange way of reading Traub's Pamphlet if immediately afterwards the reader has forgotten that not even Traub says anything so stupid as that the Akashic Records are to be found on library shelves; I said that one cannot really accuse people of borrowing from that old tome, the Akashic records, for spiritual science based in anthroposophy.

Our attackers have also gained support among liberal thinkers. Dr Boos was going great guns in a liberal paper, saying that this was a deliberate untruth, since the writer must have known that there were no Akashic Records in his library. He could not possibly have them in his library and so he ought to have known; he must have written a deliberate untruth. What did the person concerned do? He wrote that Dr Boos was evading the issue, as it was self-evident that the typesetter must have been responsible for the ‘Akashic Records’ error and not he himself. In his view the kind of sophistry that made authors responsible for that kind of printing error merely showed what kind of stable people came from.

Well, you see the kind of mentality one is dealing with. But do not underestimate it! You have to realize that it is going to be a hard fight, particularly in this direction. The aim is to prevent people from finding out about what I have been saying. What I said, first of all in the medical course, is the following: It is particularly when one is making serious efforts to determine the spiritual laws of this world, doing so on the basis of present-day life, when one tries to reach the deeper secrets of human nature by making these things one's own on the basis of present-day life, and then also finds them written in ancient works — albeit arising from an intellectual life that was more instinctive and atavistic—that one feels very humble in perceiving the greatness of the instinctive, atavistic intellect that human beings once possessed; that has been lost and must now be found again. These words were spoken in awareness of the fact that knowledge which today has to be sought within life was once instinctive wisdom given to humankind. Much of that ancient wisdom has of course survived in the religious beliefs, though it has become corrupted. Yet the people professing those beliefs want to make humankind fear that original wisdom, and when they talk about it say more or less the following: `Those dreadful people who pursue anthroposophy today are borrowing everything from that ancient wisdom'. If they went into the matter they would find that the spiritual science offered to humankind in anthroposophy is very different from anything ever borrowed from anywhere, from the Upanishads or whatever. So we had to borrow indeed from that ancient tome called the Akashic Records! To prevent people getting sight of something that belongs to the present age our enemies are letting their bullets come whistling from all around.

Let us be clear about one thing. You may feel tempted now and then to stress the good points of one thing or another. The alliance between Jesuitism and the Social Democrats which is getting closer and closer by the day is something entirely natural. There is nothing unnatural about it. The Social Democrats are equipped with the same kind of ideas as the Jesuits, only they take them the other way round. One thing, however, that differs from all else that is felt is the 'eternal nature of the human being'. This has become the teaching of egotism. It is restored to its true form when the pre-existence concept, of a human soul having a life before birth, or before conception, once again becomes the effective moral principle. The knives will come out to fight this idea. We shall only be able to progress in the world if in the first place truth has inner power. This inner power can only be effective, however, if in the second place people have the courage, however few they may be in number, to carry this truth in their souls, carry it in their souls in all seriousness, uprightness and honesty and without compromise. It is useless for us to play down the tremendous difference which exists between true Christianity and the Catholic and Protestant Aristotelianism which holds the idea that souls are created for bodies as they arise through procreation. We must not play down this difference. If we do play it down we will not even notice where the idea of power, the desire for power, has its real origins.

I find myself referring again and again to the pastoral issued by a Roman Catholic bishop. [ Note 13 ] This document really exists. According to it the faithful must regard their priest as ranking higher than God and Christ, for each time the priest performs the consecration at the altar Christ is forced to be present by that altar, to be present in the bread and the wine which is His body and His blood. The priest therefore has greater power in the universe than a god. That is what it says in a pastoral that really exists and has also been quoted in many other pastorals. Now you may ask me if that is consistent with the abolition of the spirit by the Council of Constantinople [ Note 26 ] in 869. The answer is yes. A Roman Catholic saying that God is more powerful than a priest would say so because people will not accept any other view nowadays. People are so much asleep in their souls that they never ask themselves: ‘What was the person [ Note 27 ] writing to Moleschott really saying who had the nerve to say that a criminal, a liar, a murderer is a moral person only if he can be fully himself and is an immoral person if he does not bring to expression what he has in him. for this would impose restraints on his individuality, and that an inclination to murder is just as valid as other inclinations are’? Modern souls do not have the courage to say to themselves: ‘If scientists continue to teach the kind of basic philosophy that they have been teaching, the inevitable conclusion simply has to be that criminals, murderers, are just as good as someone trying to act morally, as it were. People merely lack the courage to admit this.’ When materialism had its flowering, at the time when people like Vogt, Moleschott and Buechner [ Note 28 ] , all of them courageous men, were publishing their writings, such things were admitted. The present age is too cowardly, however, to make such admissions. Nor is there sufficient courage in the sleeping souls of the present to admit to oneself: 'If you go by the spirit of those creeds and statements a priest is indeed more powerful than a god.'

The school of thought represented by spiritual science working in the spirit of anthroposophy must above all work towards clear thinking in every respect. Its message cannot be grasped if thoughts are unclear, it cannot be grasped in a vague and vaporous mysticism but only with crystal clear thoughts, thoughts which in my Philosophy of Freedom [ Note 29 ] I have tried to show are the starting point for genuine human freedom.

We may continue our discussion of the subject when I am able to speak to you again. I hope this will be soon.


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