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The New Spirituality and the Christ Experience of the Twentieth Century

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Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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The New Spirituality and the Christ Experience of the Twentieth Century

On-line since: 15th June, 2020

7th Lecture

The New Spirituality and the Christ Expereience of the Twentieth Century
Lecture 6

31 October, 1920

I tried yesterday to describe to you something of how European conditions are bound to develop in the near future, and we saw that the course of European development, of modern civilisation generally, will inevitably be bound up with the disappearance of what, in many areas of our modern times, is still considered by people to be the easiest way and of value. From the way in which I had to speak yesterday it will be clear to you that, for many who would rather go through the coming times in a comfortable sleep, with a sleeping soul, there is a very disagreeable awakening in store. I do not say — I mentioned this yesterday already — that the prophecies of those who see the most central matter of the near future as lying in such external things as the differences between Japan and America must be absolutely correct. But what must be regarded as imminent is what I characterized for you in a few brush-strokes as the great spiritual battle between East and West, in which the true culture of Middle Europe, as we have come to know it in recent weeks, will be wedged.

Strange as this may sound it is out of the modern world-conception, based on science, that the most intense need will have to arise for what I have called the Christ-experience soon to come.

We learnt yesterday how little experience of the Christ there really is at the present time. The course of human evolution has brought it about that ever since the Mystery of Golgotha, and particularly in recent centuries, all that can properly be called experience of the Christ has fallen into complete decadence. We saw, too, that because of the impossibility of adhering to the old prohibition against reading the Gospels — which, in theory, is indeed still maintained by the Catholic Church against humanity's demand to be able to receive and read the Gospels — an experience of Christ has not been able to develop. And we have already pointed out how the particular constitution of soul that is becoming prevalent in modern civilization will again lead to experience of the Christ, just as remnants of the old instinctive clairvoyance could lead to it at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. But one has to be clear that just as other crucial, incisive events in human evolution came about in ways other than is expected among philistine circles; so, too, what one must call the Christ-experience of the first half of the twentieth century will come in an unexpected way. And this experience will have a clearly definable connection with the modern outlook on life based on science.

Consider the following. Since the middle of the fifteenth century the constitution of people's souls has become quite different from what it was before that time. History does not take this into account because external history ever and again remains at the surface of things. But especially during the period between the middle of the nineteenth century and our own time, the soul-constitution of humanity as a whole has undergone a fundamental change. This also has been taken into account far too little because people habitually stick to what was once instilled into them. At most, one can notice a breaking out from this clinging by force of habit to what has been inculcated when one observes with a wakeful soul the outlook on life of today's younger generation, and compares this with the outlook of their eiders when they were in their youth. The difference between older people and the youth of today has been depicted again and again, particularly by poets; and if people did not encapsulate themselves in their habitual ideas so that nothing can penetrate which conflicts with their usual habits of thought they would soon see what an immense gulf there really is between those who are old today and those who are young.

On the other hand there is a terribly reactionary, conservative element in human evolution today. It is the belief in the authority of popular science. And this is connected with the fact that popular science has totally captivated the general consciousness. People underestimate this today. Just think how rapidly, especially in the last decades, ideas which have become familiar through nineteenth-century scientific development have taken universal hold, right down to the least educated classes. Certainly there are many who still cling to a certain piety, a piety that wants to know nothing of what is laying hold of humanity through modern scientific thought. But for the most part there is a terrible dishonesty rooted in this piety; a refusal to face what is spreading here and which one can only define as the materialism of modern humanity evoked by natural science.

The spread of this materialism will not be checked in the near future as some deluded scientists seem to think. On the contrary, it will increase with furious speed and we shall see how, out of the chaos of modern civilization, this materialistic mood will become stronger and stronger. And if sufficient preparation has been made, if the aims of spiritual science are fulfilled — so that children at school are given a stimulus for the right kind of development — then out of this materialistic mood, out of this chaos, individual souls can emerge who will have a very strong sense of something which I should now like to describe, although I have done so in different ways and at different times before.

When someone acquainted with the modern scientific outlook on the world, observes it with awakened eyes of the soul, he cannot fail to realize that one of its most distinguishing features is that it is incapable of comprehending the human being. The human being, as such, is actually entirely excluded from the conception of the world based on modern science. We had occasion here recently to consider the scope of the various branches of scientific learning when we held our course for scientists and we saw that none of these has anything to say about the real nature of man.

We need only give one characteristic example: take the usual theory of evolution expounded under the influence of Darwin or Weismann [1] or others. It demonstrates the evolution of the living creature from the simplest to the most perfect and lays down the view that man also derives his origin from this line of evolution. But actually it takes into consideration only that element of man that is animal. It considers man only so far as to be able to say that any organ, any structure in man, derives from the corresponding organ or structure in the animal line. Science ignores the extent to which the animal-element in man appears in a modified form, the extent to which the animal-nature in man differs from that of the animal world. The ability to keep man himself in view has been completely lost by science; man is left out.

Science has developed scrupulous methods. It has established a certain discipline that is necessary if one means to enter into discussions on world-views. But this science has not been capable of raising man's power of understanding to the point where man himself becomes comprehensible. There is no place for the human being in the scientific thought of today and thus he presents an ever-greater riddle to himself. Only a very few people are aware of this today and these few can certainly be clear about it theoretically. But there is, as yet, no unified feeling for it. Such a feeling will arise with vigour from properly conducted elementary education. The children will come out of properly conducted elementary school in such a way that they will already have the feeling: 'We have a science which is born out of modern intellectuality, but the further we enter into this science, the more we learn of nature, the less we understand of ourselves, the less we understand of the human being.'

This intellect, which was the principal soul-force developing in recent centuries — and is so still today — this intellect creates a complete void in man, so to speak, as regards his perception of self. And yet, on the other hand, we hear the demand that man should stand solely on the basis of his own being. This comes forward as, I should say, a fundamental social demand. Side by side with the inability of the science of recent times to account for the human being, we have, on the other side, claims of all kinds coming not from any scientific impulse but from the depths of human instinct — demands that man be able to raise himself to an existence worthy of the human being: that he should be able to feel what his real nature is. While on the one hand we have more and more demands of a practical kind, on the other we have the increasing inability of science to say anything about the human being's own nature. Such a discrepancy in human experience would have been quite impossible in earlier times of human world-view development.

If we turn once more to the ancient oriental outlook we must Say, from what we have been able to indicate of this, that the human being knew then that he descended from spiritual heights; that he lived, before he entered into physical existence through conception and birth, in a spiritual world. He knew that he brought with him from the spiritual world something that was still in him, something that came out in childhood as disposition, as aspiration, and remained with him through the whole of his life on earth. In ancient times every oriental knew that what worked its way out of his soul during childhood, in youth, was a dowry from the spiritual worlds which he had experienced before entering into physical existence. To be aware theoretically that one has passed through a spiritual life of this kind before one's life on earth has no very great value, but a lively feeling for it is worth a great deal; it is something of the greatest value to feel that what has been growing and developing in one's soul since childhood comes from the spiritual world.

Today, however, this feeling has given way to another. It has given way, both in the individual and more especially in the social life, to another feeling entirely. And there is something important here which must be looked at. More and more there weighs down upon the human being, half unconsciously, the feeling of his inherited characteristics. Anyone who is able to view this impartially sees how the human being-today actually feels that he is what he is through his parents, his grandparents and so on. Unlike the human being in ancient times he no longer feels that what flames up in him from childhood onwards, comes from those depths in which is rooted that which he received from his spiritual experiences before. his life on earth. On the contrary he feels in himself the characteristics inherited from parents, grandparents and so on. The first thing people ask about a child nowadays is from whom it has got this or that characteristic. And the reply, however, is seldom that the child has it as a result of this or that particular experience in the spiritual world. People look instead to see whether it comes from the grandmother or grandfather, and soon.

The more this emerges in individual people — not merely as a theory but as a feeling, a feeling of dependence on purely earthly inherited characteristics — the more oppressive and dreadful will it gradually become. And this feeling will increase in strength very rapidly. In the decades ahead it will intensify to the Point of becoming unbearable, for it is connected with another feeling, a certain feeling of the worthlessness of human existence. This will arise more and more: that the human being will feel his existence to be worthless if he cannot feel it to be anything other than the sum total of what has been implanted in his blood and in his other organs by physically-inherited characteristics. Today what is emerging here is still, to a certain extent, mere theory, although there are poets who have already expressed it as experience. But it will emerge as a feeling, as a sense, and it will then become an oppressive characteristic in the feeling-life of civilized humanity. This experiencing of oneself in the purely inherited characteristics will lie like a weight on the soul. It is here that the inability of natural science to give man an understanding of himself shows itself in all its poverty; the human being no longer feels himself to be a child of the spiritual world but merely a child of characteristics inherited in the course of earthly physical existence.

All this is very forcibly manifest in social life. You have only to think of the demands that have arisen as the outcome of a gigantic piece of political stupidity which has spread through the world in recent years! This folly slowly gathered strength during recent centuries and then came to a climax in our own day. The great crisis of the second decade of the twentieth century was ushered in when those who were supposed to be leading the several nations — who at any rate held positions which imply leadership and yet understood nothing of the situation mankind is in - when these people began talking about organizing mankind according to the will of its individual nations. It was indeed in our recent times that national chauvinism was aroused in its very worst sense. And it is national chauvinism that is ringing through the whole civilized world today.

This is merely the social counterpart of the utterly rsactionary world-view that tries to trace everything back to inherited characteristics. When one no longer strives to fathom one's nature as a human being and to fashion the social structure in such a way that this human nature can be at home in it; and when one strives, instead, to bring it about that the social structure corresponds only with what men are as Czechs, Slovaks, Magyars, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Poles and so on, then one forgets all spirituality. Then all spirituality is excluded and people try to order the world solely in accordance with characteristics inherited through the blood because they have come more and more to the point of having no content at all in their concepts. This had to happen because this twentieth century had to give us a taste of the fact that there can be a man, marvelled at by vast numbers as a world-leader, even though there are no concepts in his words whatsoever — that there can be a man like Woodrow Wilson [2] who utters words which no longer contain any concepts.

It is for this reason that people have had to fall back upon something entirely devoid of spirit — on blood relationship, on the blood-related characteristics of the nations. All that has resulted from this is that peace treaties have been made in which people who know absolutely nothing about the conditions of life in the modern civilized world have determined the shape of the maps of the countries of that world. Nothing, perhaps, shows more clearly the materialism of modern times, its denial of everything spiritual, than the emergence of the principle of nationalism.

This, of course, is a truth which for many people today is highly unpleasant. And this is why so many lies have to be harboured in the deeper regions of the soul. For if one does not face honestly the fact that by establishing an order of the world based only on blood-relationship one is denying the spirit, then one is lying. And one is also lying when in such circumstances one then claims to be inclined towards some kind of spiritual conception of the world.

And now let us look at the way the evolution of the world is going today. Everything that is welling up out of the chaotic instincts of humanity denies the spirit utterly. I put you through a trial yesterday. In order to spare your delicate nerves, which I noticed yesterday to some extent, I will not add any more trials, although they could easily be added. Thus we see on all sides how man has lost insight into the true nature of his being. And let us now consider from a spiritual-scientific standpoint the counter-image of what I had to describe as a feeling that is surging up.

You know that spiritual science shows how our earth-planet, upon which the human being has to experience his present destiny, is the re-embodiment of three preceding conditions and how we have to look forward to three subsequent embodiments so that our earth, schematically, is in a midway state.

New Spirituality: lecture 7, image 1

Now we know from what is described in my Occult Science [3] that what the human being bears today as his physical body is essentially an inheritance from the first, second, third and fourth conditions. What he bears as his etheric body is a result of the second, third and fourth conditions. What we call his astral body is the result of the third and fourth conditions. And now, in our present earth-evolution, the 'I' is appearing. And there will appear in the future, when the earth enters its next stages, what today is indicated in the human being only in germ — spirit-self, life-spirit and actual spirit-man. These will have to be elaborated in the human being, just as physical body, etheric body and astral body have been elaborated, and just as the 'I' is being worked on at the present time.

But you will know, if you reflect on how much of this cosmic-earthly evolution can be brought to you, that during earth-evolution only the germs of spirit-self, life-spirit and spirit-man will be able to evolve; for we shall have to wait for the transformation of the earth into its three following conditions for them to appear fully. And from the descriptions I have given in my Occult Science you will see that, essentially, spirit-self is the transformation of the astral body into a higher stage, that life-spirit is the transformation of the etheric body to a higher stage and spirit-man is the transformation of the physical body to a higher stage. This transformation of the physical body, however, will not take place until the seventh condition — nor, correspondingly, the transformation of the other members.

Today, however, the human being can already understand that this has to happen. He can already embrace the thought that it must happen. Indeed, the human being can grasp still more today if, without prejudice, he gets beyond the limitations of natural science and directs his soul's gaze upon its own nature. He will have to say to himself: 'It is true that, during earth-existence, I cannot attain spirit-self in my astral body, nor life-spirit in my etheric body nor spirit-man in my physical body, but what I have to do is to prepare, to prefigure, them in my soul. And by developing the consciousness-soul now I am preparing myself to take spirit-self into it in the next, the sixth, culture-epoch. I know that I cannot yet bring spirit-self into my entire astral body, but I have to bring it into my consciousness-soul. As a human being, I must learn to live inwardly in the way that I shall one day live when the earth has passed over, through a certain cosmic development, into its next stage of evolution. And I must prepare for these future conditions, at least inwardly, while still in earthly existence. I must prepare myself, in germ, inwardly so that in the future I shall be able to shape my outer form in the way which it is my task, even now, to understand.'

Now try and sense clearly what is really involved here. The human being is already growing into spirit-self, as I have often explained. The human being is growing into states of consciousness of which he must say that they are really of such a nature that, during the period of earth-existence, they cannot emerge fully. These states of consciousness try to transform him even as regards his external sheaths — his astral body, etheric body and physical body — but, as earthly man, he cannot achieve this. He has to say to himself: 'I must pass through the rest of earth-evolution continually feeling that I am preparing myself inwardly for conditions of being I cannot yet develop'. In future it will have to be the normal thing for a human being to say: 'I see the being of man as something which, in its inner nature, grows beyond what I can be as earthly man. As earthly man I am forced, in a sense, to feel myself as a dwarf compared with what the human being really is.' And out of this dissatisfaction, which properly educated children will begin to have in the very near future, this feeling will arise: The children will feel that, despite all our intellectual culture, people are still not able to solve the riddle of man. Man is missing from what can be known intellectually; he has no place in the social structure.

Everything that will develop out of the foolish Wilsonian formulas, and out of any other form of chauvinism that spreads over the world, will be quite unworkable. Through all such things modern civilization is heading towards impossible situations. However many more national states you set up you will provide only so many more seeds of destruction; and it is just out of everything that is loaded onto human souls as a result of modern civilization that the feeling I have just described from another point of view will proceed. The human being will say to himself: The being of man that lights up inwardly for me is something much higher than anything I can realize externally. I must bring something quite different to the world. I must bring something quite different into the social structure, something that is recognized as coming from spiritual heights. I cannot entrust myself to the social science derived from natural science.'

But the human being must sense the inner schism between his dwarf-like existence on earth and the experience that lights up within him of himself as a cosmic being. Out of all that modern culture — this much-praised, idolized culture of today — can give the human being, a twofold feeling will develop. On the one hand he will feel himself as belonging to the earth; on the other he will say: 'But the human being is more than an earthly being. The earth cannot fulfill the human being at all; if it a to fulfill him it will have first to transform itself into other conditions.'

In reality the human being is not an earth-being. In reality the human being is a cosmic being, a being belonging to the whole universe. On the one side the human being will feel himself bound to the earth; on the other he will feel himself to be a cosmic being. This feeling will weigh down on him. And when this is no longer mere theory but is experienced by individual human beings whose karma enables them to grow beyond the trivial feelings of today - when humanity comes to feel disgust at the thought of purely inherited characteristics and at the emotions engendered by chauvinism and turns against all this — only then will a kind of reverse begin. The human being will feel himself to be a cosmic being. As though with outstretched arms he will ask for the solution to the riddle of his cosmic being. This is what will come in the next decades: as though with outstretched arms — I mean this, of course, symbolically — the human being will ask: 'Who can decipher for me my nature as a cosmic being? Everything that I can establish on earth, all that the earth can give me, all that I can get from the natural science that is so highly valued today, accounts for me only as an earth-being and leaves the true being of man as an unsolved riddle. I know that I am a cosmic, a super-earthly being. Who can unravel for me the riddle of this super-earthly being?'

This will live in the human soul as a question rising up from a fundamental experience. In the decades to come, even before we reach the middle of this century, this question will be more important than anything else or any other feelings people may have. And the expectation, the longing, that there has to be a solution to this human riddle — the riddle that the human beings are, after all, cosmic beings. This feeling towards the cosmos -that one day it must reveal what cannot come from the earth — all this will create a mood to which the cosmos responds. Just as the physical Christ appeared at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha so the spiritual Christ will appear to humanity. He alone can give the answer because He is not in some indefinite place but must be recognized as a Being from beyond the earth who has united Himself with earthly humanity. People will have to understand that the question of cosmic man can be answered only if He who unites Himself with the earth from out of the cosmos comes to their aid. This will be the solution of the most significant disharmony that has ever arisen in earth-existence; the disharmony between the human being's feeling as an earthly being and his knowledge that he is a super-earthly being, a cosmic being. The fulfilment of this longing (Drang) will prepare man to recognize how, out of grey spiritual depths, the Christ-Being will reveal Himself to him and will speak to him spiritually, just as, at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, He spoke to him physically.

The Christ will not come in the spirit if human beings are not prepared for Him. But they can be prepared only in the way I have just characterized, by sensing the discrepancy I described, by the schism weighing terribly heavily upon them from which they feel: 'I must regard myself as an earth-being. The intellectual development of recent centuries has created the conditions which make me appear as an earth-being. Yet I am no earth-being. I cannot but feel myself united with a being who is not of this earth; a being who, not with theological mendacity but in very truth can say: "My kingdom is not of this world".' [4] For man will have to say to himself: 'My kingdom is not of this world.' And this is why he will have to be united with a being who is not of this world.

It is directly out of the sciences which, as I have said, will take possession of the popular consciousness with tremendous speed that something must be developed which will direct mankind towards the new manifestation of the Christ in the first half of the twentieth century.

This, of course, could not have happened in the constitution of soul in which the civilized world was before 1914 when all talk of ideals, all talk of spirituality, was fundamentally a lie. Deep need will have to make human beings' search for spirituality a true one. And the Christ will appear only to those who renounce everything that spreads falsehood over earthly life. And no social question will be solved that is not thought out in connection with this spiritual-scientific endeavour that enables the human being to appear in truth once again as a super-earthly being. The solutions to our social problems will be found to the degree in which human beings are able to feel the Christ-impulse in their souls. All other solutions will lead only to destruction, to chaos. For all other solutions are based on the conception of man as an earthly being. But precisely in our own day the human being is outgrowing the constitution of soul which permits him to think of himself as a purely earthly, physical being. The new experience of the Christ will arise out of the attunement (Gestimmtheit) of human souls and out of their need.

But awareness must all the more be directed towards everything that hinders the approach of this new Christ-experience.

We had to refer directly to attacks on our own affairs and have seen that here also people take up an attitude towards the emerging spiritual science such that they fight against it out of an inner untruthfulness.

One experiences something in this area today which must be kept in view completely impartially. Almost every day at the moment spiritual science is, as it were, killed off at least once. The most recent of these death-blows was the one dealt by a theology professor, Karl Goetz, in agreement with another Doctor of Divinity, a certain Heinzelmann. [5] I will disregard the fact that this Doctor of Divinity, Karl Goetz, has made an attack on spiritual science, or 'so-called spiritual science' as he terms it, for example in his newspaper article — we are having to get used to these things more and more here in Dornach. But one can also look from another point of view at everything that has been perpetrated by this Doctor of Divinity, Goetz. One can look at it from the point of view of how lacking in knowledge is this official 'erudition which has the education of contemporary youth in its care. One can deduce from this that there is an attack here on spiritual science. But one can look at the following, and I will highlight a few characteristic points — although only from the newspaper article — which, according to this attack, are supposed to occur. The methods of knowledge in spiritual science are referred to here by a man whose profession it is to speak about Christology, who gains his daily bread by educating youth in Christology. This man says, about the methods used to gain knowledge in anthroposophical science, that the Imaginations sought are the result of when the mental activity of forming ideas is artificially inhibited and suppressed. He says that the nervous energy saved in this way is then used to produce the mental images which anthroposophists call Imagination and Intuition.

So, just take a look at what this man says: Artificially constrained and repressed mental-picturing activity and, in the process, saved neural energy! One can disregard the fact that this man can of course only speak of saved neural energy as a vague hypothesis — for no one in science today can picture anything under the term of 'saved neural energy'. But he nevertheless talks of artificially constrained and repressed mental-picturing activity. Has this man in his 'scientific conscientiousness' — I choose the words carefully in this case and thus say in inverted commas, in his 'scientific conscientiousness' — ever really occupied himself with what, for example, is applied here as the methods of knowledge for coming to Imagination? Is it possible to speak here about constrained or repressed mental-picturing activity? Now, if he decided to look at some anthroposophical literature this man would be able to answer this. Those mental pictures which he considers to be his normal ones are indeed not repressed. Had he only tried a little to find out whether distorted mental pictures ruled the day while our School of Spiritual Science course was being held he would not speak about mental-picturing activity being suppressed here. There is still plenty of unsuppressed mental-picturing life here which, at least with regard to many a specialized science, is well able to understand what this man can understand. One simply cannot speak about suppressed mental-picturing activity [in this connection]. And if he had ever acquainted himself in his 'scientific conscientiousness' with what is described as the path into the spiritual worlds, he would have seen that nothing is artificially suppressed here but that things are freed. The case here is that this man has not understood a single word of what is contained in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds — How is it Achieved?. And he knows nothing of the methods of spiritual science other than what, in accordance with his constitution of soul, he can gather from the meditation successes of a bunch of old cronies. This is what is working under the name of 'scientific conscientiousness' in official science.

He goes on to say that through holding back these constrained mental pictures — people are supposed to imagine something here like mental pictures being dammed up like water — that, through this holding back, Imaginations come to life and appear like perceptions of the senses. Well, I would like to count up the pages where, again and again in my books, I have said that Imaginations have no similarity with pictures from the senses, with sense-perceptions. This is dealt with quite extensively. So what is ruling in this 'scientific conscientiousness'? The lie — which, albeit may arise from impotency, from inability. But this lie is spreading with tremendous speed in theology, philosophy, history, jurisprudence and similar branches of teaching. Modern humanity should take note of this fact. For it is in this fact — not in speeches that Woodrow-Wilsonism fabricates out of words empty of content — that the causes lie for steering us into chaos.

Then comes another good bit — as I said, I can only discuss this from the newspaper article. It says then that because these Imaginations, which have come to life through suppressing the mental-picturing element, arise involuntarily they are therefore described as being experiences free of the body. Again, in his 'scientific conscientiousness', he has never directed his mind to the fact that, as has been shown, nothing arises involuntarily but that in the spiritual-scientific act of knowing the voluntary mental picture is enhanced. Perhaps this man has got his information from a spiritistic or mediumistic nursery. If so, he should stay with his spiritism and mediums and keep away from things he does not understand and does not wish to understand.

And he says further that what personifies Imagination is that which is evoked through the split in consciousness. This is a lack of conscience and a twisting of everything that is portrayed in my books as the methods of knowledge of spiritual science! This man thereby prepares the ground in order to say, in his own way, that spiritual science may not be hostile towards Christianity, but is culturally valueless. And then comes the really good bit: spiritual science, he says, is culturally valueless for telepathy will never replace the telegraph, thought-reading will never replace the telephone nor magnetic healing-power replace medicine!

Thus, although during our course here at the — Goetheanum we spoke about medicine and truly excluded all dilletantism about magnetic healing-powers, and although in truth we referred to medicine very seriously, a doctor of theology nevertheless gives a talk in our immediate neighbourhood after the course has ended about how the whole endeavour of spiritual science consists in trying to substitute medicine with magnetic healing-forces. And with this sort of talk a present-day doctor of theology enjoys success with the present-day public! And he enjoys success when a Heinzelmann-hobgoblin (see translator's note below) then jumps to his aid — a modern hobgoblin — and adds that one cannot find Christ through spiritual science but only through the Gospels. Now someone should just ask this hobgoblin: Which Gospel? One should ask him: What have you done to the Gospels with your theology? You have brought it about that the whole of Christology has vanished from modern development. And now that this mess has been created, we hear people from that corner saying: For Christianity we don't need what comes from spiritual science, we only need the simplicity of the Gospels. Is this not a most fundamental falsehood? It is a lie, knowing what modern criticism of the Gospels has come up with, to stand there and say: Our salvation for eternity must come from the Gospels without a science of the spirit.

What is it then that is coming from this corner? It is a denial of the Christ. And the most vigorous deniers of Christ today are the theologians. Those who want to prevent a true concept of the Christ from arising today are the theologians! And as long as it is not realized that this new experience of the Christ in the twentieth century will have to arise in such a way that the theology of all denominations denies him, the Christ will not come. He will appear again to human beings when those who are counted as his followers — the modern Scribes and Pharisees — have denied him completely.

It is not easy to see through these things with full strength, for one always also sees then how little the people of today are inclined to reckon with insights of this kind. The opponents are ready at their posts. They are developing all the intensity of battle. Our battle — what we are capable of — is weak, very weak and our comprehension of Anthroposophy is in many respects very sleepy. This is the great pain which weighs down these days upon someone who sees through things. One feels it so often when one says something in answer to the problems of our times — something for a social healing of our times — and people receive it as though it were barely anything other than a magazine article that was spoken rather than written. One would like to call upon people to awaken, to carry what can come from spiritual science into the way they shape all aspects of life. But, instead, one sees how people just let life run its course; how they look at those who direct life out of falsehood, and listen, greedy for entertainment, to what they receive from spiritual science as though it were nothing but a magazine article that was spoken rather than written. What must still arise is this: a deep, holy seriousness in receiving spiritual science and the disaccustoming of oneself from what induces people to receive spiritual science like any other literary product, albeit one in which one can amuse oneself all the better because it is a guarantee for one's longing for life after death. There is today a terrible gap between what is necessary in receiving spiritual science and what is actually there. You see, one can disregard an attack on Anthroposophy like that of Goetz or Heinzelmann. One has only to look at their abilities to ask: How was it that the pick of humanity was such that it brought these people to positions of this kind? Until one puts this question most intensely to oneself, until one is prepared to look where things are lacking, we will not make progress. All declaiming about social ideals or the like is useless if one is not prepared to look at this element that is living as a fundamental principle in our present time. For the damage of our time has its source in our perverted spiritual life which has gradually gone very deep into untruth but is completely unaware of how deeply in untruth it lives. How great is the contrast between what is necessary and the way in which what is spoken here is taken up! It is not intended to be a magazine article; it is meant as a force for life and people will have gradually to accustom themselves to understanding it as such.

This is what, in both a positive and negative sense, I wanted to say to you today concerning — to use a trivial word — the spirit of the age. This spirit of our age should be a spirit of expectation; the spirit which, out of expectation, develops an understanding for the great experience of the twentieth century that is born of deep need. But without also looking, in truth, at everything that is blocking this experience, people will not be able to meet it. If people today want, out of complacency, out of inner pleasure-seeking, to bow down to tradition — and if people do not want to be aware that, bowing down like this, they burden the day with a deep untruth — then people will not make themselves mature and ready for the Christ-event of the twentieth century. But everything depends on this maturity. Everything depends on our overcoming theological talk about Christ so that, in all reality, we can move forward to an understanding of Him.


1. August Weismann (1834–1914), German zoologist. Return

2. Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), President of the United States 1913–1921. Return

3. Occult Science, (GA 13), published by Rudolf Steiner Press. Return

4. 'My kingdom is not of this world' John: 18,36. Return

5. Karl Goetz and Gerhard Heinzelmann &mdsh; both theology professors at that time in Basel. Translator's note: In German 'Heinzebnannchen' means goblin, brownie or imp. Steiner plays on this here in connection with the name of Professor Heinzelmann. Return

Last Modified: 03-Sep-2020
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