Rudolf Steiner Archive 

Awakening Anthroposophy
in the World

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N the last lecture we dealt with such serious life questions that it seems to me necessary to go further into them. I have spoken of the two ways in which the human ego can surrender itself to the spiritual, how in two different ways it can arrive at experiences of eternal established truths, not merely temporary truths such as are spread about to-day, and which in ten, twenty or a hundred years are no longer truths, but can often be recognised as folly. There are the two ways to attain to the eternal established truths, the way of natural science investigation, and the way of spiritual science investigation, and we have seen that these two ways are not so different as at first sight they appear: that even a good way to reach spiritual truth is by truly objective scientific thinking and investigating, such as is employed by science in the investigation of the external worlds, in investigations of the spiritual world also. We have seen how the sentence, which for our present way of thinking is so self-evident “All that is living proceeds from life” seemed, not so long ago, comparatively speaking, i.e., in the seventeenth century, so unbelievable to the representatives of science, so monstrous that the proclaimer of this truth — the learned natural scientist Francesco Redi, only by the closest shave escaped death by fire. He was persecuted as a heretic because the truth “Everything living proceeds from life” contradicted what the scholars then believed they knew as truth, i.e., its adoption contradicted the belief that the smallest entities as life-beings appeared by self-generation out of lifeless substance. This was at the time no eternal truth, but a temporary one. Similar experiments as had been made by Francesco Redi, two hundred years before, were made by accredited scientists in the nineteenth century. Life germs, as I said, were prevented from penetrating a substance in which until then small life-beings had usually appeared, and no life-beings proceeded from this substance. The penetration by life germs had formerly simply escaped observation. The sentence “All life proceeds from life” is established to-day for external science also, and this sentence will remain established, because it is a truth — no temporary truth, but an eternal truth. With that nothing is said as to the slowness of scientific investigators, who come by their own methods to eternal truths, only that they should not so fanatically fight against everything for which they themselves have not yet found any so-called irrefutable proofs. They must obviously accept no truth without proof, but they should recognise where scientific work and investigation is being done. They should learn by their own experience how it goes ever forward. Francesco Redi was not a bungler — but a serious scientific learned investigator who had already got so far in serious scientific knowledge as the general knowledge arrived at only two hundred years later. It should not have happened that in their own circles they persecuted him who brought something new and great into the world. That happens again and again, because people are bound within the prej udices of their times. In regard to Francesco Redi they were held back by the prejudice that the sentence “Everything living proceeds from life” shook the foundations of their religious belief, and this was the case with Galileo, Kepler, Giordano Bruno and many others. Only when science attained freedom from the prejudices of its time did it recognise what it formerly had persecuted with bloodthirsty zeal. Modern scientists, however, are as little free from the prejudices of the times as formerly, only they do not notice it, just as they formerly did not notice it. To-day they still persecute, as formerly, those who, even though as serious and thorough investigators as themselves, have made a step forward in their investigations, which the science of the day has not yet made. It is only that the prejudices of the times by which the scientists are bound, and the means they employ to persecute those who do not follow their authority, are to-day different. To-day the latter are no longer persecuted by the Inquisition, and judged to death at the stake, but they are ridiculed, called foolish and fantastic, and even liars, without attempts being made to prove the results of their investigations, so far as they can be proved. The prejudices in which science is even now hidebound are by no means less than they formerly were. For, while the science of the day is not in the leading strings of the Church, she has become a trusty servant of the State. Not yet is science free, as she should be, to serve truth and thereby mankind, but she has put herself at the service of the State in her dependence upon it. If the external scientists cannot yet recognise the sentence “The soul-spiritual springs from the soul-spiritual” as established and true, they should at least take it as an hypothesis, and should allow it to be possible that it expresses for the soul-spiritual what they themselves recognise as established and true of the physical material. They should not laugh at spiritual science, and kill by silence the results of its investigations; they should compare them with their own results, then they would see that they in no way contradict what they recognise from the opposite standpoint. The teaching of the reincarnation of the spirit is indeed what the present-day scientific man's prejudices chiefly challenge. He involuntarily connects it with the ancient Egyptian's teaching of the soul's wanderings, of which even in school we learn that the Egyptians accepted as true that souls returned in order to dwell in the bodies of animals. Then people recall Buddhism and think that spiritual science has taken over from Buddhism the teaching of the incarnation of the soul. That in the first centuries after the birth of Christ the belief in the reincarnation of the spirit was widely spread among the learned, and that many of the fathers of the Church held to this belief is to-day hardly known any more.

Spiritual investigation borrows neither from ancient Egypt, nor from Buddhism, nor from Christianity, it investigates independently in the spiritual worlds and comes to the result that the soul, after man's death, still remains in a certain connection with the physical world. The soul itself does not die. It merely leaves the physical body when this, through age, illness, or through some accident, can no longer serve her as an instrument. After physical death the ego has no longer the possibility of being active in the physical world. Everything which we have called the impressions of the outer world falls away from it. The ego no longer possesses organs, senses and nerves, as served in the earth-life to give it its impressions of the outer world. What then remains? Before all things there rem ains that which the ego has taken up of lasting worth, be it won out of true religion, or out of true art,' or out of true science. Religion, art, and science, are the great educational factors for mankind, and they have the mission to fill the soul of man in the time between birth and death with things of everlasting worth, so that it has something which cannot be lost at physical death. All that the ego has taken up of the eternally true, and the truly good, and has experienced in itself, remains with it, and this comes to consciousness, when in spiritual regions it is undisturbed by physical impressions and bodily influences. Now, however, the ego, as we saw in considering the being of man, has not only taken up the spiritual in itself, as spiritual-soul, but it has also surrendered itself to the physical world as sentient-soul. For the sentient-soul is the answer of the ego to the impressions of the outer world. Everything that the ego experienced in this way through the sentient-soul naturally falls away at the death of the physical body, for the experiences were made through the instrumentality of the physical body. But midway between the sentient-soul and the spiritual-soul is the intellectual-soul, which, as we have said, connects thought with the impressions of the outer world, which live in conceptions kindled in the external world. All that we bear in the soul as recollection of our thinking, feeling and willing which is kindled in the outer world, and is established in the outer world, remains in existence after death for some time. Motives and desires called forth by impressions of the outer world, or which spring from the physical bodily nature, as e.g., the feeling of hunger — these fall away. The ego has made an inner connection with the outer world as was necessary through its bodily nature, in that it not only had pleasure in satisfying its hunger, but it rejoiced in the satisfaction of bodily requirements, and served them with its thoughts, in short, it had used the physical body to satisfy soul requirements. These demands of the soul remain for some time, they even increase to some extent and prepare torments for the soul, because without the physical body it has no longer the means to satisfy them. That time is full of torment for the soul which has many and strong soul-bodily needs, demands which were not only conditioned by nature but which could find satisfaction only through the bodily nature. The torments of the soul which has bound itself up too closely with the physical world, last as long as desires for the physical materials are not overcome. This time of torment is called Purgatory, out of old traditions of the Catholic Church. Souls on the other hand, who have more spiritual than soul needs, souls, who, in the life on earth, have already freed themselves from the lower soul demands, souls which have purified their astral body, which have developed to a great extent their spirit-self, these have not to work through such suffering because they have already overcome the soul demands which are directed to the physical material, and because they overcome them during life through the work of the ego on the astral body. The purely physical needs cease with the death of the physical body.

As long as we are incorporated in the physical body, all our experiences apply to ourselves. People in general have very little idea how, objectively considered, they appear, and what effect they have on others. They have no idea how much hurt and injury they do through their speeches and acts, through the expression of their ego, nor again do they know how the living spirit in them shines out, how beneficently they influence others. After the physical death, however, all see their own life and work objectively, they live it over again backwards, and see how defectively they have acted. They themselves now feel the effects they formerly made upon others. Through their knowledge of these defects there rises in the soul the wish to recover the time lost, to make good what was lacking. When the soul in this way has lived through its past life, then, and only then, is the ego free from its past physical life, and enters into the spiritual world. Whether it can consciously live in the spiritual world, or not, depends upon the ego itself. It must have organs for the spiritual worlds. Just as the physical world would appear dark if one had no eyes to see it, and dumb if one had no hearing, the ego experiences the spiritual world only in so far as it itself is spiritualised. It can, for example, go through the spiritual world without finding the Christ. It does not find Him unless it has already found Him during the life on the physical plane. In the spiritual world the Christ will be expressed more as comforter than as Judge. In the experience of the Christ on the spiritual plane a man's ego becomes conscious how far he still is from the human ideal, how poor he still is in the true and the good. The Christ Himself does not judge — He is the highest love force; it is the human ego that judges itself before Him. He who has had this experience of the self-judgment, experiences out of this the consoling, helpful, strong love force of the Christ, which can only be experienced through this feeling.

All these experiences in the spiritual worlds kindle in us the strong desire to return to the earth, to make good that in which we have failed, to make good our defects, to develop ourselves further, in order to approach nearer to the ideal of man. We can, indeed, we must, be able to rcach it, otherwise there would have been no sense in the example set before us; but to think that it could be attained in one life must appear sheer presumption to all who experience the Christ.

The idea of reincarnation can thus be grasped otherwise than by our logical thinking. This idea of reincarnation lies so far from the men of to-day because they have gone through the dark ages of materialism. Man was indeed never so cut off from the spiritual world as he is to-day, and he will not so remain. But the evolution of mankind has been such that man must gain command of the physical world. That necessitated a release from the spiritual; so long as man was connected with the spiritual world he had no interest in the physical world. To-day we are so deeply entangled in the material, that we are in danger of denying the spiritual. Already, however, a powerful reaction is noticeable. The soul of man is no longer satisfied with the nourishment that materialism allots. We have worked through the age of materialism as a stage in our evolution. Now in man's soul there is awakened a yearning for the spiritual world, a free intensive striving for the spiritual. So we dare not consider materialism as something absolutely evil, for through its soul-destroying teaching there has arisen in us the yearning for the spiritual, and out of this yearning we to-day seek to re-establish our connection with the spiritual. If we let ourselves come under the continued control of materialism, it will then act in opposition to evolution, — as an evil. From the overcoming of materialistic thought, from the overcoming of materialistic prejudices, there awakens in us an especially strong spiritual power, through which as free beings, through our free resolve, we can re-establish that connection with spiritual worlds, i.e., we cannot of ourselves re-establish that connection, we can only open ourselves to the spiritual worlds, we can knock and it will be opened to us. That can also answer for us the old question in regard to evil: Why is it in the world? It is in the world in order to be overcome. We can further strengthen the answer to the question when we become clear as to what task man has on earth.

Let us consider the natural kingdoms. What do we find in these natural kingdoms? And what fails in them? Where we penetrate the web of nature we are met by wisdom's light, out of the animal plant, and mineral kingdoms. The natural kingdoms are filled with wisdom. But love is not to be found there. And it cannot be given to the earth from outside. Love is a free gift; it can only be developed by free beings and be given as a free gift. To unfold love on earth just as to-day wisdom is planted in it: that is now the great task of the ego of mankind, which is still so young. But beings who should unfold love must be free beings, and those beings are free who have the choice of good and evil, who bear in themselves the possibility of the bad as well as the possibility of the good, but who must first overcome the bad if they wish to do good.

Now where free beings should arise there are the necessary opposites — Lucifer and Christ. Lucifer leads men into the realm of evil, but, too, into the possibility of freedom. Christ, as super-earthly cosmic Being bears love down to earth. He so lived among men that they can find their way back into the spiritual worlds. Man, as a free being, can choose whether he will go that way or not, whether he will accept the great love offering of the Christ, or will reject it. He can reject it, as Judas proved to us: we are all Judases, until out of our own free choice we resolve to accept that great offering which the Christ brought to earth, and to man at Golgotha. Judas is the typical representative of our times which has forgotten the spiritual in the material. In him we can see how man must fall into egoism and despair when he cannot resolve to accept the sacrifice of Christ. Christ is the highest love-force, the ideal man radiating love. And like the Judas, all men to-day stand face to face with Him. Each separate individual must himself resolve whether he will receive into himself the love-force of Christ, whether he will return on the way to the Father, or whether he will sink ever deeper and deeper into the physical world — whether he will develop egoism, the love of self, or the love of all. How every individual is faced with this choice can come into our consciousness when we stand before the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. The picture of the Christ expresses the offering, the sacrifice, the giving of His own being to the world, and the gazer standing before this picture, sees himself standing alone facing the Christ, and he can experience the question whether he will accept what Christ is ready to give him and all mankind, and which will have sense and meaning only when it has been so accepted. When we experience this question there comes over us a feeling of tremendous responsibility. Christ could only fulfil the half of His task at Golgotha. That He did by bringing to man what he needed for his further development. But all giving has no sense unless it is accepted; we must accept it. Only then is the sacrifice at Golgotha fulfilled. This picture as Rudolf Steiner tells us, shows the meaning of the earth's evolution, hence the intensity with which it grips the souls of those who have any sense and perception of it. It speaks a language which is understood, more or less consciously, by the soul of every man. That is living art which speaks of great cosmic happenings, of that which enters every human soul, which enters in the most intensive way, and Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy can teach us again to understand this speech.

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