1 January 1919, Dornach
A ray of light illumines the kind of retrospect we were engaged in yesterday evening if we take pains to consider the negative side of the matter. We might ask ourselves the following question — it has, of course, often been asked before: What are the deeper impulses that brought mankind to today's catastrophic events? Particularly, and more important, what are the deeper impulses that brought mankind to the catastrophic mood that is clearly to be perceived in these events? Obviously, we are not always able to look directly into the deeper causes that underlie events in time. Our gaze must turn first to what may be said to lie more on the surface of happenings. It is then possible to describe this or that, and such descriptions will by no means be incorrect. This is not to be overlooked by someone intending to observe earnestly in the manner of spiritual science. A spiritual scientific observer certainly does not wish to say that everything is wrong. But one would like to point out that when someone observes the world today it does not suffice — at this present moment in time — to stop short at what is on the surface; it is necessary to go more deeply into conditions. In this respect there is nothing exactly new to be said today; rather, we should place before our souls all that contributes to our view of the New Year that confronts us so frighteningly.
You remember, I said recently that it belongs to the most essential, the most supremely important present-day knowledge that mankind is standing before a new revelation. This is the revelation that is to take place, from a certain aspect is already taking place, through the Spirits of Personality who — if it may be so expressed — are now rising to the new height of Creators. In the history of mankind up to the present day, we have only been able to attribute this capacity to the Spirits who in the Bible are called the Elohim, and whom we call the Spirits of Form. Thus, something creative will occur in what we can observe as we follow the events of the outer world.
Now it is characteristic of human nature that at first people will be averse to recognizing any such intervention of a spiritual element. Particularly at the present time there is no desire to understand such a spiritual intervention. The moment we do give our attention to it, we will have to distinguish between two things.
To make this more intelligible, I would like to say the following: At his investment in Rome the famous Cardinal Newman made a remarkable statement. He said that he saw no salvation for the Church except in a new revelation. This happened decades ago; since then, various reactions have been expressed at one place or another to this remarkable view of Cardinal Newman's. 21Cardinal Newman: England, 1801–1890. Led Oxford movement in the Church of England. 1845, investment in Roman Catholic Church; became cardinal-deacon. And when one examines what has been said on the side of the Church and by those related to the Church creed, one finds a universal opinion that the talk should not be of a new revelation, but far rather of holding fast to the old revelation, that if anything is necessary it is first and foremost that the old revelation should be better understood than has so far been the case.
In the objections that were raised on all sides to this pronouncement by the Cardinal — who indeed had an intuition of the breaking-in of a new revelation — we can see how mankind opposes any such revelation. As I said, there are two things here to be distinguished. Mankind's struggle against receiving such a revelation is obviously not going to change the fact of its coming. It surges through the events in which man is entangled like a new wave of the spirit; man cannot push it back from the earth. It pours out over the earth. This is the one fact.
Let me say it this way: For some time, especially from the beginning of the twentieth century — to be exact, since the year 1899 — as we human beings come and go about the world, we have been immersed in a new wave of spiritual life that is pouring into the common life of all mankind. And a modern spiritual investigator is simply a person who acknowledges this fact. He is someone who is aware that such an event has intervened in the life of mankind. This is the one fact.
The other fact is this, that people, by the very reason of their present attitude, need a certain shaking-up, a certain rousing, in order to notice that this wave is indeed pouring into their life. So there is a significant situation: on the one hand, the wave is actually pouring itself into life and is there; on the other hand, people refuse to notice it. They fight against it. And don't take what I say as mere imagery! For the centers, the coherers into which this wave discharges — in just the same way as the electric current in wireless telegraphy — in this sphere the coherers are human souls. Don't be deceived for a moment! For it is fact, that just by living on the earth as men of the twentieth century, human beings are the receiving apparatus for what pours into life as I have described. People may struggle against admitting this into their consciousness, but they cannot prevent their souls from receiving the impact of this spiritual wave. Nor can they prevent it from entering them.
This fact must be examined more closely. Various hypotheses must now be considered after our deliberations of the last weeks. If one asks what is the most important faculty of the human soul in our epoch, the answer is: intellectuality. And if today some people maintain — quite justifiably — that one should not just develop intellectuality but also other soul forces, their emphasis is insistent because a modern person does indeed feel that intellectuality is now the outstanding faculty, but that as it floods in upon him, he should not simply allow his other capacities to be stunted. It is because intellectuality does play such an important role today in this age of the consciousness soul that we are so frequently warned not to let our feelings become cramped. This is tremendously important.
But now we must gain a clear idea concerning this intellectuality. You know that I have spoken about it from the most varied points of view. Even in the public lectures I have not hesitated to say what was necessary about the intellectual element in our present age. I have shown, for instance, how the present scientific world conception makes particular use of it. This world conception has fastened its hold on people in all walks of life; everyone thinks in conformity with it even when he knows nothing at all about science. When someone experiments, even when someone simply observes, he works out the experiments and the results of the experiments, even his observations, with his intellect. Intellectuality is actively weaving and holding complete sway in the scientific world outlook to which at present mankind is so wedded. From such a standpoint, for instance, people even want to study social problems. But how does intellectuality really work into things? In my public lectures I have often raised the question: what sort of world picture is actually obtained from this scientific world conception? One finally realizes that a conception of the world acquired by the ordinary scientific way of thinking is not reality at all, but a specter, or a number of specters. This is true even of our atoms and of all ideas of the atomic world. Even those who take a more positivist stand and do not entirely subscribe to the atomic theory, persons like Poincare, Avenarius or Mach, conceive of nature in such a way that they never arrive at reality, where nature is actually at work: they only reach a specter of nature. This relates to what I said here a few days ago, that actually the world of concepts in which we are living today in this age of the consciousness soul does not contain realities but merely pictures, reflected images. And we already accomplish very much when we abandon the superstition that when we read a scientific book or hear a scientific talk, we are learning the truth. If we are really aware of what is being imparted, we know that it is only an image, a kind of specter of reality.
In a certain sense, people today cherish inordinately, love inordinately, what lives in ideas of this kind, ideas that are ghostly images and not bound up with reality — in contrast, for instance, to Goethe's thoughts on metamorphosis. And people would dearly like to confine reality to this ghostly web of ideas. All those who talk today of a monistic world conception and the like, or in any way at all establish a positivist world conception, are actually believing in a curiously superstitious way in the importance of this ghostly web. They think that out of what is given them by modern scientific perception they should be able to produce a picture of reality. This indeed cannot be done. Thus, this ghostly kind of world-picture, which can be made by people at the present stage of human evolution, is very dear to their hearts. And souls are dominated today on the one hand by their love of an imagined world, and on the other hand by the fact that this imagined world yields only pictures. Moreover, the souls dominated in this way by their longing for ideas are the same souls that are struggling against the incoming spiritual wave that is in fact the true reality. It cannot possibly be turned aside by a mere ghostly web of ideas put forward by science. One only gains a correct view of these things when one realizes that this scientific way of thinking prepares people to reject all the truly real spiritual elements that are playing into the world. It is for this reason that they oppose, violently oppose, the wave that I said is nevertheless rolling in and spreading out and already living in men's souls.
You see, there is something in modern human beings, indeed in the very people who are the most representative, something that does not like the feel of this wave. It is breaking in upon them, and there is something in their consciousness that wants to resist it. We can make a sketch of it like this. (See Diagram.) Let this be modern man; then here (I) we have one layer of the human soul, and here (II) a second layer of the human soul. In the upper layer (II) is consciousness, modern consciousness, especially well-schooled in science. But the wave I am speaking about is pressing forward through the lower layer (I). The important thing now for consciousness is that it should not simply be occupied by what becomes a ghostly web, but that it should allow what is below to flow up into it, that it should take up into itself what is there below.
If you think about this you will find something tremendously important for understanding the present constitution of the human soul. For, my dear friends, if there had not been a certain state of soul, we could never have had this terrible catastrophe of the war, or rather, the expression of this soul-catastrophe by the war. This catastrophe that is occurring in mankind takes different forms, has various aspects, and the war that has been raging for these four and a half years is only one aspect. To understand this fact of a soul-catastrophe, we must examine it minutely. One must indeed ask, what is really happening with this wave that has appeared as I have described?
This wave is still for the present below the surface of what is usually observed. One may ask, what is actually living in this wave in which the Spirits of Personality are moving? Certainly the Spirits of Personality are living in it, those Beings who want to manifest as new Creators; but also, many other things are in it. You can picture to yourselves a sea with ships moving on it, carrying the most diverse personalities travelling in this way over the waves. These may stand for us as images of the Spirits of Personality. But the waves themselves are there and they also represent something. In the sea we have, so to speak, merely the blind watery element, but this can also have its moods. And in the spiritual wave of which I am speaking, something else is present. What is flooding human souls, what is actually pushing its way into our souls, is strife, world strife. This is being enacted, one may say, behind the scenes of our modern world. Humanity is entangled in this world strife. For the spiritual investigator to perceive the Spirits of Personality is by no means an easy or comfortable matter. It is not of such a nature that one could be told: I am making you into a seer because it will give you untold happiness; you will be able to float luxuriously in spiritual perception. This would please most people. When today they are to enter the spiritual world they would like to be given something of the nature of a festive drink. They shy away if nothing is offered them that gives them a comfortable feeling of wellbeing. There can indeed be no question of this today. Today one feels permeated through and through by the strife going on behind the scenes of the world, a battle that must be waged, that must be placed into world evolution in the course this world evolution has to take.
It is possible to describe in various ways the form this world evolution has to take; I will mention only one. In old pre-Christian times, but gradually fading as the Mystery of Golgotha approached, it seemed a matter of course to souls who were observant, at least throughout the pagan world, that they had experiences revealing the reality of repeated earth-lives. Life in those olden days was on the whole quite different from the way modern man is inclined to picture it. Today — is it not so? — people are distinguished by whether they are educated or not. In ancient times a distinction was made between those who could observe repeated earth-lives and those who could not. But this knowledge had to recede, and I have often told you that it was the task of Christianity to hold back for a while this wave of evolution that normally would awaken in human beings a consciousness of reincarnation. In saying this, of course, one exposes oneself to all kinds of misunderstanding. Objections are put forward which if one were speaking more fully one would like, and be able, to put forward oneself. Recently somewhere or other I spoke on the subject, and then immediately received a letter asking whether I did not know that reincarnation was definitely spoken of in the Bible. Naturally you will find in my writings indications of where it may be found in the Bible; this goes without saying. But the question is not whether such reference can be found: the important fact is that in the Bible reincarnation is not openly referred to, not, one might say, held out in one's hand. It was indeed necessary in human evolution that for a time the consciousness of repeated earth-lives should recede, so that men would learn to live each separate earth-life fully and with all earnestness. Now, however, we face a reversal of the situation: we have reached the point where we can make no advance unless we turn our gaze to reincarnation. Now is the time when spiritual beings wishing to bring humanity the consciousness of repeated earth-lives have to wage a hard fight against those who would allow only old elements and impulses to enter human consciousness. This is a significant battle in which man must take part if he wants to see what is going on behind the scenes in either human evolution or the general evolution of the world.
We should not simply imagine that behind the scenes of physical existence there is a place where we can lay ourselves down to go pleasantly to sleep. That is the paradise usually pictured by the materialists. Their dearest dream is to have a really good sleep once they have passed through the gate of death. They love to imagine this because sleeping is, after all, very comfortable. But I'm sure you know that the matter is not like that. On the contrary, behind the scenes of physical existence we could not possibly entertain a desire to satisfy certain instincts in order to enhance our own personal egotism. Consequently, we become participants in a battle, a real battle.
Now the following is apparent: If people would not struggle against recognizing this battle, if they would prove themselves ready to look behind the scenes of life to what is described by the spiritual investigator, they would have a different outlook today on the whole of existence. I have always stressed the fact that we human beings should take an interest in one another. But this can only be a real interest if we let the light of spiritual science shine into our lives. Is it not true that when we enter into relation with someone—and we all do enter into relation with other people things happen like this: we become acquainted with people we call good, with other people whom we call neither good nor bad, and with still other people whom we call bad, who do us various kinds of harm. Certainly in external life on the physical plane we have no alternative but to relate ourselves to human beings. When someone boxes our ears and we are incited to give it right back to him in return, there is no alternative but to deal with that particular person himself. But this attitude no longer suffices for the conditions of our time. It is far more in keeping with present conditions to say to oneself: I've had my ears boxed; or someone has lied to me; this or that has been done by a human being. It is true that in physical life we have to restrict our dealings to our fellowmen, but it is important for us to realize that all kinds of spiritual forces are working in human beings with which we have to reckon. Naturally, if someone boxes our ears, we can't return it to the demon who incited him to the action; we have to deal with the man who confronts us in his physical body. However, what is so necessary on the surface of existence is not really adequate for understanding the world; it is particularly useless for grasping our social life. In other words, a person gets nowhere today if behind what goes on physically he does not fully recognize a spiritual world in its reality and concreteness. This is most important. But the majority of people are afraid of it.
Their fear is not unfounded. If you are not dull, prosaic people (of course no one here is!), a shiver will run down your spine when you think how you provide all kinds of spiritual beings with a stage for their activities. This is indeed the case. If we are conscious of the fact, we can feel that we lose ourselves in the spiritual beings who fill us out. We are like sacks stuffed to the top with all kinds of beings. Admittedly a shivery feeling is not unjustified. Nevertheless, it cannot be got rid of by denying the fact that one is such a sack—by closing one's consciousness, as it were, to become blind and deaf to what is a reality. Help must be obtained in some other way.
Now we are confronting a very significant fact. Let us assume that a man who is a human coherer into whom the wave of strife discharges but who is not inclined to acknowledge spiritual life in any way — let us assume that he gives himself up completely to the modern way of thinking, that is to say, to the thinking formed on the model of the scientific world conception. We must face these things really seriously. For at the present time unless we do so we cannot find a gleam of light, we can only succumb to Rathenau's pessimism. Take the following, for example. Suppose — shall we say — a man like Ludendorff had become a professor of botany. He would have been excellent as such; he would have done outstanding work. Indeed, he would have become quite a celebrity, as people say — so well-known that his ambition would have been satisfied. And… he would not have made so many human beings suffer as he has in fact done. Now Ludendorff has not had the position of a guiltless professor of botany (guiltless, that is, from a cosmic aspect, for probably he would in some way have tortured the students who were having to pass his examinations!) But let us assume he had become an innocent professor of botany, innocent from a cosmic point of view: then things would have gone quite well. But they did not go that way: he became a so-called strategist. And because of what lay within him, that is, a capacity only to think the thoughts of those ghostly webs woven by science, he could not draw up into his consciousness what discharged itself into his soul. For that way of thinking is not suited to bring up into consciousness what is discharged into the soul below. And so he became the cause of disaster for a great part of humanity. He is one of the thirty or forty individuals outwardly responsible for the present catastrophe. He is a man who from the place he occupies simply struggles against the recognition of any kind of spirituality. But the time has come when persons in influential positions who fight against acknowledging the spirit, who refuse to recognize that the spiritual world is indeed playing into human life, such persons can bring calamity upon mankind. It is most important that this fact be grasped. Now, today, even if they have not held responsible positions in the war itself, still there are countless individuals who, from fear or some other reason, are resisting the wave of spiritual life that is flowing in through the Spirits of Personality — resisting it because they only want to think as science thinks.
That is the reason why today many personalities are incomprehensible, and why many are wrongly estimated. It is infinitely tragic, for example, that such a man as Ludendorff is looked upon as great. But it is true that the fact to which I have just alluded blurs people's judgment of individuals. All kinds of demonic forces play into these men, and are even imputed to them while actually they are pushing them back, because they carry in their souls a mere ghostly web on the scientific pattern and with this they cannot grasp a situation. The kind of person I have mentioned then lives his life so that in everything he does he may be insensible to the breach in his personality and to all that surges and rages deep within him. This is the case with very many people today. They are numb to what is raging within them when they attain a certain position in outer life; one cudgels his neighbor, another writes an utterly foolish book on botany, and so on; they are befogged about what is actually surging within them and causing the potential disintegration of their personality. This threatens them simply through the impact of today's inevitable events, because they are afraid of being hurled into the struggle now being enacted in the world behind the scenes, on the waves of which the Spirits of Personality wish to enter into our age.
Recognition of the spiritual world requires our being alive to the question we are now examining. And, dear friends, it is tremendously important to take seriously what has so often been emphasized here, namely, that spiritual science should not be regarded as mere theory. If you are going to consider it mere theory, you would be better off reading a cookbook; for it is not just the content of spiritual science that is essential. The gist of the matter is how one has to think in order to do justice to spiritual science. It is a different kind of thinking from the thinking employed in the natural-scientific world of today. You see, there are definitely two ways to form thoughts. One is the dismembering, differentiating way that today plays so great a role in science, where differences are looked for, where careful distinctions are made. This is the prevailing scientific method. In science all that is said or written or done is under the influence of thinking that is dismembering, thinking that is differentiating. Exact definitions are demanded. Today when you so much as make a statement, you are nailed down to sharp definitions. But sharp, rigid definitions are simply distinguishing the things defined from the things not defined. This manner of thinking is a mask used with particular pleasure by the Spirits who are joined in this battle and who would like to tear us apart. Speaking trivially, one could say that a large number of the individuals responsible for the catastrophe of the war, or having to do with its aftermath, are really mad! But that, as I said, is speaking trivially. The important thing is to understand what has brought about the disintegration of their personalities. This first way of thinking is the thinking that is accessible to the various forces, various powers that are tearing man asunder. It must be clearly distinguished from the second way of thinking, which alone is employed in spiritual science.
The second way of thinking is a totally different kind of mental process, a completely other way of thinking. In contrast to the dismembering kind, it is a shape-forming manner of thinking. If you look more closely, if you follow what I have tried to indicate in my various books on spiritual science, you will realize that the difference does not lie so much in the content that is imparted — this can be judged from various other viewpoints; but the way of seeing the whole world and of coordinating that knowledge, the entire mode of thought representation, is a different one. This is shape-producing; it gives separate pictures, rounded totalities; it gives contours, and through contours, color. Throughout the entire presentation in the printed books you will be able to see that it has none of the dismembering character that you find in all modern science. This difference of the “how” (the mode of thinking) must be brought out just as emphatically as the difference of the “what” (the content of subject matter). Thus there exists a formative (gestaltende) way of thinking that has been developed with the especial purpose of leading to the supersensible worlds. If you take the book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, where such a path is marked out, you will find that every thought, every idea in it is based on this formative thinking.
This is something essential for the present time. For this formative thinking has a quite definite quality. When you dissect with your thinking, like a present-day scientist, you are thinking just the way certain spirits of the ahrimanic world think and you are making it possible for them to enter your soul. If on the other hand you exercise creative, formative thinking (gestaltendes Denken), thinking that allows for metamorphosis, I could also say Goethean thinking — represented, for instance, in the shaping of our pillars and capitals; used too in all the books I have tried to give to spiritual science — this thinking is closely bound up with the human being. Only the beings connected with the normal evolution of mankind can work creatively, sculpturally as a human being works within himself with thinking. This is the amazing thing about it. You can never go astray on a wrong path if through spiritual science you engage in formative thinking. You can never lose yourself in the various spiritual beings who want to gain an influence over you. It is natural for them to permeate your being. As soon, however, as you practice formative thinking, as soon as you refrain from mere musing or from dissecting, and strive to think in the way modern spiritual science thinks, you retain possession of yourself and cannot then have the feeling of complete emptiness. This is the reason why from the standpoint of spiritual science we are always placing such great emphasis on the Christ Impulse. For the Christ Impulse stands in the direct line of formative thinking. Even the Gospels cannot be understood if they are simply dismembered. The result of that treatment is shown in modern Protestant theology, which has been pulling them to pieces: the result is that everything has fallen away; absolutely nothing has remained. The lecture cycles on the Gospels 22Rudolf Steiner, Gospel of St. John, Gospel of St. John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels (Spring Valley, Anthroposophic Press, 1984 and 1982). follow the opposite path. They build up and shape something so that through these new forms an understanding of the old Gospels is brought about. Actually, what people need today — and this is not exaggerating in the least — is to exercise the spiritual scientific mode of thinking: then those demonic beings who are the accompanying phenomena of the Spirits of Personality on the new incoming wave will not be able to do the people harm. You see how much mankind loses by fighting against the spiritual scientific way of thinking.
I have already told you that the wave cannot be thrust aside, even if people will not go to meet it. Mankind may oppose it, may not wish to perceive it, but still the wave flows in. Then there follows what has really led to the deeper aspect of our present catastrophe, namely, the non-recognition of the spiritual world. That is finally the deeper cause of the present catastrophic events, and especially of the present tragic attitude of soul. And since it is a battle being waged in lower regions, there is no other way of experiencing this soul struggle than by developing the creativity of the human personality itself — through formative thinking. Otherwise the battle will be carried into the external world. Therefore this has to be said: that it is truly not right for people to be unwilling to examine the spiritual grounds of the present disastrous world situation. For, you notice, something extraordinarily new lies in what has been told you. It is a disclosure of the new wave that is to break upon present-day mankind through a quite special way of forming thoughts. If people give themselves up to thoughts modelled on those of science, they will simply be unable to grow to the stature required by the times. If they merely want to organize what is here in the physical world, merely want to reflect upon what surrounds them in the physical world, and have no desire for anything else to be valid, then they only destroy. And then they should not be surprised if the struggle that they do not want to fight out in the spiritual world is carried into physical life. For it has already entered humanity. If human beings will not fight it out in their souls, then it will set man against man, nation against nation, all against all. What happens here in the physical world can only be an image of the spiritual world. Either men take up the battle and fight it out in their souls — which means, they deepen themselves spiritually — or, if they persist in thinking as this present world thinks, the battle will go through their consciousness as through a sieve, and will finally end by their souls being abandoned to the external world. And this will be the cause of everything that is now going to happen. If you reflect on these things, you will realize that present-day human beings are really obliged to turn to the spirit, that this is forced upon them by world events.
Let us now consider what is presented to us this New Year's Day when we are meant to look ahead at what is coming. This particular moment offers us, indeed, a shattering prospect. What we have to keep in mind, dear friends, is this, that we must not deceive ourselves by trying to sleep through this view into the future. That is why I read you yesterday the forecast that has been pronounced by a man who calculates, who does not throw words about from sympathy or antipathy but who reckons with them. I wanted you to see where a calculating materialist of this present time finds himself. People such as he are heading in quite a different direction from a serious perception that they have to acknowledge the spiritual world simply for their own good. Whoever penetrates into the spiritual world and sees its relation to the physical world knows that certain laws prevail even when they do not seem to apply logically — when the logical consequence lies, for instance, in thinking that is dismembering, not in thinking that is formative, intuitive (anschauendes), as I have been describing. You see, laws of this kind do not prevail even externally in a rigid, letter-of-the-law way; but they are definitely there. Take such a law as this, that about the same number of men are born into the world as women. Even this law has its exceptions, even though when considered theoretically it might appear detrimental to mankind if in some particular century only a twentieth of the population born were males and all the others females! Laws do indeed exist that are not founded on ordinary logic and that can only be explained by spiritual science.
Such a law is the following: In the measure to which human beings in a certain epoch permeate their souls with recognition of the spiritual world, as I described it today, so that the spiritual world can flow into their consciousness, in the same measure can the common life of mankind also unfold and human beings be given the possibility to reach beyond their anti-social impulses and beyond all that works against true community.
But people today do not have the courage to let the spiritual world really play into their consciousness. At least a few people should know that the important need of this moment is that the spiritual world should have immediate access to human consciousness. From this point of view consider certain phenomena of this time or, I might say, favorite attitudes of this time, and you will see how people today have the desire to exclude from their consciousness any connection with the spiritual laws of existence. I showed you recently how we have to reckon with this fact even in practical matters, where a conscious connection can easily be eliminated. I was speaking at the time of intelligence tests. With these there is no longer any desire to create a direct, simple connection with the pupils' gifts; instead, in order to avoid any need for thinking, there are all kinds of external measures to test the memory and the intellectual capacity. This is also the reason why people love mathematics. Certain rules are established and the rest is mathematical reckoning. There is no need to follow the details with one's intelligence — nor would it be possible to do so. You will agree that you can picture three or four or five beans in a row, even ten beans; to imagine twenty at one glance is already difficult; but think of having to picture a thousand at one glance, or an entire million! Yet you can reckon them perfectly well, because you can make the calculation mechanically, and have no need to follow with your intelligence the details of what you are doing. What modern people particularly love is to prove something without actually having to call upon their intelligence. They find it terribly irksome if asked to follow the single stages of the proof. They prefer that the matter prove itself without human intervention. What they would like most of all is that the spiritual world would prove its own existence outside there somewhere, through spiritualism or the like. It appalls people that spiritual science should call upon them to be active at each successive stage. That is why they love the symbols of old occultism and things of that kind—and rituals, of which they can say: they are performed before us and we don't have to use our intelligence to follow them; we don't have to form the slightest conception of what is taking place. But that is just what modern spiritual science has to insist upon: the following up of detail. Without it, spiritual science is unthinkable.
It is worthy of notice that in eastern Europe we find the seeds of what really belongs to the next epoch. All kinds of things are being done in that eastern region that show how the human being wants to penetrate with his intelligence what is only meant to be encircled by a net of common intelligence. In this present age of the consciousness soul, some people are trying to bring sharp intellectual shrewdness down into the realm where intelligence alone should be active, where everything should simply be drawn into a net of common intelligence. Take, for example, the way propaganda has been carried on in Russia during the last two decades to bring about the gradual fall of czardom. Naturally this could not happen quite openly in the Russia of serfdom and the whip. Anything written and circulated normally would have been confiscated by the police. Nor was it possible to make speeches. And yet in a comparatively short time, from 1900 to 1904, 60,000,000 anti-czarist pamphlets appeared in Russia. Of these 60,000,000 the police tracked down only twenty to twenty-five percent; the others were distributed, and an immense number appeared just before the downfall of the Czar. Thus a large proportion of the population were prepared for the end of czardom. Now how did it ever come about that, in spite of all that was scented out and confiscated by the police, still out of sixty million pamphlets, each one of which called for revolution and the end of czardom, hardly a quarter were seized? The explanation is that those who led the agitation had discovered a very definite fact, which today is of great importance but which people simply fail to investigate. When they do investigate it in an ahrimanic way, as those Revolutionary leaders did, they have something that enables them to work with tremendous power. Those leaders discovered that the same words addressed to a strictly czarist member of the police worked in an entirely different way when addressed to an ordinary man in the street. The same words that, spoken in the proper manner, sound to a policeman as gentle as a lamb can under certain conditions work upon the populace in a most extreme socialistic sense. Certainly pamphlets were not written then as they are written now in Switzerland — and immediately confiscated; but books or pamphlets were distributed about botany, about plants, that simply by the way they were written prepared souls fully, so that in 1917 Russia was completely ready for the Revolution. It is enormously important to be aware of this secret: that what one says affects one person quite differently from the way it affects another person. In any case, this has all been carefully studied, and the studies made in this sphere are thoroughly characteristic of our time. In fact, they are part of what is struggling most bitterly against the spiritual science that is entering the world.
For instance, I cannot think of anything more strongly opposed to the real essence of the spirit than such books as those by Nikolai Rubakin. Rubakin attempts to study the human soul—and in a new way, but in such a way that it completely denies everything that is alive in spiritual science: that is, in such a way that in a certain sense the intelligence is maintained as it works, but also the activity of the individual intelligence can be excluded in the working. Such a man as Rubakin is reckoning that everything that happens at the present time is bound up with intelligence, but that we should not always work through the subjective intelligence. In this sense he has made the following wide investigation: he has organized a study of people who read books. He asks them to name their favorite books and to say what particularly impressed them in those books, and what kind of influence the books have had upon them. He puts these questions to them in such a way that no account is taken of their sympathies and antipathies—these are expressly ignored, so that only the objective working of their intelligence comes into consideration. The readers give themselves up to a self-analysis of such a kind that simply through the questions he asks they say things that allow him to see more deeply into their souls than they do themselves. This is one method.
The other method is this: again a questionnaire is sent to thousands and thousands of people, asking them to analyze current books. No notice is taken whether a book is on mathematics or botany or politics or socialism or anarchy; that is of minor importance, for that is merely the reading matter, and most readers are unaware that that constitutes only one part of a book. Rubakin establishes how the book works by the beauty of its phrasing, by its disclosure of the writer's temperament, or the monotony of his style. These are genuine qualities through which he can discover the prevailing objective intelligence. He establishes it statistically through these books. The whole method goes to show the outstreaming and intaking of intelligence that is active at the present time. Were such a science carried a bit further, someone could write a fearfully revolutionary book on Jupiter, and someone else a book on the right foreleg of the cockchafer, and the second book would serve the purpose of this Rubakin inquiry just as well as the first. For here it is not a question of what is said but of how it is said; from this it is learnt what works in people as objective intelligence, of which people themselves are not conscious. Here a person is not active subjectively, because he is not allowing his individual intelligence to play a part — any more than he allows it to do in arithmetic. The person is participating in a general prevailing intelligence and is not involved in what this normally brings into action in individual human beings, for his subjective intelligence has been completely excluded.
On the basis of such a science one could found a college today that would undertake to spread revolutionary propaganda simply by following the lines I have indicated. There are such endeavors at the present time. The intention of all of them is, in this epoch of intelligence not to include man in the intelligence but to throw him out of it. This comes from the same source as the desire that man shall not receive the spiritual world consciously, that is, with the consciousness belonging to this present day. But, of course, that is essential. The only salvation for mankind today and in the immediate future is that we accept boldly and courageously the coming-in of the spiritual world. We will not have to give intelligence tests or collect statistics on books and their readers to discover what wants to reveal itself that is living in humanity right now. Another way will be taken, dear friends. For what is the purpose of all this? To speak quite simply, all those endeavors of Rubakin and the rest aim at pulling man out of his skin, because in his skin he has to make use of his intelligence and, what is more, to turn it toward a spiritual life. People would like to get outside their skin. They no longer want to live in it, because they know something living is streaming into it and they find it unpleasant to make the acquaintance of this living thing; they would prefer to escape it. They would like to objectify their intelligent nature, to get outside of it and sit down beside it, so that the wave would only go through it and not through them. But that is also what spiritual science wants! — a science that is not just shut up inside the skin. We should indeed get out of our skin, but not in the wrong way as the experiments I have described accomplish it. People have that wrong urge already. In reality they should accept a knowledge that simply has to be confirmed by their sound human understanding. They do not need to be free of their body to acquire a knowledge that is itself independent of what they do in their body. This is the task of truth—the other is a caricature of truth. And such caricatures of the true spiritual task of the present age are responsible for the evils of this age that have brought us to our present impasse.
When we see in this way what is dominating our epoch, we know why it is that people who do not want to acknowledge the real spirit, but who are honest and do not delude themselves, are at the same time clear about what confronts mankind if it still clings to materialism. We must realize that in this signpost pointing to the spirit lies what need not necessarily make us pessimistic. When we find how little people are inclined even today to approach the spiritual world in the way spiritual science indicates, then we see where the deeper causes of the present ruin actually lie.
Even this year all kinds of articles about Christmas have appeared in print again. One can hardly believe that such rubbish would reappear in these grave times. Everyone writes surprisingly well, in fact, quite beautifully of how people should love one another. Actually they hate one another as never before, but there it is in writing that we should love one another, we should love our enemies, and so on. There was even a letter printed entitled “A woman's letter to Walther Rathenau.” People write in such a manner that, looked at spiritually, the idea lying behind the writing appears in a very strange light. They write of human love, of Christianity, of every possible thing; it is all very beautiful, and the people reading it think it is exquisite. Yet it is nothing but obsolete concept-coins rumbling around in their heads or hearts. And while all this rumbles and rolls, the writer or the reader stands behind and feels a sensuous love for these words, so that all this has the effect upon him of rich sweetmeats. One can dream so deliciously when one says: Christ preached love for one's neighbor; Christianity must blossom again; and so on. With that kind of attitude, the people feel not the slightest necessity to accept the concrete spiritual world in the innermost depths of their soul, with their whole being — as spiritual science requires. The pressing need is for us to take these things in earnest. If we recognize them theoretically and then still do nothing more than stand in reverence before Wilsonism or fall into national chauvinism, still holding forth in the old way — then we shall never get beyond this catastrophe. It will continue until human beings make up their minds really to accept the spiritual world as it must be accepted today, that is, with consciousness that is concrete and without fear or timidity.
And so when we gaze into the new cosmic year, we see on the one hand how some people, just to allay their fears, offer political forecasts and found Leagues of Nations that are to abolish war from the world. In spite of rejoicing that there will not be another Vienna Congress, people are already beginning to say that they would be content if the Congress of Versailles only procured for us as many months of peace as the Vienna Congress brought years of peace. For, in truth, men love to hold thoughts that act like narcotics. The strongest benumbing thought for people today, after they have rejected certain others, is that Wilson is the right man for the future. He is the great man, is he not? — a man who thinks fourteen abstract thoughts are able to transform life in our present world into a paradise! It is comforting, is it not? — something that can lull us to sleep. It is far less comfortable to say: If we are to be saved from a future such as Rathenau predicts, it is necessary that as many individuals as possible come to a conscious recognition of the spiritual world.
This is what one would like to bring to pass in at least a few souls after the New Year's Eve retrospect that we shared last night. One hopes that the truth of that experience has stirred our souls so strongly that someone can say: if mankind continues with the thinking that has become customary, not only in one people but among all the peoples around the earth, then Rathenau's forecast must be correct. Dear friends, there is no necessity for it to be correct! Mankind has the chance to prove that there is no need for his forecast to be correct. This can be our New Year resolution, that we will exert our will so that the foreboding is proved to be false. For this, however, we will have to discard all the old prejudices in which even today we still indulge with such extreme pleasure — prejudices that are completely out of date. It is far more important to take up what is new.
Anyone with insight will know where the spirit is being sought, and there he will find assurance of future security. Where there is no search for the spirit there will be no hope for the future — for conquered or conqueror. Let one part of the world population demand milliards from another part, and the milliards will become melted gold that burns and destroys — while poverty, if given wings by the spirit, can carry men to heights that lead to the future evolution of humanity.
But this must be experienced by insight into the path of the spirit. No leaning toward anything external, no worshiping of new idols that are even now being made ready, can save mankind: only keeping to the spirit, holding fast to the spirit, working in the spirit.