15 November 1919, Dornach
We have heard that the human soul was once endowed with a kind of primeval wisdom, that this wisdom gradually faded away and is now no longer accessible. Consequently with respect to their knowledge, people feel thrown back more and more upon what is presented to them by physical existence. By “knowledge” I do not mean only science in the accepted sense, but the knowledge that is consciously applied by the soul in the ordinary affairs of life.
The question will naturally arise: how did this ancient wisdom actually come into being? Here I must touch upon a new aspect of matters we have often considered from other angles.
Let us look back to the time when human beings began in the real sense to be citizens of the earth, when as beings of soul and spirit they came down to the earth, surrounded themselves with its forces and became earthly beings. If human beings had simply descended to the earth with the qualities inherent in their own nature, evolution would have taken quite a different course through the various epochs of culture. But having made the descent, human beings would have been obliged to establish a relationship with the surrounding world, to acquire earthly knowledge — I will not say through clairvoyance in the proper sense — but through instincts imbued with a certain measure of clairvoyance. The acquisition of this earthly knowledge would have been a very slow and gradual process and for long ages people would have remained ineffectual, childish beings. By our own time they would, it is true, have succeeded in developing a constitution of soul and body compatible with humanness, but they would never have reached the spiritual heights they have actually attained. That they were able to achieve this evolution in a way other than by passing through all the stages of childhood is due to the intervention in earthly evolution of the luciferic beings. We know from recent lectures that the Lucifer individuality himself incarnated in Asia in a certain epoch of pre-Christian times, and that the original pagan wisdom to which many historical data bear witness proceeded from this being. But the luciferic beings have from the very beginning been associated in some way with the evolution of humanity.
I beg you earnestly — although I know that such requests are of little avail-not to adopt a philistine attitude when mention is made of luciferic beings. Even among anthroposophists there is still the tendency to say: “That is certainly luciferic. At all costs let us avoid it, reject it!” But these things have to be considered in many different aspects and it must always be remembered that the whole of the old pagan wisdom emanated from a luciferic source. The subject is one that calls for deep and serious study.
The farther back we go in the evolution of humanity, the more do we find certain individuals who through the qualities attained in earlier incarnations were sufficiently mature to apprehend the treasures of wisdom possessed by the luciferic beings. Think, for example, of the seven Holy Rishis of ancient India. When Indians interpreted the wisdom of the Holy Rishis, they knew, if they had been initiated into these things, that the teachers of the Rishis were luciferic beings. For what the luciferic beings brought with them into earth evolution was, above all, the world of thought, of intellectualistic thought pervading culture, the world of reason in the highest sense of the word — the world of wisdom. And going back to the primeval origins of human existence, we find that the sources of pagan wisdom always lie with luciferic beings.
It may be asked: How is this possible? We must realize that human beings would have remained children had they not received from the Mysteries the constant instruction that emanated from luciferic beings. Those who possessed the knowledge and the inherited, primeval wisdom wherewith to foster the progress and education of humankind were not — like a modern philistine — fearful of receiving this wisdom from luciferic sources. They took upon themselves the obligation incumbent upon everyone to whom luciferic beings impart knowledge from spiritual realms. The obligation — for so it may be called, although such words do not always convey the exact meaning — was to use this luciferic, cosmic wisdom rightly, for the good of earth evolution. The difference between the “good” wisdom and the purely luciferic wisdom — which so far as content is concerned is exactly the same — is that the “good” wisdom is in hands other than those of the luciferic beings. That is the essential point. It is not a question of there being one wisdom that can be neatly packed away in some chamber of the soul and make a person virtuous! The wisdom of worlds is uniform, the only difference being whether it is in the hands of wise people who use it for good, whether it is in the hands of the Angeloi or Archangeloi, or whether it is in the hands of Lucifer and his hosts. In olden times the wisdom needed for the progress of humanity could be obtained only from a luciferic source; hence the initiates were obliged to receive it from that source and at the same time to take upon themselves the obligation not to yield to the aspirations of the luciferic beings.
Lucifer's intention was to convey the wisdom to humanity in such a way that it would induce people to abandon the path of earth evolution and take a path leading to a super-earthly sphere, a sphere aloof from the earth. The luciferic beings inculcated their wisdom into human beings but their desire was that it would make them turn away from the earth, without passing through earthly evolution. Lucifer wants to abandon the earth to its fate, to win humankind for a kingdom alien to the kingdom of Christ.
The sages of olden time who received the primeval wisdom from the hands of Lucifer had, as I said, to pledge themselves not to yield to his wishes but to use the wisdom for the good of earth evolution. And that, in essence, was what was accomplished through the pre-Christian Mysteries. If it be asked what it was that humanity received through these Mysteries, through the influence of the luciferic beings who, in postAtlantean times, still inspired certain personalities like the Rishis of India and sent their messengers to the earth — the answer is that human beings received the rudiments of what has developed in the course of evolution into the faculties of speech and of thinking. Speaking and thinking are, in their origins, luciferic, but were drawn away from the grip of Lucifer by the sages of old. If you are really intent upon fleeing, from Lucifer, then you must make up your minds to be dumb in the future, and not to think!
These things are part of the initiation science which must gradually come within the ken of humanity, although on account of the kind of education that has now been current for centuries in the civilized world, people shrink from such truths. The caricatured figure of Lucifer and Ahriman — the medieval devil — is constantly before their minds and they have been allowed to grow up in this philistine atmosphere for so long that even today they shudder at the thought of approaching treasures of wisdom that are intimately and deeply connected with evolution. It is much pleasanter to say: “If I protect myself from the devil, if I give myself to Christ with the simple-heartedness of a child, I shall be blessed, and my soul will find salvation.” But in its deep foundations, human life is by no means such a simple matter. And it is essential for the future of human evolution that these things we are now discussing shall not be withheld. It must be known that the art of speaking and the art of thinking have become part of evolution only because they were received through the mediation of Lucifer. The luciferic element can still be observed in thinking. Speech, which has for long ages been differentiated and adapted to earthly needs, has already been assailed by Ahriman. It is he who has brought about different tongues on earth. Whereas the luciferic tendency is always toward unification, the fundamental tendency of the ahrimanic principle is differentiation. What would thinking be if it were not luciferic?
If thinking were not luciferic, human beings on the earth would be like one whose thought was utterly non-luciferic, namely Goethe. Goethe was one of those who, in a certain respect, deliberately set out to confront and defy the luciferic powers. That, however, makes it essential to keep constant hold of the concrete, individual reality. The moment you generalize or unify — at that moment you are nearing luciferic thinking. If you were to contemplate each human individual, each single plant, each single animal, each single stone in itself alone, having in mind the one, single object, not classifying into genera and species, not generalizing in your thought — then you would be little prone to luciferic thinking. But anyone who was to attempt such a thing, even as a child, would never get beyond the lowest class in any modern school.
The fact of the matter is that the universal thinking implicit in pagan wisdom has gradually been exhausted. The human constitution is such that this luciferic principle of unification can no longer be of much real service to people on earth. This has been counteracted by the fact that the God-created nature of the human being has followed in the wake of earth evolution, has become related to, allied with the earth. And because this is so, through their own inherent nature, people are less allied with the luciferic element which always tends to draw them away from the earth.
But woe betide if humanity were simply to draw away from the luciferic element without putting something different in its place. That would bring nothing but evil. For then human beings would grow together with the earth, that is to say with the particular territory on earth where they are born; and cultural life would become completely specialized, completely differentiated. We can already see this tendency developing. It has taken root most markedly since the beginning of the nineteenth century; but the tendency to split up into smaller groups has been all too apparent as a result of the catastrophic world war. Chauvinism is more and more gaining the upper hand until it will finally lead people to split up to such an extent that at last a group will embrace only one single human being! Things could come to the point where individual human beings would again split into right and left, and be at war within themselves; left would be at loggerheads with right. Such tendencies are even now evident in the evolution of humankind. To combat this, a counterweight must be created; and this counterweight can only be created if, like the old wisdom inherent in paganism, a new wisdom, acquired by the free resolve and will of human beings, is infused into earthly culture. This new wisdom must again be Initiation wisdom.
And here we come to a chapter that must not be withheld from modern knowledge If, in the future, people were to do nothing themselves toward acquiring a new wisdom, then, without their consciousness, the whole of culture would become ahrimanic, and it would be easy for the influences issuing from Ahriman's incarnation to permeate all civilization on the earth. Precautions must therefore be taken in regard to the streams by which the ahrimanic form of culture is furthered. What would be the result if people were to follow the strong inclination they have today to let things drift on as they are, without understanding and guiding into right channels those streams which lead to an ahrimanic culture? As soon as Ahriman incarnates at the destined time in the West, the whole of culture would be impregnated with his forces. What else would come in his train? Through certain stupendous acts he would bring to humanity all the clairvoyant knowledge which until then can be acquired only by dint of intense labor and effort. People could live on as materialists, they could eat and drink — as much as may be left after the war! — and there would be no need for any spiritual efforts. The ahrimanic streams would continue their unimpeded course. When Ahriman incarnates in the West at the appointed time, he would establish a great occult school for the practice of magic arts of the greatest grandeur, and what otherwise can be acquired only by strenuous effort would be poured over humankind.
Let it never be imagined that Ahriman will appear as a kind of hoaxer, playing mischievous tricks on human beings. No, indeed! Lovers of ease who refuse to have anything to do with spiritual science would fall prey to his magic, for by means of these stupendous magic arts he would be able to make great numbers of human beings into seers — but in such a way that the clairvoyance of each individual would be strictly differentiated. What one person would see, a second and a third would not see. Confusion would prevail and in spite of being made receptive to clairvoyant wisdom, people would inevitably fall into strife on account of the sheer diversity of their visions. Ultimately, however, they would all be satisfied with their own particular vision, for each of them would be able to see into the spiritual world. In this way all culture on the earth would fall prey to Ahriman. Human beings would succumb to Ahriman simply through not having acquired by their own efforts what Ahriman is ready and able to give them. No more evil advice could be given than to say: “Stay just as you are! Ahriman will make all of you clairvoyant if you so desire. And you will desire it because Ahriman's power will be very great.” But the result would be the establishment of Ahriman's kingdom on earth and the overthrow of everything achieved hitherto by human culture; all the disastrous tendencies unconsciously cherished by humankind today would take effect.
Our concern is that the wisdom of the future — a clairvoyant wisdom — shall be rescued from the clutches of Ahriman. Again let it be repeated that there is only one book of wisdom, not two kinds of wisdom. The issue is whether this wisdom is in the hands of Ahriman or of Christ. It cannot come into the hands of Christ unless people fight for it. And they can only fight for it by telling themselves that by their own efforts they must assimilate the content of spiritual science before the time of Ahriman s appearance on earth.
That, you see, is the cosmic task of spiritual science. It consists in preventing knowledge from becoming — or remaining ahrimanic. A good way of playing into Ahriman s hands is to exclude everything of the nature of knowledge from denominational religion and to insist that simple faith is enough. If people cling to this simple faith, they condemn their soul to stagnation and then the wisdom that must be rescued from Ahriman cannot find entry. The point is not whether people do or do not simply receive the wisdom of the future but whether they work upon it; and those who do must take upon themselves the solemn duty of saving earthly culture for Christ, just as the ancient Rishis and initiates pledged themselves not to yield to Lucifer's proviso that humankind be enticed away from the earth.
The root of the matter is that for the wisdom of the future too, a struggle is necessary, a struggle similar to that waged against Lucifer by the ancient initiates through whose intermediary the faculties of speech and of thinking were transmitted to humanity. Just as it devolved upon the initiates of the primeval wisdom to wrest from Lucifer that which has become human reason, human intellect, so the insight which is to develop in the future into the inner realities of things must be wrested from the ahrimanic powers. Such are the issues — and these issues play strongly into life itself.
I recently read some notes written shortly before his death by one who was a friend of the anthroposophical movement. He had been wounded in the war and lay for a long time in hospital where, in the course of the operations performed on him, he had many a glimpse into the spiritual world. The last lines he wrote contain a remarkable passage, describing a vision which came to him not long before his death. In this last experience, the atmosphere around him became, as he expresses it, like dense granite, weighing upon his soul. Such an impression can be understood in the light of the knowledge that we have to battle for the wisdom of the future; for the ahrimanic powers do not allow this wisdom to be wrested from them without a struggle. Let it not be thought that wisdom can be attained through blissful visions. Real wisdom has to be acquired “in travail and suffering.” What I have just told you about the dying man is a very good picture of such suffering, for in this struggle for the wisdom of the future, one of the most frequent experiences is that the world is pressing in upon us, as though the air had suddenly frozen into granite. It is possible to know why this is so. We have only to remember that it is the endeavor of the ahrimanic powers to reduce the earth to a state of complete rigidification. Their victory would be won if they succeeded in bringing earth, water, and air into this rigidified state. Were that to happen, the earth could not again acquire the Saturn warmth from which it proceeded and which must be regained in the Vulcan epoch; and to prevent this is the aim of the ahrimanic powers. A trend which has an important bearing on this is the lack of enthusiasm in human souls at the present time for the content of spiritual science. If this lack of enthusiasm were to persist, the first impulse toward the rigidification of the earth would emanate from human souls themselves, from their apathy, their indolence and love of ease. If you reflect that this rigidification is the aim of the Ahrimanic powers, you will not be surprised that compression, the feeling that life is becoming granite-like, is one of the experiences that must be undergone in the struggle for the wisdom of the future.
But remember that people today can prepare themselves to look into the spiritual world by apprehending with their healthy human reason what spiritual science has to offer. The effort applied in study that lets itself be guided by healthy human reason can be part of the struggle which leads eventually to vision of the spiritual world. Many tendencies will have to be overcome, but for people of today the fundamental difficulty is that when they want to understand spiritual science they have to battle against their own granite-like skulls. If the human skull were less hard, less granite-like, spiritual science would be far more widely accepted at the present time. Infinitely more effective than any philistine avoidance of the ahrimanic powers would be to battle against Ahriman through sincere, genuine study of the content of spiritual science. For then human beings would gradually come to perceive spiritually the danger that must otherwise befall the earth physically, of being rigidified into granite-like density.
And so it must be emphasized that the wisdom of the future can be attained only through privations, travail, and pain; it must be attained by enduring the attendant sufferings of body and soul for the sake of the salvation of human evolution. Therefore the unwavering principle should be never to let oneself be deterred by suffering from the pursuit of this wisdom. So far as the external life of humankind is concerned, what is needed is that in the future the danger of the frozen rigidification — which, to begin with, would manifest in the moral sphere — shall be removed from the earth. But this can happen only if people envisage spiritually, feel inwardly and counter with their will, what would otherwise become physical reality.
At bottom, it is simply due to faint heartedness that people today are unwilling to approach spiritual science. They are not conscious of this, but it is so, nevertheless; they are fearful of the difficulties that will have to be encountered on every hand. When people come to spiritual science they so often speak of the need for “upliftment.” By this they usually mean a sense of comfort and inner well-being. But that cannot be offered, for it would simply lull them into stupor and draw them away from the light they need. What is essential is that from now onward, knowledge of the driving forces of evolution must not be withheld from humankind. It must be realized that in very truth the human being is balanced as it were between the luciferic and the ahrimanic powers, and that the Christ has become a companion of human beings, leading them, first away from the battle with Lucifer, and then into the battle with Ahriman.
The evolution of humanity must be understood in the light of these facts. One who presents secrets of cosmic existence in the way that must be done in spiritual science is often laughed to scorn, for example about the use of the principle of the number seven — as you will find in my book Theosophy. But you will notice that people do not laugh when the rainbow is described as sevenfold, or the scale — tonic, second, third, and so on, up to the octave which is a repetition of the tonic. In the physical world these things are accepted, but not when it comes to the spiritual. What must be regained here is something that was implicit in the old pagan wisdom. A last glimmer of this pagan wisdom in regard to a matter like the principle of the number seven is to be found in the Pythagorean school — which was actually a Mystery school. You can read about Pythagoras today in any text book; but you will never find any understanding of the reason why he based the world order on number. The reason was because in the ancient wisdom everything was based on number. And a last glimmer of insight into the wisdom contained in numbers still survived when Pythagoras founded his school. Other branches of the ancient wisdom survived much longer, some indeed until the sixth and seventh centuries of the Christian era. Up to that time many true things about the higher worlds are said in the sphere of what is called natural philosophy. And then, gradually, this primeval intelligence in humankind ran dry — if I may use this expression.
Let us picture some orthodox representative of modern learning sitting in a corner and saying: “What nonsense these anthroposophists talk! What do they mean by asserting that the primeval wisdom has run dry? Wonderful, epoch-making results have been achieved, above all during the last few centuries, and are still being achieved. There may have been a temporary halt in 1914, but at any rate up to then marvels were accomplished!” But if you look candidly and without bias at what has been achieved most recently, you will arrive at the following conclusion. Admittedly, masses of notes have been collected — masses of scientific and historical data. This kind of collecting has become the fashion. Countless experiments have been made and described. But now ask yourselves: Are there any fundamentally new ideas in all that this modern age has produced? New ideas, new conceptions were given by individual spirits like Goethe but Goethe has not been understood. If you study recent findings of natural science or historical research, it will be clear to you that, with respect to ideas, there is nothing new. Certainly, Darwin made journeys, described many things he saw on these journeys and gathered it all into an idea. But if you grasp the idea of evolution in its details, as idea, you will find it in the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras. So too you will find the fundamental principles of modern natural science in Aristotle-that is to say in the pre-Christian era. These ideas are treasures of the primeval wisdom — springing from a luciferic source. But the primeval wisdom has run dry, and something new in the form of insight into the spiritual world must be attained. A certain willingness on the part of humanity is necessary to undertake the labor entailed by really new ideas. And humankind today is sorely in need of new ideas, especially concerning the realm and the life of the soul. Fundamentally, all that science tells us in regard to the soul amounts to nothing more than a collection of words. What is taught in the lecture halls about thinking, feeling, and willing is simply a matter of words thrown out spasmodically. It amounts to little more than the sounds of the words. There is hardly the beginning of an attempt to take seriously anything that is really new.
In this connection one may have curious experiences! Some time ago I was invited to speak to a “Schopenhauer Society” in Dresden. I thought to myself: Yes — a Schopenhauer society — that must surely be something out of the ordinary! So I tried to show how the contrast between sleeping and waking, between waking up and going to sleep is to be understood in the psychological sense, how the soul is involved. I spoke of something I have recently mentioned to you, namely, that a zero-point is there at the moments of falling asleep and waking up, that sleep is not merely a cessation of the waking state, but bears the same relation to the waking state as debts bear to assets.
If you were to search through modern psychology you would not find the slightest trace of any attempt to get to the root of these far-reaching matters. After the lecture, in a “discussion” as it was called, certain learned members of the audience got up to speak. One of these philosophers made a really splendid statement, to the following effect. He said: “What we have been hearing could not possibly be a concern of serious science. Serious science has other, very different matters with which to occupy itself. We can know nothing of what has just been put before us so plausibly; none of it is a concern of human cognition. Moreover we have known it all for a long time.” In other words, therefore: what we cannot know is something with which we have long been familiar!
Now contradictions do exist, but contradictions of this kind exist only in the heads of present-day scholars! If someone says that certain things cannot be known, that they are not objects of human cognition — well and good, that is his opinion. But if he says in the same breath that he has known all about them for a long time, then there is an obvious contradiction. Erudite scholars of today often have a habit of placing two diametrically opposite opinions side by side in this way.
This kind of thinking has a great deal to do with the present situation. An individual — thanks to the Divine Powers and also, be it remembered, to Lucifer and Ahriman — is often able to form a fairly sound judgment of these things; but when it comes to presenting them to the world — that is a different matter altogether. Many people are willing to embark upon the study of spiritual science provided they find a society of rather sectarian tendencies in which they can take refuge. But when they have to face the world and present something of which the world itself possesses evidence, everything is apt to go up in smoke and they become veritable philistines. And then Ahriman's progress is greatly furthered.