The lecture presented here is the 12th of 12 lectures in the series entitled: The Sun Mystery ... Death, Resurrection. This lecture is also known as: Anthroposophy, a Striving for Spiritual Understanding of Nature Permeated by Christ.
11 June 1922, Vienna
Mankind unfolded its intellectual life in the course of many centuries. This intellectual life gradually led it away from spirituality. The intellect itself is spirit, but its content is no longer a spiritual content. Indeed, the intellect is spiritual, but it seeks as its content external Nature, the external life of Nature. Hence the intellect is spirit, but it fills itself with something which cannot appear to it as spiritual. The great tragedy, the modern tragedy of the world, is that man may look into himself and that he must say to himself: When I am intellectually active, I am spiritually active, but at the same time my intellect, which is pure spirit, cannot absorb in a direct way the spiritual. I fill the spirit in me only with things pertaining to Nature.
This is what devastates and rends the human soul to-day. Even though we do not wish to admit this torn and devastated condition, it nevertheless exists in the spiritual regions of the human soul and constitutes the fundamental evil and the fundamental tragedy of our age.
If we wish to express in habitual terms what I have explained to you just now, we must draw attention to all the spiritual powers that are still active in the whole life of Nature; they enter into us because we fill our own spirit with the life of Nature, and we may designate these powers as the Ahrimanic powers.
Our intellect is thus exposed to the great danger of falling a prey to the Ahrimanic powers. During the past centuries, when the intellect was still unfolding and still possessed the inheritance of an old spiritual life, these Ahrimanic powers did not have that great influence on man which they have now. The life of Nature is apparently spread out round about us; but this is only apparent: for Ahriman lives in Nature. And by absorbing Nature, by believing that it is only controlled by neutral laws of Nature, we really absorb spiritual powers, even though we are not aware of this; we absorb Ahrimanic spiritual powers, who took over a special task in cosmic life, in the whole evolution of the world.
When we speak of the task of these spiritual powers, some people are easily inclined to say: But why does the divine guidance of the world admit these powers? — To this we must reply: All that exists in the earthly sphere may be grasped with the ordinary understanding; but when it is a question of grasping in a spiritual-scientific way that which transcends the earth, we must do this through spiritual vision (Anschauung).
Consequently we must say: These powers exist, — but the way in which they are connected with the divine-spiritual powers pertaining to man, can only be grasped in the course of long epochs; indeed, the powers belonging to the super-human sphere are perhaps quite inaccessible to the human understanding. We can therefore only say: These powers exist, they show themselves to those who have spiritual knowledge.
The tasks of the Ahrimanic beings is the following: To prevent the earth from continuing to develop as it should develop in accordance with the intentions of the divine-spiritual powers with whom man is connected from the very outset, inasmuch as he is a human soul. (You will find all these things mentioned in my “Occult Science”). In my “Occult Science” I have spoken of the future development of the earth, of the Jupiter and Venus phases of evolution: The aim of the Ahrimanic powers is to prevent this course of development.
Their aim is to harden and freeze up the earth, to shape it in such a way that, together with the earth, man remains an earthbound creature. He becomes hardened, as it were, within earthly substance and continues to live in the future ages of the world as a kind of statue of his past. These powers thus pursue definite aims, which undoubtedly appear as part of their own individual striving.
The earth could not reach its goal if the Ahrimanic powers were to gain the victory, if man were alienated from his beginnings, from the powers who supported him at the beginning of his evolution. Outwardly, the human being would develop in a way entirely in keeping with the earthly sphere, but by suppressing his innate disposition, which must lead him beyond the earth.
The Ahrimanic powers could not touch man while the intellect was still rooted in the spiritual through an old inheritance, as was the case during the past three or four centuries. But this has changed since the beginning of the 20th century. The ancient Indian wisdom knew this, and fixed the end of the 19th century as the end of the “Dark Age,” of Kali-Yuga. Thus it had an intimation of a new age. This new age was to indicate that from the beginning of the 20th century, our deepest concern should no longer be that of clinging to an old spiritual inheritance, but of absorbing the new light, the pure light, in our earthly life.