Nature and Spirit Beings
Their Effects in Our Visible World
XI. Elemental Beings and other Higher Spiritual Beings
14 June 1908, Munich
We have often emphasized that the worldview based on the Science of the Spirit must not remain just something abstract or conceptual, or something that we present as our worldview only in solemn moments of our lives to satisfy our inner spiritual needs. Rather, our worldview must be something that deeply intervenes in our life and being, in our work from morning to night. This will become very clear to us if we focus our attention on what is always around us, namely the relationships and connections that spiritual beings and the spiritual world in general have with us and our lives.
The physiognomy of the external life will only become clear to a human being, after he looked into that which out of the spiritual world brings about this physiognomy of existence. Not until we know a human being’s soul, will we begin to understand him fully by his physiognomy. We will then know how to interpret his gaze and explain his facial expressions. Likewise, the external world in its large and small manifestations will become understandable once we get to know its spiritual foundations. We are already able to make a lot clear to ourselves when we follow life at every turn and observe it with an eye sharpened by the Science of the Spirit.
Recently, an aperçu came to my mind that I would like to use as an introduction simply to get us in the mood for today’s contemplation. I have often drawn your attention to 1 GA 103, Lecture 8, The Gospel of John, 27 May 1908 how strangely in the destiny of the world, in its historical karma, things are interconnected in European culture. I have pointed out to you how in the Nordic mystery world, the mystery world of Druids and of the Trots, a certain tragic streak prevailed during teaching. In the old pre-Christian mystery world, the disciples who were initiated into high spiritual wisdom, high spiritual science, were also always made aware of something. It was pointed out to them that the view of the spiritual world conveyed to them, namely in Northern and North-western Europe, would receive a special illumination through a future event. Prophetically, the later appearance of Christ was alluded to. The whole of European culture becomes understandable to us when we follow the strange threads of how Christianity entwined and interwove itself into the remnants of the ancient Nordic beliefs about the spirit world. And sometimes small external facts really seem to be symptoms even though they are more than symptoms. They are real evidence of what is happening inside. Thus, one following these fine threads unravels for himself the physiognomy of external events.
During one of my last lecture journeys, 2In March and April 1908 with lectures in Lund, Malmoe, Stockholm, Uppsala, Kristiana (Oslo), Göteborg and Copenhagen. No transcripts are available of these lectures. it stood quite vividly before my soul, how in the areas of the North, in Sweden and Norway, the after-effects of the ancient Nordic spirit world can still be perceived in detail. It seems one can perceive how these effects are playing into a spiritual view of all that we encountered. And then one feels something very special, when right in the middle of these echoes of the ancient world of the Nordic gods, something manifests itself that points to strange karmic historical connections. Right in the midst of the echoes of this ancient Nordic spirit world, an impressive picture presents itself.
On reaching Uppsala, one is, so to speak, right in the middle of the things that further remind one of the ancient Nordic mystery world. Right there you come across the first Germanic translation of the bible of Ulfilas, 3Ulfilas, 331-383, Gothic bishop, translated the bible into Gothic. The translation is partly preserved in the Argent Codex in Uppsala, the largest fragment, and in further parts in Wolfenbüttel, Milano, Rome and Torino, in total 117 of the original 333 sheets. The scripture is the oldest known Germanic book, written on purple coloured vellum in gold and silver lettering. It was discovered in the 16th Century in the Abbey Werden/Ruhr. From there it got to Prague and became the property of Emperor Rudolf II. In 1648 it was carried off to Sweden, then to the Netherlands, where it was purchased by the Swedish Chancellor Graf de la Gardie and gifted to the University of Uppsala that wonderful document about the penetration of Christianity into the European world. Even if we do not go into specific karmic connections, we will feel something of karmic relations when we remember that this document was first in Prague, then was captured during the Swedish war and brought to this place by strange circumstances. It seems to us as if this first translation of the Bible into Germanic is a living monument to the penetration of Christianity into the ancient Nordic spirit world.
When one truly perceives the things that one encounters also as an outer expression of inner spiritual facts then all becomes explainable from the inner perspective and everything comes to life. Thus, today we want to place before our soul and examine some of the many things that show us external events and external facts as a consequence, a physiognomic expression, of inner spiritual natures and occurrences of such spiritual beings and events.
When we survey the life of man, it becomes obvious right away that in today’s world, where materialistic thinking is prevalent, only connections that are well visible from the outside are studied and noted. One will call something harmful when the harm it causes is clearly visible to the eyes. Something is called useful when its utility is obvious.
It will become especially clear to us that spiritual facts play out in between the sensual events of life, so to speak, in between our sensual bodies that are connected with human life, if we first consider certain deeds of beings who exert influence on our world. Of course, these beings cannot be naturally perceived by man’s physical senses but are deeply significant for the entire human life.
We can take a closer look at only one kind of such beings, although there are many. The space that surrounds us is not only filled with air, but with a great variety of spiritual beings. There are those that we call elemental beings. The majority of them can be characterised by something that they do not possess, but rather by what actually makes a human being a human being, namely a feeling of moral responsibility. They cannot have this. They are organised in such a way that they cannot be held responsible in a moral sense. Don’t think that at least some of those beings who go and in out of our bodies, at least a certain kind of them, have no intellect, are not intelligent. Many of them are very smart beings—beings which are hardly inferior to man in terms of cleverness and intellect. Let us first take a look at such beings who are found in the higher worlds, but who have a certain relationship with man himself, which has its effects in life. This is what we want to examine.
We begin with the assumption that a person really lives in two distinct states. Within the duration of twenty-four hours, a typical modern man transitions from the awake state of day to the state of sleep at night. We know from earlier observations that during the day a human being is in a regular way composed of four bodily members—the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the I. During the night, when someone falls asleep, the physical and the etheric body remain lying in bed, whilst the astral body and the I lift themselves out. We have also learnt, that these four members of the human body find their expression in the physical body. We know that the I finds expression in the blood. The blood in its movements is nothing but the material revelation of the I. Likewise, the nervous system is the material revelation of the astral body, and the glands are those of the etheric body. The physical body has its own revelation, so to speak. If you keep that in mind, then you can understand that this human nervous system in the physical body is designed just so that it can only exist when it is permeated by the astral body. This is so because the astral body is its creator and maintainer. It is organising the nervous system that is dependent on it. The nervous system can only live under the influence of the astral body. Similarly, closely connected are the blood and the I. Just imagine what happens when you, disdainfully, leave your physical body each night. You leave the nervous system behind in the physical body but take with you the astral body, that is its nurturer. You leave behind to its own devices, what the astral body should take care of. Likewise, your I steps out and leaves the blood to its own devices. That is what the human being does each night. He leaves his physical body, or rather the nervous- and blood-systems, to their own devices. However, these could not survive, if they had to depend solely on themselves. Because of the way they are, they must in the human form be permeated by an astral body, just as the blood must be permeated by something that is equivalent to the I.
What you do not do yourself, namely, to supply your nervous system, other beings have to do. Therefore, you will see that in the same moment in which the astral body and the I are pulling themselves out of the physical and etheric bodies, higher beings from higher realms are moving in. They sink their astrality into the nervous system and supply the nerves and the blood. Those that descend from the higher realms each night take possession of the physical body when the human being disdainfully leaves it behind. So, we can say that astral substantialities that create the physical and etheric bodies, who are participants in their creation, take care of these bodies again when the human being leaves them. Hereby they find the bodies different from the way they were originally delivered to the human beings. Man lived in it with his astral body and his I and has worked in it. Now the spiritual beings from higher cosmic regions find effects in it that do not correspond to their higher spirituality at all. Effects that are the aftermath of what the human being did during the day in his physical body, instigated by his astrality and his I.
Of course, the materialistic approach knows only roughly the basics. But when we consider the mysterious facts of the spiritual world, we will find that there exist also quite different effects that influence the physical body. One cannot have a single thought, feeling, or emotion without it affecting the physical body.
Although an anatomist cannot prove this, every feeling and every emotional state causes a certain change in the structure of the physical body, and this is what is then discovered by those beings who descend into the human being.
Of special relevance are the effects on the physical body caused by all those things a human being has within his soul of lies, slander, and hypocrisy. The materialistic view is that lies, slander, and hypocrisy are only as harmful as can be observed from the outside. But this is not correct. In reality, very delicate effects are exerted on the physical body, however, these effects cannot even be perceived microscopically. Later, when the soul leaves the body during sleep, the effects remain in the physical body and are found by the higher beings. These consider not only those soul experiences that are, in the gross sense, called lies, slander, and hypocrisy, but also, for example, the subtle, conventional lies that are required by today’s social order. Lies spoken out of politeness or custom, and the whole gamut that can be listed starting with insincerity, hypocrisy, and petty slander even if only in thought, all this expresses itself in effects on the physical body and is found by those descending beings. And as all of this is at night within the physical body something special is brought about.
Through this, pieces are always torn off from the substance of those beings that are descending into the body. Through this, certain pieces of the higher beings must excise themselves. The consequence of lies, hypocrisy, and slander during the day is the excision of certain beings during the night, that are through this somehow related to the physical human body. These beings thus acquire an independent existence in the spiritual world that surrounds us; they are beings that we class as phantoms. Phantoms are spiritual entities that look like physiognomic expressions, in a certain way they are replicas of human limbs and form. They are of such subtle materiality that the physical eye cannot see them, yet they have, so to say, a physical form. The clairvoyant sees parts of human heads, human hands, whole figures flying through the air. Yes, he sees the entrails of human bodies buzzing around, the stomach, the heart, all the phantoms that were set free by excision because of what humans have done to their physical bodies, as the result of lies, hypocrisy, and slander.
Such phantoms that consistently buzz through our spiritual space are proof to you that human life itself is the cause of beings that now, in a not at all particularly advantageous way, influence human beings. Although in some ways they possess certain intelligent characteristics, they do not have any moral accountability. They eke out their existence by placing obstacles in the way of man, obstacles that are much bigger than those we call bacteria. Something else is also happening. Important pathogenic agents can be found in such beings because phantoms, who have been created through people, will find in bacilli and bacteria a very good opportunity in support of their existence—a source of food. They would more or less dry up in their spiritual existence, if this nourishment wasn’t there. But in a sense, these bacteria are in turn created by them. Because the phantoms exist in the physical world, they can be serving a purpose. Through mysterious causes, that which is in some way needed is also available.
Thus, through lies, slander, and hypocrisy man creates an army of spiritual entities of the category of phantoms.
Something similar happens to the etheric body that man leaves behind at night. This has also been organised for life so that it can only exist as a human etheric body when it is permeated by higher beings. When its own astrality is outside, the higher beings dive into the etheric body also. This has to be remembered! Then it becomes comprehensible that effects in the etheric body, caused by certain processes of our soul-life, remain during the night and bring about the excision of beings, according to the etheric body pattern, from what sinks into the etheric body. The soul processes that lead to such entities, are processes caused in human society through what we call “bad laws” or “wrong rules.” Much of the lawful effect of injustice that a man’s soul experiences in dealing with others, impacts the soul in such a way that the after-effects remain in the etheric body at night and lead to the excision of beings that we call ghosts. This is the second kind of beings that man creates.
Then we have to consider that this issue also exists vice versa.
What stepped out of the body at night, the astral body, is organised in such a way that it depends on being present within the nervous system. When it is not within it, then it is not in its proper place. Then he astral body also must be supported from the higher worlds. Higher protective spirits must unite with it. From these higher spirits as well, something can be excised through human soul activity and peculiar soul processes. This occurs through the effect on human nature of what we could call “giving incorrect advice.” For example, this effect happens when someone forces wrong advice on another, or forms insufficiently justified prejudices, or persuades someone and treats his soul in such a way that does not allow him to agree freely, by pushing him, so to say, forcibly to a conviction that one is fanatically devoted to oneself.
When such influences are exerted from one person to another, an effect remains in the astral body during the night, which leads to the higher beings excising certain entities that belong to the category of demons. t. These will be created, in the way described above, because the people do not meet with an attitude that could be expressed as follows, “I want to tell the other person what I think. If he agrees, that is his business!”
Hundreds of demons are created at the gaming table at gatherings, in Germany called Herrenabende (Gentlemen’s evenings), and at afternoon tea, where really rarely an attitude can be found that is based on inner tolerance. Instead, an attitude prevails where an individual thinks, “If you do not want to share my opinion, then you are stupid.” This type of communication from soul to soul is demon-generating to the highest degree.
Thus spiritual beings really spring from human life. They animate the spiritual world, and all these beings, phantoms, ghosts, and demons in turn affect man. If in our surroundings one or another prejudice spreads epidemically or this or that silly fashion spreads, then this is the work of the demons that were created by human beings and are now obstructing the straight line of progress. Man is always encircled and swarmed by the beings he has created.
Thus, we see how man impedes his own progress due to his ability to create in the spiritual world. We must become conscious of the fact that everything we think, feel, or perceive emotionally has a more significant effect in the wider context than what would happen if we shot a bullet. The latter might be bad, but it is only assumed to be more dangerous than the former because man can see it with his gross senses, while he does not observe the other effects.
This is a part of the spiritual life that the human being unfolds himself, as it were. Another part, how someone participates in the interactions with the spiritual world, might become clear to us from certain human cultural activities that, however, are also not merely as they appear to the external senses. To understand this, you have to keep in mind that there are still other beings besides humans.
We can say that the human being presents himself like this. He has a physical body as the lowest member of his being. There are beings who really exist, who in their present stage of development do not possess such gross physical bodies, but for whom the lowest member of their being is an etheric body. Man can draw such beings to his sphere on the basis of his activity, more than would happen if he wasn’t active. Indeed, part of the development of culture consists of attempting to establish contact with these beings, whose lowest member is an etheric body. Such contact is facilitated by man creating, in a particular way, physical corporealities that can be used by those beings to literally latch on to them, to extend themselves through them. In this way, connecting bridges to those beings are built. Imagine that the flower basket on this lectern was a corporeality shaped just like certain forms of the etheric body of those just mentioned higher beings. They would then have a tendency to settle there, play around the flower basket, and connect themselves with it.
We would see how this basket is an incentive for spiritual beings to lower themselves down into it, hug it lovingly, and feel good about being able to descend in this way into the community of human beings. We only need to create suitable forms and then we are able to create bridges between ourselves and these beings. People have always done this at certain times in this or in another way. In the Greek cultural period, human beings actually had to a high degree the ability to establish communication with those spiritual entities they called their gods. These Greek gods are not a fiction of folk fantasy, but these Greek gods are true beings, they exist and have to be regarded as such beings—this Zeus, this Pallas Athene, and so on, whose lowest bodily member is the etheric body.
And how did the Greeks draw the gods into their sphere? The Greeks achieved this by acquiring to a high degree what could be called an architectonic spatial awareness. A person who studies space from the perspective of Spiritual Science knows that space is not the abstract emptiness our modern mathematicians, our physicists, and mechanics dream about, but something very distinct. Space is something that has in itself lines to here and there, lines in all directions. There are strength lines from top to bottom, right to left, front to back, straight and round, and in all directions. There are pressure and pull effects of a spiritual nature in a room. In short, one can feel the space and can permeate it instinctively. I have often used the example that someone who has spatial awareness knows why certain old masters could paint three angels floating in space so wonderfully lifelike; he perceived that these three angels, like three globes, support each other in space by their gravitational pull.
If this is told to an untrained man, he will conclude that they would have to fall down. He cannot comprehend that they are supporting and holding each other up. Such mutually supportive dynamic measurements are those of which the ancient people became aware of, who still had a living feeling of the ancient clairvoyance that was present. For example, it is completely different when looking in this context,at a picture by Boecklin. 4Arnold Böcklin, Swiss painter, 1827-1901. Until 1945 his painting Pietà was in the National Museum of Berlin and has since gone missing. In contrast to his usual excellence, against which there is nothing to be said, you will find there, if you have retained the living sense of space, this strange figure of an angel of which you have the feeling that it must fall down at any moment.
In more recent times, the living sense of space has been lost.
The Greeks possessed this sense of space as an architectonical thought associated with the art of building. A Greek temple is a crystallised spatial thought in the truest sense of the word. The column that carries what is horizontally or obliquely lying on it is not something invented but something that, for someone who possesses a spatial feeling, already lies within the room and must not be any different at all. The whole temple is born from the concrete space. This is what someone who can see the lines of the room perceives. He doesn’t need to do anything more than to fit the stone material where he sees the lines, and simply fill with physical material what is already perfectly outlined. In a Greek temple, the spirituality of the room is completely transformed into a visible form. By creating the crystallised spatial thought in this way, forms were made so that spiritual beings whose etheric body is their lowest member could descend into the closed room thus created and find in its forms an opportunity to dwell there.
Therefore, it is not a mere fantasy but the full truth, the real truth, that the Greek temple was the home of the god. Yes, the god dwelled in it. Through the forms of the room, he dwelled in it. It is the peculiarity of the Greek temple that the invisible god descends and takes possession of the forms. You can imagine a Greek temple without people. Far and wide, no people can be seen. Completely abandoned by people could this site be and yet the temple would not be deserted! The god dwells in it! This is what is characteristic about the Greek temple, but it does not apply to the Gothic dome. It is something completely different, if you imagine a Gothic dome without people and that the dome was empty. Then it is not a whole. The Greek temple is complete without people. The Gothic dome is only complete when it holds the community within and when to the pointed arch the folded hands are added, when thoughts and feelings are uniting with the architectonic forms. If you imagine these away, then the Gothic dome is incomplete. This is how it is different from a Greek temple. It is a different architectonic thought, born out of the spiritual space in a magnificent way, but without people it is incomplete. And then again, when it is spiritually populated, when it is filled with the faithful community, then spiritual beings of the kind described are able to descend into it. Thus, each architectonic thought is quite concretely designed for something specific.
Also, the Egyptian pyramid is constructed in such a way that the soul that leaves the body can take the path that is mapped out within the inner passages of the pyramid. The passage of the soul out of the body into the spiritual world is expressed there. The thought expressed in a Romanesque building is one of a grave. A Romanesque church without a crypt, if it cannot be imagined as a vault that curves above corpses, is incomplete. This is part of it. Through this the church is born out of the thought of the resurrected Saviour. It is the worshipful building for the grave of Jesus Christ.
So you can see that the human being builds a bridge from the physical to the spiritual world through the forms he creates. It may be hardly comforting to learn that humans create an army of spiritual beings that impede their development. But to learn that they are also able to pave a way for themselves that leads upwards to higher spiritual beings, by placing such architectonic forms into the world, might be somewhat consolatory.
This is no less the case with other works of the fine arts. It is the same with works of sculpture or painting. Through their forms they offer an opportunity to those beings who are able to adapt their etheric shapes to what is being fashioned and wrap these forms around themselves. They tend to lean more on the outside of the works of sculptors. They surround these sculptural artworks, while architectural works are more filled in. With paintings we reach another kind of beings, beings whose lowest bodily member consists of very fine etheric material. Someone who understands this knows that the astral-etheric beings feel at home where a painter with his colour harmony, gives them, in his line-forms, an opportunity to enter from the spiritual world into ours.
Then there are spiritual beings whose astral body is their lowest bodily member and who consist of even subtler substances.
These beings find in music an opportunity to share the company of people who express themselves in the arts of moving forms. A room filled with the sounds of music is an opportunity for those spiritual beings who have an astral body as their lowest member to descend. Thus, the filling of a room with musical sounds is definitely something by which man can establish interactions between himself and other spiritual beings. Just as the human being attracts through high, remarkable music, so to speak, good beings into his circle, it is also true that repulsive music attracts bad astral beings into man’s sphere of influence. You would not be very edified if I were to describe to you the horrible astral beings that dance around when the orchestra plays at some modern musical performances. These things need to be taken seriously.
We have now seen how our visible world and an invisible world of spiritual beings behind it are interacting.
In addition, the spiritual worlds express themselves in many other species of living entities. For example, where the different realms of nature touch each other, we find there is an inducement for spiritual beings to appear. We can point to elemental beings, which make life even more understandable to us.
An inducement for the manifestation of certain beings is given where metal lies and overlaps next to the ordinary realm of the Earth. Wherever this realm of the Earth is penetrated by metal veins, there can be found very smart elemental beings who use their cleverness to play pranks on humans. Sometimes, however, they are acting in a beneficial way. We call them gnomes. Beings of the gnome species can be found in the interior of the Earth. They huddle in certain places provided the ground is firm. There might be hundreds of them together. But if a vein is exposed, they scatter apart. Then everything lives and teems with those figures who before were crouching together.
As said, this is the case where earth touches metal. At a spring—where the plant kingdom touches the mineral realm, where something mossy entwines the stones fraternally, where things come together in a peculiar way that normally do not belong together—there you find beings that we call undines and nymphs who also are real beings.
And finally, we find elemental beings where the spiritual and the physical interact. When the animal kingdom and the plant realm meet in such a way that initially the beings are distant from each other and later touch, for example when a bee sucks at a flower, an unfolding of taste is happening in the space where the bee and flower are together. A taste effect exists when the bee absorbs the juice of a flower. This effect is perceptible to a spiritual researcher in that he sees something like an aura manifesting around the crown of the flower which is the expression of the savouring process. All of this is an inducement for the beings we call sylphs to manifest. They have a special task in the life of bees, as they do not only appear when a bee sucks on a flower, but also the sylphs show the way when bees are swarming. They are the leaders of the bees.
The following illustrates how the Science of the Spirit will one day become useful. The beekeepers’ wisdom emerged from clairvoyance. What is done in beekeeping, 5Compare; Rudolf Steiner, GA 351, Cosmic Workings in Earth and Man, On Beekeeping such as instinctive grips of the hand, has been inherited from ancient times. In the old days, there would still have existed a dim clairvoyance that allowed the beekeepers to use the astuteness of the sylphs for the organisation of the bees’ lives. Modern beekeeping doesn’t know anything about this anymore. That’s why it does many things wrong with its innovations. Modern science lacks the necessary insights. Human beings will be able to shape the nature processes in which they themselves participate much more productively when they are conscious of and knowledgeable about the workings of spiritual beings. One who looks at life in this area will see that, in relation to beekeeping science, what is good stems from the old times, while modern natural scientists partly produce ghastly stuff that is not applicable at all and leads people astray. Most beekeepers are led by sure instincts and luckily do not follow modern science. For example, even what exists as a theory about the fertilisation process, which plays an important role, is wrong and cannot persist in the face of the insights that penetrate reality.
Another inducement for the emergence of such species of elemental beings is created by man, for example, by living together with the animal kingdom like an Arab with his horse or like a shepherd with his herd of sheep, and not like someone in a sports club.
The soul effect between a shepherd and his flock is similar to the interactions between bee and flower, and therefore the feelings between the shepherd and the flock are an inducement for quite special beings, namely salamanders, to emerge. They are beings of a fine substantiality. They are very smart and very wise, even if they do not possess moral accountability. Their wisdom finds expression in what they whisper to one another of the shepherd’s wisdom. It is not stupidity that is attributed to the shepherds. They are not impostors. But it contains much of what is whispered to the shepherds by those who have come into being as a result of the shepherds living together with their flocks.
For those who want to study this, the opportunity will not be available for much longer as such things are dying out. But until recently such studies could still be done quite properly, if one found selfless people 6Refer to GA 28 The Story of my Life, Chapter 3, about becoming acquainted with a simple man from among the people. in the countryside who still knew a lot about the principles of health and healing. They knew very important things. Paracelsus 7The quotation reads; “At the higher schools the Medicus does not learn and gain knowledge of all that he should be able to do and know, but from time to time he has to go to school to old women, gypsies, black artists, country travellers, old farmers and the like more unremarkable people and learn from them.” in “Philos, occulta II” after R Julius Hartmann “Theophrast von Hohenheim”, Stuttgart and Berlin 1904, page 30. was able to say that he had learnt more by keeping company with such people than he had learnt at all universities. This was not without a reason. Thus, we can see that there is still such an area in our surroundings where spiritual beings exist who enter into our sphere in a peculiar way. One must not ask where these beings come from. The world has in its shoals all sorts of spiritual beings. It is only a matter of an opportunity to bring them somehow to the right place. Although the following comparison is not beautiful, it is correct: In a clean room there are no flies. But if the house is badly managed, if all sorts of leftovers are lying around, flies will soon appear. It is the same in the invisible world that surrounds us—as long as a human being does not create the opportunity, spiritual beings are not there at all. But if we provide an opportunity, they will always be there. Then they step into our sphere. Then they begin to interact with us.
This is something that shows us how the outlook of a person can broaden beyond the physiognomy of the outer world.
The spiritual beings work into our world in the same way as the soul creates its countenance. A period of time will come for human beings when people by necessity will depend on their knowledge of the spiritual world to shape their lives. Nowadays, man can only tackle the world roughly through his senses. But we will see how we will again advance to a time where the human being will act out of the spirit. We will advance to a time where our whole environment is seen as an expression of the spirit, even if this era will at first not be like those ancient eras of the Gothic domes or the Greek temples.
However, in our time of technology and
utility it already is possible for more to happen than does happen
today. Human beings have lost the ability to feel, perceive, and
experience spirits, and thus have also lost the yearning to express
spiritual forms externally. But if people again felt the spiritual,
then this could be expressed anew even in our utility buildings. Hereby
it steps in front of my soul what I have once experienced as a young
man. The builder of the Vienna Votive Church, Prof Ferstel, 8Heinrich von Ferstel, 1828-1883,
Professor for Building Art in Vienna. The quoted sentence
“Building styles are not being invented” is part of the
following speech excerpt;
“The greatest error of our century lay in the belief that it was possible, through personal willpower, intense effort of individuals, or even through administrative regulations, to reshape or establish the artistic expression of a people, that can only be the result of all external circumstances and influences. Architecture fell under the spell of an oppressive load of aberrations through which the conviction finally came to the fore that building styles cannot be invented at all...., thus likewise art can be developed only following the natural processes of all becoming and emerging. ... Architects are only the priests of that heavenly daughter, who embeds her ideas in stone with immortal script.” (Quoted from, “Speeches held at the occasion of the solemn inauguration of the elected Rector for the study year 1880/81, of the k.k. Technical University in Vienna, Heinrich Freiherr von Ferstel, o. oe. Professor of Building Art, on 9 October 1880.” Vienna, o.J. Speech of the newly starting Rector Heinrich, Freiherr v. Ferstel, page 39 f.) gave an inaugural address about building styles and said, “Building styles are not invented. Building styles are born out of the whole culture of the times.” This can be proven by studying the building style of the Egyptian pyramids in the context of the whole spiritual life of that former time. In our time, the only thought that is expressed is the materialistic utility thought. Our time cannot have a building style similar to the Gothic or Greek one. This is something that Anthroposophists should pay attention to.
Out of the spiritual life of the Anthroposophical movement, 9In the postscript it says; “...out of the spiritual life of the Theosophical Society.” In the first publication of the lecture, in the News Bulletin No. 30-35/1936, this was changed to read “Anthroposophical Society”. This wording was likewise used for the first book edition. As in the year 1908 an Anthroposophical Society did not yet exist, the editors of the current (1996) edition have changed the respective wording to read “Anthroposophical movement”. a cultural ocean must be created out of which forms will crystallise again into a new building style. 10On 20 September 1913, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) laid the foundation stone for the building of the Goetheanum in Dornach/Solothurn. The Goetheanum was then erected as an artistic wooden building based on Steiner’s new, spiritually appropriate forms. In the New Year’s night 1922/23 the Goetheanum fell victim to the flames due to arson. By now a new building in concrete, and in forms that correspond to this material, has been erected as a second Goetheanum on the same spot, based on a sculptured model by Rudolf Steiner. Refer “Ways to a new building style”, GA 286. An expression of humanity is only possible where a common spiritual culture exists. The one really new style of our time is the building style of the warehouse. It is possible that people who later look back at an earlier time will characterise eras by their building styles. The medieval time can be characterised solely on the basis of the Gothic domes. One could leave all other documents out of consideration but would still be able to extrapolate the nature of the mid-Middle Ages just from the Gothic domes. Likewise, this is so with the time between the 19th and 20th century. This can now later be sketched from the style of the warehouse. The warehouse corresponds completely to the materialistic utility thought. This thought shows itself in the warehouse exactly in the same way as the spirit that lived in Tauler 11Johann Tauler, around 1300-1361, Dominican and German mystic. or Eckhart 12 Meister Eckhart, around 1260-1327, Dominican and German mystic. found expression in the Gothic dome.
Even in our time, it is possible to work stylistically in a different way. Our cultural resources are such capable formative forces, that they could have a much greater educational effect on the soul life of man than they do today. For example, today we have the era of the railways, but there is not yet a building style for railway stations. This is because man does not feel what happens when the train arrives and departs. He does not feel that what happens when the train tracks can be expressed externally. The arriving and departing locomotives which must drive into the buildings can find their expression in their hollow forms.
Hopefully, once mankind masters air travel, it will be ready to connect the thought of the departure with the departure place, so that one feels that only an airplane can take off from a place shaped that way. In everything, the spiritual life can find expression in form. Only when we feel that we are surrounded everywhere by expressions of the soul, like it used to be in the Middle Ages, then the right thing is achieved. This can only happen when culture permeates human life that proceeds from the perspective of the Science of the Spirit. Spiritual Science is not impractical. It is precisely something that must permeate the culture of the world and capture it. It does not consist of abstract thoughts, but it must flow into all cultural streams according to the intention of those who have brought it to life. It must reveal itself in everything. We should permeate everything with the thoughts that the Science of the Spirit offers us.
There is one other thought that we should place in front of our soul, namely the thought that can give us a certain awareness of how the impulses of Spiritual Science must work to become what they are destined to be.
It is good, especially when we are concluding a winter season and depart from each other, that we take along such refreshment of feelings and mind, and let some of this stream into our hearts and carry this out into the world and always feel like members of the global stream of Spiritual Science. It may be that today still many outside cannot know anything about the Science of the Spirit. Just look at our small meetings, and then look at everything that is done outside—nothing is known; nothing is felt of the essence of Spiritual Science.
When something like this is placed in front of our souls, then only one other picture may emerge, a picture to strengthen soul and heart. It is the picture that appears when we look at the very earliest Christian times and see what was setting the tone then, what existed as culture in the time of the old imperial Rome.
Let us visualise what life was like in that ancient imperial Rome. Picture how the ruling circles set up floor after floor for themselves, while at the same time a small heap of people were banished to live down below in the vaulted cellars. How barrels with incense had to be placed so that the stench which oozed from the corpses, from the decaying corpses of those pursued and killed from the ranks of this small heap, would not be noticed so much. Let us follow how the wild beasts jumped out of the kennels and tore apart those who were thrown to them from the rank of this small heap. Let us descend from the palaces of the rulers of imperial Rome into the passages where the first Christians lived, to where just this small heap dwelled. Where they erected their first altars over the bones of their dead ones. Where invisible to the leading imperial Rome, they unfolded their culture. They did this invisibly like the today’s followers of a new spiritual realisation who meet invisibly, spiritually invisible to the official leading culture! Let us follow those down below, who were not even allowed to show themselves to the light of day. How thousands of them were buried there. Hidden were those who were implanting underneath the surface of the Earth a new spiritual culture into humanity. While up above, imperial Rome acted as is well known. Then let us look at the situation a few centuries later. What the then ruling imperial Rome has brought forth has been blown away, has been swept away. And what remained is that which had to eke out its existence in the lower vaults, hidden from the eyes of the rulers. That is what has remained.
This is how cultures originate in the darkness of concealment. Thus, they form and then step out of the darkness. We can take this consciousness into our feeling, that the movement of the Science of the Spirit is really called to be something similar to the first Christian movement. May it lead an underground existence at first, and may those in the worlds above ground have quite different thoughts. No matter how much they still think of themselves as the authorities, in a few centuries things will be different.
Then the Anthroposophist will have the feeling that he will carry upwards into the light that which today works underground; that he will carry the Spiritual Science thinking like the first Christians carried their culture out of the catacombs. Such a consciousness gives us the power and the possibility to absorb spiritual knowledge into our soul life. We want to depart in such a mood, to once again come together in such feelings. We do not want to deal with abstractions, but with something that can become the “nerve” of our life. Thus, we want to pour into our souls what we hear from the higher worlds. We want to arm ourselves with strength and remember a little that the Spiritual Science thinking must have grown so close to our hearts that, even if we are separated for a while, we are together in spirit. And this feeling shall lead us together again.