Necessity and Freedom
27 January 1916, Berlin
The day before yesterday I endeavored to show you the universal mystery of necessity and freedom in its two equally significant aspects: world processes and human action. I began by drawing your attention to the full significance and difficulty of this mystery that is both cosmic and human, and today we will continue along the same lines. I used a hypothetical example demonstrating this difficulty in regard to world events. I said, “Suppose a party of people had set out to drive through a ravine where there is an overhanging rock, and had arranged to go at a definite time. The chauffeur, however, is negligent and delays the departure by five minutes. Because of this, the party arrives at the spot beneath the rock at the very moment when the rock falls down.” According to external judgment, and I say “external” deliberately, one would have to say that all those people were buried beneath the rock because of the chauffeur's negligence, that is, because of a circumstance that was apparently someone's fault.
Last time I wanted mainly to emphasize that we should not approach a problem of this sort too hastily with our ordinary thinking and believe we can solve it that way. I showed that in the first place we use our thinking only for the physical plane, therefore it has become accustomed to dealing with those requirements only, and gets confused if we go a bit beyond these.
I would like today to go on to show the serious nature of the whole problem. For we shall not be able to approach any kind of solution in the lecture intended for Sunday, unless we also examine all the implications for human knowledge itself, unless we fully examine why we get lost in blind alleys of thinking precisely in life's most difficult problems, why we are, so to speak, lost in the woods and imagining we are making progress when we are really just going round in circles. We do not notice we are going round in circles until we realize we are back at our starting point again. The strange thing is that where our thinking is concerned, we do not notice that we return again and again to the same point. We will have more to say about this.
I have indicated that this important problem has to do with what we call the ahrimanic and luciferic forces in world events and in what approaches the human being in his actions and his whole thinking, feeling, and willing. I mentioned that as late as the fifteenth century people had a feeling that just as positive and negative electricity play a part in natural processes, and no physicist would hesitate to speak about them, so Ahriman and Lucifer could also be seen in events of the world, even if people did not use these names. I showed this by the apparently remote example of the clock in the old town hall of Prague that is so ingeniously constructed that in addition to being a clock it is also a sort of calendar showing the course of the planets and eclipses of the sun and moon. In fact, it is a great work of art created by a very talented man. I told you that there are documents showing that it was a professor of a Prague university who made this work of art, though this point is of no further interest to us, for those are only the processes that took place on the physical plane.
I explained that a simple folk tale grew out of the feeling that in an affair of this sort ahrimanic and luciferic forces play their part. The story tells us that this clock in the Prague town hall was made beautifully by a simple man who received the power to create it entirely through a kind of divine inspiration. The story then goes on to say that the governor wanted to keep this clock all for himself and would not allow anything like it to be made in any other town. So he had the clockmaker blinded and forced him to retire. Not until he felt death approaching was the clockmaker allowed to touch the clock again. And then, with skillful manipulation, he gave the clock such a jolt that it could actually never be put right again.
In this folk tale we feel that on the one hand there was a sensing of the luciferic principle in the governor who wanted to have sole possession of the clock that could only be constructed by a gift of grace from the good, progressive powers, and that as soon as Lucifer appeared, he was joined by Ahriman, for the clock-maker's ruining of the clock was an ahrimanic deed. The moment Lucifer is summoned — and the opposite is also the case — he is countered by Ahriman. It is not only in the composition of this story that we see people's feeling for Ahriman and Lucifer, we also see it in another aspect, namely in the form of the clock itself. We see that the clockmaker, too, wanted to include ahrimanic and luciferic forces in the very construction of the clock, for besides all that I have already told you of its artistic perfection, this clock included something else as well. Apart from the clock face, the planetary dial, and all the other things it had, there were figures on both sides of the clock, Death on one side and two figures on the other. One of these figures was a man holding a money-bag containing money he could jingle, and the other figure represented a man holding a mirror in which he could see himself all the time.
These two figures are exceptionally good examples of the person who gives himself up to external values: the rich miser, the ahrimanic person — and the luciferic person who wants perpetually to have his vanity aroused, the man looking at himself in the mirror. The clockmaker himself confronts ahrimanic and luciferic qualities and on the other side there is Death, the balancer (we shall say more about this later), put there as a reminder that through the constant alternation of life between death and birth and between birth and death human beings rise above the sphere in which Ahriman and Lucifer are active. Thus in the clock itself we see a wonderful presentation of the feeling still existing at that time for the ahrimanic and luciferic element.
We must bring a feeling for this element to life again in a certain way if we want to solve the difficult question we have introduced. Basically the world always confronts us as a duality. Look at nature. Mere nature always bears the stamp of rigid necessity. In fact, we know that it is the scientists' ideal to be able to calculate future occurrences mathematically on the basis of past ones. Ideally, scientists would like to deal with all natural phenomena in the same way as with future sun and moon eclipses, which can be predicted through calculations based on the constellations in the heavens. In relation to natural phenomena people feel they are confronting absolute rigid necessity. Ever since the fifteenth century people have grown accustomed to accepting rigid necessity as the model for their world outlook. This has gradually led to historical phenomena also being perceived as imbued with a similar rigid necessity.
Yet where historical phenomena are concerned we should also consider another aspect. Let us take an example quite apart from our own life situation, for instance, Goethe as a historical phenomenon. 1Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832, German poet, playwright, and novelist. In certain respects we also are inclined to regard the appearance of Goethe and all he produced as being based on a sort of rigid necessity. But someone might bring the argument “Goethe was born on August 28, 1749. If this boy had not been born into this family, what would have happened? Would we have had Goethe's works?” It might be pointed out that Goethe himself refers to the fact that his father and mother brought him up in a special way, each contributing something toward what he later became. Would his works have been created if he had been brought up differently? Again, let us look at Goethe's meeting with Karl August, Duke of Weimar. 2Karl August, Duke of Weimar, 1757–1828, Duke of Saxony and Weimar 1758–1828. If the duke had not called Goethe to him and given him the kind of life we know he had from the 1770s onward, would entirely different works have resulted? Or might not Goethe even have been quite an ordinary cabinet secretary if he had been brought up differently at home, and the poetic urge had not already been so alive in him? What would German literature and art after Goethe's time have been like if all these things had been different?
All these questions can be asked, and they show the very profound significance of this question. But we have not yet fully arrived at an answer which would be other than superficial. We can go deeper still and ask different questions. Let us return to the artist who made the old Prague town hall clock. He put on it the figures of the rich miser with the money-bag, the vain man and, opposite them, Death. Now it is possible to say that the man accomplished something by putting the figures there. But if we express it like that, we are naming a cause of countless possible effects. For just imagine how many people have stood in front of that rich miser, the vain man looking at his reflection, and Death. And how many people have also seen an even smarter thing the clockmaker arranged. Namely, every time the clock was about to strike, Death began to move first, accompanying the striking of the hour with a ringing apparatus, then the other figure moved. Death nodded to the miser and the latter nodded back. All these things were there to be seen, and they were important guides for life. They made a deep impression on the beholder.
We see this from the fact that the folk tale goes on to relate something unusual. Whenever the clock was about to strike, the skeleton, Death, opened its mouth and people saw inside it a sparrow that longed for nothing more than to break free. But just as it was about to do so, the mouth closed, and it was shut in again for an hour. People told an ingenious legend about this opening and shutting of the mouth, showing what a significant thing “time” is — what we so abstractly call “time” and “the marching on of time.” They wanted to give an indication that there are deep secrets hidden here.
Let us imagine that a person might have stood in front of the clock. I want to mention this folk tale as an indication of the thoughts a person might have about it, or rather the imaginations a person might see, for that sparrow was not mere invention. Some of the people who looked at the clock saw the sparrow as an imagination. I just wanted to mention that. Let us look at it rationally for a moment. A person in a state of moral uncertainty might observe the clock and see Death nodding both to the rich man, who has become dependent on his riches, and to the vain man. And the impression this has on him could divert him from the possibility of being misled in his own state of moral wavering.
We can also imagine something else. Taking this aspect into consideration we could say that the man who constructed this work of art through divine inspiration has done a great deal of good. For a lot of people may have looked at this work of art and improved morally in certain respects. It might be said what a favorable karma this man must have had, being able to have a good effect on so many people's souls! And one might begin to wonder just how many people's souls he had helped by means of this imagination. One might begin to think of the artist's karma. One might say that the making of that clock and placing Death and Ahriman and Lucifer upon it was the most wonderful starting point for a favorable karma. One might indulge in such an outlook and say that there are people who trigger off a whole series of good deeds by means of one single deed. So this series of good deeds must be put down in their karma. And one could begin to wonder how each of one's own deeds should be carried out so that a similar series of good deeds can arise.
Here you see the beginning of a train of thought that can go astray. An attempt to think out how to set about doing deeds that produce a series of good deeds would be nonsense when it comes to making it a principle of life, wouldn't it? Someone might suggest that a stream of good deeds does spring from what that man did. But someone else could argue “No, I have followed up the matter of this clock and am convinced that there has not been much in the way of such results.” That person might be a pessimist and say that times are too evil for such good effects. People do not believe it when they see things like that. He has seen something quite different happening in many cases. He has seen people looking at the clock who had a democratic frame of mind and a smoldering hatred of the rich. And when a person like that saw the clock, he noticed that it was only the rich man to whom Death nodded and who nodded back. “I will put that into practice” he said, looked for the first miser he could find and murdered him. Similar deeds of hatred were done by other people. The clock-maker brought all these about through his work of art. That is what will have to be put down in his karma.
And again, taking a shortsighted view, someone could say “Perhaps after all one should not make a perfect work of art, one that has great inner value, because it might have the worst possible effects; it might have countless bad effects on one's karma.”
This draws our attention to an immense temptation for the whole range of human soul capacities and knowledge. For one only needs to look at oneself a little to see that people have the greatest inclination to ask about everything, “What was the result of it?” and to estimate the value of what has been done in accordance with the results. But in the same way as we started to speculate when we tried to think out whether the double numbers in the right column were as many as those in the left column or half as many, which was the example I gave you last time — just as we became mentally confused then, we are bound to become confused in our thinking now if we want to judge our actions by asking, “What result will they have, what effect will they have on my karma?”
Here again the folk tale is wiser, even more scientific, in the sense of spiritual science. For it is a very trivial thing to say, of course, but the folk tale does say that the clockmaker was a simple man. He had no intentions beside the thought that inspired him; he made the clock according to that, and did not speculate on what the results of his deed might be in any direction.
True, it cannot be denied — and this is what is so tempting — that you really may get somewhere if you think along these lines and ask what the results of a deed will be. It is tempting for the very reason that there are such things as actions where you have to ask what the consequences will be. And it would obviously be one-sided to draw the conclusion from what I have said that we should always behave like that clockmaker and not consider the consequences of our actions. For you have to have the consequences in mind if you thrash a boy for having been lazy. There are obviously cases like this where we have to have the consequences in mind. However, here lies the very point we must take to heart and examine closely, namely, that we relate to the world in two ways.
On the one hand, we receive impressions from the physical plane, and on the other hand we receive impressions from the spiritual world, as indicated in the legend, when it tells us that the artist was a simple man inspired by a gift of grace from above. When we are given these impressions by the spiritual world, when our souls are stimulated to do a particular thing, those are the moments in life when we have a second kind of certainty, a second kind of truth — not in an objective but a subjective sense — when we are guided by truth, we have a second kind of certainty, which is direct, and which we cannot but accept as such. This is the root of the matter.
On the one hand we are in the physical world, and in this world it looks as though every event follows naturally from the preceding one. But we are also within the spiritual world. In the last lecture I tried to show that just as we have an etheric body within our physical body, there is also a supersensible element active in the whole stream of events of the physical world. We are also placed within this supersensible activity, and from this proceed those impulses that are absolutely unique and that we have to follow quite regardless of the results, especially those in the physical world. Because human beings are in the world, they acquire a kind of certainty when they examine external things. This is how people observe nature. Observing natural phenomena is the only way to come to any certainty about cause and effect. On the other hand, however, we can receive direct certainty if we want it, by really opening our souls to its influences. Then we have to stop and give our full attention to a phenomenon, and know to evaluate it on the basis of its intrinsic value.
This, of course, is difficult. Yet we are constantly being given a chance, a crucial one, by the very phenomena themselves, particularly historical ones, to appreciate events and processes according to their intrinsic value. This is always necessary. But if we go more closely into questions that would lead us very far if we understood them rightly, we find a sphere where confusion in thinking is very marked. As a rule this confusion cannot be controlled by the individual. Let us take the phenomenon of Goethe's Faust. 3Faust, dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It is an artistic creation, isn't it? There will be very few people in this hall, particularly as we have made a number of studies of Faust, who will not hold the opinion that Goethe's Faust is a great work of art, one that is tantamount to an inspiration of grace.
Through Goethe's Faust, German cultural life in a sense conquered the cultural life of other nations too. Even in Goethe's lifetime Faust had a strong influence on many people. They regarded it as an absolutely unique work of art. However, a certain German was particularly annoyed that Madame de Stael expressed such an extraordinarily favorable opinion of it. 4Madame de Stael (Germaine de Stael), 1766–1817, French writer and intellectual. I would just like to read you this man's opinion, so that you see that about such things that have to be judged individually there can be different opinions from those you may consider at this moment to be the only opinions one can possibly have of Goethe's Faust.
This critical opinion was written down in 1822 by a certain Franz von Spaun. 5Franz von Spaun, 1753–1826, German essayist. The quotation from Faust is from Part I, “Night,” Translated by Sir Theodore Martin. Everyman's Library, (London: Dent, 1971). Here is his criticism of Goethe's Faust, which begins right away with the “Prologue in Heaven:”
[Right from the Prologue] we see that Herr von Goethe is a very bad versifier and that the Prologue itself is a true sample of how one ought not to write verse.
Past ages show nothing that can compare with this Prologue for presumptuous paltriness. ... But I must be brief, for I have undertaken a long and, alas, wearisome piece of work. I have to point out to the reader that this notorious Faust enjoys an usurped and unmerited renown that it owes only to the pernicious esprit de corps of an Associato obscurorum vitorum. ... It is not because I wish to rival this renown that I am compelled to vent the sarcasm of harsh criticism upon Goethe's Faust. I do not travel by his path to Parnassus, and should have been glad if he had enriched our German language with a masterpiece. ... Among the multitudes who applaud, my voice may be extinguished, yet it is enough for me to have done my best; and if I succeed in converting even one reader and recalling him from the worship of this atrocity, I shall not grudge my thankless labor. ... The wretched Faust speaks an incomprehensible gibberish, in the most atrocious rhyme of any fifth grade student. My teacher would have thrashed me soundly if I had made inferior verses such as the following:
Oh, broad bright moon, if this might be
The last of the nights of agony,
The countless midnights of toil and ache,
I've pass'd at this dreary desk awake!
Concerning the baseness of the diction, the paltriness of the verse, I will henceforth be silent; what the reader has seen is sufficient proof that the author, as far as the construction of his verse is concerned, cannot stand comparison with the mediocre poets of the old school. ...
Mephistopheles himself realized even before the contract was signed that Faust was possessed by a devil. We, however, think he belongs in a lunatic asylum rather than in Hell, with all his accessories — hands and feet, head and posterior. Of sublime galimatias, of nonsense in high-faluting words, many poets have given us samples, but Goethe's nonsense or galimatias might be called a popular galimatias, a genre nouveau, for it is presented in the commonest, most atrocious language.
The more I think about this long litany of nonsense, the more probable it seems to me that there must have been a wager to the effect that if a celebrated man permitted himself to patch together the dullest, most boring nonsense, a legion of literary simpletons and deluded readers would find deep wisdom and great beauty in this insipid nonsense and know how to expound upon it. Famous men have this in common with Prince Piribinker and the immortal Dalai Lama that their rubbish is served up as sweetmeats and revered as relics. If this was Herr von Goethe's intention, he has won the wager....
There may well be some intentions behind Faust, yet a good poet does not hurl them at his readers; he should know the art of presenting and illuminating them properly. A richer theme for poetry than this is not easy to find, and people will be cross with him for bungling it so miserably. . ..
This diarrhea of undigested ideas is not caused by an excessive flow of healthy fluids but by a relaxation of the floodgates of the mind, and is an indication of a weak constitution. There are people from whom bad verse flows like water, but this incontinentia urinae poeticae, this diabetes mellitus of lame verses never afflicts a good poet. ... If Goethe's genius has freed itself from all fetters, the flood of his ideas cannot break through the dams of art, for they have already been broken through. Yet although we do not disapprove of an author's breaking away from the conventional rules of composition, he must still hold sacred the laws of sound human reason, of grammar and rhythm. Even in dramas where magic plays a part, he is only allowed the machinery of hypothesis, and he must remain faithful to this. He must make a good plot with a knot to be unraveled and the magic must lead to grand results. In the case of Faust the outcome is to seduce the victims to dastardly crimes, and his seducer does not need magic; everything he does any matchmaking scoundrel could have done just as well without witchcraft. He is as stingy as a miser, not using the hidden treasures at his command.
In short, a miserable wretch who might learn something from Lessing's Marinelli. Therefore, in the name of sound human reason I quash the opinion of Madame de Stael in favor of the aforesaid Faust and condemn it, not to Hell, which might be cooled off by this frigid production that even has a wintry effect on the devil, but to be thrown into the sewer of Parnassus. And by rights.
As you see, this judgment was actually passed upon Faust at one time, and the context in which the man passed it does not at all prove him to be entirely dishonest, but someone who believed what he wrote. Now imagine what would have happened if this man, who said that his own fifth grade teacher would have kept him from writing such rubbish as Faust, had himself become a school teacher and passed on this nonsense to a great number of boys. These boys might in their turn have become teachers and remembered something of this verdict on Faust. Just think of all the speculations you can make regarding all the karmic damage this person might have done by means of his judgment.
However, I am less concerned about that than about the fact that it is difficult to form a true, permanent judgment concerning events possessing their own intrinsic value. I have emphasized in some of my lectures that many a great personality of the nineteenth century will no longer be considered great in centuries to come, whereas people who have been quite forgotten will by that time be regarded as very significant indeed. Time puts such things right. I only wanted to point out how extremely difficult it is to form a judgment about an event needing to be looked at on its own merit.
We must now ask why that causes us such difficulty. We shall begin our reflections by seeing the critic as a different person from the one who is being judged. Nowadays we would say that the people who even in those days considered Goethe's Faust to be a great work of art and in a certain way judged it objectively eliminated themselves, so to speak. The man who wrote what I have just been reading to you did not eliminate himself. How do we arrive at judgments that are not objective? People judge without objectivity so often that it never occurs to them to ask why they do this. They do it because of the forces of sympathy and antipathy. Without sympathy and antipathy our judgments would never be other than objective.
Sympathy and antipathy are necessary in order to obscure the objectivity of judgment. Does this mean they are bad, however, and that we ought immediately to do away with them? We need only reflect a little to find that this is not so. For no sooner do we engross ourselves in Goethe's Faust than we like it and develop more and more feelings of sympathy towards it. We must have the possibility to develop sympathy. And after all, if we were unable to develop antipathy we would not arrive at an absolutely correct judgment of the man whose opinion we have just heard. For I imagine some antipathetic feelings against the man may have arisen in you, and they could well be justified.
But there again we see that it depends on not accepting these things as absolute but considering them in their whole context. It is not merely that human beings are brought to feelings of sympathy and antipathy by outer things but that we carry sympathy and antipathy into life. We bring our sympathy and antipathy to meet the things themselves, so that they do not work upon us but upon our sympathy and antipathy. What does this mean? I approach an object or a process accompanied by my sympathy and antipathy. Naturally the man I was speaking about did not exactly bring along his antipathy to Faust but he brought the kind of feelings that made him see Faust as antipathetic. He judged absolutely according to his instincts.
What does this signify? It means that sympathy and antipathy, to start with, are only words for real spiritual facts. And the real spiritual facts are the deeds of Lucifer and Ahriman. In a certain way Lucifer is in every expression of sympathy and Ahriman in every expression of antipathy. By letting ourselves be carried through the world by sympathy and antipathy, we are letting ourselves be carried through the world by Lucifer and Ahriman. Only we must not fall into the mistake I have often described and say yet again “We must flee from both Lucifer and Ahriman! We want to become good. So we must avoid Lucifer and Ahriman, avoid them at all costs! We must drive them away, right away!” For then we should also have to leave the world. For just as there can be both positive and negative electricity and not only the balance between them, so we encounter Lucifer and Ahriman wherever we go. It all depends on how we relate to them. These two forces must be there. The important thing is that we always bring them into balance in life. For instance, without Lucifer art would not exist. What matters is that we create art that is not purely luciferic.
Thus it is a matter of becoming aware that when we confront the world with sympathy and antipathy, Lucifer and Ahriman are at work in us. That is to say, we must be able to allow Lucifer and Ahriman really to be active in us. But while we are conscious that they are at work in us, we must nevertheless acquire the capacity to confront things objectively. This we can do only if we consider not merely how we judge external things and events in the world outside us, but also consider how we judge ourselves in the world. And this “judging ourselves in the world” leads us a step further into the question and the whole complex of questions we started with. We can form a judgment of ourselves in the world only if we apply to ourselves a uniform method of consideration. We must now consider this problem.
We look out upon nature. On the one hand, we see rigid necessity; one thing arising from another. We look at our own deeds and believe that they are subject only to freedom and are connected solely with guilt and atonement and so on. Both views are one-sided. In what follows it will be shown that each view is one-sided because neither correctly estimates the position of Lucifer and Ahriman. If we look at ourselves as human beings existing here on the physical plane, we cannot look into our own souls and see only what is taking place in the immediate present. If each one of us were to ask ourselves what is taking place within us right now, it would certainly be a piece of insight into ourselves. Yet this insight would be far from giving us everything we required even for superficial self-knowledge.
Without hurting anyone's feelings, of course, let us consider all of us here: I who am speaking and you who are listening. I would not be able to speak as I do if it were not for everything that has previously happened in my present life and in other incarnations. Looking only at what I am saying to you now would produce a very one-sided kind of self-knowledge. But without hurting anyone's feelings it must be obvious that each one of you listens differently, and understands and feels what I say slightly differently. That goes without saying. In fact your understanding is in accordance with your life up to now and your previous incarnations. If each one of you did not grasp differently what is being said, you would not really be human beings.
But that leads much further. It leads to the recognition of a duality in ourselves. Just think for a moment that when you pass judgment, you do it in a certain way. Let us take a random example. If you see one thing or another, a play directed by Max Reinhardt, for example, you say, “It is charming!” while someone else says “That is the ruin of all art!” 6Max Reinhardt, 1873–1943, director of the German theater in Berlin. I am certainly not criticizing either opinion just now. It is possible for one person to say this and another that. On what does it depend that one person has a different opinion from another? That depends again on what is already in them, upon the assumptions with which they approach matters.
But if you think about these assumptions, you will be able to say “At one time these assumptions did not exist.” What you saw when you were eighteen, for instance, or learned at the age of thirteen, enters into your present judgments. It has become part of your whole thinking, resides in you, and contributes to your judgment. Everyone can of course perceive this in himself if he wishes to do so. It contributes to your judgment. Ask yourself whether you can change what is now in you, or whether you can tear it out of yourself. Think about it for a moment! If we could tear it out, we would be taking away the whole of our life up to now; we would be obliterating ourselves. We can no more get rid of our previous resolutions and decisions than we can give ourselves another nose if we do not like what we see in the mirror.
It is obvious that you cannot obliterate your past. Yet if you wish to rise early in the morning, you see, a resolution is always necessary. This resolution, however, is really dependent upon the prior conditions of your present incarnation. It depends on other things as well. If we say it depends on this or that, does that detract from the fact that I have to resolve to get up? This decision to get up may be so faint that we do not notice it at all, but at least a faint resolve to get up has to be there, that is to say, getting up must be a free deed.
I knew a man who belonged for a time to our Society and who is a good illustration of this, for he actually never wanted to get up. He suffered terribly because of it, and often deplored it. He said, “I simply cannot get up! Unless something occurs in the way of an external necessity to make me rise from my bed, I would stay there forever.” He confessed this openly, for he found it a terrible temptation in life not to want to get up. From this you can easily see that it really is a free deed. And although certain prior conditions have been laid down in us which suggest one or another motive, it does not prevent our doing a free deed in the particular instance.
In a certain way it is like this: Some people drag themselves out of bed with the help of strong determination, while others enjoy getting up. We could easily say that this shows us that the existing prior conditions signify that the one was brought up well and the other badly. We can see a certain necessity there, yet it is always a free decision. Thus we see in one and the same fact, in the fact of getting up, free will and necessity interwoven, thoroughly interwoven. One and the same thing contains both freedom and necessity. And I beg you to note well that, rightly considered, we cannot dispute whether a person is free or unfree in a certain matter, but we can only say that first of all freedom and necessity are intermingled in every human deed.
How does this happen? We shall not progress with our spiritual science unless we realize that we have to consider things both from the human and the cosmic standpoint. Why is this so? It is because what works in us as necessity — I will now say something relatively simple yet of tremendous significance — what we regard as necessity belongs to the past. What works in us as necessity must always be from the past. We must have experienced something, and this experience must have been stored up in our souls. It is then within our soul and continues to work there as necessity.
You can now say that everybody bears his past within him, and this means bearing a necessity within him. What belongs to the present does not yet work as necessity, otherwise there would be no free deed in the immediate present. But the past works into the present and combines with freedom. Because the past works on, freedom and necessity are intimately connected in one and the same deed.
Thus if we really look into ourselves, we will see that necessity exists not only outside us in nature but also within ourselves. When we look at this latter kind of necessity, we have to look at our past. This is an extremely important point of view for a spiritual scientist. He learns to understand the connection between past and necessity. Then he begins to examine nature, and finds necessity there. And in examining natural phenomena he realizes that all the necessities the natural scientist finds in nature are the result of past events. What is nature as a whole, the whole realm of nature with its necessity?
We cannot answer that unless we look for the answer on the basis of spiritual science. We are now living in earth existence, a condition which was preceded by the moon, sun and Saturn conditions. In the Saturn condition, as you see in Occult Science, the planet did not look like the earth does now but entirely differently. 7Rudolf Steiner, An Outline of Occult Science, (Spring Valley, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1972). If you examine Saturn, you will see that then everything was still of a thought like nature. Stones did not yet fall to the ground. Dense physical matter did not exist as yet. Everything came from the activity of warmth. This state is similar to what goes on within the human being itself. Everything is soul activity, thoughts that divine spirits have left behind. And they have remained in existence.
All of present nature that you understand with its necessity was once in a state of freedom, a free deed of the gods. Only because it is past, because what developed on Saturn, sun, and moon has come to us in the same way as our childhood thoughts continue to work in us, the thoughts of the gods during Saturn, sun, and moon continue their existence on earth. And because they are past thoughts, they appear to us as necessity.
If you now put your hand on a solid object, what does that mean? It means that what is in the solid object was once being thought in the long distant past, and has remained in the same way as your childhood thoughts have remained in you. If you look at your past, regarding past activities as something living, you see nature in the process of becoming within you. Just as what you now think and say is not a necessity but is free, so earth's present state was once free in earlier stages of existence. Freedom continually evolves, and what is left behind becomes necessity. If we were to see what is taking place in nature now, it would not occur to us to see it as a necessity. What we see of nature is only what has been left behind. What is happening now in nature is spiritual, and we do not see that.
This gives human self-knowledge a very special cosmic significance. We think a thought. It is now within us. Certainly we might also not think it. But if we think it, it remains in our soul, where it becomes an activity of the past. It now works on as a necessity, a delicate, insubstantial necessity, and not dense matter like outer nature because we are human beings, not gods. We can perceive only the inner nature that remains in us as memory and is operative in what are necessities for us. But our current thoughts will become external nature in the coming Jupiter and Venus conditions. They will then be the external environment. And what we now see as nature was once the thoughts of the gods.
Nowadays we speak of angels, archangels, archai, and so on. They were thinking in the past, just as we are thinking today. And what they thought has remained as their memory, and it is this memory we now perceive. We can only perceive within us what we remember during earth existence. But inwardly it has become nature. What the gods thought during earlier planetary conditions has been externalized and we see it as external nature.
It is true, profoundly true, that as long as we are earthly human beings we think. We send our thoughts down into our soul life. There they become the beginning of a natural world. But they remain in us. Yet when the Jupiter existence comes, they will come forth. And what we are thinking today, in fact all that we experience, will then be the external world. The external world we will then look down upon from a higher level will be what is now our inner world. What is experienced at one time in freedom changes into necessity.
These are very, very important aspects, and only when we see the world in this way will we be able to understand the real course of historical events and the significance of today's events. For these lead us directly to the point where we always pursue the path from subjectivity to objectivity. Strictly speaking, we can be subjective only in the present. As soon as the present is over, and we have pushed the subjective elements down into our soul life, they acquire independent existence, though at first only within us. As we continue living with other thoughts, the earlier thoughts live on, only in us, of course. For the time being we still house them. But this covering will some day fall away.
In the spiritual realm matters are very different. So you must look at events, such as the hypothetical one I gave you, from this different point of view. Looked at from outside, a boulder fell and buried a party of people. But that was only the external expression of something that happened in the spiritual world, this latter event being the other half of the experience and existing just as objectively as the first one. This is what I wanted to present to you today, showing how freedom and necessity play into one another in world evolution and in the evolution in which we are involved as living beings; how we are interwoven with the world, and how we ourselves are daily, hourly, becoming what nature shows us externally. Our past, while within us, is already a piece of nature. We progress beyond this piece of nature by evolving further, just as the gods progressed in their evolution beyond their nature stage and became the higher hierarchies.
This is only one of the ways, of which there are many, that ought to show us again and again that nothing taking place on the physical plane can be judged solely according to its physical aspect, but should be judged based on the knowledge that it has a hidden spiritual content in addition to the physical one. As sure as our physical body has an etheric body in it, everything perceived by the senses has a supersensible part underlying it. Therefore, we must conclude that we are really regarding the world in a very incomplete way if we examine it solely according to what it presents to our eyes and according to what takes place externally, for while something quite different is taking place externally, inwardly something can be happening spiritually that belongs to the outer event and is of immensely greater significance than what is presented to our senses. What the souls of the people who were buried under the boulder experienced in the spiritual world may be infinitely more important than what happened physically. The occurrence has something to do with the future of those souls, as we shall see.
Let us interrupt these thoughts at this point today and continue them next Sunday. My aim today was to bring your thoughts and ideas into the direction that will show you that we can only acquire correct concepts of freedom and necessity, guilt and atonement, and so on, if we add the spiritual aspect to the physical one.