The Karma of Materialism
1. Forgotten Aspects of Cultural Life
31 July 1917, Berlin
Our time can be understood in its spiritual aspect only if it is recognized that external events must be seen as symbols, and that far deeper impulses are at work in the world. These deeper impulses can be difficult to discern and spiritual knowledge alone can enlighten us about them.
I would like to begin by speaking about an interesting personality of the 19th Century, someone who as a thinker is extraordinarily fascinating because he is one of those who, in a characteristic way, reflects what is alive in our time and also what has in a certain sense died out. This interesting thinker known only to a few: African Spir, 1 African Spir 1837–1890 Philosopher. died in 1890. In the mid 1860s in Leipzig he began to consider how he could best convey his philosophy of life to his fellow men.
African Spir was an original thinker and he gained nothing of significance from his contact with Masonic circles. When we study him, which to begin with can be done through his writings, we find that he was very little influenced by the 19th Century cultural life around him On the contrary there comes to expression in his view of life an inner quality peculiar to himself. The most significant of his writings: “Thinking and Reality” was published in 1873. African Spir came to recognize, intuitively as it were, what thinking actually is. Not an all-embracing recognition perhaps but significant all the same. What interested him was the true nature of thinking. He wanted to discover what actually happens in man while he is thinking. He also wanted to find out how man is related, while he is engaged in thinking, on the one hand to external reality and on the other to his own inner experience.
Thinking can be understood only when it is seen as a power in man which, in its own essential nature, does not belong to the external physical world at all. On the contrary in its own being and nature it belongs to the spiritual world. We already experience the spiritual world, though not consciously, when we really think; i.e., when our thinking is not merely acting as a mirror reflecting external phenomena. When we are engaged in real thinking then we have the possibility to experience ourselves as thinkers. If man becomes conscious of himself within thinking he knows himself to be in a world that exists beyond birth and death. Few people are aware of it, but nothing is more certain than when man thinks, he is then active as a spiritual being.
African Spir was one of the few and he expressed it when he said: “When I form thoughts, particularly the loftiest thoughts of which I am capable, then I feel myself to be in a world of permanence, subject to neither space nor time; a world of eternity.” He enlarged on this observation saying: “When one turns away from the world of thinking as such and contemplates what we experience when the external world acts upon us, then we are dealing with something which is qualitatively utterly different from the thoughts we apply to it. This is the case whether we contemplate external phenomena, man's evolution, his history or his life in society. Thoughts themselves lead me to the recognition that they, as thoughts, are eternal. In the external world everything is transitory; what is earthly comes into being and passes away. That is not true of any thought. Thinking itself tells me that it is absolute reality for it is rooted in eternity.”
For African Spir this was something he simply experienced as a fact. He argued that what we experience as external reality does not agree, does not accord with the reality we experience as thinking. Consequently it cannot be real in the true sense; it is semblance, illusion. Thus, along a path, different to that followed by the ancient Oriental, different also from that followed by certain mystics, African Spir comes to the realization that everything we experience in space and time is fundamentally semblance. In order to confirm this from another aspect he said something like the following: “Man, in fact all living creatures, is subject to pain. However, pain does not reveal its true nature for it contains within itself a power for its overcoming; it wills to be overcome. Pain does not want to exist, therefore it is not true reality. Pain as such must be an aspect of the transitory world of illusion and the reality is the force within it which strives for painlessness. This again shows us that the external world is an illusion, nowhere is it completely free of pain so it cannot be true reality. The real world, the soul-world, is plunged into semblance and pain.”
African Spir felt that man can only reach a view of life that is inwardly satisfying if he becomes conscious, through his own resolve and effort, that he bears within himself an eternal world. He maintains that this eternal world proclaims itself in man's thinking and in the constant striving to overcome pain and reach salvation. Spir insists that the external world is semblance, not because it appears as such to him, but because he is convinced that in thinking he lays hold of true reality. It is because the external world does not conform, is not of like nature, to thinking that he says it is semblance.
If we survey the various world views held by those 19th-century thinkers who lived in the same milieu as Spir, we do not find any of such subtlety as his. So how does Spir come to experience the world the way he did? If we look for an explanation in the light of spiritual knowledge, we must make the following comments: Insofar as we are surrounded by the external material world, by events of history and also by our life in society we live on the physical plane. Whereas in thinking, that is to say, when we really live in thinking, we are no longer on the physical plane. It is only when we think about external material existence that we turn to the physical plane and in so doing we actually deny our own nature. When we become conscious of what really lives in thinking we cannot but feel that within thinking we are in a spiritual world.
Thus when Spir became aware of the real nature of what in man is the most abstract: pure thinking, he felt that there is a definite boundary between the physical and the spiritual world. Basically he asserts that man belongs to two worlds, the physical and the spiritual and that the two are not in agreement. Spir comes to the realization, out of an elemental natural impulse as it were, of the existence of a spiritual world. He does not express it in so many words, but declares that everything around us, be it our natural, historical or social life, is mere semblance. And he finds that this semblance does not agree with the reality given in thinking. So although his experience of the spiritual world is not of direct vision, but an experience within abstract thinking, he nevertheless establishes that these two spheres are divided by a sharp boundary.
Looking closer at the way Spir presented his view of the world one realizes that his 19th-century contemporaries were bound to find it difficult; and it is natural that he was not understood. It could be said that he tried to contract the whole spiritual world into a single point within thinking; draw it together so to speak from a spiritual world otherwise unknown to him. He put the whole emphasis on the fact that, in his experience of thinking, he found proof that the spiritual world exists and that the physical world is semblance. This led him to stress that truth, i.e., reality, could never be found in the external world, for that world is in every aspect untrue and incomplete. According to his own words he was convinced that his discovery was a most significant event in history for it proved once and for all that reality is not to be found in the external world. He met no understanding. He was even driven to the expediency of offering a prize to anyone who could disprove his claim. No one took up the challenge, no one tried to refute him. He suffered all the distress that a thinker can experience from being entirely ignored; killed by silence as the saying goes. He lived for a long time in Tübingen, then in Stuttgart and finally in Lausanne due to lung trouble. He was buried in Geneva in the year 1890. On his grave lies a Bible carved in stone, showing the opening words of St. John's Gospel: “And the Light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not,” followed by “Fiat Lux” (Let there be light) which were his last words before he died.
One could say that Spir's whole philosophy was a kind of premonition. In concerning oneself with such thinkers one comes to recognize that there were many who, in the course of the 19th Century, had a premonition that something like spiritual science must come. These thinkers were prevented from reaching spiritual knowledge themselves by the circumstances and conditions prevailing in that century. African Spir was such a thinker. If we read his writings, without concerning ourselves with his life, we are faced with a riddle: How does a man come to recognize the reality of the spiritual world so decisively merely by means of thinking? How does he come to recognize the spiritual within himself with such certainty? How does he come to know that his inner being is so firmly rooted in true reality that it convinces him the external world is unreal? The explanation lies in Spir's life, in the simple fact that he was born in Russia (1837). His real name was African Alexandrovitch. He was a Russian transplanted into Central Europe, a Russian who, being influenced by Central and Western European views of life, represented a wonderful blend of the latter with Russian characteristics. He did not learn German till he came to Leipzig in the mid 1860s but then wrote all his works in that language.
Let us now remember that within the peoples of Western Europe there has gradually come to expression during the course of mankind's evolution the sentient soul in the Latin peoples of the South, the intellectual or mind soul in the Latin peoples of the West, the consciousness soul in the Anglo-American peoples, the 'I' in people of Central Europe; while the Russian people of Eastern Europe are waiting to Develop the Spirit Self. One could say that in the Russian people the Spirit-Self is still in an embryonic state. Bearing this in mind we realize that African Spir was born with an inner disposition to await the Spirit-Self. This aspect of his soul life was stirring within him but it came to expression colored by the world conceptions prevailing in Western Europe.
The time will come when the Eastern European will have developed his true nature. It will then be an impossibility for him to look upon the external physical world as a world that is real in the true sense. He will experience his own inner being as rooted in true reality. And this he will experience not just in thinking but in the Spirit-Self within the spiritual world. He will know himself to be a citizen of the spiritual world and it will seem sheer nonsense to him to regard man the way the West does: as a being evolved from the animal kingdom. That aspect of man the people of the East will recognize to be merely man's outer covering. The Eastern European, as he develops the Spirit Self, will ascend to the realm of the Hierarchies just as the Western European descends to the kingdom of nature. African Spir knew instinctively that his being was rooted in the spirit. This instinctive sense of living in spiritual reality is to be found today in Eastern Europe, but is as yet not able to come to expression in an appropriate view of life. This will become possible only when spiritual science, developed in Central Europe, becomes absorbed into Eastern European culture. What is as yet experienced only instinctively, in Eastern Europe, as life in spiritual reality, will then find expression.
African Spir was unable to express this instinctive experience in spiritual-scientific terms; instead he clothed it in concepts he took over from Spencer, Locke, Kant, Hegel and Taine. This means that instead of clothing it in images obtained through living thinking he used the kind of abstract concepts which are in reality no more than mental images reflecting the physical world. What in African Spir was leading an embryonic existence had as it were withdrawn from Western culture, but it had left its imprint in which could be recognized what had been there before as a living reality. African Spir is such an interesting figure because he incorporates both past and future. He is also a clear demonstration of the deep truth, continually stressed by spiritual science, i.e. that the European peoples are in reality like a human soul with its members placed side by side. The peoples towards the West constitute the sentient soul, intellectual soul and consciousness soul placed next to one another. In the Central Europeans the ‘I’ comes to expression and the Eastern Europeans prepare for the Spirit Self.
At present history is dealt with in a most unsatisfactory fashion. However, it can be foreseen how it will be dealt with in the future. At present external facts are always emphasized but they are not the essential. To hold on merely to external facts is comparable to undertaking a study of “Faust” by describing the letters page by page. An understanding of “Faust” is not dependent on the letters but on what is learnt through them. Similarly a time will come when consideration of history will depend as little on external facts as reading a book depends on a description of the letters. Behind the external facts the real history will be discerned, just as the meaning in “Faust” is discerned behind the printed letters. This is radically expressed but it does illustrate the situation. Ordinary history will be seen as a history that describes the symptoms; a man like African Spir will be seen as a symptom of the soul element of Eastern Europe merging with that of Central Europe.
The present age is as yet a long way from studying either history or life in this way. Yet only by bringing things of this nature together, and relating them with a deeper understanding to current events, can one become conscious of what is really happening in the world. The present age has to an unprecedented degree robbed the first half of the 19th Century of its spiritual achievements; this also applies to the second half but to a lesser degree. It is indeed justified to speak about forgotten aspects of spiritual life in relation to the 19th Century; even more than I have done in my book Vom Menschenrätsel. Some day the history of the 19th Century will have to be rewritten. This was felt by Hermann Grimm 2 Herman Grimm 1828–1901 Cultural Historian. when he said: “A time will come when the history of the last decades will be completely rewritten. When this happens those who are now looked upon as great figures will appear rather puny and others, quite different figures, which are now forgotten will emerge as the great ones.” One comes to realize what a “fable convenue” the official history of the 19th Century is when one attempts to study its history as it truly is and can recognize the forces that were at work. The reason I said that our time has robbed the 19th Century of its spiritual achievements is because that century produced many thinkers who, for lack of recognition, were condemned to isolation. African Spir is a characteristic example. In saying this I am not referring to the public in general but to those who, through their vocation, had a duty to be interested in him and his work. When such human beings die and their souls pass into the spiritual world they do not just vanish. They continue to be influential from the spiritual world in ways of which there is usually little inkling.
Can anyone really believe that when a thinker such as African Spir dies he simply disappears as far as the world here is concerned? The spiritual world is no cloud-cuckoo-land; just as our individual bodies are permeated by soul and spirit, so does soul and spirit permeate the whole cosmos. Soul and spirit live all around us like the air. What a man has produced, in a life of strenuous thinking while in a physical body, does not just disappear when he dies and passes into the spiritual world. In such cases something very remarkable happens. A thinker who here on earth has met with much acclaim is in a different position to a solitary neglected thinker like Spir. A thinker, who receives much popular recognition, has as it were finished with his thoughts when he dies. Not so a thinker like Spir, he strives to protect his thoughts—what I am now saying is of the greatest importance — which are present spiritually in the physical world. Such a thinker remains with his thoughts. He protects them for a period lasting decades; during this time they are not accessible to human beings living in physical bodies.
When a thinker like African Spir dies his thoughts stay with him, he as it were protects them so that those who are living have no immediate access to them. This causes an unconscious longing for these thoughts to arise in human beings which they cannot satisfy. In other words there are human beings whose forefathers paid no attention to such a thinker and allowed him to die unrecognized. He had produced thoughts which ought to be developed further, but because he protects them he prevents them being reached by human beings and this causes an undefined longing for these thoughts. Because the longing cannot be satisfied it results in a feeling of deep inner dissatisfaction. In earlier times there were many who experienced such unsatisfied longing. In our time it is present to a particularly high degree because the last third of the 19th Century produced a great number of highly significant thinkers to whom the world paid no attention, thus robbing them of their spiritual achievements.
What should be done? That is a most important question. What one must do is to speak about such forgotten aspects of cultural life. When, in a few strokes, I place before your mind's eye such a thinker as African Spir, it is not for any arbitrary reason or merely to tell you something interesting. It is to draw attention to the fact that we are surrounded by a spiritual world of real thoughts, thoughts which a thinker has preserved and which he now protects. What we must do is to turn with a feeling of reverence to the thinker concerned. He may then give us his thoughts himself, thus enabling our thinking to become creative. That is why in the course of our studies I like to call your attention to such forgotten thinkers. A link of real significance is forged thereby. If I manage to some extent to inscribe in your souls a picture of African Spir, something comes about which acts in a certain sense as a corrective of a wrong, and that is a task of spiritual science.
The spiritual world is not a nebulous pantheistic abstraction. It is as concretely real as the external sense-perceptible phenomena. We come in contact with the spiritual world not by constantly talking about spirit, spirit, spirit, but by pointing to concrete spiritual facts. And one such fact is that especially at the present time we can bring to life in ourselves a connection with forgotten thinkers so that fruits of their thoughts can enter our souls. On their side these souls become released from protecting their thoughts.
We therefore perform a real deed when, with the right feeling and attitude, we speak of these thinkers who in recent times have been victims of spiritual isolation and robbed of the fruits of their work. Our age will thereby receive, at least it may receive, spiritual thoughts which it so sorely needs. A thinking which merely mirrors the external world in the usual pedestrian manner is unfruitful. Thinking which in the customary way is applied to nature, history or social life has finished its task as soon as the external phenomena have been understood. Nowadays so many thinkers are unproductive because all that occupy their thoughts are external or historical events. Thinking is fruitful only when it takes its content from the spiritual world. A thought is like a corpse as long as it only mirrors nature or history. It becomes alive and creative when it is receptive to what the Hierarchies pour down from the spiritual world.
At present there is no inclination to seek union through thinking with the spiritual world. That is something which is positively avoided whereas pride is taken in pursuing “genuine” science. The view is that now at last science has arrived after mankind has remained for so long in a stage of infancy. It must be said though that this science, particularly when it forms the basis for a view of life, has produced some strange results. For one thing it cannot come to grips with what thinking actually is. Natural science dissects man's body and comes to amazing conclusions about the structure of the brain and its function. Thinking itself is disregarded. As a result thinking as such has gradually become a ghostly something of which science is afraid. As a consequence modern science is particularly against thinkers whose lives were steeped in thinking, thinkers like Hegel, Schelling, Jacob Boehme and other mystics whose view of life was built on thoughts. The modern researcher takes the attitude that these people no doubt did think, but thoughts do not lead to certainty. A scientist feels eerie when he must leave the sense world, i.e., the realm which African Spir called a world of semblance and illusion. Yet the scientist cannot establish science if he refuses to think, so he is caught in a dilemma. This dilemma caused one of science's elite, who felt himself especially suited to represent scientific opinion, to utter an aphorism which, when the history of the second half of the 19th century comes to be rewritten, could well be inserted as characteristic of many aspects of this period. At a scientific congress this scientist declared: “We men of medicine have to admit that, like educated folk in general, exact science cannot do completely without thinking.”
Thus in the 19th century, at a serious gathering of scientists it is admitted with regrets that thinking cannot be dispensed with altogether, at least not if one is a medical man or a well educated person. In other words thinking is something very awkward that causes uncertainty the moment one looks at it.
This attitude to thinking causes in people strange feelings when they hear that a spiritual world penetrates the physical world. They are afraid of thinking because they sense that this is where the spiritual world enters, and, as they insist that there is no spiritual world, they will have nothing to do with thinking. You may remember my explaining that what is understood by the word genius will change in the course of evolution. I pointed out that what makes someone a genius can only be understood by assuming that more spirit is active in him than in a non-genius. When the discoveries of a genius happen to be of a mechanical nature he meets great admiration. If his genius takes other forms people are nowadays apt to vent their aversion to such proof of spiritual power on the genius himself. A rather interesting essay has appeared on the subject of genius. After arguing that a genius is someone partly sick, partly mad the essay culminates with this curious sentence: “Let us thank God we are not all geniuses!”
These things must be seen as symptoms of our time, for they are characteristic of a general trend. Yet such things are usually ignored or not taken seriously because their true significance is not recognized. They may even be laughed at and the present miseries are not seen to be related to them. Far from attempting to bring order into the chaos through spiritual insight, man is allowing his contact with the spiritual world to deteriorate. As a consequence he also loses contact with the reality of the external world because without spiritual insight he can reach only its outer shell. In saying this I am pointing to a significant phenomenon of our time: catastrophes occur because thoughts, which ought to relate to external events, do not. As a result the external events take over and go their own way independent of man. They do this even when man has created the events himself. Then the thoughts of man, which may be excellent, often have no effect, they can find no foothold in the external events. It has gradually come about that the individual may have fine ideas but they have a life of their own while external reality also has a life of its own. A dreadful discrepancy exists between what takes place in many heads and what goes on all around them, a disharmony of such proportions as has never before occurred.
When such things are discussed one is invariably accused of exaggeration. But they are not exaggerated and one must speak about them, for they are the truth and must be recognized. There is evidence of these things everywhere but the awareness of them is not great enough to realize their implications. Take the following example which could be multiplied a thousandfold: In the year 1909 in Russia a conversation took place between two men concerning the relation of Russia to Central Europe. This was soon after Austria's annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 3 Bosnia and Herzegovina were occupied by Austria 1878. They remained Turkish territory until annexed in 1908. The conversation took place as feelings in Russia were running high, threatening already then to bring about the terrible situation which finally erupted in 1914. That the 1914 war did not break out already in 1909 hung on a thread. It was prevented, but this was not thanks to certain quarters in Russia. These things must be seen as they truly are. The two men, one a Croatian, the other Russian, discussed in particular the relation between Russia and Austria. After they had looked at all existing possibilities for stabilizing relations between Central and Eastern Europe the Russians summed up his own view by saying: “A war between Russia and Austria-Germany would be, not only utterly inhuman, but also completely senseless.” These sensible words, which were by no means based on emotions, summed up well-thought-out, well-considered judgements about the structure of Central and Eastern Europe. When I now mention the name of the Russian who spoke them you will have confirmation of what has just been discussed. The Russian who so vehemently rejected war in 1909 was Lvov. 4 Georgi Evegenievich Lvov 1861–1925 Russian politician. Became leader of the first provisional government on March 15, 1917. Five years later in 1914 — when he could not after all have changed into someone completely different — we find him as the president of the first revolutionary Russian Government. In other words he was by then the person at the very center of all the events that have led to the present miseries in Europe.
Just imagine the situation: we see external events run their course and we see human beings, active in the midst of these events, who think quite differently. Human beings with sensible ideas are active in these events but are overwhelmed by them. Why are they overwhelmed? Because of the failure to relate concepts and ideas to spiritual reality. Thoughts are powerless unless they are united with the spiritual element of the world. According to the general opinion held nowadays it is a drawback for someone, active in social or political life, to be a thinker. A thinker is regarded as unpractical, incapable of understanding the realities of life. Yet the truth is that those who are usually regarded as practical have only the kind of abstract thoughts which cannot lay hold of reality. One must ask if it really is sensible to select for high political office someone who is more renowned for fly-fishing than his thinking ability? “Fly-fishing” is the title of a book written by Sir Edward Grey 5 Sir Edward Grey 1862–1933 English politician 1905–1916 British Foreign Minister. and fly-fishing is what fills his mind. A ministerial colleague once said about him, not without justification: “The reason Grey has such excellent concentration is because he simply repeats what others put into his mind; no thought of his own ever disturbs his concentration.” — That colleague hit the nail on the head. So you see, according to modern opinion, someone who understands fly-fishing must also understand politics for it would be a drawback if he had any real thoughts. However, as I have said, so often it is just such opinions which at present reveal their futility for they have brought about the disastrous conditions we are in.
It is obvious that the capabilities which today are regarded as adequate for political office and statesmanship are in fact inadequate. This is because modern man has no interest in turning his thoughts to anything other than external phenomena. Many years ago I called this condition “fact-fanaticism”; earlier still I called it “the dogma of practical experience.” You can read about it in my books Goethe's Conception of the World and Goethe the Scientist.
We must be clear about the fact that those whose thinking merely reflects natural processes, historical events or external social life, develop thoughts which are purely ahrimanic. That does not necessarily mean that they are wrong or incorrect, but they are ahrimanic. The ahrimanic element must of necessity exist. The whole content of natural science is ahrimanic and will only lose its ahrimanic nature when it becomes imbued with life. This will happen when man's thinking ceases merely to mirror external phenomena in a mechanical way. Thinking must become creative, it must become saturated through and through with spiritual content. Social laws, laws of rights, etc. will be ahrimanic if, when formulating them, one relies solely on that capacity, on that aspect of thinking which mirrors the external events and reflects upon them. When, as in such instances, ahrimanic forces are active in spheres where they do not belong they become destructive. Healing will come to our age when the thoughts and ideas that are applied to social conditions and political life are in living contact with spiritual reality.
Because of the demands it would make upon them there are few people today who are able to accept these facts. When one speaks about the spirit it is noticeable that people are on their guard. What goes on in their consciousness on such occasions is not so important; what goes on in their sub-consciousness is of great importance. What lives there is bad conscience which they experience only subconsciously. Because they are unable to admit to themselves that their thoughts are lifeless and ahrimanic they avoid becoming conscious of the fact. The moment one's thinking attains a living grasp of spiritual reality one can no longer avoid the recognition that thoughts, which merely mirror external phenomena, are ahrimanic. This recognition causes fear. It is fear that holds man back from attaining creative thinking. Creative thinking is only attained when man is inspired — even unconsciously — from the spiritual world.
Thus we see that, apart from all the many other ills that beset mankind, nothing less than a war against the spirit is waged in our time. It is a war which, under the influence of certain circles, will become more and more widespread; and is being promoted in the strongest possible way by what may be termed the spirit of our time. — I have to admit that it is extremely difficult to speak about things belonging to this domain, at the same time it is not enough merely to hint at them or avoid calling them by their proper names. In this world nothing can be said to be absolute good or absolute evil; it always depends on the aspect from which it is viewed. The important thing is to recognize that in their right place at the right time things are good; shifted out of the right place and time they are no longer good. Nowadays people all too readily take things in a dogmatic or absolute sense, which so easily leads to misunderstanding about such matters. There is no question of levelling criticism at the age as such, only of drawing attention to facts.
There is an inclination in our time to turn away from the spirit and towards the ahrimanic — the ahrimanic is also spirit but it is spirit which is dead and reveals only what is material. Life has become immensely differentiated and there is more and more need for discrimination. Many examples could be given of different aspects of social life through which one can become aware of the kind of impulses that are at work in our time. Impulses of which we all partake. I shall mention just two such impulses.
One impulse is noticeable mainly in people who have strong links with the land, with the soil. If we travel eastwards we shall find more and more people of this type. If we go westwards we find more and more conditions of emancipation from the soil. In recent decades the Central European has made rapid strides from attachment to the soil to emancipation from it. Country folk have a close connection with the soil; town folk have emancipated themselves from it. One could say the country type of person is agrarian, the city type industrial. These two terms, agrarian and industrial, have taken on a different meaning in the last decade to what they once meant. It is difficult to explain these things because they tend to be taken in a dogmatic, absolute sense, but that is not what is meant. What is meant is a characterization of general tendencies. They are streams within human evolution and we are all involved in them.
Whatever we do in life we have an inclination towards one or the other of these two tendencies in man. Both are naturally good in themselves but under the influences that exist in our time they deteriorate. In the agrarian the deterioration takes the form of a disinclination to rise to anything spiritual; there is a tendency to let the spirit in man lie fallow, wanting to remain as one is and unite with what is not yet spirit. The industrial type develops an opposite tendency; he loses connection with the spirit active in nature and lives more and more in abstractions. His concepts become ever more rarefied and insubstantial. In our time the agrarian is in danger of suffocation for lack of spirituality. For the industrial the danger is of an opposite kind, he lives in spirit which is too rarefied, his concepts have lost all connection with true reality; he could be compared with someone living in air which is too thin.
These are the shadow-sides, especially in our age, of the two tendencies in man. We see that the agrarian type all too easily develops aversion for the spirit, i.e. for cultural development. One cannot however just stand still and avoid participating in evolution. If one remains at the level of nature by turning away from the spirit one sinks below nature and comes into relationship with demonic beings who make one into a real hater of the spirit. As a consequence a view of life develops based on ahrimanic demonology.
The extreme industrial type on the other hand, living in concepts that are completely abstract, develops an attitude of superiority; he sees himself as a kind of superman — though not in the Nietzschean sense — he comes into the realm of Lucifer. Ahriman hands him over to luciferic powers and he becomes steeped in luciferic concepts and emotions. The tendency in the agrarian is towards brutishness; in the industrial it is towards an abstract recklessness of concepts. These phenomena are very conspicuous in our time. They are also serious matters that bring home the fact that our age cannot be understood without spiritual knowledge. Human beings must live together; to do so they must find common ground of understanding by rubbing off their one-sidedness on each other, and certainly both agrarians and industrials have their place.
Already at the time when the Gospels were written it was foreseen that human beings would become more and more differentiated. St. Luke's Gospel is written more with regard for agrarians, St. Matthew's Gospel more for industrials. However, not only the Gospel of St. Luke or that of St. Matthew should speak to us, but all the Gospels. There are “clever” people who find contradictions between the Gospels; they fail to take into account that the Gospels were written by human beings of different inner dispositions. The soul experiences of the writer of St. Luke's Gospel were akin to those of the agrarian type; whereas those of the writer of St. Matthew's Gospel were akin to the inner disposition of the industrial type. The essential thing is not to remain one-sided but to recognize that things which contradict each other are also complementary.
Unless man seeks to unite with the Universal Spirit, which today can be found only through spiritual knowledge — the Spirit which, though it pervades everything, does not live in any individual entity — the time will come when he will resemble the environment he lives in and identifies with. Eduard von Hartmann 6 Eduard von Hartmann 1842–1906 Philosopher once made the apt remark that, when one goes into a rural district and catches sight of an ox with the peasant beside it, there is no great difference in their physiognomy. That is to express it radically, the remark is also derogatory, but one sees what is meant. In our time, because man turns away from the spirit, an intimate relationship develops between his soul and the environment. When one is able to observe life's more subtle aspect it is obvious that the mental life of the agrarian is influenced by his association with the soil, just as the industrial is influenced by his kind of environment. When either of these two types of people thinks about politics or religion, their thoughts are invariably colored by their particular kind of environment. Man's concepts and ideas are dependent today to an awful extent on his external physical environment; they must be set free by the knowledge and insight spiritual science can provide.
A thinker like African Spir would feel things of this kind very strongly. When he said that everything in the external world is semblance, illusion, it was because he became aware, by observing his own inner life, that man comes to experience his inner being as semblance. Through participating in external semblance he comes to feel his inner self as unreal. — How can one expect healing or solutions to come from the semblance in which man is immersed? His inner life is so entangled in conflicting impulses that it is no wonder external conflicts are rife.
To be a spiritual scientist, not just in name or because of some indefinite feeling, but in the deepest and truest sense, life must be observed with the insight of spiritual knowledge. Life today is not seen as it truly is; people shun the spirit and attempt to shape their life purely on the basis of what is unspiritual. It is useless to harbor spiritual knowledge as an abstract general truth, paying no need to it when trying to understand life. To know that man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body and 'I' or that Lucifer and Ahriman exist, is not enough. One should be able to apply concepts such as ahrimanic or luciferic scientifically, like a physicist applies the concepts of positive and negative electricity when testing these phenomena.
Agrarian and industrial are concepts which cease to be abstract when we, in looking at life, recognize them as luciferic and ahrimanic tendencies, as we have just done. One takes risks when describing things in this way, for people do not want to hear the truth. Yet the truth has to be faced if mankind is ever to find a cure for all the confusion in the world. Salvation from and the healing of the evils of our time are closely related to understanding human life.