Earthly Death and Cosmic Life
1. The Present Position of Spiritual Science
22 January 1918, Berlin
An Introduction to the Winter's Lectures, 1918
I need not tell you what pleasure it gives me to be with you again at this difficult time so full of trials. As this is the first occasion for a long time that we have had the opportunity of discussing subjects connected with spiritual science, it is obvious that we should call to mind that spiritual science is far from being merely a theory, rather should it be a firm and substantial support, uniting the souls of men; not only the souls of those living here on the physical plane, but also the souls of those living in the spiritual world. This is a question we have very much at heart at the present time when innumerable souls have left the physical plane under circumstances to which we have often alluded, a time when so many are being subjected to the severest trials perhaps ever inflicted on man in the whole history of the world. Besides all the usual ideas which flow through our souls at the beginning of these lectures here and elsewhere, we will to-day try individually to direct our sentiments and feelings to those who are outside, as well as to those who, in consequence of these events have passed through the portals of death.
‘Ye who watch o'er souls on earth,
Ye who weave in souls on earth,
Ye Spirit-guardians of the souls of men
Working lovingly in Cosmic wisdom,
Hear ye our request
Look upon our love
Which with your helping, strengthening rays
Would fain unite
In spiritual devotion, sending forth our love.’
With reference to those too who have passed through the portal of death.
‘Ye who weave in the souls now in the spheres,
Ye spirit-guardians of the souls of men,
Working lovingly in Cosmic Wisdom,
Hear ye our request;
Look upon our love
Which with your helpful, strengthening rays
Would fain unite
In spiritual devotion, sending forth our love.’
May that spirit Whom we have sought to approach by means of the spiritual science we have striven to acquire, He who willed to pass through the Mystery of Golgotha for the salvation of the Earth, and for the freedom and progress of humanity, may He be with you in your heavy tasks.
The severe time of trial through which humanity is now passing may perhaps be one which will bring home to us more and more closely the significance of a spiritual deepening of the human soul. If so it will not have been in vain for the present and future of humanity; but the feeling arises that the time has not yet come, that mankind has not yet learnt lessons enough from the seriousness of the events of the present time. This is not said by way of criticism, but to appeal to right and true feeling. One feels that the Spirit of the Age must speak more and more distinctly to human hearts and souls; for not only do human voices speak to-day, other voices are heard too, ringing forth mysteriously from weighty and significant events as well as from other sources.
I shall endeavour to put before you to-day what has particularly struck me during my recent journey through Switzerland, with respect to the relation of our spiritual movement to the tasks of the age. Anyone who has carefully studied the course of lectures I gave in Vienna before the war, on the experiences of human beings between death and rebirth, and what I said with respect to human life as a whole, will know that reference was being made — before the war — to the deeper causes, the deeper-lying foundations of what has lately worked out in the terrible events of the times. We may say that everything that can be experienced below the surface then, is to-day externally revealed as living proof of the correctness of what was said at that time. The universal disease of the age was then unequivocally described, as you know, as a social cancer. Here and there it can be seen that some few lessons have been learnt from the great events that have occurred; but on the other hand, it is clearly evident, particularly when apparently insignificant things are taken together, how rigid human thought has become on the physical plane during the last few centuries, and how slow men are to arrive at decisions of any weight. By way of introduction I should like to tell you some of my experiences during my Swiss tour, for it seems to me necessary that those who are interested in our Movement should form some idea of its connection as a whole. I shall only give a few points.
It must be regarded as a very satisfactory sign that during my recent stay in Switzerland a number of young students from the High School at Zurich desired a course of lectures referring to and combining the various branches of academic science. I therefore gave four lectures in Zurich; the first of which referred to the relation of our anthroposophical spiritual science to Psychology, the science of the soul; the second referred to the relation of spiritual science to History; the third referred to its relation to Natural Science, and the fourth to its relation to Social Science, to the great social and judicial problems of the people in our day. Though far from being all that we might wish, one cannot but see that a certain interest was shown in this drawing together of the threads of academical sciences. It was evident that these latter were awaiting completion, as one might say awaiting that which can only come from anthroposophical spiritual science, and that the part-sciences of the present day will remain but half or even quarter sciences, unless they can have that completion. Wherever I was allowed to give lectures in Switzerland I did not fail to let it be seen what it is that is lacking in this respect, and what it is our age must acquire for these tendencies to be guided in the right direction. One may say that although at first there was in Switzerland a strong opposition to our endeavours — and certainly this opposition is not growing less but rather increasing — yet side by side with this a lively interest is developing; and it may well be that karma has placed our building in Switzerland because the work may have a special significance for that land; particularly if our work is directed, as I hope it will be, in such a way that our activity will also bear witness to the sources of spiritual scientific investigation, which, alas, are in many respects disregarded and unnoticed in the spiritual life of Germany. That is a feeling which, while on the one hand it stirs one to-day with a certain tragic feeling of sorrow, yet, on the other, fills one with deep satisfaction. We may say that anyone who takes into consideration the fact that in four-fifths of the world the spiritual life, of which Germany is so proud, is to-day much calumniated and really abused, and if he seriously considers the gravity of this fact, as is not always done, while on the one hand he may feel sorrowful, yet on the other he may feel satisfaction in the hope that anthroposophical science may yet render it possible for the German spiritual life to make its voice heard in the other world — as it must, if the development of the world is not to be injured. A way can be found to speak to all men, no matter what their nationality, if one speaks to them in the true meaning of the word, of the spirit, that is, of the true sources of spiritual life.
It may strike a sorrowful note, too, that while the efforts made by spiritual science are successful in winning a little ground in some places, such a country as Switzerland is finding it increasingly difficult to stand up against the attacks made to-day. It is no easy matter in the face of the pressure exercised by four-fifths of the world, to form an impartial opinion; nor indeed is it easy to find the right words in which to say all that must be said, in a country in which, although neutral itself, those four-fifths of the world still play an important part. This has now reached a very acute crisis.
One great advantage to us in that country is that the mere words and teaching are there supported by the forms and creations of our building at Dornach, which place before the outer vision what it is that our spiritual science desires, and how it is able to show that when allowed to intervene in practical life and not crudely rejected, it is capable both of mastering and utilizing life, which at the present time makes such great demands on humanity.
In speaking to-day of the relation between the Spiritual Science of anthroposophy and other knowledge and wants of the world, it is really necessary to place quite new and unaccustomed ideas before one's hearers. In the profoundest depths of their consciousness people are dimly convinced that something new must come from somewhere or other. They are, however, extremely rigid as regards thinking, extremely slow to take in new ideas. Indeed it is a characteristic feature of our age that while life is lived at so rapid a pace, people are so dreadfully slow in thinking. We come across this in the smallest things. For instance, the threads of anthroposophical science were drawn towards the academical sciences in Zurich, although I had spoken publicly in Basel before I did so in Zurich. Just before I had to leave Switzerland, a request came from Basel, asking me to speak in an academical assembly on the relation of anthroposophical Spiritual Science to the other sciences. It was then, of course, too late to do so; the subject could not then be discussed. I mention this for two reasons: First because it would have been of great importance to speak of Spiritual Science in a hall dedicated to academical science and established by the students of Basel; and secondly because those people were so slow as to come to a conclusion only at the eleventh hour. That is characteristic, for elasticity of thought, capacity for quick decision might have brought about an earlier decision. It is necessary to discuss these things among ourselves, so that we may behave accordingly. To-day I need only refer to one of the subjects of which I have been speaking lately, to make clear the significance of what has to come about.
In Zurich I spoke, among other things, of the threads that can unite anthroposophical Spiritual Science and the science of history, the historical life of man. We to-day possess a history, which is taught to children and in college; but what is this history of ours? It is something which has not the remotest idea of the forces governing the historical life of mankind, for the simple reason that the whole object of the intellectual life of the present day is to set man's intelligence in motion, to set the ordinary so-called fully conscious concepts and ideas going, and with the help of these, to understand all things. External perceptible nature can certainly be understood by these means, so too can that thought which has triumphed in the domain of natural science; but if this mode of thought is applied to history, that means making history a natural science. Endeavours were being made in the nineteenth century to regard history in the same way as natural science regards the things perceptible to the senses. This, however, is not possible — for the simple reason that the facts of history are quite differently related to life. What is it that we meet in historical life? What are the impulses at work in history?
Anyone who believes that historical impulses can be grasped by means of the intellect, which can very well serve us in natural science, will never discover the historical impulses; for these work in human evolution in a similar way to the dreams in our own dream-life. They do not enter the ordinary consciousness which we use in everyday life or in natural science; but these impulses work like that which only plays into our dream-life. We may say: Historical becoming is a great dream of mankind, but what plays into our dreams like transient pictures becomes clear and distinct in the imaginations of spiritual science. Therefore there is no history which is not a spiritual science, and the history taught to-day is not history at all.
Hermann Grimm was struck with the fact that the historian, Gibbon, in describing the early days of the Christian era, describes the fall of the Roman Empire, but not the gradual ascent of Christianity, its growth and prosperity.
Of course he did not know the reason why a good historian can always describe a decline, but not a growth and a becoming. The reason is that the present-day method of learning history can only lead to an understanding of what is declining, not of what is growing. Growth plays a like part in the development of mankind as do dreams in the life of man; it can therefore only be described by a person able to have Imaginations. If a man does not possess this power, even though he be a Ranke or a Lamprecht, he can only depict the corpse of history, not the reality of its growth. The impulses of historical growth only enter our consciousness in dreams; if the ordinary consciousness tries to grasp the historical, it can only do so when the historical has already passed into the subconsciousness. Modern times present interesting examples of this. If we follow these up, we see how in the last few decades, interest in the great questions of the world as one coherent whole has practically died out — or become mere pedantry, which is almost the same thing. There is a deep connection between the pedantry of the age and the fact that a schoolmaster, at present at the head of the greatest republic, wants to lay down the law to mankind. If we ask ourselves: Where, during the last few decades, has there been a feeling for a great drawing together of mankind, for ideas having almost a religious character although of a crude kind, when everything else was more or less moribund? The answer, if we look the circumstances in the face, must be: in socialism. Ideas were there, but such as never tended to a spiritual life, only to a crude material life and alas, these ideas encountered no other world of ideas to stand against them. If we really understood the ideas which have come to the surface in socialism, we should find that they are in a sense historical ideas, dreams of humanity; — but what kind of dreams? One must have a feeling for this ‘being dreamt’ of the historical events of humanity. I tried to make this clear to the people in Switzerland by saying: If one seeks as leading and guiding personalities only those who are very clever but are without any understanding whatever for what I call dream impulses, it will be seen how far this leads. In this respect one should try to answer practically the question: How quickly can a commonwealth be systematically ruined? Contrive to set up therein a parliament of scholars! They need not be skilled professors, they might even be socialistic leaders; — in that movement there are professors enough. With a perception for such things, one will ask oneself: How has the whole comprehensive theory of socialism come about? If it could really be put into practice, it could only bring about ruin (and perhaps a sorrowful proof of this may yet be found in the East, if it does not stop, but tries to proceed with it further). How has it come about that these socialistic ideas have taken root in men's minds? What exactly are these theories?
To know this, one must be acquainted with the history of the last four centuries, especially that of the 18th and 19th. One must know that real history is very different from that contained in history books; one must know that such books, especially in regard to the last two centuries form a picture of human class and social contention; Karl Marx, for instance, has simply set up as theories what humanity dreamt in those centuries, something which actually did exist, but which, like a dream, ceased in the new period and gave place to theories. The theories of socialism which arose as soon as the fact of it was lost in dream, show that the intellect uses what has already perished, what has already become a corpse, directly it takes the matter in hand with such means of knowledge as are quite valid — e.g., in natural science. From such cognitions one must see that the world really stands at a turning point in time where the comprehension of the historical development (for the present has also become historical, and as man lives into the future he also experiences historical development) must be understood in the sense of Spiritual Science. One does not obtain a true picture of even the most recent events if Spiritual Science is left out of account. I shall relate an oft-quoted example.
(Among ourselves as members such matters may be discussed; though people outside often laugh at such things — they will not always do so however). An important incident of European life in the Middle Ages is the fact that at that time the knowledge of the Western quarter of the globe was lost to Europe. There was indeed always an inner connection, especially between Ireland and England, and the territory now called America. A certain connection was always kept up between Europe and the West, and only in the century following the “discovery of America,” intercourse with that continent was forbidden by a Papal document (of course it was not called ‘America’ then). This connection with America only ceased with its so-called ‘discovery’ by a Spaniard, but outer history is so inaccurate that people are under the impression that in Europe America was not known at all before the year 1492. Almost everyone believes this. Many similar facts can be brought forward which Spiritual Science has to make valid from its own sources. We are standing at a turning point in time when historical life must be considered from the aspect of Spiritual Science.
Someone might ask: If Spiritual Science as we understand it can only unfold in our time, how then was it in earlier times?
When we look back into earlier times, we find something different, something comparable with what in Spiritual Science is called Imaginations; we find myths and legends, and from their forces, which were pictures, impulses could be derived; even political impulses, which were more real, more in accordance with facts, than the abstract teaching of modern history, social economy, and so forth. It is not necessary to understand in abstract ideas what holds people together and makes the conditions of communal life. In earlier times this was brought to expression in myths. We to-day can no longer produce myths; we must come to Imaginations, and with these comprehend historical life, and from that again coin political impulses which will be truly different from the fantastic impulses of which so many dream to-day, which are, as we might say, impulses of the schoolmaster.
It is certainly very difficult to tell people that historical life is something which, as regards the ordinary ideas, runs its course in the subconsciousness; but on the other hand, this hidden life of mankind knocks at the door of events, at the door indeed of all human impulses. It may be said — as the Zurich lectures have shown — that everywhere to-day one would like to meet this pursuit of knowledge, which also aims at the spirit, though with wholly inadequate means. In Zurich we made acquaintance with psycho-analysis, the analytical psychology, already qualified as academical; and, connected with those very lectures, the most remarkable discussions have taken place on psycho-analysis in relation to anthroposophical Spiritual Science. The psycho-analyst, however, comes to the world of Spiritual Science spiritually blindfold, and can find nothing in it. Yet this world raps at the door which ought now to be opened to man.
In Zurich there is a professor named Jung, who has quite recently written another pamphlet on psycho-analysis and the many problems connected with it. He is the author of many works on the subject: he shows, however, that he can only lay hold of it with inadequate means. One fact will show what is meant. Jung brings forward an example cited by the greater number of psychoanalysts.
The following happened to a woman. She was invited to an evening party. As soon as supper was over, her hostess, not being very well, was to start for one of the spas. Supper came to an end and the hostess started, the guests leaving with her. They walked, as people sometimes do on leaving an evening party, not on the pavement, but in the middle of the road. Presently a cab came round the corner. The guests all beat a retreat to the pavement, except the lady of the story, who ran to the middle of the road just in front of the horse; the driver shouted at her, but she ran on until she came to a bridge across a river. Then, in order to escape from this unpleasant situation, she decided to throw herself from the bridge into the river. This she did, and was rescued by the guests, who ran after her, and the house where the party had been held being the nearest, she was taken back there. She met there her hostess's husband and spent a few hours with him.
Let us reflect what a man with insufficient data can make of such an occurrence. If he approaches the matter with the methods of the psycho-analyst, he discovers those mysterious provinces in the soul which tell us that this soul, in the seventh year of her life, had an experience with horses, so that the sight of the cab horses called up an earlier experience from her subconsciousness and so bewildered the lady that she did not spring to the side but ran on before the cab. Thus to the psycho-analyst, the whole transaction is the result of the connection of a present experience with ‘unsolved riddles of the soul,’ from the domain of education, and so forth. This is a pursuit of the subject with inadequate means, because the psycho-analyst does not know that the subconscious ruling in man has more real existence than is supposed; it is also much more subtle and much more clever than anything man gets from his conscious intellect. This subconsciousness is often much braver and more determined. The psycho-analyst does not know that a ‘daimon’ dwelt in the soul of this lady who started out, from the first, with the unconscious intention of being alone with the husband after his wife had started on her journey. This was all arranged in the most subtle manner by the subconsciousness, for one does everything with far greater certainty if the consciousness has nothing to do with it. The lady ran before the horse simply in order to be intercepted when matters had reached a certain point; and she conducted herself to that end. Into these things the psycho-analyst does not penetrate because he does not suppose that there is a spiritual psychic world everywhere, to which the human soul stands in relation. Jung, however, has some inkling of this. From innumerable things that appear before him, he divines that the human soul stands in relation to numberless others. Still he must remain a materialist, or cease to be one of the clever men of the day. What then does he do? He says that the human soul stands everywhere in connection with spiritual facts outside itself (this is shown, he said, by the things which take place within), it is in connection with super-psychic, spiritual facts. But as a materialist he cannot admit the existence of these facts and therefore falls back upon the following theory: — The soul has a body, derived from other bodies which again are derived from others. Then there is heredity, and Jung construes that the soul in accordance with that conforms to all that has been experienced in relation to the heathen Gods, for instance. Through inheritance these experiences remain in the soul, creating an ‘isolated province of the soul,’ which only needs to be questioned if man desires to be rid of it. Jung even conceives that it is necessary for the human soul to have connection with this isolated province, and that it ruins the nervous system if it is not drawn up into the consciousness. Therefore he enunciates the proposition, which is quite justifiable according to the modern philosophy of life; that unless the soul is in relation to a divine being, it must inwardly perish. He is just as sure of this as he is that there is no divine being at all. The question of the relation of the human soul to God has not the least connection with the question of the existence of God in his mind.
So it is written in his book. Let us think what is really under consideration. It is scientifically proved that the human soul must construct a relation to God, but it is equally certain that it would be foolish to assume the existence of a God. Thus the soul for its own health is condemned to invent a God for itself. Pretend that there is a God, or thou wilt be ill! That is actually stated in the book.
We see from this what great enigmatic problems knock at the door, and how the present time opposes these things. If men were courageous enough, this truth would gradually come to be perceived to-day, but they are not so courageous. I do not say all this in hostility to Jung, for I believe he is more courageous in his thinking than all the others. He says what he has to say according to the assumptions of the present. Others do not say it; they have less courage.
We must reflect on all these things in order to understand the real meaning of the statement, ‘Spiritual science brings forward a truth such as: What takes place in the historical life of man, and consequently in the life of political impulses, has nothing to do with the ordinary consciousness, it can have nothing to do with it; but can only be understood and applied through imaginative consciousness.’ We might even say as regards the most distinctive representatives of the anti-social historic conception, that President Wilson's view must be replaced by an imaginative knowledge of the truth. And Wilson's ideas are very widespread (far more people are of his way of thinking than is supposed). Names are of no moment, only the facts under which men live are of consequence. I may be allowed to be somewhat outspoken about Wilson, because in the course of lectures given in Helsingfors before the war, already then I pronounced my judgment of him and did not need to wait for the war to learn of what spirit he is who sits on the throne of America. At that time fulsome praise of Woodrow Wilson could be heard everywhere; it has not long ceased. The world is now very much wiser, and knows that the man who now occupies the throne of America drafted his most powerful republican document from one issued by the late Emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro, in 1864. Wilson copied this exactly except that the passage, ‘I must intervene in the interests of South America’ is altered to ‘I must intervene in the interests of the United States of America,’ etc., with the necessary recasting.
When in their time Wilson's two books, The New Freedom and Mere Literature appeared in our own country, there was no less fulsome praise. This was only about five or six years ago. In this matter of Wilson's influence people have certainly learned a few things; but as regards many other things they could only be learnt from the incisive events of the present time. For this reason it is necessary that many things which can only flourish on the ground of spiritual scientific cognition, should be taken very earnestly. People lightly reproach anthroposophical Spiritual Science as being merely ‘theoretical;’ and concerning itself with cosmic evolution rather than with love. They do not see that cosmic evolution is the expression of love, but prefer to talk of ‘love,’ of universal love, of how and what man should love, and they have been talking thus thousands of years. Many do not understand that at the present time the fruition of love is to be comprehended through the study of cosmic evolution. Let us for a few moments allow Spiritual Science to take hold of the human soul, and we shall see how love will arise in the human heart. Love cannot be preached; it grows if properly cultivated; it is a child of the spirit. Even among men it is a child of true knowledge — knowledge reaching to the spirit, not to matter only.
In this introductory lecture I have wished to do no more than indicate a few perceptions which will be very significant at this period. All that can awaken power, courage, and hope in the human soul is to be reviewed in these lectures, and I should like especially to speak of all the gifts mankind can receive from Spiritual Science, other than those which have been given during past centuries. I should like to speak of Spiritual Science as something living, as something which is no theory, but which brings to birth in us a second man, a spiritual man who bears and maintains the other in the world. I believe above all that the, present time needs this. There was a time, in the Middle Ages, when many had a fantastic longing to make gold. Why did they wish to make gold? They wanted something which may not be realised under ordinary earthly conditions. Why? Because they perceived that ordinary earthly conditions, unless spiritualised and permeated by spiritual impulses, cannot give man any true satisfaction. In the end that is the content of the teaching of the Gospels also, only people usually overlook the most important points; they criticise the view of the Gospels that the Kingdom of God has come; yet is it not present? It is, but not to outward appearances. It must be understood inwardly. It must not be denied, as is done in our time. We shall speak of this descent of the Kingdom of the Spirit in our next lecture.
To-day I only wished to strike the keynote. Our epoch is directed to build the bridge to the kingdom in which the dead are living. The number of those now passed through the gate of death can be reckoned by millions. They live among us and we can find them. The way in which we can find them will be discussed from another point of view.