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East and West, and the Roman Church
GA 203

Lecture II

6 February 1921, Dornach

In yesterday's lecture I pointed out to your how modern European civilisation presents itself to an Oriental judgment, and at the conclusion I pointed to the three worlds which were seen there, namely, the world of modern European civilisation, the world which forms the old Asiatic civilisation, and lastly, Roman Catholicism. We should not — in reality no thinking person should — pass by such a pronouncement without giving it attention, because it is connected with something which is of extraordinarily deep significance in the stream of civilisation of the present day, perhaps we shall best come to the heart of the matter when I remind you of what I said from a certain point of view concerning our present civilisation in the public lecture given in Basel last Tuesday. According to the custom which I follow in our Anthroposophical circles here, I should like just to run over that briefly.

I pointed out how in ancient civilisation — and in the Greek civilisation to which I referred yesterday a full consciousness of these facts existed — in those ancient civilisations attention was everywhere given to what we call the Threshold and the Dweller on the Threshold. I wished once again to state that publicly — that it was recognised how, given the preparatory conditions of human knowledge, something could be learned about the Cosmos, something could be learned about man, but that unless a man was prepared the right way, he should not press beyond what was called the Threshold.

Behind the Threshold — it was assumed that there were certain things which, in those ancient epochs of time, should not be received by the human soul in an unprepared state; because human beings were then afraid that, if they entered unprepared into that sphere of knowledge, they would have to lose their self-consciousness, they would have to lose the degree of self-consciousness which they had in those times. They would, so to speak, fall into a state of powerlessness. Therefore a certain training and culture of the will was demanded from those who sought to become pupils of the Wisdom of the Mysteries. Through this training of the will their self-consciousness was strengthened, so that the pupils could cross the Threshold and pass the Dweller of the Threshold. Then they came to a region where, if they had entered it in their ordinary mood of soul, they would have been overtaken by a paralysis of the soul, their self-consciousness would have been taken from them.

It must be pointed out that through the whole progress of human evolution it has come about that what constitutes to-day the general popular consciousness of man is filled with what at that time was realised as being on the other side of the Threshold. In my public lecture I pointed out that those ancient people had, for instance, in their Schools of Initiation the so-called Heliocentric view of the world, in which the Sun is seen as the central point of our planetary system. But the teaching was kept secret, and only certain individuals, who in a sense did not want to preserve it, published something of it — for instance, Aristarchus of Samos. People were afraid of such teachings, because they worked on their souls in such a way that human beings lost the very ground under their feet. What everyone knows to-day was just what in those ancient times would not have been allowed to come to unprepared human souls, for what was said with reference to the Heliocentric view of the world might also be said with reference to many other things which to-day are quite common human opinions. What to-day under the influence of a natural-scientific age has become popular ideas, in those ancient times was kept beyond the Threshold; and traditional creeds which have retained the opinions of those ancient epochs have on this account always opposed the spread of modern natural science. That was the reason for the persecution of Galileo and it accounts also for the fact that up until the year 1827 it was forbidden to Catholic believers to acknowledge of spread the teaching of Copernicus. The old view about these things was retained, and therefore the believers could not of course keep pace with human evolution. Humanity has progressed from another side into a region which was at that time designated as lying beyond the Threshold.

Why is it that humanity should later progress into that sphere without falling into a paralysis of the soul, whereas the ancient people with their mood of soul would doubtless have done so? Humanity has been able to enter since then into that sphere, because, as you can see from my book Riddles of Philosophy, it has reached through special development of the world of thought, a kind of self-consciousness into which paralysis can no longer enter. Human beings to-day can accept without falling into a paralysis of the soul not only the Copernican view of the world but also other ideas which lie in the same direction.

Let us keep that quite clearly before out minds, my dear friends. What to-day is popular idea, for the ancients (and up to the 14th century) lay on the other side of the Threshold. The Dweller of the Threshold was more than a Personification. He was a real being and He was designated as that Power whom man had to pass if he wanted actually to enter the sphere with which modern natural science is concerned. Modern human beings do not lose their self-consciousness, nor fall into powerlessness of soul; nevertheless they do lose something. There is something which humanity has to speak lost since it attained that sphere which the ancients described as being on the other side of the Threshold. Human beings to-day, although they have not lost their self-consciousness, have lost their world-consciousness. They have acquired a knowledge of countless details concerning sense-existence. Through combining things intellectually they have found and assimilated all sorts of laws concerning the relationships in sense-existence, but they have not reached the possibility of realising a spiritual content in all the vast sphere of their different Sciences which have to-day become so popular. They have not been able to grasp the spiritual content which lies at the basis of the sense phenomena that are all around man and that he observes and collates in his Natural Science. While man has been approaching the newer phases of his evolution in recent times, he has, as it were, entered the sphere on the other side of the Threshold without having the consciousness that the world is permeated by Spirit. He has not been obliged to lose himself, but he has had to lose the Spirit of the Universe; the Spirit of the Universe has been lost.

That Church whose endeavour it was not to allow people to cross the Threshold but to make them remain on this side of it, has always enclosed the path of humanity within those spheres in which men stand to-day. It has sought to hem humanity in, and as is well known to you in the year 869 at the Eighth Œcumenical Council in Constatinople, went so far as to exclude the Spirit as such from the forces which Man should recognise in himself. There it became dogma to recognise as the constituents of man, Body and Soul, and simply to endow the soul with a few spiritual qualities. But it was forbidden to speak of man as consisting of Body, Soul, and Spirit. That was an attack made to dam up the in-streaming of spiritual knowledge. The result was that man entered the sphere on the other side of the Threshold, without having consciousness of the spirituality of the world. He entered a sphere which was regarded by the ancients as a sphere that could not be entered without due preparation; knowledge of it was only transmitted to those pupils of the Mysteries who had undergone a strong training of the will. That sphere has now been entered by man in such a way that he does not lose his self-consciousness, but loses the world-consciousness of the Spirit. Therefore it is a question to-day of that Threshold which modern man must come to know — the Threshold which must now be crossed by transcending the limits of external sense-observation and intellectual combination, and entering the sphere of the Spirit which man can find beyond the sphere of the senses.

These things lie at the basis of all that is given in our Anthroposophical Spiritual Science, and they make the radical distinction between Anthroposophy and what has appeared as Theosophical teachings. All the Theosophical doctrines are merely a warming up of the old. When they speak of the Dweller on the Threshold, they speak just as the ancients spoke of Him. But if you read how the Dweller is spoken of in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds you will find there a modern presentation, created directly out of the consciousness of to-day. And if people who venture to judge of Anthroposophy to-day, would take the trouble to observe these things, they would not fall into the calumny of confusing Anthroposophy with what is really only a dishing up of ancient Gnosticism, or similar things.

Such things must be kept clearly in mind to-day, because they reveal to us how the deep foundations of modern civilisation have developed; and then with the right preparation we can approach such a pronouncement as that which I quoted yesterday at the conclusion of the lecture, which shows how an Oriental recognises in Roman Catholicism the one power within the decadent modern Western civilisation which still really has something of the Spirit in it. We must understand such a thing on the one hand, my dear friends, and on the other we must also see clearly that dangers that lie in the efforts that are being made by those who hold such views. We must be quite clear, for instance, as to the following. If Roman Catholicism is considered to-day in its totality — not as the various individual priests take it, for they as a rule are very poorly educated, but if it is taken in its totality, as it can be advocated, Catholicism is a world-conception which is all-embracing and full of content. That is just the grand thing about the Catholic teaching as it meets us in the Middle Ages in Scholasticism. There it is a world-conception that is enclosed on all sides, but developed in detail logically as well as ontologically and worked out in a wonderful way. The world-conception which meets us there has been preserved from olden times, and still holds within it the concept of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit; a world-conception which was a world-embracing dogmatic teaching about the Trinity, a world-conception which, in the philosophy of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, can of itself bring forth ideas for that social ordering of mankind. It is a thought structure that is all-inclusive, and above all it is a structure which requires careful study in order to penetrate it. In reality, in order to understand the Catholic system, the Catholic theory — the Catholic dogma, if one wishes to call it so, one must be able to work in the most accurate way with concepts. One must have clear and distinct ideas, and be able to work with these ideas in a way that modern philosophy would find extremely uncomfortable — ad more especially our modern Protestant Theologians. That is something which really should be known, because Catholicism contains connected teachings about all that man longs for in his knowledge, even if for the higher spheres they are revelations and matters of belief. Catholicism will never fall into that mistake which I characterised yesterday as the rickety conception of the world, because Catholicism has within it that firmly incorporated, strong skeleton-structure of belief, which starts from the principles of nature and works up to that stage where even the higher spheres can be recognised through its truths of revelation. Nevertheless it works up from below to this all-embracing world-conception, and it is one that a man can unite with his soul. But what Catholicism bears within it is fundamentally nothing but the last relics of those old world views which were founded on the idea that humanity must not cross the Threshold of the sphere in which modern mankind is actually now standing! That is the great opposition between Roman Catholicism and modern civilisation. Roman Catholic has, in course of time, worked in the most manifold ways. It has of course undergone development by means of its Councils and in other ways, through dogmatic assertions and so on. All the same, it is still only an echo of those ancient doctrines inasmuch as it brings together what those man of old had grasped without being prepared to cross the Threshold. And so Roman Catholicism stands there as a magnificent architectural structure, which however comes from olden times when men did not yet reckon with what had to come into evolution of man with modern Natural Science, with the modern world of concepts and with what has still to come through Natural Science in our modern social concepts.

You see, my dear friends, if Catholicism were to be the only teaching to spread over humanity to-day, the Earth could stop “right now” in its development. From a true point of view, what comes from Catholicism as a system, what lies at its basis, human souls have already been able to receive in former incarnations; and if Catholicism presented itself as the one teaching for all mankind the Earth might now have reached its end. For Catholicism only reckons with that which was a feature of human evolution up to the 14th ad 15th centuries. But after that came times in which modern Natural Science had to take its place, times in which man, in devoting himself externally to the world, received only that which did not lead him to the Spirit. Times had to come when man, while he gave himself up to the most intellectual clearly-defined knowledge, was as regards the real world walking over a fiend of the dead. For that which we grasp with our modern scientific ideas is dead, remains dead; it is but a field of corpses, no matter whether we acquire our physiological and anatomical knowledge in the dissecting room or whether we experiment in chemical laboratories.

When we work in the dissecting room to acquire physical, anatomical knowledge, we are simply creating for ourselves ideas of a human body, whose soul is not there. When we experiment in chemical laboratories, we are experimenting with the forces of nature, and the Spirit is not there. Everywhere we face a world that is not alive, a world of corpses, and that harmonises with the demands which have been made upon modern humanity. Humanity has been set this task. When man looks out into the world around him, he can arm himself with a telescope, a microscope, and X-Ray apparatus, a spectroscope, and so on; and the closer he looks into and the further he investigates the surrounding world in all its minute detail, the further he gets away from the Spirit. Man must bring from within that which is Spirit and he must add that to what he can acquire from without. He must have a new Spiritual Science. He must, as it were, walk over that field of corpses which shows him nothing but dead matter, or at most the shadows in museums of what once was Spirit. He must make his way through those meadows and find in himself the capacity to travel across that dead field of modern science and carry into it that which a new spiritual revelation, a new Spiritual Science has to offer — the Anthroposophy that can really spring forth from man. Only so does man attain his full power. He must not lose his self-consciousness; but, as he passes beyond that which the ancients designated as the Threshold, he must not only maintain his self-consciousness, he must strengthen it by a knowledge of the spiritual world which can spring up out of that self-consciousness. When he dies this, then in the external sense-world he an find the true reality. That again is something with which the human beings of our modern civilisation are faced. Humanity must be conscious that it is standing before the Threshold, and that this Threshold must be crossed. We have not to attack nor to extinguish, what science has produced; we have not to reject from any feeling of comfort what this modern view of nature transmits; we have to carry into the new knowledge of nature an entirely new knowledge of the Spirit, because thereby that which has gone before in earthly evolution can join on to that which has still to come, so that the earth can attain its goal. Never can Catholicism bring human beings further than they already are. For the last three or four centuries humanity has progressed as regards external cognition. Men have progressed in the external knowledge of the world. But they must not go on further in this way in modern civilisation, they must mow carry into this civilisation a spiritual life.

That is just what an Eastern judgment to-day fails to recognise in our modern civilisation. He sees in it only the corpses. That is the outcome of what I read to you yesterday as criticism from an Oriental point of view. The Eastern judgment does not yet know — because it only knows an inherited divine teaching — that man, when he faces a field of death in our modern civilisation, can find in himself the force to bring the Spirit out of himself, a purely human spirit, one united quite intimately with his own being, and which then can spread light over the whole Cosmos.

Now you see, it is just here these variou points of view divide. We can look at what Catholicism has produced. In recent times it has brought forth Jesuitism; not Christ-ism — Jesuitism. It has developed that dogmatic view in Jesuitism which points to Jesus as an Emperor, a Conqueror — even as it declares the soul of man to have certain spiritual qualities or attributes. Christ has in reality not yet become part of the inner consciousness of modern man. Christ, as a super-earthly supersensible Being, must be recognised by Anthroposophical Spiritual Science. He has to be recognised as that Being Who has united Himself from super-earthly spheres with earthly evolution, because earthly evolution requires something which formerly was not there. In reality Catholicism does not treat of the Christ, it only treats of Jesus; and the modern Evangelical Confessions have in this respect simply followed Catholicism. A Christology, a real Christology, has not yet arisen outside of Anthroposophical Spiritual Science. And this real Christology depends on man finding the spirit in spite of his progress over a dead field in his Natural Science. A fiend which everywhere shows him, and must show him, that which is devoid of spirit.

Eastern consciousness does not perceive that. Eastern consciousness does not yet see that just because man loses his world-consciousness in this scientific technical age and loses even his artistic intercourse with the outer world, therefore it is demanded of him with the more urgency to find from his own inner power such a spiritual consciousness of the world.

As a matter of fact it is there; this world-consciousness is there, it is present in the germ. We can feel it in Goetheanism, in that which was striven for at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. And there is a straight path leading from Goetheanism to modern Spiritual Science. It is only a question of becoming able to grasp the living spirit, able to recognise how in modern Spiritual Science we are not merely given an Idealogy, consisting of ideas about the Spirit, but in Spiritual Science we are given ideas which the Spirit itself sends forth into the world. It must be recognised that in modern abstract teachings we are ony give ideas about something, but that in Spiritual Science ideas are given which spring from the very Spirit itself as a kind of spiritual original revelation — that, as it were, the Spirit itself is speaking to the world in Spiritual Science. In Spiritual Science we hav again a living Spirit.

But now, my dear friends, we must understand that many trivialities will have to be overcome in our modern civilised life, if we want to see the truth in regard to these great matters. People are going over in hosts, in great armies to-day to Catholicism, and Catholicism has an inner feeling of triumph when it tries to kill the new spiritual strivings, because all the signs are in its favour. It seems to succeed when it tries to extinguish what is now coming in as the beginning of a new spiritual effort, when it tries to wipe away everything which must now come in as something new in earthly evolution. The will to extinguish certainly does exist.

In recent times there has arisen among men a terrible agnosticism of the soul which is connected with what I called the rickety method of striving towards a philosophy of the world. People want to have a consciousness in their soul that they stand in relation to the spiritual world; but they will not exert their will. They will not use their free-will to approach that which, of course, demands in the very first place and inner activity, a grasping of the Spirit through Spiritual Science. They want to unite their souls in a passive way with the Spirit, they do not want to work their way through the difficulties one has to encounter in any inner grasping of what is spiritual. Lazy souls, who nevertheless want to develop their longings for eternity, seek the path back to the old world conceptions, because they do not feel within them the power or activity to take the Divine into themselves. Human beings everywhere to-day have a great tendency to avoid forming an opinion of their own, and only to see that which is offered them — as it were, presented to them on a plate! They want to form their political and social judgments from that which lies open before them, and they are so permeated by egoism that they do not pay any heed when an opinion comes to them from the other side which endeavors to build on the basis of a richer knowledge. That is what gives one so much pain in our decadent civilisation to-day — people are so confused in their judgments. In order to bring it home to you, I should like to quote an instance which is altogether remote from the considerations we have here brought together many things — not in order to spread dogmatic ideas about an anticipation of ultimate catastrophe to modern civilisation, but simply to furnish a basis for your own independent judgments. The attempt is continually being made here to help you have as wide an outlook as possible in forming your judgments and to help you to guide your own opinions in a right direction.

How many people to-day are completely satisfied if they have a few opinions derived from ordinary newspapers, or acquired by any of the other ways prevalent in our time! For instance, take the question of the origin of the catastrophe of the Great War which has claimed so many human lives in the last few years. One can hear statesmen speak on the subject, and so forth. People generally accept the things that are said because the feeling has died out that on the general battlefield of modern views truth itself can appear more strongly at one place than another, and that one must learn to distinguish between one place and another. It seems to me that, in order to be able to judge of European civilisation there is one factor that is far more important than many others which people have accepted of late, it comes to light in something which has appeared quite recently. A French Ambassador, Paléologue, who in the year 1914 was at the Court of St. Petersburg, has like many other people written his Memoirs; they all write Memoirs nowadays — some a little more untruthful , others a little more gossipy, than the rest. This French Ambassador, writing in quite a senile, gossipy style, informs us, with a great amount of chatter, of what he experienced in St. Petersburg. Poincaré, the president of the French Republic, was there at the time, and great banquets are given. The evening before one of these banquets, two evil-minded women, Anastasia and Milizza, daughter of King Nicholas of Montenegro, opened their hearts to the French Ambassador. This was on the 22nd of July, 1914; and the French Ambassador wrote down word for word what they said. On this 22nd July these woman said to the French Ambassador: “We are living through historical days. Tomorrow at the Military Chapel the ‘March Lorraine’ and the ‘Sambre House’ will be played. Our father Nicholas has sent us a telegram in cipher. He tells us that before the end of the month we shall have War. What a hero, our father! Nothing will be left of Austria, and you will again have Alsace-Lorraine. Our armies will meet in Berlin!” Now, my dear friends, it is to such things that we must look if we wish to judge the situation of the present time. There cannot be the excuse that one did not know these things, especially amongst those who work not to form dogmatic opinions, but to create a basis on which opinions may be formed. I am only giving you this as an instance, my dear friends. You can find many other interesting things in these Memoirs of Paléologue, because he chatters on in a senile kind of way, and says the most extraordinary things. I have not brought this forward in order to speak about the origin of the war, but as something that is necessary for modern humanity to know. One hears so many things in the world, and one has to cultivate the right perception and know that there something true is to be found, while there nothing true can be found! The world does not express itself in such a way that one can ever be satisfied with hasty judgments, it expresses itself in such a way that one must feel for oneself where the actual truth is to be found. The external sense-world is a maya, an illusion, so much is it an illusion what even in the sphere of what is moral-ethical and political, far more important — under certain circumstances — than all the judgments of the Ambassadors and Ministers, may be the opinion of two such civil-minded women as Anastasia and Milizza; for, after all, that which the Ambassadors and Ministers in the year 1914 “Knew,” did not happen; but when Anastasia and Milizza said: “Before the end of the month we shall have war. What a hero, our father! Nothing will be left of Austria and you will again have Alsace-Lorraine.” — these fiendish women were prophetesses, for what they said has taken place, and not what the Ministers and Generals said! The world is a complicated structure! How complicated is that which meets us in the world of maya he alone can understand who has a goodwill for the truth and for the investigation of the truth. In modern science we have learned only to look at the truth superficially, and that has brought bitter consequences in modern life. That is something that must be kept well in mind in our own circles, because, unless we are able to awaken out of that morass of judgment in which people find themselves to-day, unless we attain the point of view that is able to rise above all the littlenesses in life, we too shall not find the way aright. We too shall not be able to distinguish the modern Dweller on the Threshold from the old Dweller on the Threshold, so as to know what really brings man forward. We must be quite clear that there are people who have a living longing for the eternal, but nevertheless often show themselves to be egoistic souls, who run in great hosts to where something has been preserved from ancient times and avoid rousing themselves to co-operate in the receiving of the Divine Spirit into the will of man. The Hour of Decision is with us to-day — that difficult hour of decision as to whether, within our modern civilisation, there is the power to find the Spirit on the corpse-field of modern Natural Science, or whether, as so many still prefer, men will simply give themselves up, so far as can be, to seeking the eternal in what is already there from the past. No matter how many Oriental critics come, they will only meet what is decadent in our European civilisation, and will not see that which is fruitful and capable of evolution, but which has to be actively worked at by man.

The Hour of Decision is all the more significance because the old Oriental civilisation still has spirituality, and finds in Roman Catholicism a spirituality related to its own. If modern civilisation does not find spirituality, Orientalism and Romanism will most assuredly flood the world. If modern civilisation does evolve spirituality out of itself, these others will be able to do nothing; because that spirituality will belong rightly to the most modern stage of our Earth-evolution. But the great Hour of Decision is with us; and he alone knows what is happening to-day, who realises what things are essential in this Hour of Decision, and resolves to take these things in downright earnest.

For this it is of course necessary that men should acquire a deep and earnest feeling for truth. Anthroposophical Science does not deny what exists as spiritual content in the old streams, but it knows the danger that lies in the fact that an Oriental Chinese element finds a European Chinese element in close relation to itself; and it will therefore understand how the intellectuals in Europe run over in hosts to-day to that European Chinese element, for there they find, merely by remaining passive, that which can unite their souls with the Eternal. But they only find it in a Luciferic way, because they remain behind in epochs of earthly evolutions which are in reality past. The Earth would be arrested in its development, if that were to happen. One need not be blind to the greatness of the Catholic doctrine of Belief; but it is just when one is not blind, but realises it fully, that one also realises its connection with what man has already passed through and realises also the necessity that something new should come in.

Now however the question might arise: How is it then, finally, that this more Oriental striving for Spirit which has come over from ancient times, does not see what is pressing up out of modern European civilisation, and which in its spiritual relationship, in its connection with the Spirit, might nevertheless also be perceived by the Orientals?

Well, my dear friends, people — even Orientals — still cling to what meets them externally; and what do we see meeting people externally? Certainly Anthroposophy will become more and more known; but just observe how Anthroposophy is becoming known. That is a chapter concerning which one must speak again and again to those who belong to this Anthroposophical Spiritual Science; for it is necessary that you should be acquainted with these things.