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The Responsibility of Man for World Evolution
GA 203

Lecture II

30 Januaary 1921, Dornach

The ideas which we have drawn from various sources concerning man's inclination to the Luciferic nature on the one hand, and to the Ahrimanic on the other hand, have shown us how essential it is for him to find a balance between them. Both tendencies, the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic, are false paths and man must find the equilibrium. Now a question may arise which is a difficult problem of knowledge and conscience for modern humanity. The question is this: how does one find this equilibrium, this state of balance, so that one need not succumb to the Luciferic danger or to the Ahrimanic?

The answer to this question must be given in different ways for the differing periods of human evolution; for we must know how in a particular epoch men are drawn more to the one or the other side. We have a general idea of what attracts man to the Luciferic tendency or the Ahrimanic, but we must bring it once more definitely to mind in relation to our own age.

Since the beginning of the Fifth post-Atlantean period, that is, since the fifteenth century, both the intellectual life and the social life among civilised peoples have essentially changed in comparison with earlier times. Intellectual life has increasingly acquired a character where the human being himself is definitely excluded from a world-conception. Man examines nature, and the greatest progress has been made by modern mankind in natural science. But the characteristic element is this, namely, that the actual knowledge of the human being has not only made no advance through the knowledge of nature, but has in a certain sense been cast out of human knowledge. Man has an excellent knowledge of everything else in the world, but he no longer knows himself. He has studied the stages in the animal kingdom, has founded his evolutionary theory on this, and believes that he understands how the different orders have evolved from the most elementary to the more perfect. He then adds man to the sequence, applying to the human being all that he has learnt about the animals. People arrive at nothing new that would explain the being of man, they seek the elements of explanation within the animal world and simply say: Man is just the highest stage. Nothing particular is said about the human being; he is just the highest stage. And this includes all human characteristics and is said with an instinctive obviousness. The result is that there is absolutely no real knowledge of man.

This particular sort of knowledge prevails not only in the various sciences but has already become accepted in the widest circles throughout the world. It has become something that the man of today absorbs with his newspaper reading. And if he does not absorb it with his newspaper, then in some other way, for in fact it is already inoculated into children at school. This character of modern science has more and more become general property and it fills people with ideas and concepts that constitute their general state of mind. Man reaches a certain consciousness of the world but in this consciousness he himself is omitted, That is the one thing.

The other is modern social life. You need only study the social life that obtained in times that preceded the fifteenth century. The world was filled, so to say, with judgments that were derived from an ancient and honoured social wisdom, and were the property of all men in common. One did not judge for oneself what was good or bad. Nor had one any doubt about it, for one grew up in a social order that possessed a common judgment on good and bad, whether it had reference to the people or to religion. Man decided whether he should do this or that out of this common judgment, out of something hovering authoritatively over the social order.

Much of what was at one time far more intensely established in the social order of humanity, we have today merely in our language, and since our language has in many respects become phrases we have it in the phrase. Just recollect in how many cases and to what an extent people are accustomed to use the little word “one”—“one” thinks so, “one” does this, “one” says this, and so on, although in most cases it is merely a phrase and means nothing at all. The little pronoun “one” really has meaning only in the speech which still belongs to a people in which the separate member has not become such a strong individuality as in our time, in which the words of a single person express with a certain right a common judgment.

The contents of the human soul which are gradually being given by the character of modern science and which have led man to forget himself in his world-conception, lead to the Ahrimanising of mankind in our age. And in social life that which leads man out of a life in common, which, for example, in industry has led him from the old interdependent life of the Guilds to the modern free economy, this leads to the Luciferising of man. Yet both are entirely necessary; both had to arise in the evolution of humanity. For in the earlier knowledge which man gained and which formed the constitution of his soul, man himself was always contained. In earlier times one could not gain knowledge of nature, for example, without at the same time gaining knowledge of man. One could not gain knowledge about Mars without at the same time getting to know in what way Mars has significance for human life. One could not gain knowledge about gold without gaining certain facts about man.

All that was human at that time has been thrust out. In this way one came to a pure concept of nature, freed from everything pertaining to man. This concept of nature had then to be the foundation for modern technics.

Modern technics can only furnish the great triumphs of recent times when it contains nothing but what a man can survey with his pure intellect. Look at any machine, look at any organisation of modern technical life, apart from the actual social life, and you will see that everything is organised in such a way as to exclude the human being from what is actually involved. Modern technology had therefore to have recourse to the expedient, although not conscious of it, of using merely the corpse of nature.

When we construct a machine, we break up the material that will form it, just as nature breaks up the human being when it makes a corpse out of the still animated organism. Everywhere in our mechanism we have the corpses of nature's existence. But man is not born from this corpse of nature of which our mechanical world consists, the world we have gradually produced as technics. He is born out of the nature that lives, that is alive even to the mineral kingdom. To this nature we have added in modern technics another nature, a corpse of nature, After the geological strata of the earth have been formed (see diagram, blue, orange) we have, as it were, superimposed a topmost geological stratum (green) over them, which consists of our machines and no longer contains anything of living nature. We work in the dead part of nature inasmuch as we have added modern technics to what was formerly there.

Diagram 1

This is something that makes a shattering impression on a man who considers it in its full extent, particularly when he realises how detached modern mankind has made life, not only through external mechanical technics, but through the technical mode of thought.

Consider something like the end of the war which took place between China and Japan towards the close of the nineteenth century. What took place after the conclusion of peace as the necessary settlement? The Chinese Minister wrote an immense sum in millions on a cheque. This cheque was taken to a bank. Some subordinate official accepted it and purely through Banking procedure the cheque was the occasion by which the Japanese envoy in China received the vast sum of millions which the Chinese Minister wrote upon the cheque. Something took place there in a corpse-like—externally of course—one might say, in a shadowy corpse-like manner. Nothing else has been brought about by it except that the credit of millions which the Chinese Empire up to then had had at the Bank of England had passed over to Japan through the writing and delivering of the cheque. What would it have meant if one had wanted by old procedure to pay these millions of war-damages which were simply credited to Japan through a cheque from China? I will even take the mildest form—paying in cash. What would it have meant if the whole of this money, supposing Chinese money to be what it is now, or was a short time ago, had had to be sent over from China to Japan? Thus, where one still has to do with realities the simplest form shows one what modern life has become relatively rapidly in the last third of the nineteenth century. Man's whole mode of thinking has been taken hold of by such things and has familiarised itself quite naturally. Intellectualism, which in fact Ahrimanises humanity, has become a matter of course.

Diagram 2

On the other hand, man has had to experience in social life what has been experienced. Just as he could not have come to pure natural science without intellectualism, he would not have come to the consciousness of his freedom without what he has gone through in the social life. Man has been hollowed out through the nature of modern science. He no longer knows anything of himself, he cannot understand the being of man. But on the other hand there has arisen in him the greatest strain and tension, the great demand upon his being to act from his own original impulse, for man is to act as a free being.

If one wants a symbol for what has really come about one can only say this: Man has increasingly lost the fulness of his being and become a total cipher, a blank in his own eyes. For modern natural science contains nothing of man. He has become gradually a total cipher and now in the cipher the impulse of freedom must stream out (see diagram).

That is the discord in modern man. He is to be free, that is, find the impulses of his nature and his actions within himself, but when he tries to penetrate to where these impulses are to arise and understand them, he finds a blank, a cipher, he is inwardly hollowed out. It is necessary for this to have come about, but it is also a necessity for modern humanity to come out beyond it again. For in this freedom lies the Luciferic danger unless one finds the equilibrium, and in the modern scientific life lies the Ahrimanic danger if one does not reach the state of balance.

How does one come to the state of balance? Here we must indicate something that might be called “the Golden Rule” of modern Spiritual Science—that is good. Science had to arise in modern evolution, but it must be widened. It needs a knowledge of the human being, and this can alone be brought through Spiritual Science. It is no knowledge of man to dissect him and take the brain and the liver and the stomach and the heart, for then one only gets what is also to be found in the animal kingdom but in a somewhat other form. All that is of no real value for the knowledge of man as such. Only the knowledge of man gained from Spiritual Science has value. The moment one knows that the human being with his actual ego is rooted in the will, that his will-filled ego represents his actual earthly spirituality and that this in the earthly realm makes use of the metabolism, one has an essential fact from which one can proceed to study the human metabolism and its specification throughout the organism. One comes from the spiritual element to an understanding of the human bodily nature. One must learn to know the rhythmic system and how it is expressed in the shaping of the course of the breath, the course of the blood, and one must break with the superstition that the heart is a pump which somehow drives the blood through the organism like a flood. One must learn that the Spirit is at work in the blood-circulation and that therefore rhythm there lays hold of the metabolism, causes the blood-circulation and then, in the course of human development, in the very embryo, plastically moulds the heart out of the blood-circulation, so that the heart is formed out of the blood-circulation, out of the spiritual. If one then learns to know how in the nerves-senses-system the life of concepts breaks down again the metabolic process, if one recognises the nerve as something that is left behind from the conceptual life, then one sees into the human being in a way in which one cannot penetrate the animal, for in the animal all these things are quite different.

Diagram 3

The materialist imagines that here is a nerve (see diagram, red) and this nerve produces something as a picture. No, that is not the reality. In reality the conceptual life proceeds, and while it proceeds it destroys the organic matter, creates, as it were, a groove of waste matter within the nerve (black). That is a deposit created by the life of concepts, something excreted from the organism. And the nerve is the excretory organ for the conceptual life.

In the materialistic age people have used a materialistic comparison—that the brain excretes thoughts as the liver excretes gall. That is nonsense, for the reverse is true. The brain is excreted by the thoughts, separated off continually and continually replaced by the metabolic organism. A modern scientific man will not be able to find anything right in such an idea; he will say that it all refers equally to the animal, the animal has a brain and such and such organs, and so on. This shows. however, an ignorance of himself; anyone who speaks like this of man and animal makes the same mistake as a legislator would make if he had all the razors to be found at all the barbers of a town carried to the restaurants, since he connected with a knife solely the idea of eating and concluded that an instrument formed in a certain way could only have one purpose.

The important point is to recognise that the organ in man does not fulfil the same service as in the animal; moreover the whole mode of observation which I have just employed in its most elementary elements has not at all a similar meaning in the case of the animal. It is precisely the knowledge of what man possesses out of the spiritual as material organs that is so immensely important; this concrete self-knowledge is the essential point. All the idle talk and chatter of the various mysticisms of today which proclaim that man must grasp himself inwardly, all this dreaming is nothing; it leads not to a real self-knowledge but only to an inner pleasant feeling of wellbeing. Man must study with patience and industry how his different organs are plastically formed out of the spirit. Genuine science must be based on the spiritual. One must take man as he stands before us and imitatively model him plastically, as it were, out of the spirit. That is the one thing.

While humanity lives today as it does, letting authoritative sciences issue from the various establishments, there exists in the spiritual worlds a sacred decree; external science must be supplemented by the science of the knowledge of man' It will be disastrous for mankind if it receives only external science, The Mysteries existed in ancient times in order not to let anything harmful approach man, but that is not compatible with the modern spirit. Mankind therefore in its conscious members must care for what was formerly cared for by outside powers. Those personalities who have come to understand something of these things must take care that the different sciences cannot cast their shadows, by confronting the shadows, which would darken humanity, with the light of a real, genuine, concrete self- knowledge of man. Sciences without this self-knowledge are harmful, for they Ahrimanise humanity-, Sciences with the counterpart of human self-knowledge are beneficial, for they lead mankind in reality to what it must reach in the immediate future. There should be no science which in one respect or another is not brought back to the human being. There should be no science which is not followed up right into the inmost being of man, where, if it is thus followed up, it first acquires its true meaning.

Thus, through this actually concrete self-knowledge one arrives at the equilibrium that the sciences have destroyed. Present-day man is for the most part not in the least interested in what sort of being he is in the world. If he wants to be particularly profound he lets himself “prattle” about being some sort of little god or the like—without having any real idea of the god. It is of little interest to him, however, how his individual human form is formed out of the whole universe.

The social life becomes Luciferic if it leads purely to the promotion of freedom inside that which has become nil, blank. Man will not be a nil to himself if he comes to a real self-knowledge, for then he will know how the whole structure of the universe creates an image of itself in what is within his skin, how every human being carries inside his skin a product of the whole world, The impulse of freedom is brought to equilibrium in the social life if we learn what underlies the world as spirit, if we get beyond the merely material view of the world which is characteristic of the development of knowledge during recent centuries.

Man has been lost. The outer world has become empty of man. In external astronomy we observe the sun, the planets, the fixed stars, the comets; they seem to pass through space as some kind of objective bodies. We seek their laws of motion. There is nothing there of man. Read my “Occult Science” and bring before your mind the description given there of world evolution. Directly you read of Old Saturn you are reading nothing described by modern astronomy, but at once you read of what appears as the first rudiments of the human being. In the description of Saturn is contained all that existed as the first rudiments of humanity during the Saturn evolution. With the history of world evolution you follow at the same time the whole of human evolution. Nowhere do you find there a world devoid of man. What you yourselves are is to be found described stage for stage in the evolution of the world itself.

What is the consequence? If you go into what modern science gives you about some sort of ancient mist which then conglomerated into a ball from which our present world is supposed to have arisen, but in which the human being cannot be found, you have nothing human in it at all, it all remains purely intellectual. You find something there that can interest your head, but it does not grip your whole nature. Your whole human being can only he gripped by a knowledge which contains this human being. In fact it is only the indolence of modern man, who, when he takes in something, is not at all accustomed to develop feelings and will-impulse as well. If someone reads this evolution of Saturn, Sun, Moon to the Earth and then further reads the perspective for the future, it is indolence if, in spite of its all being given in pure concepts, he does not feel stimulated in his feelings, if he does not feel; There I stand in the world, there I am together with this whole world, there I know myself to be one with this whole world!

This knowledge of oneself as being one with the world distinguishes the knowledge of the world given through Spiritual Science from the view of the world that obtains today. But let that permeate the men of today in whom it is lacking, let men be filled with the consciousness of belonging to the whole world, then a social spirit can emerge that can lead men forward. Whereas what has arisen and could indeed lead to the claiming of freedom, but gives no feeling of responsibility, this has only brought men to the point of producing the chaos in which we are now living. Luciferising can only be prevented if men recognise their position in the cosmos, if they penetrate not only the physical nature of the cosmos, that which is given to the senses, but the spiritual element as well, feel themselves as spirit in the spirit of the universe. This realisation of man's connection with the spiritual world gives rise to real social feeling, it enables man to fructify the social life on earth.

What the feeling of freedom has produced in man's social life has led above all to Luciferising, though modern men may feel nothing of it. But in the spiritual world in which we are all the time rooted, there stands again a sacred decree which proclaims to man: You must not allow the impulse of freedom to remain without a feeling of the cosmos! Just as the knowledge of man must be added to the external sciences, so must cosmic feeling be added to what has evolved as social life in our time.

These two, knowledge of humanity and feeling with the whole universe, give man equilibrium. And this he can find if in the most modern sense he really grasps the Christ-Mystery, grasps it as Spiritual Science can give it to him. For there we speak of the Christ as a cosmic Being Who has descended to earth out of the infinities of the universe. We learn to feel cosmically and must only seek to give this feeling a content. This we can do only through Anthroposophy, otherwise the Christ-concept too is empty for us. The Christ-concept becomes phrase unless it becomes something through which we understand the cosmos itself, humanly.

Just feel how from a universe that contains the Sun described by modern Astronomy and the spectral-analysis described by modern Physics—feel how from such a universe the Christ could not have descended to earth. One who adheres merely to this description of the cosmos as knowledge, can attach no meaning at all to any true, real Christ-Being. Such a Christ remains empty or becomes such as Harnack imagines. To learn to know and to feel the Christ today as Cosmic Being one needs the history of evolution that looks for man through the Saturn, Sun, Moon periods. There, where the human element is within the cosmos, one finds also the knowledge which permits the Christ to come forth from the cosmos. And if one learns to know how man's material part, what lies within his skin, is created out of the spiritual, then one learns to know him in such a way that one learns to know the Mystery of Golgotha, the incarnating of the Cosmic Christ in the individual man. Such a human being as modern science—from mathematics to psychology—can describe would find it impossible to imagine that the Christ had in any way incorporated in him. In order to understand this one must come to real self-knowledge. There is no Christianity today which can be accepted by the modern mind except through the self-knowledge and the cosmic knowledge of man which are given by Spiritual Science.

The nature of these connections can be discovered throughout our anthroposophical literature, and they should be compared with what is essential in our time for the progress of mankind. What people have received up to now in various ways from education and custom, they like to have on the one hand as a sort of shadowy abstract knowledge for Sunday, but would then prefer to regard the rest of life as quite apart from this knowledge—not basing their life on it. Any deeper need of the soul is met by the Sunday pulpit, any external requirements, by the State. Both are accepted traditionally and no thought is given as to where one must come if this traditional acquiescence were to continue.

I have constantly and from very many aspects pointed out the gravity of our time. Today I wished to indicate how the whole course of scientific life must not be pursued further unless every science is illumined by self-knowledge, and how social development must not be tolerated unless a cosmic feeling is introduced, a conception of the universe in which the human being is present in the conception itself. It is characteristic of Anthroposophy that when we study it we perceive the whole universe in the single human being and when we contemplate the world we find that everywhere it contains man.

Such things are no doubt reminiscent of Inspirations and Imaginations which humanity has had in the past, but they are not renewals of an external kind, they are drawn forth from the consciousness to which mankind is actually summoned today out of the spiritual world itself. What man sees around him in this physical world does not simply happen of itself. Man is standing within the spiritual world just as he stands as physical organism within the physical world. And something is happening, something is going on in this spiritual world in which he stands. According to what man is has he a meaning for the events of the spiritual worlds.

Let us suppose that someone only considers what goes on around him in the physical world; at most he pays a certain heed to a traditional faith which, however, has no relation to the world and only talks abstractions, and that this man now engages in traditional science, He can pursue this science, empty as it is of man, he can fill his soul with it as millions and millions today cram themselves with it more or less consciously. In this way, however, men stand likewise in a world of the Spirit, for cramming ourselves full with this science is of significance too for the spiritual world. What significance has it for the spiritual world? If that goes on in the same way then Ahriman reaps his reward. For he is the spirit who slinks eagerly round modern educational establishments and would like to keep them as they are; for that serves his interests. The Ahrimanic being, this cold ossified, bald-pated Ahriman—to speak figuratively—slinks round our modern educational centres and would like them to remain as they are. He will certainly lend his assistance if it is a matter of destroying something like this Goetheanum.

On the other hand, in the social life in which men establish their earthly claims without a feeling of the cosmos, and inasmuch as they only speak of these earthly claims without being penetrated, inflamed and inspired with the cosmic consciousness—here actually the Luciferic beings come into their own. There we see how Lucifer lives. I cannot here use the picture, which is a picture but yet is born actually from genuine Ahrimanic concepts, the picture of the ossified, slinking, bald-pated Ahriman, who slinks round educational institutes and wants to preserve them as they are. This picture would not apply to the nature of Lucifer. But another picture would apply: Let opinions be expressed out of mere egoism, with no feeling of the cosmos, even with good will and well-meant social intentions, then the true nature of Lucifer breaks out from what is being expressed. With the social demands that are promoted in the world without cosmic feeling, man spits out of himself what then becomes the beautiful Lucifer. He lives in men themselves, in their stomachs, ruined through the social mis-instincts—understood spiritually—in their ruined lungs, there lives the Luciferic source. It wrests itself free, man spits it out of his whole being and hence our spiritual atmosphere is filled with this Luciferic nature—filled with social instincts that do not feel the connection of man with the cosmos. The bald Ahriman, lanky, skeleton-like, haggard, slinking round our abstract culture on the one hand, on the other hand that which extricates itself slimily out of man himself and assumes the semblance of beauty by which man is deluded, these are pictures—but they are the realities of our time. And only through self-knowledge and only through a feeling of the connection of man with the cosmos does man find the balance between the ossified and the semblance of beauty, between the bony Being and the slimy Being, between that which slinks round him and that which wants to extricate itself out of him. And this equilibrium must be found. The fruit of the culture, the civilisation of modern times, is, in fact, nothing else than what one could call the marriage between the bony and the slimy. Man is living his life in such a way that civilisation is entering on the Spengler-prophesied downfall. As a matter of fact, Spengler could only describe the world in the way he does, for he has before him the world that has arisen out of the marriage of the bony with the one covered with slime. But man must find the equilibrium.

The times are grave, for man must become man. He must learn how to get rid of the bony as well as the slimy and become man, become man in such a way that the intellect is permeated by the heart and the heart warmed through by the intellect. Then he will find the equilibrium. And then in fact man will neither sink into—speaking spiritually—slimy mysticism nor bald-pated science, but will open himself to what is man, what I perhaps may call, after having characterised it, the Anthroposophical. That stands in the middle, the truly human, the Anthroposophical, it stands really in the midst between these two opposites into which civilisation has gradually come. The Anthropos is in truth when he really manifests his being, neither the ossified nor the slimy; he is the one who holds the balance between the intellect and the heart. That must be sought for.

What must be grasped today out of the very depth of human and cosmic existence, you will understand when you think over the two pictures which I have set before you, purely as pictures. They are meant as pictures, but as pictures that point to true realities.

We will speak further of this.