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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Responsibility of Man for World Evolution
GA 203

Lecture IV

13 March 1921, Dornach

From the whole character of these presentations of anthroposophical Spiritual Science you will see how essential it is to understand that in the various spheres of existence different Spiritual Beings have inserted themselves, taking part in the work of those spheres, giving force and direction. It is necessary that humanity in our present age should be fully alive to the knowledge of this—that different spheres of existence are guided and directed by different spiritual Beings; for our civilisation has in the course of recent years lost this consciousness of the presence of concrete Spirit in life. In general, people will willingly talk of the Divine permeating everything, but such talk does not help to an understanding of the world which can provide a sufficient basis for life. It is, of course, quite true that in the last resort, every recognition of the spiritual must tend towards a unity: but if one perceives that unity too soon, one simply loses all real insight into the course of world-happenings. It is necessary, therefore, to leave off speaking in general in such an abstract way about the Divine, and learn to know the concrete spiritual guiding Beings in Nature and History, as we have done over and over again in the course of time. It is from this point of view that I should like to point today to certain really important and significant things at the basis of the constitution of our world.

I pointed out in the last lecture that certain Beings find themselves together in the world for the purpose of building up and animating man, but that they find themselves in conflict. The old truth of the opposition coming from the Luciferic and Ahrimanic spiritual forces—this we put before our souls in the last lecture from a certain point of view, and now we will look at the matter once more from another aspect.

If we take our modern civilisation, which is now involved in such catastrophic events and manifests in such decadent forces, we shall find that what is essentially characteristic of it is the extension of intellectual thinking throughout the whole of humanity. One must really try to acquire an insight into the quite different constitution of man's soul throughout civilised Europe seven or eight centuries ago. It is intellectual thought which today is so prevalent everywhere, which permeates the entire soul-life of man and, from a certain aspect, will still continue to permeate it. The point now is that one must seek to unite with what is externally comprehensible concepts that belong more to the soul and spirit; for it is well if, from the aspect of the spirit, one really seeks to grasp and permeate external and material existence itself.

That which underlies thought in our organism consists in purely mineral processes that take place within us. Please understand me aright; those processes in us which are specifically of a human character, and those which we have in common with the animal and plant-nature, these are all connected only indirectly, and not directly, with the fact that we have become intellectual thinking human beings according to the modern idea of the development of nan. The fact that we have in us a firmly consolidated mineral constitution gives us the capacity for intellectual thought.

When we look at all those kingdoms of nature which are outside us in cosmic space, and which are also within us, we must say: Let us first of all contemplate the sphere of Warmth, of the warmth-Ether; we carry the effect of this Warmth-Ether in our own blood, and the activity of our blood consists essentially in the fact that our blood, aa the carrier of warmth, guides these warmth-processes through our entire organism. Now our intellectual thinking does not depend in any way upon what happens in the sphere of warmth. Thus, when we consider the warmth-processes in the cosmos, we can say: These warmth-processes are also continued within the skin of our organism; but that which meets us in the cosmos as warmth-processes—and specially meets one who is able to regard the cosmos in the condition when it showed itself exclusively in warmth processes, during the Saturn evolution—none of that stimulates us to intellectual thinking. Then if we look to the kingdom of the Air, there too we find events taking place; these processes are continued in our organism through our breathing process; but that again has nothing directly to do with our intellectual thinking.

As a third sphere we can look to the phenomenon of water; we see outside in the cosmos the processes in the fluid sphere. These too are continued in our metabolism, in so far as it occurs in the fluids. Outside in nature we see the circulation of fluids, and in ourselves too we see a kind of circulation of fluids. All that takes place in us in that way has again nothing to do with what is our intellectual thinking. But when we look out into the cosmos and see how water condenses to ice, how certain mineral substances are deposited as sediments, how stones and crystals take form—in short, when we consider the processes of the mineral sphere and their corresponding processes in our own organism, then we find that the mineral processes in us have to do with all that finally culminates in our intellectual thinking. We, therefore, as human beings, are incorporated into the cosmos in these various spheres; but if we were only incorporated in all these different spheres without being involved in any special degree with the mineral kingdom, with those forces which appear in crystallisation and in the deposits of salts, and which meet us in these manifestations in the external world, we should never have become the thinking beings we have become, especially since the middle of the fifteenth century. It is an absolute fact that since the middle of the fifteenth century, it is this working of the mineral forces in the human organism that has become predominant. Previous to that, other forces, those of water, air and so on, were dominant to a special degree in man. Hence intellectual thinking was not then the most significant element in human activity.

Now, in everything which surrounds us in the various realms in which we live, the realm of solid earth, of flowing water, of air and of warmth—for a moment we will disregard the higher kinds of ether—in all these are working divine spiritual beings. These realms consist not only in what we call material world-forces and entities, but they are all permeated by different spiritual beings. I will therefore make a diagram to represent this important fact in our connection with the cosmos. Suppose I sketch here (see diagram) the realm of the mineral world (black); I will then here characterise the realm of the water (red), the realm of the air here (blue), and then finally the warmth-ether (reddish-violet).

Diagram 1

Now this is the characteristic of all those spiritual beings whom the pre-Christian age—and especially pre-Christian Judaism—conceived as standing under the guidance of Jahve or Jehovah, and who were regarded by the Hebrew initiates as belonging to the Realm of Jahve or Jehovah. They extended their dominion essentially over the three first realms—warmth, air, water. And so if I am to draw that region in the cosmos that was under the rulership of Jehovah, I must say: It is this region (the three upper layers). It was really the case that the Jehovah rulership embraced the realms of Nature as we have enumerated them, with the exception of the physical-mineral realm. You must be quite clear that when in the ancient Jewish writings, reference is made to the Divine, this always refers to the Jehovah realm of warmth-ether, air and water. That was a deep initiation-truth of the pre-Christian age, and is very cleverly indicated in the story of Creation. One has merely to understand the meaning of the Bible words aright to see how this is plainly brought to expression. Jehovah betook himself, so to speak, to the earth, and formed man out of the dust of the earth. He took that which was not his own kingdom, for the forming of external man. The Bible expresses that fact quite clearly. As I have said, in the pre-Christian Jewish initiation, it was known as an initiation-truth that Jehovah did not form external man out of his own sphere of power, but turned to the earth, and from out of the earthly dust, which was foreign to him, he formed the human sheath which could not come from his own kingdom. Then he breathed into it that which comes from him—the animal soul, the Nephesch. That it is which he gave forth from himself and it came from the three realms over which he ruled. The superficial Bible investigators really do not, for the most part, understand what stands in the Bible at all. If one understands the Bible, one sees that it speaks with extraordinary exactitude, one only has to take its sentences quite exactly. “Jehovah formed man out of the dust of the earth,” that means out of the mineral kingdom foreign to him, and then he gave to man out of his own sphere the breath of the soul. Thus, what lives in man as an emanation from Jehovah is indicated when it is said that Jehovah breathed the living Odem into man.

Man developed, and as he evolved further in the mineral kingdom, he developed in an element foreign to Jehovah. And it was that kingdom which then, in more modern times, since the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, became especially dominant in man, because it formed the basis for his intellectual civilisation. We can say, therefore, that as long as the intellectual civilisation was not predominant in man, so long could a rulership prevail such as that of Jehovah. Then, however, the mineral nature began to make itself felt, from the founding of Christianity up to the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Humanity had then to be helped from another side. Now you can see how necessary it was for man at the time when the mineral nature became so important to him that he should receive the Christ Impulse, because the old Jahve or Jehovah-impulse was no longer sufficient.

You must connect what I have just told you with certain definite facts. Just consider the fact that man would not think intellectually, with a fully waking consciousness, if he were merely subject to the Jehovah influence, which has no influence on his mineral nature. And so, if we wish chiefly to consider the activity of Jehovah in man, we must not look to what is in our external intellectual culture, but to what expresses itself in our dreams. That which is dreamt, which does not pass into sharply contoured intellectual concepts such as can be grasped by the soul but is dreamt—that is our Jehovah-life. Everything which moves in the fluidic elements of the more fantastic or imaginative nature, everything which can be compared externally with the Moon-influence on man, that is his Jehovah-nature. Opposed to the Jehovah-nature is man's clear-cut thinking; but that he owes to the circumstance that there are salt deposits in him, that there is in him a mineral activity.

Now just consider the fact that, fundamentally, the old Jehovah religion lost its significance with the Mystery of Golgotha. It had lost its significance because the time had come in the evolution of man when the mineral nature became predominant in him. But when the Mystery of Golgotha appeared, there was still enough left of the ancient Dream Wisdom through which it could be understood. And those persons who had somewhat transcended the ancient Dream-Wisdom and who through various kinds of initiation had, like Saul (Paul), already attained some intellectual culture—for them a special influence was necessary, such as Paul received through the Event of Damascus, in order to grasp the Mystery of Golgotha. It is of great and deep significance, that in the Christian tradition we are told that in order to understand the Mystery of Golgotha it was necessary for Saul, who had in a certain sense been initiated before the Mystery of Golgotha into the Hebraic Mysteries—it was necessary for him that he should be carried away into that knowledge which did not work in sharp contours, but which expressed itself in the more flowing element of the dream; for it was in this way that Paul experienced the certainty that Christ had been present in Jesus through the Mystery of Golgotha. With the old Dream Wisdom, it was still possible to grasp something of the Event of Golgotha, and if, through a special influence ouch as was the case with Paul, a man was snatched into that Dream region, he could then understand the Mystery of Golgotha. But now the old Dream Wisdom more and more decreased; it only remained in man's dreams, and even there in a completely decadent form. As the fifteenth century approached, the culture of Europe was tending increasingly to the purely intellectual element; and under the influence of this intellectual element our modern natural science has developed.

Now consider the following. The old Jewish religion must not be grasped merely with reference to the external words—that would only be a materialistic understanding of religion; we must grasp it in its inner spirit. As an historical phenomenon the point that strikes us is that the Jehovah-God was simply the God of one people, and outside the borders of the Jewish people Jehovah was no longer the Jehovah-God. That is the essence of the Jehovah Divinity; he did not embrace the whole of humanity, but only one portion of mankind. In fact, this perception of God has passed over to our own age, and in particular one could, see it again during the World War when every nation spoke of how Divine Providence or, as many said, the Christ, was helping them. Each nation wanted, so to say, to go forth under the guidance of Christ against every other. But because one utters the Name of `Christ', that does not mean that one has met, has contacted, the Christ; for the Christ is only contacted when in one's whole feeling one turns to that Being Who has the Christ Nature. One may say a thousand times over: “We will fight in the Name of Christ”; but as long as one is fighting for one nation alone, one is giving a false name to the Being of Whom one speaks; one calls the Being Christ, but one means only the Jehovah-God. In the great catastrophe of the War (1914-1918) all the peoples fell back into a Jehovah religion—only, there were a great many Jehovahs; each people worshipped a God who was honoured entirely in the character of a Jehovah; Christ completely disappeared from the consciousness of humanity. One could see in those catastrophic events how utterly Christ had disappeared out of the consciousness of man.

We can see this also in other things. An altogether scientific civilisation has now grown up. Our modern scientific culture, how far does it extend? Fundamentally, it is limited to what is mineral and physical. Just consider how uncomfortable a modern scientist immediately becomes if one asks him to speak of anything but what is mineral or physical. As soon as the conversation turns to anything else—for instance, to the principle of life—the modern scientist asserts that one can only explain the mineral and chemical processes in the living. He will not enter into the element of life itself, and still less into the element of soul. Thus, this modern science has developed entirely within just that sphere which was not included in the Jehovah religion, in an element foreign to Jehovah—the element of the mineral physical. This science, in order that it might become an element of civilisation had, as it were, to depend on receiving the Divine Spiritual from another side.

When one spoke among the ancient Jews of any sort of knowledge, it was always a dream-knowledge. The Prophets who had the very highest knowledge are described as the Dreamers of prophetic dreams. It is all connected with just this very fact. It was through this Dream-Wisdom that men even comprehended the Mystery of Golgotha itself. But this Dream-Wisdom disappeared. The Mystery of Golgotha was indeed still transmitted historically and spoken of in the traditional Church communities, but a true understanding of it could no longer be found. In place of it, modern science has grown up in the element foreign to Jehovah, a spirit-less, God-less element; and, because its understanding could not yet expand to the Christ-element, it developed entirely within that physical mineral element—utterly devoid of spirit.

Now this science must, to its uttermost particle, again be permeated by a spiritual element. It is empty of spirit because it can no longer be Jehovistic. External civilisation has attempted to carry on some sort of religious culture by means of a religious `false coinage,' as when it gave the name of Christ to Jehovah during the War. But science has turned entirely away from the Spirit, it gives descriptions of the physical-sensible alone, because man has not yet been able to press forward to an understanding of the Christ. At most the old Jehovah understanding still prevails when men storm against each other as they did in the War; but not when they investigate facts of nature, for then we have a spirit-less science, an intellectual science devoid of spirit. Thus we are surrounded by a sphere in which the Jehovah element still rules. It permeates us; but we are not aware of it, because it permeates us chiefly through those conditions which are our sleeping conditions. If, when we withdraw into the element of sleep, we could suddenly wake up outside our body, we should clearly perceive around us a spiritual nature, under the leadership of Jehovah. Then, as it were, on the waves of a Jehovah-Sea, we should see our dreams coming to us out of this Jehovah element.

Again in our Will—I have often told you that we are asleep within it—there again the Jehovah nature rules. In the whole metabolism of man, the Jehovah nature rules. As feelings arise out of the metabolic system and permeate the rhythmic system, so do certain feelings emerge, coming out of the waves of the Jehovah-Sea—like our dreams. But when we live in that realm which can only become comprehensible to us through our intellect, our understanding, there Jehovah has no share. When the Moon rises slowly in a dream-like light and pours this dream-light over everything, one might say: “Man has spread a Jehovah character over the fields of the world.” When the Sun rises, shining clearly on every stone, spreading over every object and giving it sharp contours, so that we are able to grasp it with our understanding, then the Sun-nature—which is not a Jehovah-nature—expresses itself. We can only permeate the world with spirit if we can perceive the Christ-Being, if we so look into this world as to see the Christ-Being in it. Modern science has had no eye for this Christ-Being. That which is not Jehovistic but Sun-illumined and can be grasped in the sharp contours of the intellect—this has been seen by modern science as devoid of spirit. That is the deeper connection.

Diagram 2

What kind of a realm is it, then, which meets man in the mineral? Now, I told you in the last lecture that on the one side, within the realm of Jehovah, because they have remained at an earlier stage of evolution, the Luciferic beings appear. When we are present in the Jehovah sphere, let us say in sleep, then the Luciferic beings make themselves felt in our feelings and impulses of Will. That realm which we must dominate with our intellect is spread out around us as the mineral kingdom. That is a kingdom foreign to Jehovah, and into it those beings have penetrated who belong to the Ahrimanic realm. The Ahrimanic beings, however, because Jehovah could not, so to speak, keep them away, have penetrated into that mineral realm (see diagram—green). And so, when we turn our gaze to this realm, we are every moment in danger of being taken by surprise, to our confusion, because of the Ahrimanic beings. These Ahrimanic beings—I have tried to present an image of this in the carved wooden Group which is to stand in our Goetheanum—these Ahrimanic beings can in reality only feel at home in the realms which surround us in the mineral world. They are predominantly intellectually-gifted beings. The Mephistophelean figure which you see below in our wooden Group, that Mephistophelian-Ahrimanic figure is extremely clever, utterly end wholly permeated with intellect. But with what is really Jehovistic—with what lives in the human metabolic system, in so far as it does not deposit salts or is of a mineral nature but of a fluid nature, consisting in the metabolism of fluids, with all that lives in our breathing and in our warmth condition—with all this the Ahrimanic element has no direct relationship.

These Ahrimanic beings strive, however, to get into man. Man was created out of the dust of the earth. The mineral element is the true sphere of Ahriman, he can enter that sphere, and feel comfortable there; he feels very comfortable whenever he can permeate us through whatever is mineral in us. You secrete salts, and through this you are able to think; through the deposit of salts, through all the mineral processes prevailing in you, you become a thinking being. Ahriman seeks to enter that sphere, but in reality he has a definite relation only to the mineral. Therefore he is fighting to get a share also in man's blood, in his breathing, and in his metabolism. He can only do this if he can inject certain characteristics into man's soul; if, for instance, he can inject into the human soul a special tendency to a dry, barren understanding which seeks an outlet in materialism and mocks all truths permeated by feeling. If he can permeate man with intellectual pride, then he can make the human blood, the breath and metabolism also inclined to him, and then he can, as it were, slip out of the salts and mineral in man and slip into his blood and breathing.

That is the conflict in the world being fought on the part of Ahriman through the very being of man. You see, when Jehovah turned to the earth and created man out of the earth in order to develop him further than he could have done within his own realm, he created man out of an element foreign to himself, and only implanted, breathed, his own element into him. But in so doing, Jehovah had to take something to his aid, something to which these Ahrimanic beings have access. Jehovah has thereby become involved, as regards earthly evolution, in this conflict with the Ahrimanic element which, with the help of man, seeks to get the world for itself by means of the mineral processes.

As a matter of fact, much has been attained by the Ahrimanic beings in this sphere, because when man is born into physical existence, or is conceived, he descends from the worlds of soul and spirit and surrounds himself with physical matter. But in the present state of our civilisation and according to the customs of the traditional Churches, man would like to forget his existence in a sphere of soul and spirit before birth. He does not wish to admit it; he would like, in a sense, to wipe out of human life any prenatal existence. Pre-existence has gradually been declared heretical in the traditional Confessions. It is desired to restrict man to the belief that he begins with physical birth or conception, and then to link on to that what follows after death. If this belief in a mere after-death condition were to be fully and finally forced on to mankind, the Ahrimanic powers would then have won their conflict; because if man regards only what he experiences from his earthly nature between birth and death and does not look to a pre-existence, to a life before birth, but only to a continuance of life after death, the Ahrimanic element in his mineral processes would gradually overpower him. Everything of a Jehovistic nature would be thrown out of earthly evolution, everything which has come over from Saturn, Sun and Moon would be wiped away. A new creation would thus begin with the earth, which would deny everything that had preceded it.

For that reason, the perception which denies pre-existence must be fought with all possible energy. Man must realise that he existed before he was born or conceived into physical life. In all veneration and holiness, he must receive that which was allotted to him from divine spiritual worlds before his earthly existence. If he adds to the belief of the after-death condition a knowledge of pre-birth existence, he can prevent his soul from being devoured by Ahriman. It follows therefore from what I have said that we need gradually to take into our speech a certain word which we have not yet got. Just as we speak of immortality (deathlessness) when we think of the end of our physical existence, so we must learn to speak of un-bornness, for even as we are immortal, so also are we, as human beings, in reality unborn, look where you will in the language of civilised peoples for a practicable word for “birthlessness!” We have the word “immortal” everywhere, but “unborn” we have not got. We need that word; it must be just as valid a word in civilised languages as the word “immortal” is today. It is just in this that the Ahrimanising of our modern civilisation reveals itself; for it is one of the most important symptoms of the Ahrimanising of modern civilisation that we have no word for “not being born.” For as we do not fall a prey to the earth with death, just as little do we first originate with our birth or conception. We must have a word which points clearly to pre-existence.

One must not undervalue the significance which lies in the word. For no matter how much and how clearly one thinks, that is something in yourself, something in man, of an intellectual nature. But the moment the thought is expressed in a word, even the moment the word as such is only thought, as in the words of a meditation, that same moment the word is imprinted into the ether of the cosmos. Thought as such does not imprint itself into the ether of the cosmos, otherwise we could never become free beings in the sphere of pure thought. We are bound, we are no longer free, the moment something imprints itself into the ether. We are not made free through the word, but through pure thought. You can read further about this in my “Philosophy of Spiritual Activity”; the word, however, imprints itself into the ether.

Now consider this. Initiation science knows it to be true that because in civilised languages there is no word for “unbornness,” therefore this “birthlessness,” which is so important for humanity, is not imprinted into the cosmic ether. Now everything which in great significant words is imprinted in the cosmic ether referring to originating, to all that concerns man in his childhood, youth, signifies for the Ahrimanic powers a terrific fear. The word “immortality” the Ahrimanic beings can very well bear to find inscribed in the world ether; they are quite pleased, because immortality means that they can start a new creation with man and carry it forward. It does not irritate the Ahrimanic beings when they shoot through the ether to play their game with man and find that from every pulpit immortality is being spoken of; that thoroughly pleases them. But it is a terrible shock for them if they find the word “unbornness” inscribed in the world ether; it entirely extinguishes the light in which these Ahrimanic beings move. Then they can go no further, they lose their direction, they feel as though they were falling into an abyss, a bottomless pit. You can see by this that it is Ahrimanic action that restrains humanity from speaking of unbornness. No matter how paradoxical it may appear to modern humanity that one should speak of these things, modern civilisation requires that they should be spoken of. Just as meteorology describes the wind, or geography the Gulf Stream, so one must describe what is going on around us spiritually, and how these Ahrimanic beings are moving through our environment; one must describe how well they feel in everything connected with death, even when dying is denied; and how they are filled with a terrible fear of darkness when one speaks of anything connected with being born, connected with growth and thriving. We must learn to speak scientifically of these things, just as that Jehovah-forsaken mineral sphere can be spoken of scientifically in our modern science.

You see, this is in reality nothing less than the conflict with the Ahrimanic powers which we must take upon ourselves. Ultimately, whether people like to know it or not, that which is so often brought against Anthroposophical Spiritual Science is at the same time the fight of Ahriman against what must be repeated ever more emphatically by Spiritual Science as necessary to modern humanity.

When one experiences such things as the recent attacks that have been made upon Spiritual Science, is it not obvious that these people themselves simply do not approach it? I have spoken to you of the especially ruthless and hateful attack which appeared recently in Germany, in the highly respected paper “Frankfurter Zeitung,” when that paper took up a really disgraceful attitude. It did indeed insert our rejoinder, but only in order to put before it a whole column of its own nonsensical remarks. These things are all characteristic of those people who would like the science of Anthroposophy to disappear, who are either too lazy to study or not capable of it. These people seize upon such attacks as the recent one in Germany in order to cast suspicions on what they cannot refute.

When you consider the matter in the light of what I have told you in connection with these Ahrimanic beings, you will see through things a little. In scientific circles today there are a great number of persons who can apparently think quite clearly, and why? Because Ahriman permeates the mineral world; and you therefore need not be surprised that these people develop a great deal of intellect. That is Ahriman within them; it is far more comfortable to allow Ahriman to think in one than to think for oneself. A man can pass his examinations far more easily, he can become a tutor or university professor with far greater facility if he allows Ahriman to think for him. And because so many people allow Ahriman to think in them, these attacks naturally come from an Ahrimanic direction. These things have an inner spiritual connection, which we must see through. Therefore, people must not be so foolish as to blame us over and over again if we are forced to strike back with very cutting remarks at what would fain nullify Spiritual Science from its very roots.