The Responsibility of Man for World Evolution
1 April 1921, Dornach
If we turn our attention to what we have often taken as the object of esoteric study, to what is described in my books, “Theosophy,” “Occult Science,” and others, as the principles of the human being, and if we consider this somewhat generally and. externally, we can look on the one hand towards all that can be called the forces, the faculties, of the human intellect. To be sure, what we comprise under the faculties of the intellect includes something entirely different from what we have described as the principles of man. But precisely through such studies as call our attention to various concepts and ideas from other points of view, we shall advance in our studies. Thus we see on the one hand activities of a more intellectual order of the human soul and spirit life, and we see on the other hand the activities of the soul and spirit life which are more applied to the appetitive faculties, to the will. Today we will turn our attention to these faculties with reference to mankind in general, that is, we will ask ourselves: what significance have the more intellectual forces, and what significance have the forces of a will nature in the life of humanity as a whole? If such a method of study is undertaken, it can only be fruitful if one does not dissociate man and mankind from the earth, but when one regards man as a member of the whole earth planet. The justification for this you will discover through statements which you find, for instance, in “Occult Science” concerning the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions of our Earth.
When you remember what has been said there about the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolutions you will see that the views there differ from those of the modern geologist and natural scientist, who consider the earth on the one hand geologically, as if man had no connection with it at all, and then again, mankind by itself in a kind of self-enclosed anthropology, as if this mankind walked about on a soil quite foreign to it. This is quite impossible as a really fruitful method of study. When you follow what was said about the Saturn, Sun and Moon evolution, you will see that in these evolutions the forces which worked in humanity itself and the forces which worked in the rest of the planet were not at all to be thought of as separate. The fact that humanity has reached a certain independence on the earth and walks about free of the planet, as it were upon its surface, is a phase of evolution, it must not be considered as a final standard. We must consider mankind in connection with the whole of earthly evolution. And, therefore, in the first place we must say to ourselves: if we turn our attention to the intellectual faculties and remember what has been said about the earlier metamorphoses, about the Saturn, Sun and Moon metamorphoses of the Earth's evolution then we arrive at the fact that this inner development of the intellect, which man has today, was not in existence in former stages of the Earth's development. What is today localised to some extent in our head as intellect was spread over the whole Earth planet as a universal intelligence, as an intelligence working according to law, penetrating everything. One could say that intelligence worked in the facts of the whole Earth evolution. The human being himself on the Moon, to say nothing of Saturn and Sun, had not yet, as we know, a reasoning consciousness, but instead a kind of dreamlike consciousness. This dreamlike consciousness looked out into the cosmic phenomena and man did not say to himself, “Out there the cosmic phenomena take place and I grasp them with my reason,” but man dreamed in pictures. What we find today localised in our head as intellect he saw as something which interpenetrated external facts and objects. We differentiate between the laws of nature and that which in us comprehends these laws of nature, and this latter we call our intelligence. The human being of earlier times, and that applies also to the earlier parts of our Earth evolution, lived in a soul-consciousness of pictures and he did not distinguish the laws of nature by his intelligence, but Nature herself had intelligence, Nature herself gave herself laws. There outside worked intelligence. It is an evolutionary phase of our humanity, now become independent, that we bear intelligence within us and there, outside, are the laws of nature. The sum total of these natural laws was the intelligence for the man of antiquity.
Now, as Earth humanity we have, as you know, already developed consciousness to a certain degree, so that intelligence is within us and outside exist natural laws which we only grasp with our intelligence. In pointing to these facts, we are touching upon an important evolutionary impulse of mankind. But we must be aware that this evolutionary impulse must be more and more laid hold of and perfected. Today indeed it is not yet fully perfected. We certainly say to ourselves that we have intellect within us, and there, without, the laws of nature hold sway, but we have not yet fully made intelligence our own. As humanity we have remained half-way as regards this receiving of intelligence, reason, natural law, into ourselves. And these facts which I have been touching upon are amongst those which above all must be examined from the standpoint of Spiritual Science precisely in our times. Nowadays we are still extraordinarily proud when we possess something of an intellectual nature, something pertaining to human knowledge in common with other people. Something still holds good today which is cutting very deeply into the whole development of human nature, namely, that science should be cultivated as something universal, hovering over humanity, as it were, and that when men devote themselves to science they should bring their individuality as a sacrifice, that they should think — well, as “everyone” thinks. It is an ideal, for instance, in our public educational institutions, to cultivate a science which is quite impersonal, quite un-individual, to make this science into something in respect of which one says “I” as little as possible, and says “one” as much as possible. “One” has discovered this or that, “one” must accept this or that as true. And the ideal of the official representative of science today would be just this — that one should not really be able to distinguish the separate professors very well — least of all as regards temperament — when one arrives at a college from another college far distant. It would be an ideal, if one — shall we say? — could listen to a lecture on botany somewhere in the north, then fly with a balloon towards the south and could there hear the continuation of this lecture, and if the continuation should correspond with what “one” really knows in Botany! Something quite impersonal, unindividual, it is this which people consider to be the right thing, and they have a horrible dread lest somehow or other anything personal should enter into this knowledge, into this working of the human intellect. It is just in this sphere that the levelling down of the whole of human culture is considered as of chief importance. It is a source of pride if one does not deviate from what has been formulated once and for all in a certain method. Thus, people would like to sunder science from man. It is separated from man also in still many other relations, as we know. Examples could be given of this. Just think how most men today who are connected in an official way with science write their dissertations, their professorial candidature treatises and so on. They put themselves into them as little as possible, and least of all they reckon with the fact that these books will be quite generally read. They are written; but they are scarcely read by those who have to test them in the college in question; at the most someone reads them who is obliged to do so, and then he tells the others what is contained in them. For science is something about which “one” thinks, not oneself personally. And then they are stored away in libraries. When someday someone or other writes a similar book he looks in the library catalogue and sees where he can find anything he must pay attention to and then that is stored away again, end enters least of all into the individual-personal. All of that is cut off. Yes, my dear friends, countless books abound in the libraries which have no personal interest at all. This is after all a dreadful situation. But what is worse, people have not the least idea of it, and feel quite satisfied, believing that they themselves do not need to know anything at all, for in the libraries you can find everything, if you only get the right catchword in the catalogue. There things rest. But men are withering away beside a science which is so unindividual. Science would have to be looked at differently if people wanted to keep it in their heads instead of on the library shelves.
This gives one through a few holes — so to say — for one could bring forward many things along these lines, an indication of how the ordinary intellectual culture in modern men is still unindividual, impersonal, how they would like to have it as something which carries on a sort of cloud existence above them. But what is brought about by man belongs not only to man, but to the cosmos. I have therefore said that in order to come to fruitful reflections, we must regard man in connection with the planet, and then again, the planet in connection with the whole universe.
What man brings about, therefore, by using his intellect he can deal with in two directions. He can exert it by developing sciences which all end in “one” thinks, “one” knows, “one” has attained these or those improvements. Then one writes it down in books and stores it away, then that is science, which the generations outgrow, and men can wither away with such a cultivation of the intellect. People can take the line of looking to many other things for their real interests but certainly not to what is an unreality, objective, with no personal touch, preserved in libraries — this they do not meddle with. One has known of learned assemblies who had a phrase, “one who is fond of talking shop” (Fachsimpeln). To gather in small circles and discuss scientific matters when there was an official assembly was considered as of far the least importance. Oh, no, one spoke there of all sorts of trivialities, lying far removed from anything that was really a matter of science. And those who had the weakness of being somewhat enthusiastic about their science and who then — shall we say? — when tea or black coffee was being drunk, began perhaps to speak of this or that philosophical subject, those were people who talked “shop,” whom one couldn't take quite seriously — who had not the mind of a man of the world.
I once encountered this lack of the personal in science in a very singular way. I attended an assembly where Helmholtz was giving a. lecture. At this lecture, which was read aloud word for word by Helmholtz and which had already been in print for some time, the audience listened to its being read — well, as one does listen to such a lecture. After the lecture, a journalist came up to me and said — “Why exactly that? One does not need that at all. Anyone can read such a lecture, who wants to, when it has been printed, why should it be read aloud to us as well? It would have been far more sensible if Helmholtz had simply walked about in the auditorium and given his hand to everyone. That would have done much more good.” That is a very true example of how estranged people are from what is flying about so impersonally as science. Naturally people are being dried up by it. This, then, is one way in which intellectual culture can be grasped.
The other method is this; to interest oneself in every single thing, so that one's mind catches fire and brings new life into science and the details are recast into living concepts, so to grasp everything that it is received from the first moment with the inner life of feeling. Thus, one can really imbue with an inner fire all that is given by science. By taking the various sciences one can gradually penetrate into the whole world existence, one can create something which becomes an innately personal concern of every human being who pursues it. That is the other method. On the one side impersonal, all that is carried on being cut off from humanity — in fact people would greatly prefer to find automatons for the pursuit of science. Then they would have nothing more to reflect upon with their own heads, for perhaps they would be productive without them. But all that happens in this way, or all that may happen from a fully heartfelt pursuit of science, is indeed not merely the concern of mankind, it is the concern of the whole planet and therewith of the whole universe. For what a man does, inasmuch as he cultivates something of an intellectual nature with his head, is just as much an event as when the water of a spring flows under the stream to the sea, or as when evaporation takes place, or it rains. What happens when plants sprout and so on, those are events of the one sort. What happens through the agency of man is an event of another sort. It is not merely a human concern, it is a concern of the whole planet. And this is precisely the task of man in his evolution on the earth — for the intelligence which formerly was poured out in common with the whole planet, to be drawn within by man, to be united with himself. Thus it is an evolutionary impulse of man to make knowledge his own personal concern, so that he can imbue it with enthusiasm, so that it can pass over into him and be seized by the fire of his heart. And if he does not do the latter, if he stores up knowledge in impersonal ways, then something does not happen which ought to happen in the sense of the Earth's evolution. The feeling nature of nan is not seized by the culture of the intellect» The intellectual culture only develops in the head, as it were, and hovers too far away from the surface of the earth, merely in our heads. It makes no difference if many people are short, and their heads only reach about to the hearts of others, it develops only in the heads, and it ought to sink down to the hearts. But lying in wait for what is thus not taken in by the heart, what is not seized by the feeling nature of man, are the Luciferic spirits. And this for which the Luciferic spirits are thus waiting can be received by them when it hovers thus impersonally above the earth. For the only possibility of wresting the world of intellect away from the Luciferic spirits is to imbue it with feeling and make it a personal affair. And what is happening in our age, and what has happened for a long time and must become different, is that we are letting earthly existence become the prey of the Luciferic world, by our cold, empty, dried-up intellect. In this way the Earth is checked in her evolution, and is held back at an earlier stage. She will not arrive at her goal. And if man continues for a long time the impersonality of so-called science, the consequence will be the loss of the soul-nature altogether. This impersonal science is the murderer of the human soul and spirit nature. It dries men up, it withers them. Finally, it makes of the Earth something that one can call a dead planet with automatic men on it, who have lost their spirit and soul by these means. Here too one must say: things must even now be taken in earnest; we must not look on at this cosmic murder by the abstract impersonal pursuit of knowledge on earth. That is one thing.
The other is the human desire-nature, which is connected with the will in man. What is connected with man's will-nature can again take two directions. The one path is for this will-nature to subordinate itself as much as possible to regulations or state decrees, and to unite itself with what is a kind of general law, so that this general law exists, and in addition there are only man's purely instinctive desires.
The other path is that what is reflected in man as desire, what is present as will should gradually raise itself to pure thought, expend itself in individual freedom so that it flows into the social life as love. It is the method of transmuting the forces of will and desire that I have described in the “Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.” There I have shown how the common law of humanity must proceed from each human individuality. I have described there how the social order arises through the harmony of men's acts, when what proceeds from the human individual is raised to pure thought. Men are afraid of a social order which is formed by every person giving himself his direction out of his own individuality. People like to organise what men should want. They like to establish categorical commands in the place of the love working out of each human being. Through the existence, however, of such abstract injunctions, whether they are commands on the pattern of the Decalogue, or laws of any individual State, then from out the individuality of man only instinctive desires have a value, those desires which we are seeing revive today especially, and which have become, as a matter of fact, the sole social ingredient of the present time. Again, that which happens in man when he does not make his will individual, does not raise it to pure thinking, that is not something affecting man alone, but it affects the whole planet and therewith the cosmos. And what occurs when the human will cannot become individual, this the Ahrimanic spirits are greedily awaiting. They make it their own, these Ahrimanic spirits, and they appropriate everything which lives in man of a will-nature, by way of desires not unfolded to love, and carry it over to individual demonic beings. Just as something of a more universal nature arises through that which is hovering over mankind as the intellectual faculty, so do quite individually formed demonic beings arise out of the human appetitive faculties not transformed into love. And if there were no striving on the part of the individuals towards a community of freedom within the social order, the Earth would have to fulfil her purpose with these beings, who would then be individualised, but who would carry on an existence as Ahrimanic spirits, and who would take away from the Earth the possibility of evolving into the next planetary condition, the Jupiter metamorphosis. Stated shortly, that would mean that the abstract intellectuality of our planet would be perfected towards the one side, would not let it come to completion, and that which arises out of the will, not transmuted into love, would create on the other side sheer individual beings. No less than this is seen by one who sees into the beginnings of a civilisation which is undermining the true progressive development of the Earth. This is what such a seer sees being formed today if no impediment is put in the way of the impulses which on the one hand are now arising in the Western world with such strength, and on the other hand developing so forcibly in the Eastern world. What has proceeded purely out of human subjectivity over there and is lying at the base of the State culture, which has fallen into decadence, is something which will actually mould the Earth's evolution in the direction of individualised demons. And what is evolving in the West is something which will sail along into a universal standard of intellectuality and gradually make man into an automaton. These things can plainly be seen in the construction of these automatic machines, which are already here today — partially. I say “partially” consciously, for to be sure they are still to some extent very individual. In many respects, one can see their automatic nature, but there is something still left in these automatic machines which is at the same time very individual. Something which is to be noticed as an appendage to each of these separate automata, in which if things aren't exactly in the form of banknotes, there's at any rate a sound of gold and silver. But a. universal automatism would also oblige the individual purse to become the general communistic purse.
All this is, however, something which must be regarded today not with mere sympathy and antipathy alone, but with that sight which looks through world events, which can observe what is happening among men in connection with cosmic events. When one sees things thus, one will say to oneself: it is given to man to bring forward the planet wisely in its evolution. The particular kind of existence which has been indicated today is threatening humanity if men do not try to convert knowledge into wisdom. And that can only come about if a man personally applies himself to knowledge, if he takes it personally into himself and binds it again to what, out of the desire nature transmuted by love, becomes the common concern of humanity. One can receive these things through Spiritual Science with a strong impulse of inner understanding.
As a matter of fact, it is shown in what has remained behind in the Moon as a cosmic symbol. When we sec the Moon in its first or last quarter, in what it shows us as its sickle form we have a. picture of what the Earth could become. In the dark part, it shows to one who can see the supersensible these little demoniacal forms moving about in ghastly fashion, where the curve of the sickle bends inwards. So that one is speaking quite correctly in saying: man must preserve the Earth from the Moon existence through all that I have now explained. The Moon shows in a cosmic picture placed before us what the Earth could become. And so we must accustom ourselves to penetrate in this way with inner feeling into that too which we see outside in the cosmos. We must so look upon the Moon that we can say: it shows us something set up through cosmic evolution as a caricature of the Earth existence, as what the Earth existence can become if man does not learn to understand how to make impersonal knowledge into his personal concern, if he does not learn how, through warmth, to change individual desires into love, through which they can develop into an associated social life that is a common concern of the whole of mankind. One can understand better what happens in the cosmos if one looks into what is being accomplished in man, and conversely one can see in the right way the tasks of mankind if one is able consciously to look into the conditions of the cosmos. For they are applicable also to that which should live in humanity as morality, as ethics.
The facts that are stated concerning Lucifer and Ahriman are not meant to be taken in such a way that one should theorise about them, that one should only say Ahriman is this, and Lucifer is that. But one should so take up these ideas into oneself that really one should see in all around the activity of the Luciferic spirits who want to hold back the Earth in earlier conditions. So too in all that is Ahriman one should see something which would hold back the Earth so that it does not advance to future stages. But one must penetrate those things in detail. One must be able to value the moral in relation to the laws of nature, and the laws of nature morally. When that happens then the great bridge will be thrown across between the moral world-concept and the theoretic world-concept, of which bridge I have, as you know, often spoken from this place.
Things which happen today must also he viewed from this standpoint. For only when the free-will of man invades these cosmic events can what has been indicated to you he turned to good service. The further evolution of the world is in fact entirely the task of man and of humanity. This must not be overlooked. And one who only wants to theorise, who, for instance, only wants to see and hears after so and so many centuries or millennia this or that will happen — does not consider that we are already living in a time when it is given over to mankind to co-operate in the metamorphosis of the earthly evolution; he does not consider that there must be received into man's soul that which is the general world-intelligence, nor that what lives individually in man as the forces of desire must flow out from mankind in the form of a universal love, which, however, is only attained through the pure freedom of thought.
Herewith I have set before your mind's eye two streams of culture, which are immensely important, and have sought in so doing to show again from a certain aspect what is the task of Spiritual Science when taken earnestly. The task lies in this direction. It does not really lie in a few persons having a feeling of well-being in the knowledge of this and that, but it lies in so grasping human evolution that world events come to pass in the true way out of humanity itself.