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Social Life
GA 203

Lecture I

21 January 1921, Dornach

Our lectures, in that period of time before I had to go away some weeks ago, all tended to show how that which we call Spiritual Science can pass over into real life. They tended to show how that which we call the Cosmos stands in a certain inner connection with what we ourselves inwardly experience in man. And if you just survey the lectures given upon this very theme, I beg you once in a way, radically to ask yourselves this question: — What would it signify for the sum total of the evolution of humanity if these most penetrating, most significant results of Anthroposophical Spiritual Science would only penetrate into the life of those human beings working and living in a social relation with each other. They would know that man, while he attains his consciousness in a physical body, is all the time preserving something in this physical body which points to the period of time before his birth, or rather before his conception, when he was in a condition in which he was filled with a longing once again to have the life between birth and death. He carried within him then the feeling that the soul that has lived for a long time in the Spiritual world again needs the perception of the world obtainable through the bodily senses in order to progress further, and also needs actions performed in a physical body. This conscious contemplation of the pre-existence of the soul, if really understood in the right way, would not remain a mere theoretical view, but would lay hold of one's Feeling and Will, and thereby become a direct force in life.

We can see this my dear friends, in the humanity of the present- age. — They all show something of a lack of initiative, in its broad outlines. This lack of initiative, which broadly speaking, works in a weakening way on all these forces which are necessary in order to turn our decaying life once again into an ascending one, can only be bettered when man becomes conscious of his community with the Spiritual world. That however cannot be brought into the human soul through any theoretical considerations, but only through the living perception of what man was before he descended into the physical world.

Again, if that which looks beyond the time which we pass here as human beings between birth and death, is not the object simply of a vague belief but of a clear cognition, it does not work so abstractly in man as do the religious confessions of to-day, but works concretely, as a direct force of life, Man then works in such a way that what lies in his labour extends beyond his death; and because a man can take up such ideas into himself, life is thereby poured into everything which as a rule man only knows.

Just think for a moment. To-day we have a widely-extended Science of Nature; and as regards this external Science, we must say that man has progressed enormously; but the last few years have shown that this progress has not improved humanity in any moral respect. Such persons as Wallace and others, to whom I have often pointed when I wanted to emphasise that years ago, they were quite right when they said, “We have indeed made immense progress with respect to our knowledge of the outer world, but as regards our moral nature, humanity compared with primeval times, has not progressed.”

This progress must come to-day, in this historic Age, because human beings cannot remain as they are now, in their present disposition of soul. But how can this change be brought about? How can the more theoretical view of the world be animated? Let us take an apparently coarse example. In our human life, we make use of coal. We know that this coal is a relic of old forests, and so fundamentally it is a plant-substance. But now, how is this plant-substance, how is the whole world of plants connected with man as such? Just reckon over a few thousand years and see how much carbon dioxide, carbonic-acid the air would then contain, — because we breathe out carbon dioxide into the air with each expiration, — and you will find that it is a large quantity.

In the course of a few thousand years it would be an enormous quantity. In the course of a few thousand years, it would cause man to disappear; it would extinguish life. But now the plants absorb this carbon dioxide, and excrete the carbon; they form their body out of that which they absorb from man's cast-off produce; and these plants which once covered the Earth, now compose our layers of coal, our coal strata.

You see, that is an extraordinary transformation. At first it is more the qualitative aspect which comes into consideration; because naturally that coal was not formed by our breath but by other beings; but this qualitative aspect has to be considered. That which in a sense we excrete from ourselves, furnishes the basis for what we again use from the Earth. Thus far one can think, according to the theoretical results arrived at by Science.

Spiritual Science leads us further, I must remind you of what I have told you. It is true that man lays aside his physical body when he goes with his soul and spirit into the Spiritual worlds; but I also told you that the physical body, which is laid aside, signifies just that which builds up the Earth again.

As in our expiration we give carbon to the plant-world, so we give our body to the entire Earth. And what we see around us, my dear friends, is simply the product of such beings as ourselves, beings who, during the Moon, Sun and Saturn epochs were our predecessors, and who gave to the Earth that which composes the Earth to-day. When future worlds come, there will live in them that which we now excrete as our bodily substance. That is a thought of infinite scope, if one follows it out, because from our knowledge of nature (which is but a half-knowledge), we can get the connection of man with the entire world, and it is important that we should get that, extremely important; for if we bring together all that has been laid down as a foundation in our earlier lectures, we must say; that in our entire human nature, not merely in our thinking but in our entire nature, even as far as our external body, lives what we have worked upon in ourselves as our moral ideals. That dualistic philosophy, which can build no bridge between the natural world and the moral sphere, cannot imagine how what we have in our moral ideals can be connected with the very processes in our muscles; but if one can look at the world as we have tried to do in our recent lectures, one sees how what we think in our moral ideals incorporates itself into the very processes of our body. One sees that the Spiritual and bodily processes are interwoven and form a unity.

This method of looking at things ought to become general. If only it were taken up as part of the education of children, human beings would grow up who would not look on one side to a world developed from a nebulous condition, out of which, the Sun, the Stars and the Planets have condensed, and from which too, through the welding-together of matter void of morale or being, humanity has developed in order finally to return back into a purely natural condition. That which springs up in our souls as moral Ideals would then again be one with what stood at the starting point of our Cosmic evolution in its purely natural existence. We human beings would then realise that we are called upon to incorporate into the life of nature, what we experience as moral ideals. And then, in future worlds, we should know that what we now experience morally will re-appear as the Laws of Nature.

If only children could grow up to-day under the influence of such a perception, they would be able to take their place in the world in such a way that they would feel themselves as part of the Cosmos, and would thereby have a feeling for life drawn from these very forces which they would absorb into themselves with their knowledge of the Cosmos. Indeed, being educated to action, they would then know that whatever they do is to be imprinted in the entire Cosmos. If only that were the prevailing feeling, how differently human beings would live; whereas to-day man asks himself: “What am I really in this world?” He sees himself standing alone, sprung forth from indefinite Nature-forces, and permeated with moral ideals like soap bubbles. Such a man can be crippled in his very feeling for life. When he looks up to the stars he sees them passing through Cosmic space, but he feels he has no connection with them. They themselves have only arisen in a natural way. They are perishable worlds, falling to pieces, serving no purpose, and having no inner Spirituality.

We must bear in mind what a life-force for humanity might be developed from a Spiritual method of looking at things. That must be pointed out again and again, because that is just what human beings to-day understand least of all. They say that a Spiritual view makes a man live apart from the world; but my dear friends, it is the present modern view which makes one avoid the world. Why is this so? Because it works with the dogmas of the past, which in the past served a good purpose, because they then arose from a certain instinctive clairvoyance. But this instinctive clairvoyance has now disappeared, and human beings have no longer any relationship to it. The dogmas still retained are no longer understood. It is not a question of their falsity, but of modern humanity having no longer a living relationship with them. And outside of the dogmas still maintained, humanity to-day only has a nature science devoid of spirit. Anthroposophy will give a spirit-filled Science of nature, a science able to animate man, and that which trickles, as a knowledge of the spirit, into nature, will then transform itself in man in the same way as do the food-substances in a physical respect. That knowledge is transformed in man into Social Force, and one would experience it if one earnestly realised that Spiritual knowledge is nourishment for the soul, and can be absorbed and digested — if I can use that expression — it can be digested and re-appear as a force working socially. We can get social impulses in no other way than by taking up Spiritual cognition from surrounding Nature. Anyone who thinks he can carry out social reforms from any other impulse, thinks about the things of this world as one who meditates about man and wishing to explain him as clearly as possible, and in order to explain him to himself, forbids him food. Whoever speaks to-day of social forms without having Spiritual knowledge, does the same thing with reference to the social order of humanity as a man who wishes to explain man and prescribes for him a hunger cure. That is just what stands as a deep absurdity in the modern views of humanity, and which it cannot see through.

When we enter this life between Birth and Death, what we carry with us from the Spiritual worlds is only like an image, and fundamentally the whole of our soul-life is a life of images, pictures. But in former Ages this picture-life was animated by what then already existed in the natural perception as spirit. In ancient times there existed no concept of nature which was not filled with spirit. People to-day can read older views, but they read nothing there of a Natural Science, that is, of a natural Science devoid of spirit. Whoever goes back, even into the 13th or 14th Centuries, and reads the things written and spoken of nature there, may mock at the childishness, the superstition then existing; but the essential is, that all the things described then were described as permeated by spirit. To-day, on the other hand, we try as far as possible to see the phenomena of nature without spirit. Indeed, we regard it as the very perfection of our scientific observations to see them without spirit.

That which we take up out of nature without spirit, can however no longer work animatingly in the pictorial existence of our soul. We remain at a standstill in this respect and will not admit that it is merely an image. But this image, which is really the image of a past life, will not be fructified by the present life around us. This present life should be fructified by the past life, so that it can then be carried through the Gate of Death into the Spiritual worlds. It is only Spiritual Science livingly beheld which can give man that which it has to give him.

Just take, for instance, the dogmas of the old books of religion. Many men to-day fight against these because they find and consider them nonsensical; but they are in no wise nonsensical. Even such a dogma as that of the Trinity has a most profound sense. It was read by human beings from nature itself by means of the old instinctive clairvoyance, and for thousands of years in the evolution of humanity that dogma gave man an infinite amount. The external Churches have preserved such dogmas, but to-day they hardly exist except as a certain vocal sound. Men to-day feel no need to develop a relationship with what was an object of an ancient clairvoyance, and so it remains something which has no relationship to man to-day, because of his modern nature, although at one time it was a living soul-nourishment. And again, apart from these dogmas, we have our external Science of Nature, in a state of utter deprivation, which kills the soul unless it is permeated by the spirit.

These are the two basic evils which Spiritual Science as studied here, has to keep in mind: in order once more to give to the soul something which will animate it, and give it force, so that it can feel itself directly as a member of the entire Cosmos, and feel that responsibility in its social work which proceeds from knowing that as single individuals, even our tiniest action has a Cosmic significance for the whole evolution of the future. We have to look beyond that narrow circuit in which we are enclosed by reason of our lack of education; for that narrowing which man has himself brought about will increase more and more. That is why Spiritual Science meets with so much difficulty, because fundamentally that which it seeks to be, does not consist merely of words, nor thoughts, not merely ideas, but that which can permeate all those thoughts, flow through the words as the very Spiritual blood of life, and then trickle directly into each human soul. It is for that reason that, in any advocating of Spiritual Science, it is far more a question of how we speak than of what we say. We see to-day the most violent conflict between Materialism and Spiritualism. This conflict simply rests on the fact that human beings simply will not see what deep foundations this utterance has: — The truth always lies midway between two directly opposite associations.

My dear friends, is it true that God is within us? Is it true then that we are in God? It is true that we are in God. These two assertions are direct opposites. Both are true. God is in us, and we are in God; but the two assertions are polar opposites. The real truth, the whole truth lies between the two. The nature of all the conflict of ideas in the world rests on this — that human beings always tend to a one-sidedness, which is true, but only a one-sided truth; whereas the real truth lies between two opposite assertions. We must know both in order to get at the reality. For instance, to-day, in the present state of the evolution of the world, one must have the most earnest will to learn all we can of material existence above all, and not propagate the desire of those people who say: “We will only occupy ourselves with the Spirit: we do not want to know Matter.” To learn as much as possible of Matter is one side of human cognition, one thing for which the Will of man, must strive. On the other hand one must learn to know the Spirit, because between those two, lies what we are, and ought really to strive for. Both are wrong. — those who say the world is only Matter and those who say the world is only Spirit are wrong — For what is matter? Matter as human beings know it, is that which has remained behind from the Spirit, after the Spirit has become Spirit. Your own human form, my dear friends, is only what was once a thought of the Gods, which I here draw in red — the Divine workings of thought.

Diagram 1

Just think; even as water that freezes gets a solid form, so this Divine thought gets a form and becomes the sheaths of man, (Blue). Then a new thought of God makes itself valid in the inner being of man, and then goes out again, (Red) and this Divine thought (left) was once transformed from a form which in still older times was also a thought of the Gods. Whatever we see as matter is nothing else than spirit which has become a firm form, and that which we perceive as the human spirit is simply a young form, a form engaged in the process of becoming. These two — Spirit and Matter — are only different because of their ages in the world — they only are of a different age. The mistake made about them does not consist in our applying ourselves either to Matter or to Spirit, but in wanting to maintain in the Present what we should so maintain in Life, which we should so fructify, that it may become something for the future.

Now just think. We bring something over into the present from our pre-existence in the Spiritual world; we bring that over as a Spiritual psychic life. But if we permeate that with a barren external spiritless Science of Nature, we harden it, we do not keep it germinal, we do not allow it to grow up for future worlds. We Ahrimanise it.

And if we try and grasp that which is already form, which is Divinity itself grown old and crystallised itself in form if we seek to grasp that in a nebulous way, through a nebulous mysticism into which we dream all kinds of things, we do not support ourselves on that which is given us by the Gods as our bodily support. And thus we Luciferise Matter. What is nebulous mysticism? Man should look into himself. He should recognise from out of the Cosmos that which he is in his own physical organism in his life between birth and death. Instead of that he cherishes the fantasy that he has a God within him. He has indeed a God within him, but he does not attain that through mystical fantasy, for he thus Luciferises what he should see in the later form of his own bodily sheaths. These are false views of Matter and Spirit, about which human beings come into strife with one another, for Matter and Spirit are one and the same, but at different ages of life.

That is something which it is very necessary our present Age should perceive; otherwise it can never come to an understanding of the social life. The attempt must be made to-day really to enter with one's thoughts into the true reality; but human beings do not want to do this, — they prefer to remain on the surface of things. A pretty little story was told to me a few days ago, which occurred a few weeks back in Zurich. Probably it has already been related to some of you here. One of our friends spoke at a University Celebration in Zurich about the scientific significance of Anthroposophy. A socialistic thinker in reply, got up and said: “One should not educate man to-day to such mystic phantasy, but to exact Science, for did not Goethe say: Into the inner being of nature no creative spirit can penetrate.”

You see, what this Swiss delegate brought forward rests simply on a superficial knowledge of what Goethe did say, For Goethe, quoting the above utterance of Halley said: “I have heard this repeated for 60 years and have sworn at it the whole time.” That is how the Spiritual Life is carried on to-day. That represents the accuracy with which men know things, and thus in a certain degree do they become authorities. Thus, do men strive to learn to know the world. Whether one man believes Goethe himself uttered what he swore at for 60 years, or whether as National Economists do they perform things such as I will characterise now, is really a matter of indifference. A very learned National Economist wrote a book about the free and the fixed formation of prices. He had to investigate a good deal as to the way in which, as I might say National Economy could be made social. Amongst the many things he discussed, is also the following. He says: Even George Brandes (who was himself no deep thinker) said: The people in their economic and social deeds are not guided by reason but by instinct.” Therefore, things should be explained to the people. That is what this National Economist is advocating. One must bring enlightenment to the people.

Now, my dear friends to this one could reply: In our many Universities, there are a great number of these National Economists, they are all enlightened, but when they arrange things amongst themselves, they are working exactly under the same institute instincts as the others, — neither more nor less. And so, as things are fashioned, especially to-day by our highly developed intelligence, as regards social life these same instincts remain, and are working. But now we must go further, we must now ask ourselves: How can we bring light into this working of the instincts, for that alone can be of social significance. It is simply nonsense to suppose that the majority of human beings can be guided by this; they cannot. Something must come in which can enter and transform these instincts. Reason cannot enter into them. We have here to remind ourselves of that ancient instinctive perception, (See Diagram) which has developed into our intellectuality; but this intellect lives only in the inner Spiritual life of man. On the other hand, the external forces working socially are permeated by instinct. Into this instinct something must penetrate which is related to the old instinctive vision, but which has an impulse from Spirituality. That is Imagination. Imagination must enter. (See Diagram) Imaginations as we call them in Spiritual Science, can alone give the force which can bring light to those instincts.

Diagram 3

That which enables us to understand things to-day scientifically and externally; Botany, Zoology, Mathematics, — can be furnished by the intellect, but not that which implies human co-operation. There must enter what we have called Imagination. Imaginations must permeate the social life — that is the essential thing. In all social life which has developed from olden times up to recent times, there have lived the human instincts. It is actually only since the 2nd, and last third of the 19th Century that man has entered that age which no longer requires the old instincts. You can prove this exactly. Even at the turn of the 18th and 19th Century there still lived these ancient instincts in the social life of man. The uncertainty of man's instincts first appeared in that Age when intellect developed in its most shining form. Then tradition alone remained.

Just think, my dear friends, what gigantic efforts were made in the 19th Century, in order still to have moral views. Men had to preserve in the most abstract way what was still maintained from ancient times; and of necessity the old moral ideals were still propagated, though they were then petrified. We need to-day a rebirth of morality for that alone can produce what is social, that cannot come from the intellect, but simply and solely from moral intuition. Moral fantasy must raise itself to the Spiritual world, in order to fructify itself out of that world. That is now the essential, otherwise man faces the loss of moral impulses.

Those abstract Confessions which tend to belief alone cannot find in their faith the necessary strength for life to-day. Faith can give one something for the egoism of one's own soul; but with that egoism alone, at most one can live as an individual, separate being. If we want to enter into action, and that means social action, it is then necessary that we should be permeated with a Spiritual-psychic life-blood, and that can only come from a concrete Spiritual life. This consciousness of the Life-Force must flow through the Anthroposophical Movement into the Anthroposophical view of life. Especially from this point of view must one make oneself acquainted with these important concepts which to-day need a justification and defence.

Pantheism is a very favourite reproach against Anthroposophy, Pantheism, i.e., giving reverence to the things around us, for God lives in those things. That is heresy to the modern Confessions; and why? Why is it that the modern Confessions call our Anthroposophy a heresy? Because these Confessions are permeated through and through with materialism. — If the Jesuit regards the world around him simply as Matter, it is of course blasphemy to say that this Matter is Divine, is God. But can Anthroposophy help it if the Jesuits regard the world around them simply as Matter? It is not Matter, it is Spirit; and that which the Jesuits perceives as Matter in the world, that Anthroposophy has to show as illusion. We do not explain as Divine the world which we assert — is an illusion; — of course not, we do not claim that for Divine existence. Of course it is quite different to take what is around us and explain that as Divine, at the same time realising external sense-phenomena as illusion, than to regard it as mere Matter and then explain that the grossest Matter is Divine.

You see how far asunder these things are, and we must not grow weary of really trying to make these things valid before the world. Otherwise there may be a repetition of what happened lately, when something was printed in a Swiss Newspaper by way of objection to my methods of attaining Spiritual knowledge. There it was asserted that I said that one can see the Spirit; but that cannot be, because the Spirit is not sensible, and only the things of sense can be perceived. One cannot grasp the Spirit, and therefore one cannot see it.

You see, what a hopeless way this is; the writer maintains nothing else but that — he cannot see the Spirit, and therefore no one can see the Spirit. One can know nothing of the Spirit because one cannot grasp it. And in such variations, the thoughts of a whole Newspaper goes on. What works so terribly destructively to-day, is the fact that people have not the consciousness that they should read such things to the end. “Into the inner being of nature no creative Spirit can penetrate” — thus ran the first two lines; but the person reading them stopped there, and did not notice that Goethe added; “I have heard this said for 60 years, and have cursed it all the time.”

What we must look for everywhere to-day is the prevailing superficiality. I have often pointed this out, but it cannot be done too often. We must trace everywhere this terrible clinging to superficiality. It can be chiefly seen where it works so terribly to-day externally, i.e. in the sphere of Social Economics; There people will not dive down into that which lies in the very essence of things. For instance, I have been told to-day, that people are constantly saying that “The Threefold State” (book) is so difficult to understand, — well, that they want something which they can understand much more easily. But, my dear friends, if, with these things that can easily be understood, nothing is done in social life, but men have simply bungled, it is necessary to grasp what is a little difficult, which requires effort. It is strange to demand that a thing be made more comprehensible, for it is really necessary for our modern social thinking that we should make an effort. Things one can easily understand have worked so abstractly, so ruinously to-day. To demand that such things should be made more comprehensible, is simply frivolous. It really is. Indeed, it is not a question that one should not cultivate such inwardly frivolous thoughts as “This is difficult” — for if it were given in any such form as is desired, it would simply give people something else with which they could bungle. For really objective work this apparent difficulty simply must be overcome, it simply urges us to make a study of that book. That is the essential. In this earnest way should one try to enter into these things, in such serious times as these.