The Driving Force of Spiritual Powers in World History
18 March 1923, Dornach
By considering in retrospect what has been presented in the last lectures concerning happenings, facts and actions in the super-sensible worlds — it was all more or less supplementary to my little book, The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind — you will understand that it is essential to realize that in our time a mighty event is taking effect. It is the event of which I said that it belongs essentially to the 4th century A.D. and it consists in the transference of rulership of the cosmic thoughts from the Spirits of Form to the Spirits of Personality, the Archai or Primal Powers. If we are mindful of the whole import, the cosmic import of this significant event, we may say: it consists in giving men in the course of their evolution what should rightly become theirs in our present Fifth post-Atlantean epoch, the epoch of the evolution of the Consciousness Soul, namely, inner freedom, the possibility for the individual to act from his own inner self. We know, of course, that human evolution on Earth was in essentials a kind of preparation for this very epoch, that the natural foundation had first to be laid down in man, so that within the sphere of what this foundation has enabled him to become, his soul might progress towards freedom. How is this connected with the super-sensible event previously characterized?
If we picture this event in broad outline we can say: on the one side, from our survey of the super-sensible world, we realize that the outstanding spiritual leaders of mankind are the Beings whom we must call Spirits of Personality, Archai, but those Archai who have been vested with rulership of the cosmic thoughts by the Exousiai, the Spirits of Form. These Archai to whom man in his evolution owes the possibility of formulating thoughts through the inner efforts of his own soul, are hampered in their activity by those Beings who, as Exousiai, as Spirits of Form, have remained behind at an earlier stage of evolution; they are Beings who, as Spirits of Form, have not ceded rulership of the cosmic thoughts. And now, in this epoch of the Consciousness Soul in which we have been living since the 15th century A.D., man is confronted with the great choice in some one of his incarnations definitely to decide for freedom or, which is the same thing, to have the possibility of this freedom through turning to the legitimate Archai.
We do indeed see, in our own age, how men strive to free themselves from those spiritual Beings who, as Exousiai, were unwilling to cede rulership of the cosmic thoughts. What part these Beings play in the present phase of the evolution of humanity will be clear to us when we realize what role was justifiably played in earlier times by the Exousiai who were then undergoing normal development.
In earlier times men did not unfold their thoughts as they have to do today. They did not unfold their thoughts by inner activity, inner effort. They unfolded thoughts by devoting themselves to the contemplation of external Nature and just as we perceive colours and sounds today, they simultaneously perceived the thoughts. But in still earlier ages, when men gave themselves up to instinctive, unconscious clairvoyance, they received, together with the clairvoyant pictures, thoughts as a gift from the divine-spiritual worlds. Men did not work out their thoughts; they received them. It was inevitably so in olden times.
Just as the child must first develop his physical nature, must first lay a foundation for what he can learn only in later life, so humanity as a whole could achieve the inner, active development of a world of thoughts only when this world of thoughts had first penetrated from outside into the whole nature of man.
This period of preparation had to be lived through. But during it man could really never say that he was qualified to become a free being. For, as you can see from my The Philosophy of Freedom, the basic condition of human freedom is precisely that man shall unfold his thoughts himself in inner activity, and that out of these self-evolved thoughts which in my book I have called ‘pure thoughts’, he shall also draw his moral impulses.
Such moral impulses, springing from the soil of man's own being, did not and could not exist in the earlier epochs of the evolution of humanity. Moral impulses had then to be imparted together with the thoughts, which were, so to speak, God-given, like commandments that were unconditionally binding and made a man unfree. You will find this aspect of the subject presented in the The Philosophy of Freedom: the transition of mankind from bondage by commandments which exclude freedom, to action out of moral intuition which includes freedom.
Now the Spirits of Form are Beings who always work from outside when they bring about something in man. All stimuli from outside that cause a man to work on his own being bring to expression the deeds of the Spirits of Form. And it was definitely the case that as long as the Spirits of Form instilled the cosmic thoughts into man, the thoughts either came to him from stones, plants or animals as perceptions, or else rose up from instincts and impulses within him. In those days men floated, as it were, on the waves of life, and the waves of life were thrown up — but also calmed in so far as they brought thoughts — by the Spirits of Form. It was from outside, therefore, that there came to man what he then laid hold of in his inmost soul. Hence in those olden times man's feeling for his Gods was such that he turned primarily to them when seeking to find the causes of world-happenings and of his own life. When a man spoke of the Gods he spoke as though he was seeking to find in them the causes of his own existence on Earth, and of the manifestations of nature on Earth. He always looked back to the Gods as the primary causes of things. Whence came the world? Whence came I myself? These were the great religious questions of an earlier humanity.
If you study the ancient myths, you will always find, in the biblical story of Creation too, references to Genesis-myths, because men were seeking primarily for the origin of the world, but actually stopped short at this point in their search.
The whole mood and attitude of the human soul were due to the fact that in the world of his thoughts man was dependent upon the Spirits of Form. Until the 4th century A.D. and in its after-effects right on into the 15th century, the Spirits of Form were, so to speak, fully authorized in the world-order — if I may use this expression — to rule over and direct the cosmic thoughts and to promote thinking, the unfolding of thoughts, in man from outside.
Since that period things have changed. Since then the Exousiai, the Spirits of Form, have ceded the rulership of the cosmic thoughts to the Archai. But how do the Archai exercise this rulership? It is no longer as if they themselves were ruling over the thoughts, as if they were laying them into man from outside; they make it possible for man to evolve these thoughts himself. How can this be? It can come about for the reason that we men have all passed through a number of lives on Earth. In those olden times, when it was right for the Exousiai to bring the thoughts from outside, men had not lived through as many lives on Earth as is now the case. They could not yet, even when they awoke the impulse for it in themselves, produce activity of their own in order to engender the power of thoughts within themselves. We live today in such and such an earthly incarnation. And if only we have the necessary will for it — for it depends upon the will — we can find in ourselves the force to produce our own world of thoughts, an individual world of thoughts, as I have also described it in the The Philosophy of Freedom. Such is the Progress consisting of the transference of the rulership of thoughts by the Spirits of Form to rulership by the Spirits of Personality.
The Spirits of Form drew these thoughts out of the cosmic reservoir of thoughts, in order to instil them into men from outside. Man took the cosmic thoughts into himself and willynilly felt like a creature propelled forward in the Hoods and waves produced in the cosmos by the Spirits of Form. The world of thoughts within the cosmos transmitted its harmony to man himself. But man was an unfree being within the cosmos! Today he has acquired the freedom to work out his own thoughts but these thoughts would all remain hermits in the cosmos if they have not been taken from and brought back again into the cosmic harmony. And in our epoch this comes to pass through the Archai.
Here the foundation is laid for the solution of that immensely significant historic cleavage that has come about in modern times and has plunged human souls into such infinite confusion. Do we not perceive this cleavage? From other points of view I have often told you that man learns, on the one hand, that the whole cosmos is permeated by a nature-order, that this natureorder also plays into man's own being, that there was once an archetypal nebula out of which sun and planets took shape, and then man himself. Do we not see on the one hand the system of cosmic laws of nature to which man feels himself yoked? And on the other hand, do we not see how man, in order to preserve his true human dignity, is urged, in his capacity as a being arising out of nature, to quicken in himself the thought of a moral world-order so that his moral impulses may not fly off and be scattered in the universe but have reality?
In the course of the 19th century this cleavage has again and again resulted in a certain philosophical hair-splitting. Think of those religious conflicts which, within Protestantism, are allied with the school of Ritschl. NoteNumAlbrecht R. Ritschl, 1822–1869. Protestant theologian. Most people know nothing of these religious-philosophical conflicts as such, for they have taken place within the narrow framework of the theological or philosophical schools. What goes on within this narrow framework, however, does not remain within its bounds. It is not important whether you or humanity in general know what Ritschl thought about the moral-divine world-order, or about the personality of Jesus. But what such people have thought in the course of the 19th century about the personality of Jesus flows down and persists in the teachings given to children from six to twelve years old. That will become, and indeed has become, a universal attitude of soul. And although men do not realize it in full clarity it is nevertheless present in them as vague feelings, as dissatisfaction with life; and it then passes over into action that must eventually bring about an era as chaotic as that in which we are now living. This is the anxious question facing modern humanity; it arises because man is obliged to say to himself: Here is the world of natural law, having issued from the primal nebula, reaching eventually total entropy, and therefore heading towards a condition where everything of the nature of soul and Spirit will have become submerged in a world which lacks all mobility and must inevitably become a great cemetery. All moral ideals proceeding from the individuality of man would have perished.
People do not acknowledge this today because they are not honest enough to do so. But all that they get from modern civilization would inevitably lead them to suffer on account of this immensely significant cleavage in their world-view, to suffer — only they do not realize it — from being subject to a natural world and also from being obliged to assume the existence of a moral world, yet having no power, because of the modern outlook, to ascribe any reality to moral ideas.
It was not so for an older humanity. An older humanity felt that its moral ideas came from the Gods. That was in the days when the Exousiai, the Spirits of Form, instilled the thoughts into man — including, of course, moral ideas. At that time man knew that even if the Earth did indeed perish, the divinespiritual Beings who draw the world-thoughts out of the cosmos would be there in the future. Man knew that it was not he who made the thoughts, that they were there in the same way as processes of Nature are there; they must therefore always have been in existence, like the external processes of Nature.
We must be quite clear that many people — in greater and greater numbers — simply cannot come to terms with life. Some admit this to themselves — they are possibly the best. Others do not admit it, and the world-chaos into which we have fallen is due to their actions.
All the chaos, the disorder that exists today, is the direct consequence of this inner cleavage, this ignorance of the extent to which the moral world has reality. Men prefer to blunt their understanding of the great world-problems since they are unwilling to force themselves to admit where the cleavage actually lies. They prefer to ignore it.
Now the cleavage cannot be healed by what is today called civilization. It can be healed only an the basis of a spiritual world-outlook sought by way of Anthroposophy. Man comes to realize the existence of Archai who have now received the task in the cosmos of linking the thoughts of man — which now arise in isolation in the soul — to the world-processes in due arrangement.
In a grand and impressive way man again finds the foundation for the
moral world-order. How does he find it? He could not become free if
he were incapable of feeling: You unfold your thoughts out of your own
individuality; you are yourself the elaborator of your thoughts.
But this at once implies that we have wrested our thoughts away from the cosmos. In ancient times it was like this:
If I draw the ocean of cosmic thoughts (yellow) and man diagrammatically (red), then I must indicate what passed into each man as his share of the world of cosmic thoughts. He clung to the world of cosmic thoughts — it came down into him. That this could take place was due to the action of the Spirits of Form.
In the course of evolution this has changed. We have here the ocean of cosmic thoughts (yellow) but the rulership of it has passed to the Archai. If I indicate individual men (below, red), their thoughts are detached; they are no longer connected with the cosmic thoughts. This is inevitable, for man could never be a free being if he did not wrest his world of thoughts away from the cosmos. He must wrest his thoughts away in order to become a free being but then they must be linked again with the cosmos. What is necessary, then, is that the rulership of these thoughts — which is not a direct concern of human life (green) but of the cosmos — should be exercised by the Archai, the Spirits of Personality.
But now, if we turn to the moral aspect of these thoughts we shall say to ourselves: When we enter the spiritual world — either through the gate of death or in the Earth's future or whenever it may be — when we enter the spiritual world we shall meet the Spirits of Personality, the Archai. We shall then be able to perceive what it has been possible for them to do with our thoughts which, to begin with, for the sake of our freedom were isolated within ourselves. We shall then recognize our worth and dignity as men from what the Spirits of Personality have been able to do with our thoughts. And cosmic thought turns directly into moral sensibility, moral impulsion.
Moral impulsion can arise anywhere today from Anthroposophy if rightly grasped — only it must be grasped by the whole being of man.
If we grasp this thought, the thought of responsibility to the normally evolving Archai, if we truly grasp our spiritual function in the cosmos, then we shall also find the place that rightly belongs to us in our epoch; we shall be true men of our time. And then we shall look in the right way at what, indeed, is forever around us: not a world of sense alone but also a spiritual world. We shall regard the Archai as the spiritual Beings to whom man must be responsible if, as a member of humanity, he is to undergo his evolution rightly in the course of earthly time. We shall realize that in the present age what was once the necessary world-order is still opposed by all that has remained from those Spirits of Form who are still intent upon ruling over the cosmic thoughts in the old way. And this is the most important concern of civilization in our time. The deeper talks of man today consist in this: through a right attitude to the Archai, the Spirits of Personality, to become truly free so that he may also adopt the right attitude to the Spirits of Form who today are not within their rights when they strive to exercise rulership over the cosmic thoughts as formerly, but were once the legitimate rulers. On the one hand we shall find what makes life in the world difficult, but we shall also find everywhere ways out of these difficulties. Only we must seek for these ways as free individuals. For if we have no will to achieve a free development of thoughts, what could the Archai possibly make of us?
What is important in our age is that man should have the resolute will to be a free being. In most cases he still does not will it and so has to accommodate himself to the idea. It is still difficult today for a man to wish to be a free being. What would please him most would be to wish what he likes and that the right Spirits would be there to carry out his wishes in an invisible, super-sensible way. Then he would perhaps feel free, feel his dignity as man! We need only wait for one or two incarnations — not such a very long time, until about the year 2800 or 3000 — and then in our next incarnation, when looking back on the earlier one, we should never be able to excuse ourselves if we had confused human freedom with the furtherance of human comfort by indulgent Gods !
Today man does exactly this — he confuses freedom and indulgence of benevolent Gods with his love of ease and his wishes for comfort. There are still many people today who wish that there were benevolent Gods to carry out their wishes without much assistance from themselves. But as I said, we need only wait for the year 2800 or 3000 and in a subsequent incarnation we shall thoroughly despise such an attitude. Today, if we develop a truly moral attitude of mind this must be allied with a certain moral strength, with a genuine desire for freedom — inner freedom in the first place; outer freedom will soon follow in the right form if the will for inner freedom is present. But to this end it is essential to perceive exactly where the unauthorized Spirits of Form are active.
Well, they are active everywhere. I could imagine — the human intellect has such a strongly Luciferic tendency — that there may be people who say: Yes, it would certainly be much more sensible for the divine ordering of the world if these backward Spirits of Form were not causing havoc, indeed if they were not there at all ! I advise individuals who think like this also to consider as sensible people whether they could nourish themselves without at the same time filling their intestines with unpleasant substances. The one process is simply not possible without the other. Similarly it is not possible in the world for the things upon which the greatness and dignity of man depend to exist without their correlates.
Where, then, do we see backward Spirits of Form in action? Today in particular we see them active in the national chauvinisms which have spread over the whole world wherever the thoughts of men arise, not directly from the innermost core of human nature but out of the blood, out of what comes from the instincts.
In this connection there are two attitudes to nationality One is this: a man scorns the normal Archai and simply lends himself to what the backward Spirits of Form achieve through the nationalities. He then grows up simply as a national, boasting in chauvinistic style of what he has become through having been born with national blood in his veins. His speech is a product of his nationality, his thoughts come to him in the language of his nationality, the very form of his thoughts too comes from the particular form of this language. He grows from the soil which the Spirits of Form have made out of the nationalities.
Now suppose there is someone who is willing to fall in with the backward Spirits of Form and is at the same time an extremely ambitious individual, placed by destiny in a special position, then — with an eye to the national chauvinisms — he may compose ‘Fourteen Points‘. He then finds followers who regard Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points as a splendid gift to the world!
Seen truly, what were these Fourteen Points? They were something flung to the world as an inducement to pander to what the backward Spirits of Form were intent upon inculcating into the different nations. The Fourteen Points were directly inspired from that source.
One can speak of all these things on very different levels. Exactly what I am saying today on one level in characterizing the Archai and the Exousiai, I said years ago in order to underline the significance of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, because they have lulled the world in a cradle of illusions, have caused untold disaster and chaos.
Further, we see today how the influence proceeding from these backward Spirits of Form makes itself felt in the one-sided, materialistic world-view of natural science, where there is downright horror — or, better said, an unholy dread — of engaging in real activity of thought. Just picture what a terrible scene an orthodox professor would make if a student in the laboratory were to look into the microscope with the aim of producing some thought. That would never do ! One must carefully record only what external sense-perception presents. People are quite unaware that this presents only half of the reality — the other half being produced through a man's own creative thought-activity. But the present mission of the normally developed Archai must be known and understood. In the science that has been vitiated by the backward Spirits of Form, it is essential that the true mission of the Spirits of Personality shall make itself felt. And there is the greatest possible fear of this prospect today.
You have probably heard the well-known anecdote of how scientific knowledge is obtained by the different nations in accordance with their fundamental character. What happens when it is a question today of learning in orthodox zoology about a camel? How do the different nations set to work? The Englishman makes a journey into the desert and observes the camel. It may take him two years to observe the camel in every set of circumstances but in this way he gets to know its nature thoroughly, describes it, omitting all thoughts — as would be expected; he describes everything without formulating any thoughts of his own. The Frenchman goes to a menagerie where a camel is on show, looks at it and describes the animal as seen in the menagerie. He does not, like the Englishman, get to know the camel in natural situations of its life but describes it as it is in the menagerie. The German goes neither into the desert nor into a menagerie but sits down in his study, gathers together all the thoughts he can educe from what he has learnt, constructs the camel a priori and on the basis of this a priori construction, describes it. — This is how the anecdote is generally narrated. Moreover it is nearly, very nearly correct; for everywhere one has the feeling that whether a camel is being described, or man himself, or anything else, the description has originated in the ways indicated. One thing, however, is omitted. This alone would have given the right answer: there might be a fourth participant in this threefold anecdote. It matters not whether this hypothetical fourth goes into the desert or whether, having no opportunity to go into the desert or into a menagerie, he studies books. He may even go to a painter of animals and Look at pictures in which animals are portrayed with genius. But no matter whether he sees the camel in the desert or in a menagerie or whether he takes the a priori descriptions out of books, he is able from what he learns to put this question to the divine-spiritual world-order itself: What is the real nature of a camel? The individual who has made this inner effort sees the camel in the menagerie and also how it behaves in the desert; he also perceives what can be gathered from reading different books, perhaps even books containing horribly caricatured, philistine, pedantic descriptions. Nevertheless if he can discern the essential nature of a camel he can still gather the important points from pedantic treatises and all kinds of a priori constructions.
What mankind needs above everything else today is to find the way to the spiritual, not, of course, by excluding but by including experience of the world gained through the senses.
Here again we have the indication of what, in every domain of our striving for knowledge, will lead to insight into how the backward Spirits of Form can mislead us, and how a true understanding of the mission of the Spirits of Personality can give us, as men, our rightful place in the epoch in which we are living. And what is most important of all is to inform ourselves about growing children, in order to achieve a true art of education. For a glaring defect in all education nowadays is that people hold fast to what man has become in the course of evolution through the backward Spirits of Form; it is assumed that everything is as it should be.
Now the child's nature revolts against this attitude — thank God, we may say. The grown-up person is content with this state of things, but the child's nature revolts against it; youth above all revolts against it.
Here again we have one of the characteristic features of the modern Youth Movement and one of the points where modern education must, shall I say, become clairvoyant — or at least must allow itself to be fructified by the findings of clairvoyance — so that it may be recognized that when a human being is born nowadays the seed of inner activity of thoughts is born with him. Then if this seed of the inner activity of thoughts is present, we learn one essential thing which men today are for the most part incapable of achieving. Do you know what that is? It is that they cannot become old! And youth would like to have as leaders men who have become old in the true sense. The young do not want to be led by the young — even if they insist that they do, they are deceiving themselves; they would like to have as leaders men who have understood how to grow old in the genuine sense and have brought with them into old age the living seed of the development of thoughts. If youth can perceive this it will follow such leaders, knowing that men have something real to say if they have known how to become old in the right way. But what does youth encounter today? Its own likeness ! Men have not understood how to become old and have remained infantile. They know no more than the fifteen and sixteen-year-olds know already. No wonder that the fifteen and sixteen-year olds refuse to follow the sixty- and seventy-year olds who have grown no older than they are themselves. The others have not understood how to bring activity into their old bodies. Youth wants people who have become old in the real way, people who may be old in appearance, with wrinkles, white hair and bald scalps but who, despite old hearts, are fundamentally as young as themselves. Youth wants human beings who have understood how to become old, who therefore in becoming old have increased in wisdom and inner strength.
The problem of the Youth Movement would be easily solved if it were to be grasped in its cosmic significance, if, for instance, fundamental lectures were to be given an the theme: How is it possible in the world today not to remain infantile in ripe old age? There is the real problem.
With those who have become old in the real sense, who have not remained infantile, youth will ally itself, will harmonize quite naturally. But from those who are exactly like itself youth can learn nothing. It simply seems grotesque to a young man, himself perhaps only eighteen years old and possibly not having learnt a great deal — he has of course learnt something — whose hair is still quite dark or fair, who has no wrinkles, still a chubby face, not a beard yet — it seems grotesque to this young person to have to follow someone who is inwardly no older than himself, who looks so funny with his grey hair and bald crown, who has learnt no more than he has himself — but yet it all looks different! That is fundamentally the core of the manifest disharmony between youth and age.
If you take very seriously, in all its significance, what I have tried to express in a humorous way, you will also be able to perceive clearly much that constitutes a great and burning question in modern civilization.