Awakening to Community
30 January 1923, Stuttgart
A week ago I commented here on the grievous event of the Goetheanum fire and other current concerns of the Anthroposophical Society. Today I planned to speak about purely anthroposophical matters, but I find it necessary to say a few introductory words about Society problems. I was able to attend at least the second part of yesterday's meeting, and saw how easy it is to misunderstand matters involving the nature of the Society such as were brought up by me last week. It is not a moment too soon to correct these misconceptions. My introductory remarks tonight will nevertheless still have to do with an anthroposophical view of life and perhaps on that account prove worthwhile to this or that listener.
I am mainly interested in going on with yesterday's discussion about judgment-forming in the Society. A challenge was issued, quite independently of anything I said, to the effect that every member should form his own independent judgments about matters affecting the Society. Now of course nothing could be truer. But we need to concern ourselves with the fact that when a challenge of this kind is presented one has to consider the whole context of what is under discussion, no matter how right the isolated statement may be in itself nor how fully I agree with it in principle. Something can be perfectly true but it may not necessarily apply in a given instance. Every truth can be presented as true in itself, but it is colored by the context in which it is brought up, and in the wrong place it can lead to the gravest misconceptions.
Now the point of view on judgment-forming was expressed in connection with my lecture of December 30th last in Dornach, in which I discussed the relationship of the Anthroposophical Society to the Movement for Religious Renewal. The comment was made that members should make their own judgments and not be influenced by mine. Of course they should! But in the form in which this advice was presented, it was and is profoundly at odds with the state of mind that comes from a real grasp of anthroposophy. For the anthroposophical world conception is not based on merely exchanging the view of things prevailing today for a different view similarly arrived at. As becomes evident in the whole posture of anthroposophy, it is not enough to think differently about all sorts of things, but — far more importantly — to think these different thoughts in a different way, to feel them with a different attitude of soul. Anthroposophy requires that thinking and feeling be utterly transformed, not just changed as to content.
Anyone inclined to test the great majority of my lectures in this respect will find that I keep strictly to what I have just expressed, and that it lies in the very nature of an anthroposophical view of the world to present things in such a way that hearers are left wholly free to form their own judgments. If you go through most of my lectures, including those on subjects such as that treated in the lecture of December 30, 1922, you will find their chief content to be simply facts, that they present facts, either those of super-sensible realms, of the world of the senses, or of history, and that their presentation is such that the reader can always draw his own conclusions about them, completely uninfluenced by me. Indeed, one of the lecture cycles held in Dornach even carries the sub-title, “Presentation of Facts on which to base Conclusions,” or the like. Since this is the case, the results are such as to remove any justification for saying that people were told what to think. For one person will draw one conclusion from my lectures, another a quite different one, and each thinks his is the right view of the matter. Each could be right from where he stands, because I never try to pre-determine the outcome, but simply to provide facts on which conclusions can be based. I thus deliberately expose myself to the danger that a series of facts I am presenting can be quite variously interpreted. For my interest is solely in communicating facts, and anybody who wants to look into the matter will find that the only time I express a judgment is when something needs to be corrected or refuted.
This has to be the case. A world view such as that based on anthroposophy must always be keenly conscious of the time context to which it belongs. We are now living in the age of consciousness soul development, a condition of soul wherein the all-important thing is for individuals to draw their own conclusions and learn to give facts an unprejudiced hearing, so that they can then make fully conscious judgments. The style of my presentations springs from an awareness that man has entered upon the development of the conscious soul. This accounts, as I said, for the varying conclusions that can be drawn from my words. I try to present the facts as clearly as possible. But there is never any question of “should” or “shouldn't.” Anthroposophy is there to communicate truth, not to propagandize. This has often been emphasized as, for example, in my refusal to take sides about vegetarianism. When I describe what effects a vegetarian diet has on people and what the effects of meat-eating are, I do so merely to present the facts, to make the truth known. In the age of the consciousness soul, anyone really acquainted with the facts of any case can confidently be left free to form his own judgments. It is essential to an anthroposophical view of things to be really clear on this point.
So, taking my style from the Anthroposophical Society rather than from the Movement for Religious Renewal, I tried in my lecture at Dornach on December 30, 1922, to show what the relationship between the two groups is. On that occasion I followed my general rule of merely presenting facts, and anyone who reads the lecture of that date will see this to be true. What action to take was a matter left to everyone's free weighing. The lecture makes this clear, and I expressed myself on the subject here a week ago as plainly as could be.
The matter of context has to be taken into consideration if one is to make really responsible assertions of an anthroposophical nature. One cannot make the remark that people should form their judgments independently of Steiner at utterances based in the strictest sense on anthroposophy. For except when Steiner is refuting or having to correct a statement, his hearers are even being forced by the way he puts things to form their own judgments; they are given no chance to adopt his.
An overall view of things anthroposophical is far better served by emphasizing this than by what some were emphasizing here yesterday, and the inappropriateness of what was said could encourage many seeds of misunderstanding. It is exceedingly important that I state this here, because it is a matter of anthroposophical principle.
There is a further matter to consider. In forming independent judgments it is not enough to be sure they are one's own. One must be equally sure, before expressing them, that one has taken all the pertinent facts into consideration. Anybody can draw his own conclusions. The point is to arrive at the correct ones when a sufficient overview of the facts of the case permits it or when facts that obviously do not apply have been discarded. I must therefore emphasize — and I bring up these introductory problems in duty bound, not because I have the least desire to do so — that what was said yesterday about all kinds of reports about the Movement for Religious Renewal having been carried to Dornach, so that my words could have been influenced and my opinions shaped thereby, is simply incorrect. The lecture in question was completely unrelated to any such reports, as fair-minded reviewers will see for themselves.
A third item was brought up in connection with my lecture, namely, that one faction was having chances to be heard while the other had none. If I am not mistaken, the Waldorf School faculty was named as a case in point, because I meet regularly with it. The truth is, however, that the matter had never even been discussed with the Waldorf faculty up to the time of giving the lecture. Here again is an example of a judgment made in ignorance of the facts. It might easily be thought that, since I meet frequently with the Waldorf faculty, there had been frequent discussions of the matter. But pedagogical matters naturally form the agenda of such meetings; anthroposophical gossip definitely has no share in them.
As I said, I stress these things in duty bound because they have to do with the nature of anthroposophical work, and we are at the point of at least trying to put that work on a healthy basis in the Society. Of course I was able, right after the founding of the Movement for Religious Renewal, to hand over to appropriate persons the task of giving the Society all the necessary information about it; I didn't have to do this myself. That was apparent to anyone who heard the closing words I spoke on the occasion of launching the Movement for Religious Renewal. It is always a terrible thing for me to be forced to break off communicating facts in order to say the kind of things that I was compelled to say yesterday. But as things are now, the whole weight of everything connected with anthroposophical activities is burdening my soul, and unless something really adequate is done to clear up just those misunderstandings that are escaping notice because they are not as crassly evident as others, our anthroposophical work cannot progress. But the work must progress; otherwise, we would obviously have to leave the situation of the Goetheanum as it is. Resuming work on it depends entirely on strengthening the Society and freeing it of misunderstandings that sap its very lifeblood.
That lifeblood is sapped when, for example, no attention is paid to the principle involved in speaking of ethics in the sense required by the Spirit of the Time for the age of the developing consciousness soul and delineated by me in the Philosophy of Freedom. At the time I wrote it, I did not exactly relish exposing myself to the reproaches certain to issue from narrow-minded quarters because of my repudiation of authoritarian ethics. But every sentence I set down was formulated in the way I am always at pains to do, taking the greatest care to leave the reader free, even in relation to the development of thought and feeling under discussion in the book mentioned. So I must point out how out of place it is to bring up the question of a lecture like that of December 30, 1922, influencing the conclusions drawn by members of the Anthroposophical Society. There might be many other occasions where such a question could be raised. But it creates misunderstandings to raise it in connection with the lecture referred to, and to do so disregards the fact of my sacred concern to avoid influencing people's judgment by what I say on the subject of vitally important aspects of activities within the Society.
So I have again expressed my intention of formulating what I have to say in such a way that nobody's judgment can be influenced. It is therefore unnecessary to warn those who attend my lectures to preserve their freedom of judgment.
Now let me continue in the spirit of my previous comments and go on to consider how a spiritual-scientific judgment is arrived at. I am speaking now of judgments that express spiritual-scientific truths.
It can give one a strange feeling to observe how little aware people are of the seriousness with which the communication of spiritual truths is weighted. All one has to do to form and express judgments about things of the everyday world of the senses is to practice observation or logic at a given moment. Observation and logic are perfectly adequate bases for forming judgments about sense-derived and historical data. In the realm of spiritual science, however, they are not adequate. There, it is not enough to deal just once with forming a particular judgment. What is required is something quite different, something I shall call here a twofold re-casting of a judgment. This re-casting usually takes more than a short period of time; indeed, the period tends to be quite a long one. Let us say that one forms some judgment or other on the basis of methods you are familiar with from descriptions given in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment and in the second part of An Outline Of Occult Science. Following these procedures, one arrives at this or that conclusion about spiritual beings or processes. At this point one is obligated to keep this conclusion to oneself and not to express it. Indeed, one is even obligated to regard it simply as a neutral fact which, for the time being, one neither accepts nor rejects. Then, perhaps even years later, one comes to the point of undertaking the first re-casting of this judgment in one's own soul life; one deepens and in many respects even transforms it. Even though the content of the judgment may remain the same after its re-casting, it will have taken on a different nuance, a nuance of inner participation, perhaps, or of the warmth one has spent on it. In any case, it will incorporate itself in the life of the soul quite differently after this first re-casting than on the previous occasion, and one will then have the feeling of having separated oneself in some way from the judgment. If it has taken a matter of years to accomplish the first re-casting, one cannot, of course, have been turning the judgment over in one's mind every minute of the time. The judgment naturally disappears into the unconscious, where it carries on a life of its own quite independently of the ego. It has to have this independent life. One must stay away from it and let it live all to itself. Thus the ego element is eliminated from the judgment, which is then turned over to an objective faculty in oneself. When one first makes an observation and draws a logical conclusion from it, the ego is invariably involved. But when — possibly after a lapse of several years — a judgment is re-cast for the first time, one has the distinct experience of its emerging from the soul's depths to confront one like any other fact of the surrounding world. All this time it was out of sight. Now one comes across it again, one re-discovers it, and it seems to be saying, “The first time you formed me imperfectly, or even incorrectly, but now I have corrected myself.”
This is the judgment the true spiritual scientist seeks, the kind that develops its own life in the human soul. It takes a lot of patience to re-cast it because, as I have said, the process of re-casting can take years, and the conscientiousness that spiritual science demands means keeping silent while letting things speak.
But now, my dear friends, after re-casting a judgment in this way and experiencing its emergence out of an objective realm, one has the strong feeling that it occupies a place somewhere in oneself despite its objective recovery. So one can still feel that, in view of the responsibility one has to let the thing speak while remaining silent oneself, one should not express this kind of judgment on a spiritual-scientific matter. One therefore waits again, and perhaps again for years, for the second re-casting. As a result, one arrives at a third form of the judgment, and one will find a significant difference between the process that went on in the period between the first forming of the judgment and its first re-casting and the process it underwent between the first and second re-casting. One notices that it was comparatively easy to recall the judgment in the first time-interval described, while in the second it is extremely difficult to summon it up again, into such soul-depths has it descended, depths into which the easy judgments gleaned from the outer world never descend. Re-cast judgments of the kind I mean sink to the deepest levels of the soul, and one finds out what a struggle it costs to recall such a re-cast judgment between its first and second re-casting. By judgment I mean here an overview of the whole area covered by the fact in cases where the facts are of a spiritual-scientific nature. When one then arrives at the third form of the judgment, one knows that the judgment has been in the realm of the thing or process under study. In the period between its first forming and first re-casting it remained within one's own being, but in the second such interval it plunged into the realm of the objective spiritual fact or being. One sees that in its third shape the thing or being itself gives back the judgment in the form of a certain outlook one now has. Only now does one feel equal to communicating this view or judgment of a spiritual-scientific fact. The communication is made only after completing this twofold re-casting and thus arriving at the certainty that one's first view of the matter has pursued a path directly to the facts of the case and returned again. Indeed, a judgment of super-sensible things that is to find valid expression must be sent to the realm where the relevant facts or beings dwell.
No one with a right approach to presentations of basic and significant spiritual-scientific facts will find this hard to understand. Of course, a person who reads lecture cycles just as he would a modern novel will not notice from the way it is presented that the all-important thing, the real proof, lies in this twofold re-casting of a judgment. He will then call such a statement a mere assertion, not a proof at all. But the only proof of spiritual facts is experience, experience conscientiously come by and based on a twofold re-casting of judgments. Spiritual things can be proved only by experiencing them. This does not hold true of understanding them, however. Anyone with a healthy mind can understand any adequate presentation. But to be adequate, it has to have supplied that healthy mind with all the pertinent data, so pertinently arranged that the very manner of the presentation convinces of the truth of a given conclusion.
It makes a strange impression to have people come and say that spiritual-scientific truths ought to be as susceptible of proof as assertions about facts observed in the sense world. A person who makes such a demand shows that he is unfamiliar with the difference between perception of things spiritual and ordinary experience on the physical or historical level. Individuals who acquaint themselves with anthroposophy will notice that the single truths it presents fit into the picture of anthroposophy as a whole, and that this whole in turn supports the further single truths they hear. These further truths then illuminate things heard in the past. An increasing familiarity with anthroposophy is thus constant growth in experiencing its truth. The truth of a mathematical statement can be discerned in a flash, but it is correspondingly lifeless. Anthroposophical truth is a living thing. Conviction cannot be arrived at in a single moment; it is alive, and goes on growing. Conviction about anthroposophy might be compared to a baby just starting out in life, uncertain at first, scarcely more than a belief. But the more one learns, the more certain one's conviction becomes. This growing-up of anthroposophical conviction is actually proof of its inner aliveness.
We see here, furthermore, that what one thinks and feels about the concerns of anthroposophy is not only different from what one thinks and feels in other areas today, but that one must think differently, feel differently, take a different approach than is usual elsewhere. This different approach or attitude is basic to an understanding of anthroposophy, and it forms the basis for an anthroposophical fructification of all the various fields of life and learning.
This fact will have to be kept particularly clearly in mind by scientists coming into the movement. They should not only make it their goal as scientists to develop a different picture of the world than that striven for by external science, but should also be aware that their chief responsibility consists in bringing an anthroposophical frame of mind and an inner aliveness to bear on the various scientific fields they enter. This would keep them from resorting to polemics against other types of science, and instead help them to proceed in the direction of developing aspects of those sciences that would remain undeveloped without anthroposophy. I must stress this in a time of crisis for our Society, a crisis due in no small measure to the way scientists have been conducting themselves in it.
I must add here that the battle over atomism that the journal Die Drei [DIE DREI: an anthroposophical journal.] has been waging can only mean the death of fruitful scientific exchange. This debate should not be carried on with resort to the same kind of thinking practiced by opponents and with a failure to see that in certain vital points their assertions are correct. The all-important thing is to realize that physics is just that field of science that has brought out facts quite ideally suited to serving as the foundation of an anthroposophical outlook, provided one takes physics just as it is, without polemics. As we have seen in the polemical debate in “Die Drei,” polemics unrelieved by an anthroposophical approach can only lead to unfruitfulness.
I had a further reason for stressing this: I want to make it fully clear as a matter of principle that everything that is done in the name of anthroposophy cannot be laid at my door! I respect people's freedom. But when harmful things happen I must be allowed to exercise my own judgment about bringing them up. Complete independence must be the rule in anthroposophical concerns, not opportunism. Least desirable of all is the comradely spirit so frequently met with in discussions about scientific questions.
Now, my dear friends, as I often point out, we have to be clear when we are presenting anthroposophy that we are now living in the age of consciousness soul development. In other words, rational and intellectual capacities have become the most outstanding aspects of man's present state of soul. Ever since the time of Anaxagoras, a philosopher of ancient Greece, we have been sifting every judgment, even those based on external observation, through our intellectuality. If you examine the rationalistic science of today, particularly mathematics, which is the most rationalistic of all, and consider the rationalistic working over of empirical data by the other sciences, you will form some idea of the actual thought-content of our time. This thought-content, to which even the youngest children are exposed in modern schools, made its appearance at a fairly definite point in human evolution. We can pinpoint it in the first third of the fifteenth century, for it was then that this intellectuality appeared on the scene in unmistakable form. In earlier times people thought more in pictures even when they were dealing with scientific subject matter, and these pictures expressed the growth forces inherent in the things they thought about. They did not think in abstractions such as come so naturally to us today.
But these abstract concepts educate our souls to the pure thinking described in my The Philosophy of Freedom. It is they that enable us to become free beings. Before people were able to think in abstractions they were not free, self-determined souls. One can develop into a free being only by keeping the inner man free of influences from outside, by developing a capacity to lay hold on moral impulses with the aid of pure thinking, as described in the The Philosophy of Freedom. Pure thoughts are not reality, they are pictures, and pictures exercise no sort of compulsion on us. They leave us free to determine our own actions.
So, on the one hand, mankind evolved to the level of abstract thinking, on the other to freedom. This has often been discussed here from several other angles.
Let us now consider how things stood with man before earthly evolution brought him to a capacity for abstract thoughts, and so to freedom. The humanity incarnated on the earth in earlier periods was incapable of abstract thinking. This was true of ancient Greece, not to mention still earlier periods. The people living in those early days thought entirely in pictures, and were therefore not as yet endowed with the inner sense of freedom that became theirs when they attained the capacity for pure (that is, abstract) thinking. Abstract thoughts leave us cold. But the moral capacity given us by abstract thought makes us intensely warm, for it represents the very peak of human dignity.
What was the situation before abstract thought with its accompaniment of freedom was conferred on man? Well, you know that when man passes through the gates of death and casts off his physical body, he still retains his etheric body for a few days thereafter and sees his whole life, all the way back to the moment of his first memory, spread out before him in mighty pictures, in an undetailed, comprehensive and harmonious panorama. This tableau of his life confronts a person for several days after he has died.
That is the way it is today, my dear friends. But in the time when people living on earth still possessed a picture consciousness, their experience immediately after death was that of a rational, logical view of the world such as human beings have today, but which those who lived in earlier times did not have in the period between birth and death.
This is a fact that proves a signal aid in understanding human nature. An experience that people of ancient as well as somewhat later periods of history had only after death, that is, a short looking back in abstract thoughts and an impulse to freedom, which then remained with them during their lives between death and rebirth, came, in the course of evolution, to be instead an experience that they had during life on earth. This constant pressing through of super-sensible experience into earthly experience is one of the great secrets of existence. The capacity for abstraction and freedom that presently extends into earthly life was something that came into an earlier humanity's possession only after death in the form of the looking back I have described; whereas nowadays, human beings living on the earth possess rationality, intellectuality and freedom, exchanging these after death for a mere picture consciousness in their reviewing of their lives. There is a constant passing over of this kind going on, with the concretely super-sensible thrusting itself into sense experience.
You can see from this example how anthroposophy obtains the facts it
speaks of from observation of the spiritual, and how subjectivity has no
chance to color its treatment of a fact. But once we arrive at these
facts, do they not affect our feelings and work on our will impulses?
Could it ever be said of anthroposophy that it is merely theory? How
theoretical it would sound to say merely that modern man is ruled by
freedom and abstraction! But how richly saturated with artistic feeling
and religious content such a statement becomes when we realize that what
gives us modern human beings freedom in our earthly experience and a
capacity for abstraction is something that comes to us here on earth
from the heavenly worlds we enter after death, but that makes its way to
us in a direction exactly counter to the one we take to enter them! We
go out through the gates of death into spiritual realms. Our freedom and
capacity for abstraction come to us as a divine gift, given to the earth
world by the spiritual. This imbues us with a feeling for what we are as
human beings, making us warmly aware not only of the fact that we are
bearers of a spiritual element, but of the source whence that element
derives. We look on death with the realization that what lies beyond it
was experienced by people of an earlier time in a way that has now been
carried over into the modern experiencing of people here on
The fact that this heavenly element, intellectuality and freedom, has been thus translated into earthly capacity makes it necessary to look up to the divine in a different way from that of earlier ages. The Mystery of Golgotha made it possible to look up in this new way. The fact that Christ came to live on earth enables him to hallow elements of heavenly origin that might otherwise tempt man to arrogance and similar attitudes. We are living in a period that calls on us to recognize that our loftiest modern capacities, the capacity for freedom and pure concepts, must be permeated by the Christ impulse. Christianity has not reached its ultimate perfection. It is great just because the various evolutionary impulses of the human race must gradually be saturated by the Christ impulse. Man must learn to think pure thoughts with Christ, to achieve freedom with Christ, because he will otherwise not have that relationship to the super-sensible world that enables him to perceive correctly what it gives him. Studying ourselves as modern human beings, we realize that the super-sensible penetrates into earthly life through the gates of death in a direction directly counter to that that we take on dying. We go one way as human beings. The world goes the opposite way. With the descent of Christ, the spiritual sun enters from spiritual heights into the earth realm, in order that the human element that has made its way from the super-sensible to the sense world come together with the cosmic element that has taken the same path, in order that man find his way to the spirit of the cosmos. He can orient himself rightly in the world only if the spirit within him finds the spirit outside him. The spirit that an older humanity found living in the world beyond death can be rightly laid hold upon by people living on the earth today only if they are irradiated by the Christ, who descended to earth from that same world whence rationality and intellectuality and freedom made their way into the experience of incarnated human beings.
So we may say that anthroposophy begins in every case at the scientific level, calls art to the enlivening of its concepts, and ends in a religious deepening. It begins with what the head can grasp, takes on all the life and color of which words are capable, and ends in warmth that suffuses and reassures the heart, so that man's soul can at all times feel itself in the spirit, its true home. We must learn, on the anthroposophical path, to start with knowledge, then to lift ourselves to the level of artistry, and to end in the warmth of religious feeling.
The present rejects this way of doing things, and that is why anthroposophy has enemies. These enemies have many strange qualities. I have been talking of such serious matters today that I don't want to end on a serious note, although these matters are a good deal more serious than is generally realized. But we should often consider what a contrast exists between the seriousness of genuine anthroposophical striving and the ideas about it entertained by a good many of our fellow men. Some of them are absolutely grotesque, though others would strike us as simply droll were it not for the fact that we have to put up a defense against them. Sometimes I also find it necessary to turn my own spotlight on the outer world, with everyone free to make of it what he will. So I am going to close today's weighty discussion with a comment that is not to be taken too weightily.
A little while ago, our friend Dr. Wachsmuth brought me in Dornach a rude pamphlet not only attacking anthroposophy, but making me and those close to me its special targets. He said at the time that he wasn't leaving the book with me because it would be insulting even to assume that I would read such a particularly crude piece of invention. I didn't see the book again. Dr. Wachsmuth took it away with him, and I gave it no further thought.
Yesterday I traveled through Freiburg, accompanied by Frau Dr. Steiner and Herr Leinhas. We stopped off for refreshments and were sitting at a restaurant table. Two men were seated at the adjoining one. One of them had a rather bulging briefcase and other such accoutrements. We took no special notice of these people, and they left shortly before we did. After their departure the waiter brought me a book, saying that one of the gentlemen had asked him to give it to me. Herr Leinhas asked who the men were, and was told that one of them was Werner von der Schulenburg. On the book's flyleaf stood the words, “With the author's compliments.”
You see, my dear friends, what can happen. Perhaps this will give you some idea what a conception of tact — not to mention other qualities — exists nowadays among those who parade their enmity.
I have found it quite impossible lately to pay much attention to my enemies. Anyone who has been following my recent activities will have seen how occupied I have been presenting new truths to add to the old. This takes time, which one cannot afford to let anyone interrupt and waste, no matter how savage the attacks become.
I have described to you today how much is involved in arriving at anthroposophical truths. If the Society becomes fully conscious of this, it will find some of the strength it needs for its current reorganization. That, my dear friends, is a vital need. Please do not take it amiss that I have harped on this theme so insistently today.