Natural Science and the Historical Development of Humanity
22 May 1921, Stuttgart
If we wish to be convinced of what, in the newer sense of the word, Natural Science signifies, we must look back to the sources of our present civilization. As can be seen even front the ordinary historical and scientific observation, these sources must be thought of as lying very far back in time, it is only if one keeps in mind the evolution of man and the gradual appearance of his special powers in more recent times that one can set-how these powers arose front the depths of the human soul, powers which lead to the present observation of nature and the affiliation of this to technique and to life.
There is a certain difficulty in placing more recent historical epochs in their essence before anyone who is wedded to the present day Science. In the previous lecture we attempted by way of introduction to proceed from the present — a present be it understood to which Herder and Goethe belong and to investigate certain streams which lead back to ancient times. We have seen how one of these two streams which existed so characteristically in Goethe led its hack to the Egyptian point of view, the other to the Chaldean. We went back to pre-Christian times and emphasized characteristic distinctions between the soul mood of the Chaldean people living in further Asia which can be traced back to about the beginning of the third pre-Christian millennium and that of Egypt, which can be studied still further back even in external history.
We have seen how a view existed among the Chaldeans belonging more to the external world in which the human mind so lost itself in the external world that even time became elastic. This soul mood made it necessary to regard the day hours in summer longer than in winter, whereas with the Egyptians the division of the year throughout the centuries was held rigidly by a method of calculating and not from any grasp of external events. They reckoned 365 days to the year and went on in stages of 365 days, not noticing that in reality they were no longer in harmony with the course of the year as it ran in the sense world externally. While they reckoned the year shorter than it is they encountered contradictions with what is really perceived in the outer world. This shows a significant distinction in the soul moods of two people who were connected with each other through trade relations and by spiritual intercourse, people who stood near to each other outwardly. One can only value such a distinction correctly by entering deeply into the origins of human civilization. This is rendered increasingly difficult because the civilizations which have developed one after the other in time exist to-day side by side in space arrested at different phases of evolution.
If to-day the European or the American who wishes to emerge from his materialism to more spiritual ideas about the human being, if he turn to the present Indian civilization, he finds within this a highly developed spirituality, a mysticism penetrated by acute intellectual concepts. He finds within its philosophy absolutely nothing of what he has learnt to know as the natural scientific view of Western or American civilization. If he feel a longing to experience something concerning humanity, something which modern science cannot give him, and if he do not allow himself to take into consideration what a newer spiritual science can give concerning man, then he will seek to absorb himself in the spiritual view of modern India or at least of what has been preserved from an epoch that is relatively not very ancient.
Whoever is armed with spiritual science, however, and approaches this Indian view of the world will find that from what exists in it to-day or what has been preserved historically from a more or less far distant past, there is expressed something which is no longer quite apparent but which seems to be a kind of lower stratum, as something springing up from dark depths. This plays even into the language and especially into the ideas and images. It must be conceived as something which has undergone many transformations before it has reached its present form. What exists in modern India has only received its form in most recent times but it carries elements in itself which are primaeval, which have required thousands of years in order to be what they have become.
If we turn to other civilizations, the Western Asiatic or the Chinese for instance, we find that something similar is the case; but we have the feeling that we need not go back so far in order to understand the present as we have to do in India. And if we observe Egyptian life as it transpired since about the beginning of the third pre-Christian millennium, we have the feeling that what is contained historically in documents is such that we are obliged to immerse ourselves into most ancient times, as we attempted to do, for example, in the last lecture. But we also find that the old has been preserved there with a kind of purity so that its fundamental depth is apparent even in later times, whereas in India it must be sought in the outset of its development.
In a similar way this is the case with the Greek and with our own civilization which, as we shall see, begins about the fifteenth century. The matter so appears that for a penetrating view, primeval elements have continued but are hardly noticeable to ordinary observation.
We will now see how the ancient elements within European and American civilizations are to be discussed.
One might say that the natural scientific element which has entered recent civilization appears to have so thoroughly cleared away what was old that this old element can only be substantiated by definite methods. It is however still there. There exist side by side on earth civilizations of different ages. One must go far back in time in order to understand modern Indian civilization, not so far back to understand the civilizations and literature of Western Asia, still less far back for the Egyptian and again still less to understand the Greco-Roman culture. One can remain almost entirely in the present in seeking to understand modern European and American civilization.
What has developed consecutively in the course of time stands side by side for us now and what stands side by side thus is in reality of varying ages, at least so far as regards external appearances. The temporal is mingled with the spacial and one must first find from a modern standpoint the methods which show from what present day civilizations one can go back into ancient times and from which one can find access to these old times by difficult and devious paths.
Now as you know, the observation of natural science, the so-called anthropological or geological observation, joins on to what history furnishes and we saw in the last lecture how superficially this is often done. We are led back into very early European times by superficial anthropological investigation. Of course there is less said about the people of Asia but as regards European evolution we are led back into ancient epochs. You know that geology, enriched by modern anthropology and history, says that, concerning certain trustworthy artistic remains which have been found in caves in Spain and France, very ancient races of Europe date back thousands of years; that in these extraordinary paintings revealed by the cave explorations we are told how in ancient times men must have lived in Europe in a certain degree of civilization even before that significant event spoken of by anthropology and geology as the European ice-age within which a great part of the European continent was covered with ice and thus made uninhabitable. Such regions as those in which the cave explorations of Southern France and Spain have been undertaken, must have been oases. Amid the wide ice fields men must have dwelt: a relatively rich nature must have existed and a civilization have evolved.
Thus are we led back even to-day into very ancient times of European life. And here, what external investigation can furnish joins on to what Spiritual Science has to say. Spiritual Science can indeed only proceed from what the developed soul powers of man can fathom, what can result from imagination and inspiration; it can speak of what can be consciously per-ceived inwardly. One can say in referring to what external history can investigate: Spiritual Science can in reality only fathom more or less the spiritual part of evolution, least of all that which has occurred in external nature. However, through spiritual investigation one can go back to those epochs which have seen man and his environment in quite different relations to those of the European ice-age.
It will be the task of these lectures to go back to those ancient times when man lived under quite different relationships and in quite different regions of the earth than later; but a feeling ought to be evoked regarding how justified it is to point to a supersensible cognition which traces back the history of human evolution into early times.
If anyone whose soul life, deepened through the view and feeling gained from spiritual science, approaches what outer history gives, he can have experience of the evolutionary path of civilized man. One can admit from the point of view of external anthropology and geology and history, that if one goes back ten to fifteen thousand years one finds quite another kind of life than that of modern civilized Europe. One can admit that in this epoch, during the last ten to fifteen thousand years, the evolution of European, Asiatic and eventually also of ancient American humanity takes place.
But what lies in documents must be illumined in a special manner by spiritual science. One must of course say that out of such considerations as I discussed by way of introduction, if one has acquired the possibility of going back from the present into earlier soul-moods one can then perceive correctly that which exists side by side.
In relation to antiquity, attention must be given first of all to the region of India. What is still there to-day as an extraordinary acute method of interpreting the world leads back to the times of the mighty Indian philosophy in which the Vedas had birth. But even if we let the Vedas, the Vedanta philosophy, the Yoga philosophy of India affect us we feel that in order to understand what, in its after effects, still exists beside us on Earth, we feel that we must go back into very early times indeed. If we compare it with, for example, our European method of thinking logically or with the Greek method of building up thoughts, we then find that the European culture of to-day, when compared with the Indian, appears like a descendant, like a grandchild, a child living beside his father and contemporary with him. Indian culture stands there reflecting very early times, but it has become old. In its old age condition one can still fathom what was revealed in ancient times as the highest spirituality, but one only sees it in decadence, in its old age. One sees it as one can see in the child certain early conditions of its father but these are changed because the conditions are experienced in a later date. Think of a man, for example, who was a child in the ninetieth year of the nineteenth century and then turn from him to his father or grandfather. The grandfather was a child in the fortieth or fiftieth year of the nineteenth century but he went through childhood in different conditions to those of the ninetieth year. The child of the latter time knows quite different things to what his grandfather knew with his naïve childhood in the fortieth year. If one acquire this kind of insight into the development of peoples, the present European civilization or even that of Greece appears, so far as we can penetrate into them, as if born late compared with what was born earlier in India or what to-day we find ancient in it. If we can sense this India which has grown old, which was already old at the time of the Vedas and Vedanta philosophy, if we can penetrate this in our mood of soul trained through spiritual science in order to see the earlier from out of the later just as one sees the childhood in a man who has become old, then we can arrive at a perception of primaeval India. But then we must realize that this primaeval India was without doubt a civilization fundamentally different from our own. It must have been absolutely permeated by the spirit and have comprehended man in a special, spiritual way. And if one observes the manifold character of what we find in India, the Veda poems with their imagery which remains however in a fluidic element, the acute Vedanta philosophy, the fervent Yoga philosophy, one must say that in the course of time civilization must have mingled with civilization there; that once upon a time a primaeval civilization of a thoroughly spiritual kind must have existed there.
Then something less spiritual was drawn over this, something which found its expression in the Vedas. What appears in the fervent Yoga philosophy was then founded. It was impossible that all these could have arisen out of one race. Different peoples with different capacities have intermingled. The one brought the teachings of Yoga, the other the Veda poems. These peoples already found a primeval India which they absorbed and from which they took what was ripe and old and had withered in man. The incoming race came with fresh blood; they fashioned that which men in decadence could develop no further. And so it went on.
In this way the present condition gradually arose and one is not far wrong in comparing this primaeval Indian culture with those remnants which exist in the regions where modern civilization has developed. We can compare with the men of primaeval India those who painted the extraordinary pictures in the west of Europe, the lines of which make such a deep impression on us. When we look at these pictures, if we can lose ourselves in what the human soul experienced while producing these pictures, we must say: certainly, something very primitive is contained here, often something like that which modern precocious children paint; but yet there is something else. We see from these pictures how men lived with a love for outer nature and we see that these pictures were painted from out of deep inner impulses. We see that they were painted by men who did not first analyse with the eye so as to decide how they should draw lines or place colours but who fashioned and painted from out of their inner experience what was deeply rooted in their love.
If one compares this with what was founded in the civilization of primeval India, one finds a relationship.
In Western Europe the development is primitive and it remains primitive; over in Southern Asia it evolves further and further because it is continually fructified by other races and it develops right on to the Vedanta philosophy. If I had brought these facts forward, as I have often done, in a spiritual scientific way you would then see that one can approach the matter concretely but quite differently. I now present them as they appear to the spiritual scientist when he takes external documents into consideration. But one cannot approach these matters, as customary to-day, with crude ideas acquired from a crude natural scientific observation. Our ideas must be pliable and plastic, as you will see from the considerations I will now place before you. Naturally one cannot show the connection between the cave civilization of Western Europe and the Indian as one proves the similarity of triangles, but the certainty we attain is not little if we only penetrate these things and if we adopt that soul-mood to which attention has been drawn.
He who deepens his soul life — from this point of view in the wonderful ideas of the Vedanta philosophy, sees these transformed into an abstract spirit in the draughtsmanship of those paintings in the caves of Spain and Southern France. It does not appear striking, therefore, even from external investigation, that spiritual science explains how a common primaeval race, which must be sought for in the eighth pre-Christian millennium, gradually spread over the inhabitable regions of Europe, Africa and Asia and developed according to the different relationships of life. This ancient civilization within which man lived united to outer nature, showed itself in its most gifted form in ancient India. Here was revealed what comes to expression otherwise in a primitive way only.
There was developed also farther that which has astounded people, for instance in the culture of Crete. This arose in the east of Europe. In India it developed as the primaeval Indian culture, and progressed further and further, remaining capable of life even in its old age. It passed through its blossom in that epoch when the Vedas, the Vedanta philosophy and other philosophical methods of thought arose. A great many things intermingled in this India which developed at different times but which are there to-day side by side.
If we attend particularly to primeval Indian civilization we must say that everything points to a humanity with a soul mood into which we cannot enter through external means.
I have said that one can press forward to Imaginative Cognition. If one does this consciously one gets an idea of what such men experienced, not consciously yet but instinctively like the ancient Chaldeans or the later Egyptians. Their mood of soul was absolutely different from that of modern men.
Through this advance in Imaginative Cognition man himself becomes a picture; he blends with this picture and thus lives into the 'becoming' (das Werden) of the world. Thus did the Chaldeans for example, live in the 'becoming.' But on the other hand one learns to know also when to rise to Inspiration, how to overcome the separation between the inwardly subjective and the outwardly objective; to feel at one with the cosmic all, to so feel one's being in the Cosmos that one can say: What announces itself through me is the voice, the speech of the Cosmos itself. I only give myself to it in order to be an organ in the Cosmos and to let the world reveal itself through me. We can reach this state consciously in Inspiration.
The Egyptian lived in it instinctively in a late stage. This leads us back to times from out of which a relatively good document obtains in Chinese civilization. What is usually described as such is a late product, but just as in India ancient stages, child stages reveal themselves so are revealed in China primaeval stages of civilization. We can feel how an instinctive Inspiration lives in the Chinese civilization. Through spiritual science we obtain to-day a conscious Inspiration, in China it was more or less instinctive; which means that its results exist as a background in what is imparted to-day in Chinese literature. We are led back to a view of man which presents him as a member of the entire Cosmos.
Just as we speak to-day of a three-fold man, the head man, the member man, and the rhythmic man, and fathom his being in its full depths through Inspiration, in the same way the ancestors of the Chinese civilization once lived in an inspired knowledge of something similar. This however did not relate itself to man because man was only a member of the entire Cosmos but it related itself directly to the Cosmos. Just as we feel conscious of our head, the Chinese felt what he called 'Yang.' If we wish to contemplate our head especially we cannot look at it, we can at most see the tip of our nose if we turn our eyes that way. As we can see the surface portions of our organism when we regard ourselves outwardly but are only conscious of our head to a certain extent in our mind, in the same way the Chinese was conscious of something which he called Yang. And by this Yang he conceived what was to be found above, what spread itself out spiritually; the heavenly, the shining, the producing, the active, the giving. And he did not distinguish himself from what he knew as his head, from this Yang.
Again, as we distinguish man from his environment when we feel the 'member-man' placing us in activity and connecting us with our environment, similarly the Chinese speak of 'Yin,' and in this he points to what is dark, what is earthy, receptive, and so on.
We say to-day that in our limb and digestive system we take up external substances, uniting these through this system with our own being, and we take up the senses-thought element through our head organization, but between these two stands everything which maintains rhythm of breath; the rhythm of blood brings this about. As we feel and cognize man, in the same way the Chinese once saw the whole Cosmos: above the creative, illumining, heavenly; below the earthy, dark, receptive; and the equilibrium between the two, that which forms a rhythm between heaven and earth, that he felt when the clouds appeared in the sky, when the rain fell and when it evaporated, when the plants grew out of the earth towards the heavens. In all this he felt the rhythm of above and below and he called this 'Tao.' Thus he had a view of that with which he grew. It presented itself to him in this three-fold way. But he did not distinguish himself from all this.
This view meets us transformed in Western Asia. What is transmitted to us as a primaeval civilization from the region of Persia, what shows itself in China, this must have once undergone a quite different development, metamorphosed into what is given as the opposition between Ahura Mazdao and Ahriman; Ahura Mazdao the illuminating, radiating God of Light and the dark, gloomy Ahriman, between whom the world is represented as running its course.
The early Indian could not yet distinguish the higher from the lower, heaven from earth, and this is the difference between what was early Indian and what in China was metamorphosed entirely and can be found as the basis for many civilizations in further Asia that I have named the early Persian in my book Occult Science. As yet no difference was spoken about between what was subjective and inward in men and what was outward and objective. In the outer world no distinction was made between what is light spiritually and what inclines to be more bodily dark, while in later times, in the early Persian epoch, the two were distinguished from each other. The interchange of activity between the two was thought of as being brought about through Tao or through some rhythmic equilibrium.
What is it that now took place? Why did men forsake the old standpoint so that they could no longer distinguish the spiritually light from the physically dark and for what reason did they go over to the conception of so opposite an idea as that of polarity or duality?
When we realize what is to be found in documents and when we let the feeling which lies in these documents and in their tradition act upon our souls, we come to the knowledge that in those olden times men played little part in the outer world. They lived mostly, from our own correct point of view, on a high spiritual plane, but on the other hand also, in animal innocence. For everything that they experienced in relation to the universe was instinctive. Later on this was thought of as being the out-breathing of Brahma.
All this was only possible to men who did not take part and work actively in outer nature, but who entered into nature, one might say, as does an animal, as a bird that takes what nature offers for nourishment without first working for it; fetching it merely by flight. These men therefore lived in full harmony with all the kingdoms of nature and extended their love over them all.
When with full human understanding we place ourselves within all existence we realize directly that what was love of animals and plants in the Indian-oriental view of life has arisen out of the great all-love' that does not harm any being and therefore has not yet attained to the fully awakened human consciousness in which men lived in later days. They lived in an atmosphere of spirituality which was instinctive but was higher than that of the Greeks or of the spirituality of today. They lived blameless in nature: they did not kill, they even regarded the plants on which they lived in such a way that they did not sow them but took only those that grew wild.
In such a way one looks back upon the peopling of the southern Asiatic regions thousands of centuries ago.
Later there awoke in men the consciousness of the radical difference between the higher and lower, a consciousness of the spiritual which man cannot alter, which is above the physical upon which he can work and to which he can devote himself.
About the beginning of the 6th or 5th millennium B.C. a change takes place — one can trace it in decadent remnants — in which what surrounded men and what they could alter is looked upon differently and as something over which they could exercise lordship. They begin to tame animals, they make domestic animals out of wild animals, and they become agriculturists.
From the 7th or 6th millennium B.C. is the time of great radical change when men begin to work upon Nature and thus distinguish Nature from that which is radiant and shines upon what they could affect and what can gain form through humanity. But it is not only men that can give form to things: men can make instruments, a primitive axe was the instrument that preceded the plough — probably it was woman who first pursued agriculture — they ploughed the ground by hand, and sowed. But just as man saw that the earth could gain form through him he saw also that it was not through him that in spring the earth is decked out with plants and that in autumn the plants disappear. And therefore as the earth can acquire form through man, form also comes from what illumines him from out of surrounding space, and he comes to the distinguishing of light and darkness, spirit and matter.
All this developed in such a way that men first learnt to distinguish themselves from the outer world through labouring on the land and being agriculturists and through breeding cattle. We can see in later Persian culture how everything depended on agriculture. We can see the connexion of this with what is expressed in the Avesta and we can recognize the progress from the early Indian civilization. But this develops in such a way that man does not as yet know himself as a Self. Humanity identifies itself with the external world. Men on the whole are entirely instinctively inspirational and they pass from instinctive inspiration to an understanding of the soul life which in after times, in the beginning of the third millennium, appears as the Chaldean imaginative civilization of which we can say that men have progressed so far that they not only distinguish the higher from the lower but that they occupy themselves with the stars; that they invent instruments, water-timepieces, etc. If however we study the Chaldeans we will find everywhere how strongly mankind lives in the outer world and that it is difficult for an inner life to be acquired.
In Egypt we see something different. We see the Chaldean arising later than the Egyptian. We can follow the Egyptian back to the time in which we can also set the early Persian civilization with its metamorphosing of the Chinese culture, to the time when the higher and the lower were differentiated. But we can see, just in the beginning of the third millennium B.C., a mighty and radical change within the culture of Egypt. Just as we saw a similar radical change when taming animals and agriculture began, so do we see in the third millennium a still more extensive change. We come upon it in this way. We see how in Egypt the building of pyramids developed in a later period. We can also follow Egyptian culture historically to-day further back than the pyramids. These begin in the third millennium. Egyptian civilization reaches back to the time of Menes before this century. The mighty pyramids were not built then. At the same time that the pyramids were built we see something arising in Egypt which points in a conspicuous way to the fact that the Egyptians experienced intensely an inward development of consciousness. In order to build these pyramids powerful instruments must without doubt have existed. Such instruments could have only arisen through some kind of metal work and this working with metals implies a certain knowledge of the inner nature of metal . We see what was later named chemical knowledge arising in a primitive form with the Egyptians, in other words, we see how men began to make their inner nature strongly active and how they did not yet know that this inner nature was there.
How mankind became aware of this inner nature and its strength can best be recognized by us when we examine from a definite point of view the highly developed Egyptian art of healing. It is quite different from our own medical science. For the illnesses existing in Egypt there were specialists, eye specialists in particular. The healers there made use of the so called Temple sleep. The sick were brought to the Temple and put into a kind of sleep during which they entered a sort of dream condition. What they then remembered was studied in its pictorial characteristics by priests who were versed in such things. These priests found out what taught them pathology through the inner dramatic course of the dreams, through the character of the pictures, whether they were dark on light or dark following light and so on. From another side they discovered indications for remedies in the particular configuration of the dreams. Through observation of what men experienced inwardly and what in dream pictures presented itself to the inner sight, the inward bodily condition of human beings was studied in Egypt.
We see this occurring parallel with what was developing in Chaldea. There men lived more in an external outlook. They invented instruments, their wonderful water clocks for instance evolved from the pictorial character of their souls. They were so immersed in the pictorial element that they looked upon time as transmutable pictures. This picture making element was like an outward one in which they lived. With the Egyptian this element was grasped inwardly, it was so taken that they studied it in dream form. We see here an epoch when men did not feel themselves merely as members of the universe but in which they raised themselves out of the world and individualized themselves in these two ways in the Chaldean and the Egyptian. And we see an evolution in the arising of the pictorial observation of instinctive imagination. In a twofold way this meets us, the one in Chaldea, the other in Egypt. And in the beginning of the building of the pyramid, which in its measurements and geometric relations rests on a perception of proportions in the development of man, on the development of inner forces and on the experiencing of these forces, we see a third epoch of culture in which instinctive imagination gives a definite tint to the evolution of man.
And we see how in this time the social conditions became the natural result of what arose as soul conditions. If we study the social conditions of primeval India we will find that men lived in peace together.
We see in primaeval Persia how a warlike element existed, since there it was that men took up the fight with Nature, and we see how this warlike instinct went over into their imagination. And since they were possessed inwardly, since this instinctive inward possession of men in relation to themselves can only be what is emotional and of the will, those impulses for power showed themselves in the grotesque and great pyramids which are resting places for the dead and at the same time serve as testimonies of the outer power of those who ruled. We see how consciousness of power wells up but also how other folk mix with them bringing new blood into what existed as imaginative, instinctive, in the social conditions also. We see how such stock come more from out of central Asia and mix with the others. What they bring belongs to what is a feeling of 'themselves-now-men,' distinct from their environment.
In Egypt there arose in a definite period what made the Egyptian realize himself as a godlike human being: he felt his self-consciousness so strongly that he looked upon all other people as barbarians and as human only those people who could live in inner pictures. One can see thus arising an intensified value of self-consciousness which runs parallel with an event belonging to this spiritual condition.
If we study the laws of Hammurabi we find that the horse is not yet included among the domesticated animals. It came into civilized life, however, very soon after. Hammurabi speaks of the ass and the ox and soon after his time the horse is named in documents the 'mountain ass.' It was so called because it was brought over from the mountainous East. Races that had penetrated into Chaldea brought the horse with them and with this a war-like element appeared. We see the war-like element, born in olden times, developed further when the horse is tamed and added to the other tamed animals. This also is connected with a certain condition of the soul. One can say that up to this period man had not mounted a horse and strengthened his individuality to a certain extent through fettering the horse to his own movement. The point of development in which he now was awake expressed itself as the pictorial perception of the Chaldean and as the inner dreamlike life of the Egyptian. In this way the external relations of human evolution are intimately connected with the metamorphosis of the soul in the succeeding epochs: on one side the building of the pyramids, on the other the taming of the horse. Regarded externally they express the third epoch of culture, the Chaldean-Egyptian; and these are intimately connected with the arising of the instinctive-imaginative life.
The highly developed civilisation of Egypt at the period in which the pyramids were built expressed itself in a dreamlike imagination. It came to a close relatively early.
We see the first dawn at the beginning of the third millennium. After it had begun to decline its soul mood lived on in Asia, progressing through Western Asia, Asia Minor and over to the European continent. It is clearly perceptible in what comes over from Asia Minor from the older Greek civilization and is still perceptible in the Homeric poems and in their outlook on the world. But in the approach to these Homeric poems we come upon a radical transformation. What lies at their base as a world outlook shows imaginative ideas throughout and also the perception of man which is pictorial.
In order to understand Homer's own peculiar method, one must see plastically with the inner eye of the soul when, apart from the fact that he speaks in pictures that can be seen outwardly of an Achilles or a Hector, he points out the pictorial element, as for example, 'the quick footed Achilles, Hector the hero with the waving crest.' In the whole nature of Homer we see something that is Chaldean.
This becomes different as the Greek civilisation develops which we find with Aeschylus and Sophocles and in the Greek sculpture. We can distinguish this from what is older because we realise how strong was the impulse in Greece to understand man in his own actual human nature.
If we look at the Chaldeans we see how the plastic perception appeared there in images and we see it especially in one of those races which were near to the Chaldeans locally, the Sumerians. We see how this race tends like the Egyptian towards the outward aspect of humanity. We find among the Greeks in drama and also where drama is led over into the domain of sculpture, how man is to be understood in his outward aspect. This was strongly felt by the man of the third epoch in his expression of deep, instinctive forces. This happened in Egypt during the building of the pyramids when, in their structure, men allowed their forces to grow into gigantic proportions; and in certain races of Asia who lived in an especially warlike way and placed themselves on horseback and felt themselves one with the horse.
The Greek then proceeded to say: 'I do not require external means, all human forces lie within my skin.' And he fashioned plastically those forms of men, perfect in themselves, which take everything into themselves which a previous epoch had to seek through an external embodiment. This entire immersion of oneself, this entire living in what is human and this seeking for the sublime in man, this we find expressed in the Greek spirit. And we meet it later in another form in Rome if we call to mind the passing through the Forum of the Emperor or some other figures in the Roman toga. We can see even to-day how in a much more abstract way than in Greece there was this fashioning of men with the highest forces felt within their bodies.
In the sixth pre-Christian century a new epoch begins; the Homeric age being still earlier. This age which now begins develops especially strong and powerful in Greece where it increases in splendour for about four centuries and then meets with a downfall.
Then Christianity arises. When the Greek had his Zeus statue before him he still felt something fully living there, but when the Roman regarded his statues he saw fundamentally only an abstract idea. This abstraction be came more and more pronounced and even in the fourth post-Christian century when the Senators entered the Roman Senate Hall each one threw a grain of incense into the glowing flame which burned in front of the statue of Victory, before he took his seat as Senator. We see how that which was felt in Greece as the fulness of life in the statues of Zeus, Athene and Apollo is still felt in the statue though in a merely abstract thought form, which was however real. There was still something like the magic weaving of divine forces themselves in the Zeus and Athene statues.
We then see how the Christian Emperor Constantine had this statue removed out of the Senate Hall because he thought it had lost all meaning in the sight of Christianity. And we see how Julian the Apostate once again absorbs himself in the fully human view of the fourth epoch, bringing back again the statue of Victory to the Senate Hall; how he causes the ancient ceremonies to be enacted again by the Senators but how he can no more renew the old and how he succumbs as a consequence. For the arrow which struck him down was the arrow of a murderer hired by his enemies.
And out of all this the epoch develops which I shall have to characterize further, the epoch in which men occupy themselves with inner spirituality, with intellectuality, with the power of understanding. This develops in its own special way through the Middle Ages where the intellect was thought about as we find it in Scholasticism where men fought over Nominalism and Realism.
In the 15th century a quite different spirit leads over to the age of Natural Science. In the beginning this spirit was specially strongly developed in Galileo and Copernicus who brought about the great progress in human consciousness which might be called 'interiorization' as compared with Greek consciousness. It may be so called in spite of having developed during the 18th century into that materialism which in the 19th century revealed so much with regard to external nature.
To-day we stand at a great turning point. I do not want to bring forward epoch fantasies like those of Spengler but I wish to say something different. In the beginning of the Egyptian age we see the first stage of human understanding arising, how the age of the pyramids began and how this stage was announced through other symptoms. We see how the next stage begins in the eighth pre-Christian century, how it develops in Greece and in Rome in the soul mood which understands 'man as man,' how this age comes to an end and the 'interiorization' of the intellect begins in the fifteenth century.
Thus we look back upon three great turning points: the point where the Egyptian-Chaldean epoch begins, we see how the Greek-Latin period begins and we see how that age arose which inaugurated Natural Science. In this last something again is introduced as was the case with the pyramids, something representing the special penetration of human evolution with what is new.
The Romans could not uphold what was to the Greeks full of life; they could only carry out that abstraction and intellectuality which died in the lifeless Latin language. We must take heed of all this to-day because we have more consciousness than the Greeks. And from out of our consciousness we must take heed that we prevent from within that destruction which came upon Greece and which stands as a fearful example before us. We must learn from history in such a way that it will not happen to us as it has happened to men who were weak because they depended upon what was outward. We must conquer what could not be conquered in earlier ages. And when it is said that one must learn from history, we must do this in such a way that we steel ourselves and become attentive to what ancient times can teach us so that we not only learn to avoid those mistakes made by individuals but also what should be named the necessary omissions in human evolution. What threatens to come upon humanity today as it happened in the past must be overcome. We have got to transcend a great crisis. And we can only understand the nature of this present crisis if we understand it in the light of a deep comprehension of human evolution. Together with this we will understand how a spiritual Science arises from out of Natural Science. This can only be understood through being able to grasp it from out of the entire spirit of human evolution.