Our bookstore now ships internationally. Free domestic shipping $50+ →

The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Foundation Course: Spiritual Discernment, Religious Feeling, Sacramental Action
GA 343

IV. Anthroposophy and Religion

28 September 1921 a.m., Dornach

My dear friends! Last night I received a letter from Reverend Dr Schairer in Nagold which contains a number of theses regarding how Anthroposophy can conduct itself regarding religion, and religion conduct itself regarding Anthroposophy, and how a way must be found to initiate this behaviour. Dr Schairer thinks a discussion could be based on this. That also seems to be quite right following on from the first part of the letter—I couldn't read the whole thing, I haven't yet read the last pages—because a lot will be clarified in an exceedingly exact manner. Perhaps this could in some respects provide a good basis for a discussion because it will be a priority in our future work, if I may say so, to bring these fundamental issues in order.

In addition to what I want to say to you today—everything is for the time being still introductory—depends from one side on the main issue of this question, certainly from one specific side. We have to be perfectly clear that Anthroposophy as such must arrive in a positive way at the Mystery of Golgotha so that the manner and way in which this happens regarding this event, can really be ascribed to a concept of knowledge, a knowledge which, if the term is taken seriously, this concept of "knowledge" is also applicable in the modern scientific sense. It is on the other hand right that this special way, first of all—I stress first of all—Anthroposophy needs to get to the Mystery of Golgotha, that at first the Protestant sense of religion from certain foundations need to be brought to consciousness, which can take offence. Only complete clarity about these things can lead to some healing goal.

I must therefore, even if it appears somewhat remote, enter into what I want to say to you today. Anthroposophy or spiritual science actually creates out of supersensible knowledge, and rejects—in principle rejects—anything from older traditions, let's say, the oriental wisdom or historic Gnosticism, through somehow assembling a content, or expanding the content. Anthroposophy quite decisively rejects this because it focuses above all in its comprehensive task of practically answering the question: How much can a person today, who has in his soul, latent, or in ordinary life, not conscious forces in his awareness, how can he now in full consciousness and with full human discretion, recognise the supersensible world instantly?—Spiritual science would like to proceed with this cognition similarly to a mathematician who wants to prove the theory of Pythagoras. He proves it out of something which one can recognise today, and he doesn't reject purely from historical writers what he had encountered before, when he obviously later, in his historic studies, entered into the way the theorem had been found. If you research spiritual science in this way you will certainly conclude that an abyss lies between the way and manner in which current spiritual science arrives at its results through fully conscious research, and what still remains in Gnosticism or oriental wisdom, which has a more instinctive character on the other hand. Precisely what people want as unmixed knowledge brought to realization, even this, as I've said, needs to be researched. In the course of this research it becomes apparent that something is needed which makes an appearance as if one had reverted back to the old. In the course of research spiritual experiences take place namely for which modern people—the entire modern civilization—the concise words are missing. Our modern language has definitely connected to material thinking patterns; our modern speech has been learnt as linked either to mere outer material or intellectual matters—both these belong together.

Inner intellectualism is nothing other than correlations to the materialistic methods of observation of the external world. What can be recognised about matter is that when one uses the materialistic method, it reflects inwardly as intellectualism. It is like this, that any philosophy which wants to prove its spirit through mere intellect or a spirit comprised from the intellect, will be wafting around in the wind; these would hardly be able to acknowledge that the intellectual is quite rightly spiritual, but that the content of what is intellectual can be nothing other than that of the material world. One must always speak clearly about these things. By expressing a sentence like: "The content of the intellectual can be nothing other than that of the material world," I'm only saying it can be nothing other than the content of the world, which can be viewed as the sum of material beings and phenomena; whether this is what it is, is not yet agreed upon. The intellectual material world could be through and through spiritual and what comprises intellectualism could be an illusion. Therefore, it is important for spiritual scientific discussions there should already be an unusually powerful conscientiousness existing towards knowledge otherwise there will be no progress in spiritual science. This conscientiousness is also noticed by people of the present; they find it necessary to hackle through their sentences in all directions in order to be concise, and people of the present day who are used to the journalistic handling of a style, call this wrestling for conciseness a bad style.

Such things we certainly must understand out of the peculiarities of the time. So, while current materialism and intellectualism have hassled speech/language to such a degree that language only operates in terms of the material, one can hardly find the right words needed to describe one's experiences and then one grasps for the old words which come from instinctive observation, to express that which needs expression. This results in the misunderstanding: people who cling only to words now believe that in the word one borrows what is contained in the translation of the word. This is not the case.

The words "lotus flower" is a borrowed expression from oriental wisdom but what I have indicated (in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment) is certainly not borrowed from oriental wisdom. This is what I'm asking, for you to always take this into consideration, when on occasion I need through necessity to borrow expressions from history, as I have to do today.

You see, spiritual science first and foremost wants to gain human knowledge through Anthroposophy, modern physiology and biology need to some extent be considered as the most unsuitable instrument for acquiring real human knowledge. Modern physiology and biology unfortunately base their knowledge on what can be seen in man's corpse. Also, when living people are studied, they are unfortunately only studying the corpse. At most they indulge in a certain deception, which extraordinarily characteristically was revealed when Du Bois-Reymond held his famous lecture on the Ignorabimus. He is quite clear that nothing—because he was besides a scientific researcher also a thinker—of this modern manner of research of the soul—he called it consciousness—can be gained; so that one actually through natural science, according to Du Bois-Reymond, can't find out anything about the actual being of man. He is submitting himself to an ever-greater deception; he says that with outer scientific beings we will never be able to recognise conscious people, at most only those who are asleep. When a person lies sleeping in bed, according to Du Bois-Reymond, the sum of all processes is within the person, but at the moment of waking, when the spark of consciousness jumps in, the possibility of observation ends. It would be correct if one was able today, to scientifically understand the life and development of the plant world. The life and development of the plant world is still not comprehensible through science today because the method is not recognised through which this would be understood. So that too, is an illusion, what current science explains about sleeping people; it can only be in their domain to explain sleeping people, the corpse; further than this they don't go. They can only explain those who are sleeping; the ones who are lively they can't explain.

Anthroposophy doesn't follow philosophic speculation about people, but the way which I outline in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, in the withdrawal of the soul into observation, and then the attainment towards not remaining stuck in the mineral element in man, which is perpetually dead and is incorporated as a dead mineral element in the being of man, but that one gets to, through what could be called the ether body or creative force, observe what the real foundation of the sleeping human being is.

Now people come along out of the current philosophic consciousness; I can refer to one case. When my Occult Science was published, there was talk about a Polish philosopher, Lutoslawski, in an old German monthly publication. In this discussion it was said, among other things, that it is only an abstraction to divide a human being into members of the physical body, the ether body, the astral body and the I, one can certainly as an abstraction divide man into these, but it goes no further.—As far as Lutoslawski at that time regarded it, he was correct in his assertion, but he remained in the field of abstraction, and this depends on the following: As soon as a one moves up to contemplate the ether body one can't remain in the physical body of the human being; as long as one only contemplates the physical body then one doesn't need anything but to investigate within the human skin and at most go as far as to examine the interaction with the outside world through breathing and so on; but nothing further is examined, basically nothing more than by beginning with the boundary of the human skin.

This characteristic I'm offering, you will quite rightly find if you only think about it. One can, if one remains confined in examining the physical body only by what is enclosed by the skin, but one can no longer remain in what is contained by the physical skin when one thoroughly looks at the ether body. Obviously, the basic outlines need to be drawn first, as I have done in my Occult Science, so attention can be drawn to man's physical body, ether body, astral body and so on. However, Anthroposophy doesn't remain stuck here; Anthroposophy must now expand these things. As soon as knowledge of the ether body is extended one can no longer remain within the human being, but one needs to observe the human being as a single being in connection with everything earthy. One must examine the human being in connection with the earthly. This means as long as the human being is enclosed in his physical body, he leads a relatively independent life, a relatively independent life. To a high degree man is dependent on everything possible, air, light and so on, for the physical body; man is dependent on these to a high degree. You can see this in the following example.

When materialism was at the height of its blossoming, Wolff, Büchner and Czolbe very often referred to the dependency of man on the physical environment and one of these writers once listed everything, from gravity, light, the climate and so on and concluded that the human being was the result of every breath of air he breathes. He meant by this—the person concerned was a materialist—the physical organism is dependent on every breath of air. Yes, my dear friends, if one considers the depiction of materialism in this reference in all earnest and contemplate how the human being was as depicted by materialism, then one will become aware that the human being at its highest potency could be a hysteric or a cripple. The materialists have already described the material human being but not what happens in the world, a being who at its highest potency would be an hysteric. The hysteric at his highest power would be as dependent on his environment as the materialist has described him.—The actual human being in his highest power is independent on what the physical earth environment offers. One can't say this about the etheric man. As soon as one rises to the etheric in man, one can't observe the etheric body as isolated from the entire earth's etheric which needs to be examined, and here man lives in a far higher—naturally not in the physical sense higher—level as his physical body. When one comes to the realm of the etheric while observing the earth, then one can no longer hold on to concepts of chemistry, or mineralogy and so on, but one must now search for completely different conceptions; now one will be confronted with the necessity of wanting to say what one wants to say, at least prove it with expressions which the Greeks had, because it is not possible to do so in today's language.

The (ancient) Greek would, if you demonstrated current chemistry to him, express himself in the following way. Just imagine we have on the one hand a really modern chemist and on the other hand a Greek, an educated ancient Greek, who would like to talk to the chemist, and the modern scientist would say something like the following: "You Greeks come from far back, you took the four elements of fire, earth, water and air. Those are for us at most, aggregate conditions: fire as all penetrating warmth, air as aeriform, the water as liquid and the earth in a solid physical state. We acknowledge that from you. However, we have placed some seventy elements in place of your four." If the Greek would study what has been presented as some seventy elements, he would say: "What we understand under the four elements will not touch many of your seventy elements. We have for what you have in your seventy elements, the collective name of 'earth': we call all of that 'earth.' With our four elements we are referring to something else, we indicate through it how some things express themselves from out of their inner being. What you are pouring out regarding your elements, that is for us aeriform and such further conditions of the earth. Something far more internal than what you acknowledge with your elements, describe for us the expressions of earth, water, fire or heat."

Exactly to these four elements one is guided when one considers everything surging and weaving which has been spun into the earthy etheric and human etheric. Only when you follow this etheric, which lives in the four elements, as an experience within the circling of the earth's weaving existence, will you understand spring, summer, autumn and winter. In spring, summer, autumn and winter which exist as the foundation of the etheric processes of the earth—not merely as the physical processes of the earth—in this etheric weaving of the earth the human ether body is woven so that one, when one in a sense advances to the etheric body, one must find the etheric body rooted in the earthly-etheric.

What we rediscover again—I have explained this whole relationship in detail in the Hague—sounds like instinctive wisdom of the ancients, which continued right into Greek times. We don't understand the continuity in humanity if we don't, in our way, discover what the content of these instincts were.

Now we will go further and come to the astral body of the human being. The terminology doesn't mean anything to me; the astral body had been spoken about much later, right into the middle ages and even up to present time, but it must have some formulation. When one rises up into the astral body, the actual carrier of thinking, feeling and will in man, then you again come to realise that man cannot be regarded in isolation. Just as one makes the etheric a member of the etheric weaving of the earth, so one needs to make the astral—in quite a spiritual manner—as basically incorporated in what is expressed in the movement and positioning of the stars. The astral in man is simply the expression of the cosmic, the astral relationships; how the stars move and are positioned to one another, this is expressed in the human astral body. Just like the human being through his etheric body is interrelated to the earthly etheric, so man through his astral body is associated through his astral to the earth's surroundings; it lives further in the earthly surrounding, they continue to live in the events, in the processes of his astral body.

You see, it is not an abstraction to structure the human being; we are required to structure the human being because in this structuring we rise from human knowledge to cosmic knowledge, quite naturally. Now we can go back in human evolution to more ancient times which had not actually reached into the Greek times any more. Here we find an instinctive awareness of people's relationship to the starry worlds. Not as if Astronomy was carried on in these ancient times, and if it was, that it could be considered serious, but the connection happened as a direct experience. Human beings experienced themselves in certain times of their earth evolution far less as earthlings than as heavenly beings. In our research we easily reach a time where people, certainly inwardly, lived into the growing and flourishing of the plant world, also in the animal world where everything offered in air and in water were experienced, but as being independent. Similar to how the human being in current times experiences inner processes of nutrition and digestion, processes taking place independently, so the human being once took in all that he experienced in the physical world, as independent, but he didn't take what he lived through in his astral body as independent from the influences of the heavenly worlds. That was something that differentiated itself, imposed itself too strongly upon him, to be taken as independently. When winter shifted closer, when nights lengthened and a person found frost had arrived all around him, he sensed in a certain way how he simply depended on his placement in the world, he felt something within him, like a memory of heaven. During winter he felt himself separated from heaven in a way, he sensed something within him which was like a mere memory of heaven. When by contrast spring approached and the warmth of the earth was interwoven with man, then he felt something dissolve within him as when he shares in the experience, I would call it, of a spreading out breath, the events of the heavens. Now he had heavenly reality, not just a memory of heaven which he had in winter. In this differentiated way he experienced the other seasons also; he actually participated in the seasons.

Today in our inner reflections we have a weak memory of what at that time had been lived through instinctively. We celebrate Christmas and a historic glance reveals to us the connection of the inner memory life of individuals who, during winter, had felt abandoned by heaven, and so nursed their memories in solitude. We still have echoes of experiences, not at one time through astronomical speculation or astronomy, but direct experiences in the determination of the Easter spring celebration according to the relationship of the sun to the moon. What is revealed in our abstract minds and calculations to determine the Easter festival, this was a direct experience for earlier man; it was observed in the heavens after the completion of winter and the time of St John in the soulful feeling of the divine weaving in the heavens, to unite in divine blessedness with the truly Spiritual-Divine which had been only a memory at Christmas time and into which they lived at springtime. The old summer solstice was primarily celebrated as the inner search for the union with the Divine in which man could empathise with how, if the earth would not be enclosed, the earth would be an active being working in the cosmos together with the entire being of humanity towards this cosmic experience.

In other words, what we refer to in spiritual science as an objective experience when we refer to the astral body, this would have been a direct experience for ancient mankind, but such that it didn't only occur in a moment but that it spanned time; from which one knew the stars worked here in their laws, in their movement. Not that man took much notice of sun and moon eclipses; that only happened when religion was transferred to science. In olden times people looked up to the heavens with religious simplicity, but also sensed the heavens within them, for a certain time.

You see, my dear friends, consider what one can think when theology comes forward today and says: What human beings primarily experience through the senses can hardly lead over to the super-sensible; what we have in science, can hardly lead over into the super-sensible; something quite extraordinary must happen in a person if he wants to become accessible to the spiritual worlds.—Such an examination of current theology shows that people are advised to justify religion while life, because we participate in life in the outer world, has no religious character; in a sense it needs to be removed out of ordinary life and placed in a special life in order to feel religious. There once was a time on earth where religious feelings were direct, in the present, and independent, and where one had turned life on earth out of religion. Just as we sense materialistically when we look at the plant world, the animal world and the stars and then need to turn within if we want to have religious experiences, just so once upon a time religious life was the given and if one wanted to turn away from what was given, one would go primarily out from the religious life.

As long as these things are not fully examined, there would be no clarity about the relationship of science, daily life and religious experience. At least once in life one should look at how human evolution is linked to these things, that at one stage in old world imagery there came the appearance of the outer sun, moon and stars which were relatively indifferent, these appearances coming from outside only addressed feeling; but was inwardly experienced. What took place in heaven was an inner experience for man which he could settle with himself, the effect still came from the heavenly realm and that was given to him as a matter of course.

Of course, there was a time where what lived and weaved in the astral body as the result of star activity was to some extent interlinked with an experience that takes place inwardly, in relation to the earth, which we can penetrate recognizably when we move forward to the ether body today. Human beings felt themselves more in the soul-spiritual when, through their astrality, they experienced celestial processes. Then one sees the human being indeed in the earthly, but he wasn't penetrating it as we do today; he penetrated the etheric, into what ruled in fire, water, air and earth. Here he maintains a relationship of which he is deprived according to today's viewpoint and particularly the view of science. Right in the experiences the human being has in these relationships, refer back to the ritual acts which of course for our confessions are actually only inherited traditions.

Yesterday I introduced you to how the Ritual Acts can be grasped out of human understanding. It can also be understood through insight into every interplay between possible experiences through the astral body and those through the etheric body; they go back to the sense which one can have when one follows the celestial vitality and weaving in the earthly etheric. What is revealed as a result is that man is placed in a cosmic process, in a cosmic movement which I can express in the following way. You see, when we turn to the tone which rings out of words, when we thus approach them, for example in the Greek Logos, what lies in the words of the Logos—this what I'm saying right now was certainly still experienced in (ancient) Greece and certainly felt in the composing of the St John's Gospel—when one approaches what lives as tone, what rings out as tone and then turn it to the outside, then one is involved in processes which are about to happen, which are revealed in the air. When we hear a tone or the words and the process is created which I indicated yesterday as it entering into the human being, then we are considering the movement of air being breathed in, which then hits the spinal cord and the brain fluid and continues as a movement; we also have this continuation in the air penetrating into the human being here. When we do further research, we don't only have to deal with this, but, because words manifest an effect in the human being, it acts on the human being's state of warmth. The human being becomes inwardly imbued with warmth, he contains the element of warmth differentiated by the sound entering him, of the word entering inward. This means on the outside warmth or cold is at most a by-product of sound, when the tone is too high or too low; remaining with one tone has no meaning. In the human being actually every differentiation in the word and in the tone is differentiated within, through engendering warmth or cooling, so that we can now say: In our understanding of the Word, we find it manifests outwardly in air and we find it manifest inwardly in warmth.

If we now go from what we learnt yesterday, we now approach the Sacrificial Act. These things, like many others, we later will clarify more, but this will be able to give you an indication. In olden times the actual characteristic could be found in the Sacrificial Act, of people experiencing the Sacrificial Act as a total reality. Actually for the more ancient presentation, the Sacrificial Act obviously connected to the smoke-like, to the airy; it was because, while the Sacrificial Act flows from within the human beings people knew—as one can also today really experience this in a Sacrificial Act—that just in this way, how the word sounds inwardly and lives itself out in warmth, the Sacrificial Act realises itself in air. Inwardly it lives itself out in the air. Towards the outside the true Sacrificial Act can't manifest without it somehow or other appearing through light. However, we will speak about these things again later.

When we now go to what we called the Transformation yesterday, we find that with the Transformation we refer to something which already penetrates matter, which already strongly approaches substantiality, but which has not yet been configured, which has not yet taken in an outline; this is experienced in the transformation as characteristic and one refers, in the same sense, to how the Word refers to the warmth, the Offering to the air, the Transformation, the transubstantiation to the water.

What is experienced as living in Communion, in the union, is felt now as through the connection with the etheric and its connection with the earth; one experiences oneself as an earthling, as a true earthling only because one feels so connected to the earthly, that one feels this union as related to the earth.

In the Old Mysteries this was the result: they had seen how the Word outwardly manifested in the air, and inwardly as warmth. (This was written on the blackboard.)

Image 343_02_01





The Offering manifests itself inwardly, as we've seen, as air. When you come to examine the following things, you could later say: I'm taking notice of these things so that I can say that what referred to water in the Sacrificial Mass of the old Mysteries, has now been retained as a residue in the Baptism. How the spoken word referred outwardly to the air and inwardly to warmth, so the Transformation could accordingly refer to the earth, to what is firm, and only inwardly to water; and what had corresponded to unification, one had nothing. In the human being, one could say to oneself, the connection with the elements shifts. However, already in the Transformation to the extra-terrestrial, the earth is available, which man experiences by turning to be united with it. How can he then experience being united with the earthly?—This was the great question of the Old Mysteries. How can one somehow feel anything at all about the truly earthly?

I've even spoke about it from another point of view. One looks around and it becomes obvious that people take their inner processes for granted, but they don't find anything which they want to take up into their consciousness. Symbolic action took on unification, but on the outside the place remained empty, something was necessary, so people said to themselves, for this place to be filled, if one wanted to turn to something within the earthly element itself it could correspond to the uniting taking place in communion. People felt they could look down on the earth. What presented itself within the earth, this could be fulfilled in the communion, but something outwardly was not possible. This is how people basically felt in the Old Mysteries, when they spoke of communion. They spoke about it this way, but they felt it could not be a concluded event. We basically feel this way when are instructed according to the outer statements of the Old Mysteries, how in images the event of Golgotha was foreseen, how it was symbolically carried out, which current research always refer to when they want to show that the Mystery of Golgotha was only something which can be compared to later developments when various sacrificial acts took place in temples, by presenting a sensory image of the representative of man having died, buried and resurrected three days later. You know how the real crux of the Christ conception resulted from people noticing some similarities between the symbolic religious practices and the event of Golgotha, that they believed, even theologians believed they must speak about Christ as a myth or as something which had developed and reached fulfillment in the temples. The whole thing has now reached a point where this same way of thinking is appearing in other areas: the Our Father prayer has been examined in the same way and now nearly every sentence can be shown to have existed in pre-Christian times. This is regarded as a special catch for religious research. For someone who admits, truly admits to this way of closed thinking, it would be the same as to draw conclusions about people from their clothes. When a father allows his child to inherit his clothes, one can't say the son has become the father, because the son is someone quite different from the father even when he wears the same clothing. Just so the wording of the Our Father has passed over on to Christianity, but the content has essentially become something new. In order to examine these things, one must first look even deeper into all the connections: one needs to know the foundations from which the Old Mystery priests retained something like an expectation, which resembled something which could not yet have been accomplished on earth.

So there we will, I'd like to say, be led, in the first element, even through quite careful considerations, to a mood of expectation in the Old Mysteries, certainly out of an instinctive science which was completely permeated by religion, how in all Old Mysteries a Christ-expectation mood was there, and then it was fulfilled though the Mystery of Golgotha. Tomorrow we will look at the entire problem from another side, when we will enter into it more profoundly. However, you see how Anthroposophy approaches the Christ-problem in what could be called a certain scientific manner, by making a lively observation of the ether and astral bodes and also what results from their cooperation. You see, by discovering, so to speak the Christ-experience in the boundary between the astral and etheric bodies, you must arrive in a positive way to the Christ-experience. I must say to you, my dear friends, this is largely the biggest difficulty of Anthroposophy and its task in the present. You see, the somewhat washed out Theosophy which you find for instance in the Theosophical Society, finds this reference far easier. It doesn't enter into the Christ-experience but stops just before it. Therefore, it's easier. To some extent they laid down all religions as equally valid and seek within it the common human element which of course every science must be based on. Anthroposophy is determined in its own evolution, through the nerve of its entire being, to approach the Mystery of Golgotha in a positive way, and because it wants to remain scientific, to make the task of the events of Golgotha clear to humanity, as clearly as mathematics states the theory of Pythagoras. All religious confessions are in line with this rejection of the event of Golgotha as such. As a result, the world task of Anthroposophy necessary for our time is not easy. How difficult it is, I ask you to read the in words of a poet from Prague, Max Brod, who writes—he has also written some other things—in "Paganism, Christianity, Judaism" about how these things need to be handled; how out of the re-enlivened Jewish consciousness everything that makes Jesus into Christ must be removed, and only to keep Jesus as what does not make him into Christ. What is at the foundation of this tendency? It is the tendency to make it possible for modern Jews to have a relationship with Jesus, in which Jesus can be admitted but in which it is not necessary to see Him as the bearer of the Christ.

Anthroposophy is compelled—and we will still talk about this a great deal—to recognise Jesus as Christ. For Jesus to be taken as valid is what the Jews also strive, as well as the Indians; the entire East is striving for this, but they only strive to accept Him as he is, and not for being Christ.

Now my dear friends, Harnack's book about the Essentials of Christianity and the Weinel's research about Jesus you can take all in a way in which they could be accepted by all non-Christians to a certain degree. I know there can be some objections, so for this reason I say you could take it in this way—of course they are not like this. However, what we have as a task is this: To fully understand Christianity—not to keep Jesus at the expense of the fact that He is the bearer of the Christ.

Here lies the complete other side of a basis for the true, earnest Christianity through Anthroposophy, because one has to admit, that a communal world task has to be dealt with which encounters the most frightening prejudices. This world task is connected to what we today experience as dissatisfactory in religious experiences. For this reason, this can't be understood in the narrowest sense, but one must allow oneself to enter into what penetrates our religious life as unsatisfactory and look at this from a higher perspective. We will speak further about this tomorrow.