Anthroposophy in Daily Life
22 February 1911, Basle
If we really grasp Spiritual Science, it gives us strength and confidence in life. How can we introduce it into our life so that it may help us to advance? Many people think that when they acquire knowledge in this sphere and accumulate spiritual truths it is not a help but a hindrance in a sound human life. Why, they ask, do we need all this knowledge of the spirit, why should we have to learn so much about the development of the earth and of a whole planetary system? Why do we need this at all? We are true theosophists, they say, when we strive to find the higher self within us and are enabled thereby to advance as human beings. There are others whose minds are more theoretical and who enjoy hearing of the different members of man's being, of the development of mankind through the different epochs of culture, and of the regular, numerical periods. They wish to learn of all these things as quickly as possible, noting down the most important truths in a few words and circulating them in a catechetical form. But we must affirm that neither of these notions correspond in any way to what Spiritual Science can mean to us, and does mean to those who have adopted the right attitude to life through It.
It is true that we must begin by learning that man consists of a physical body, an etheric body, an astral body and an Ego. But it is a mistake to think that by enumerating them we know something of man's being for when we do this we merely schematise. We really know something about man only when this knowledge is applied to life. But this is impossible unless we realise that the essential thing is not only to know the names of these four members, but how they are connected within the human being. When we look upon a human being, it is essential to know how his etheric body is connected with his physical body, whether the etheric and astral body tend towards each other and seek a close connection, or whether they are loosely connected. A closer observation shows that the relationship between these members of the human being changes in the course of mankind's development on earth. In the past, this relationship was different and, in the future, it will be different from what it is to-day.
If we study the ancient Egyptian in the first thousand years of Egyptian culture, thus looking upon ourselves in past incarnations, we shall find in him a human being whose physical, etheric and astral bodies were loosely knit together. But when we consider a human being of the present time, we find instead a more intimate and a closer connection between his different members. And in future, this connection will become closer and closer. This explains why we have to pass through the different epochs of culture. When we say that man reincarnates so and so many times, we may also ask: Why does he reincarnate? — Because the connection between his enveloping members always changes, so that the human being whom we meet in the external world during the different epochs, also changes. When we were Chaldeans, we had a quite different bodily constitution from that of to-day, and in the future, we shall again be differently constituted. Because of these differences our experiences as human beings are different.
It is now essential to develop the right kind of thoughts regarding the true relation of man's inner nucleus passing from incarnation to incarnation, with its enveloping sheaths — the astral body, the etheric body and the physical body. In reality, ordinary science does not know anything about the deeper laws ruling from one incarnation to another. It deals only with what is external. It ignores even the deeper significance of the laws ruling the external sheath. We may convince ourselves of this by considering some of the connections accepted by ordinary science or rejected by it.
It is very interesting to note that for a long time science was inclined to ascribe free will to man. Yet I have pointed out to you that in many respects modern science denies the existence of free will. It refers us to external scientific research which tells us to observe the external course of life. For example, statistics can establish how many suicides occur in a particular place. A certain regularity may be ascertained in regard to these suicides. Statistics show that this occurs at certain regular intervals. A certain number of people is simply condemned to commit suicide. How is it possible then to speak of free will? — One might go still further by drawing attention to the technique of insurance calculations which formulate and reckon out how many of a certain number of people will still be alive after thirty years. This is expressed arithmetically. Death and birth are thus imprisoned within external laws of Nature. Ordinary science admits this. It will, however, be forced to admit very different things also, for it is already evident that certain facts are coming to the fore which will compel people to think in a spiritual-scientific way. Generally speaking, science is not readily inclined to accept new ideas. In this direction it follows a very strange habit. One can hear people declaiming that in the Middle Ages there were men who opposed Kepler's discoveries. The greatest efforts were needed before his teachings could assert themselves against the dark minds of his age. The very people who more than others now draw attention to this fact, are those who adopt the same attitude, not only towards Spiritual Science, but also towards scientific facts which force us in the present time to seek spiritual laws.
A physician in Berlin, for example, ascertained certain numerical connections which appear in the course of human life. This doctor, Fliess [Wilhelm Fließ (1858-1928)] by name, began to register the connections between births and deaths by following them up in different families. For example, a female member of a certain family died on a certain day. Her first grandchild was born 1428 days before her death, the second grandchild 1428 days after her death, so that in this case the grandmother's death lies symmetrically before and after the birth of a grandchild. In the space of 7 times 1428 days after her death, a great-grandchild was born. By following up this case, we come to definite numerical connections, which finally determine in a very wonderful way the relationship between cases of death and birth. Fliess ascertained this in many instances. But apparently modern science does not wish to recognise it, because it goes too much against its own direction.
Even improvements in health-conditions are based on numerical connections. When we compare the number of deaths through tuberculosis during a certain epoch, with the number of deaths of the preceding decades, we again find that this is regulated by certain numbers. Doctors say that by hygienic measures they have been able to diminish the cases of death through tuberculosis. But Fliess proved that this decrease can be reckoned out on the basis of arithmetical connections. This is most inconvenient to modern science, but in the end it will be forced to admit the existence of objective arithmetical laws. It will return to the sentence of Pythagoras: "Number is something which rules everything that weaves and lives". With our soul we calculate, but the higher Spirits made these calculations long ago and set into the course of life something that is in keeping with numbers. The Pythagorean saying, "In calling the world into being, God is a mathematician" seems to come into play. On the other hand, if this is so it would strengthen the attitude of ordinary science which denies that man's inner being has any share in the destiny of his life. For if birth and death are connected in such a way that the distance between them is equal to 7 times 1428 days, it is possible to calculate when we have to die and in that case our inner being really appears to be imprisoned within violent external conditions.
Apparently, we must renounce speaking of special laws which rule our inner being. External reasons may however be adduced which tell us that this isn't quite right after all. According to calculations, a certain number of suicides may indeed take place at a definite place, but is it possible to determine arithmetically what person will commit suicide? According to the theory of probability it is possible to calculate the probable duration of human life. But I do not think that anyone will admit that he will have to die on the day fixed by arithmetical calculation. These laws based on mathematical formulae are of no consequence to man's inner being.
But how do matters stand when Fliess proves that 1428 days lie between a case of death and two births? Does this prove anything in regard to the inner laws of our Ego? For it is impossible to recognise right away the connection between the inner nucleus of our being and the external course of life. How can we explain this with the fact that we follow Karma, that we must follow our inner Ego? This is not easy to grasp.
Let me explain this by an analogy — it is quite possible that two events, two strains, two facts connected with each other should follow completely different courses. Consider this: when you travel from Baste to Zurich you go by train. You consult the time-table to find out when your train leaves. You become, as it were, intimately connected with the figures. Your thoughts, your objectives and so on are dependent on them. (There are, of course, many other figures in the time-table). But is it not the case that alongside this sequence of facts there is another (sequence of facts) that has to do with the development of your soul: that you want to progress or "catch the train?" When you consult the time-table it tells you nothing about yourself — whether you are good or bad, wise or foolish and is of no importance for the soul's being. Similarly, the figures that result from the calculations of Fliess are of no importance for the Karma of our life. We catch a certain train in life, entering a definite stream controlled by laws which are connected with our inner being only through things that we ourselves bring about. We decide which train to catch. In the same way we have to decide, through the inner laws of our Karma, to enter a certain stream of life which is then determined by arithmetical laws.
I speak of these things because those who seek the spirit should more and more acquire a feeling that life is complicated; it is something that cannot be encompassed by slack, easy thoughts. Those who think that it is an easy matter to grasp the whole of life, and that a few sentences taken from Spiritual Science suffice for this, are very much mistaken. We must be willing to penetrate more and more into these connections. We should acquire a feeling which shows us that the thoughts that lie at the foundation of the world's structure, are also valid for the human being. If no connection whatever existed between external laws and human Karma, our whole life would fall asunder.
Two facts can prove this. In Spiritual Science we endeavour to make the best possible comparisons. In a certain way the numbers in the timetable are connected with practical life. Even though it does not concern the time-table whether or not you travel to Zurich, even though you do not see any connecting link with your journey, the time-table is nevertheless connected with human conditions. For men have compiled it in such a way as to correspond, not too awkwardly, to the conditions of life. It is adapted to human conditions of life in general. Something similar is the case with human Karma and the stream of life which it controls. The Beings of the Higher Hierarchies fixed the "time-table" in accordance with numerical conditions, which are then discovered in the regular numbers of statistics. Outwardly, these correspond to human conditions in general. When we reincarnate, we may have an easy or a difficult life. Not in every family do we come across the law according to which a grandchild is always born 1428 days before or after its grandmother's death. But when we consider that 1428 is divisible by 28, that it is equal to 51 times 28, then it is easier to understand this numerical connection. These calculations will not always give the number 1428, but as a rule we find a multiple of 28 between the death and the birth of any member of a family. The multiples may be 30, 17, 26 times 28, and so forth, but they will contain the number 28: this is included regularly.
In accordance with the time-table we have the possibility to catch different trains, and according to our Karma we may arrange life in an easy or a difficult way. I mention this to indicate how complicated these conditions really are.
I also wish to point out that a moral conclusion may be drawn from all these truths. This constitutes the immensely important element given by Spiritual Science. We may say: I live in this world and I find in it numerical connections which show me how external life is regulated. It required long periods of human cultural development before this was discovered. But how much do we really know of these regular laws? Here we must admit that we know very little indeed. Slowly and gradually we discovered something of this divine wisdom. But just as we discover the most beautiful and important facets of wisdom, the wisdom admonishes us to be humble; it shows us how little our thoughts are able to encompass life.
This will stimulate us to continue striving for the Light. This moral feeling, this reverence which we have for the wisdom contained in the universe, is what we may acquire, so that we become better human beings. We acquire this feeling towards wisdom, it takes hold of us, when we recognise how near it was to us during our life between death and a new birth. When we have to come down to a new earthly existence, we choose the train by which we travel, so that we may fulfil our Karma. It is then that we choose our family-ties. If someone were to ask us now which family would be the best for our present incarnation, we would have no idea. If we had to depend only on our own forces, we could not make the right choice.
Before our incarnation we are far wiser than afterwards for at that time we make the right choice. The feeling that now we are not cleverer than before we were born, cannot fill us with pride in regard to our own achievements. For during our existence between death and birth we were filled with other forces besides those we have the moment we step into physical existence.
When we enter physical life, the substances of the earth's realms pervade us and exist within our body. On laying aside the physical body when passing through the portal of death, the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies receive us and we share their substance during our existence between death and a new birth, even as here we share the physical substances of the earth. These physical substances assert themselves — for example, iron streams through our blood in accordance with external laws — and similarly the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies assert themselves between death and a new birth by working within us, and it is their wisdom which pushes us towards the right stream of life. The Beings of the Higher Hierarchies are filled with the wisdom which we need, even as we are filled with physical substance. Humility is therefore a justified feeling, it is the moral consequence of the knowledge that during our physical life we have absorbed only a very small portion of the mighty wisdom of those Spiritual Beings.
Between death and a new birth, we are embedded in the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies. If we do not submit to them, this would be the same as trying to live on earth without taking in certain physical substances, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and so forth. It would be absurd to live without complete submission to the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies. Those who bear in mind the fact that between death and birth we must completely surrender to the Beings of the Higher Hierarchies will ask themselves: What is the best preparation for that existence? And they will give themselves the following answer: The best preparation is to unfold, already during the present earthly life between birth and death, a feeling of devotion for the divine-spiritual world. If we are pervaded by the right feelings, the truths which we receive will change into feelings of devoted surrender. Humility and reverence for the spiritual world will then live in all our feelings.
If we begin to think and live in this way, we shall also discover the true balance in the environing world, for thoughts of this kind regulate and harmonize all our other feelings.
Many mistakes of the external world are brought into the spiritual-scientific movement; they are mistakes which do not come from Spiritual Science, but which are brought into it from outside. For example, a person may be diligent and active in the outside world, but his activity might be characterized by saying that he is ambitious and does too much; he ruins his forces and does not notice that he should observe certain limits in his work. When such a person enters Theosophy, he will come across quite different ideas from those which he had in the external world. But he also brings into Theosophy his own characteristic qualities. He may, for example, hear that a certain amount of study is needed for the soul's progress. He begins to study, — yet he should learn to notice how much he can really do in accordance with the forces allotted to him by his Karma; he should not pursue theosophical studies which surpass his strength. Also, if for example, he becomes a vegetarian he must ask himself whether it agrees with him or not. Otherwise he will ruin himself.
The disciple of Spiritual Science must maintain the right balance. He must know if he can really follow the strictest obligations. A calm and humble observation of his Karma, of his own capacities and forces, may be acquired by accepting in the right way what Spiritual Science can give us. Those who have advanced furthest in occultism, faithfully observe the rule of maintaining the right balance. Some people try to force matters, when external circumstances obstruct a real training; they strive with all their might towards the aim which they have in view, work spiritually like slaves to obtain an immediate answer to the problems which rise up. But those who have really progressed, never do this. First of all, the existence of a definite problem should be clearly envisaged, and then the disciple of Spiritual Science should ask himself: Are you at this moment capable of obtaining a full answer? Wait (he should say to himself) until the Beings of the spiritual world send 3ou this answer. A true disciple of the spirit if he has to strain and push at the outset will give up for the time being. He knows that he must wait, and he can wait because he is filled with the knowledge of the eternity of life and that Karma, which he never forgets, gives each man his due. Then comes a certain moment in which he obtains a strange inner hint ... it is then that the Powers of the spiritual world may give him an answer. Perhaps after many years, even after many incarnations. But it is characteristic of a right attitude to be able to wait, to practise patience, to unfold soul-harmony.
Those who allow themselves to be influenced in the right way by the teachings of Spiritual Science will learn to master their feelings and sensations, so that they are always able to maintain a harmonious balance. If we adopt this attitude, our Ego sends forces into the astral body, so that the astral body absorbs the truths which come from the spiritual world, in the same way in which a sponge absorbs the water into which it is dipped. Spiritual knowledge gradually passes over into the astral body, and the astral body is pervaded by it.
We live in an age in which it is necessary, and in which it will be more and more necessary, to pervade the astral body with spiritual wisdom. The times change more and more, and they change also in regard to the crossing of the threshold of death. In future epochs, when man again returns to the earth, his astral body if not imbued with spiritual knowledge will not find its way about the spiritual world and will be filled with darkness. But if it is filled with the truths which we now absorb, it will become a source of light and it will shed this light on its environment, thus perceiving the wisdom which we take in here on earth, in the light of the spiritual world.
If we now ask ourselves why this future light of the spiritual world does not yet exist, we may say: It has not yet come, because in the past a primordial wisdom existed which could be impressed on man without any effort on his part. It existed as an inheritance which man had received from the old Moon. With this inheritance he could penetrate into the spiritual world. This lasted until the Christian era, when man could no longer obtain spiritual wisdom in an immediate way. In the present time he must first fill his soul with spiritual-scientific truths, which will constitute the power enabling him to enter the spiritual world, guided by the light in his soul. Human conditions change from epoch to epoch.
Every form of occultism knows that a wisdom exists which came from the old Moon and was still active, in its last traces, during the 15th and 10th century A.D. When the human being entered the spiritual world, he could see the light, which shone without any effort on his part. But in the present time, the whole wisdom of the past, which existed as an old inheritance, may unite with the human soul, but the soul no longer shines when we cross the threshold of death. Only the wisdom which we take in through Christ, by saying, "Not I, but Christ in me", will become a shining light, when in future we cross the threshold of death. We therefore take in the Christianized Spiritual Science in order that our astral body may become a source of light and that we may lift it out, when we cross the threshold of death.
When we take in this Christianized Spiritual Science and fill our astral body with it, it does not remain mere wisdom, for it permeates our feelings. We then learn to know the life-conditions of the past planetary stages of Saturn, Sun, Moon, and finally of the earth.
If you penetrate livingly into the descriptions in my Occult Science, you will be able to feel that the description of Saturn has an entirely different note from that of other planetary conditions. In the description of Saturn, you will be able to feel that conditions there are described with a certain harshness. Your soul will feel it. And this is essential. The Sun-existence will be experienced as if it contained a blossoming, growing life, and in the description of the Moon you will feel a dark, melancholic note in the conceptions pertaining to it. A sensitive person will even be able to taste it, he will feel its flavour on his tongue.
Fools may object that there are discrepancies in the descriptions and that a uniform style was not maintained. But we should realise that these differences are essential, and why. We should know why a melody of three definite notes must re-echo in the words of these descriptions, and when we know this, we are able to transform this knowledge into feelings which we send out into the world. These feelings undergo a change. The wisdom absorbed by the astral body changes into a freely willed surrender to the conditions of the world, and this takes hold of our etheric body. If we are wise, we shall prepare the path for this. The forces which enable us to descend into our subsequent incarnations form the etheric body and pervade it. If during our earthly life we have filled our etheric body with genuinely devout feelings and it then dissolves in the universal All when we die, we hand over to the universe an etheric body filled with devoutness, an etheric body which may be of benefit to the whole world. If on the other hand we have not been devout, but materialistic, the etheric body which we lay aside after death will have a destructive and explosive effect when it dissolves in the universal ether. In the same measure in which we gain wisdom, we help not only ourselves, but indirectly the world also, by acquiring better forces. And in the same measure in which we unfold devout feelings, we help the world in a direct way, for devoutness is imparted to the whole world.
Spiritual Science is not only able to bestow wisdom and unfold devout feelings, but it also gives us confidence and makes us aware of the body's vital forces. The conscious connection with the spiritual world in itself gives us these vital forces.
Fichte was aware of this connection of forces. He, too, had this confidence in life, so that when speaking of man's being he was able to say: Because I know of my connection with the eternal and that my innermost being is rooted in the eternal, I have such confidence in life that I am able to say: I look up to you, ye rocks and mountains; fall down upon me, crush my physical body; clouds, cover up everything that constitutes my being; thunder, split up everything which pertains to me; I shall nevertheless defy your might! Life-confidence streams out of the consciousness that we are rooted in the spirit's eternal essence. Can a man thus rooted in the spirit's eternal essence ever grow weak? It is Spiritual Science which gives him his strength, constantly pouring into him something of this strength.
What happens with this life-confidence? Wisdom gives the astral body the power enabling us to overcome more and more the obstructing forces and gives the etheric body its right structure. But the force which streams into our body through the knowledge of our connection with the eternal, is confidence in life, which penetrates into the very forces of our physical body. Maya, illusion and deception withdraw from us, if we are equipped with these forces. It is an illusion to say that our physical body decays into dust when we die. No! The structure of our physical body, the way in which we formed it, is not an indifferent matter. If this confidence in all that is eternal lives in the physical body, we give back to the earth this confidence in life which we gained for ourselves. We strengthen the earth-planet with the forces acquired during our life. Through our physical body we give the world confidence in life. The decadent part of our physical body is only a Maya. When we trace the physical body beyond death, we see that the amount of confidence in life which we acquired during our earthly existence streams into the earth.
We thus strengthen our astral body, our etheric body and our physical body by wisdom, devoutness and in life-confidence, the best forces which we were able to develop as human beings for the whole evolution of the earth. In this way we work upon the planet earth and we acquire a feeling which shows us that man does not lead an isolated existence in the world, but that the forces which he unfolds within himself are of value to the whole world. Every speck of dust bears within it the laws of the universe; similarly every human being builds up or destroys the world by what he does or leaves undone. We may give something to the progressive process of the world, or deprive it of something, and we may crumble away from it by ignoring it, by failing to acquire confidence in life. These sins of omission contribute to the decay of our planet, whereas the wisdom, the devoutness and confidence in life which we acquired, help to build it up. We may thus gradually obtain an idea of the feelings which Spiritual Science can give us, when it takes hold of the whole human being.