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The Problems of Our Time
GA 193

Lecture II

13 September 1919, Berlin

In the last lecture the endeavour was made to show how necessary it is for men of the present day to turn the eye of the soul towards spiritual science, to those spheres of existence, of reality, in which the rule of the spirit within human evolution is clearly perceptible to anyone who has the faculty of sight in such regions.

As I said, the middle of the fifteenth century brought with it a complete change in the relation of civilized man's soul to the three Hierarchies next above man, the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai. Hitherto it has been out of their own interests and impulses that they worked in human evolution. In our times, this connection has come to an end. They have for the moment no interest in continuing to work as before on the evolution of man. They will only enter into a new relationship to us when human beings begin to develop an interest in the spiritual worlds, out of free will and of their own accord. If we would not lose all connection with the spiritual worlds, we must occupy ourselves with them in the near future, for the spiritual beings who have been connected with us so far have of themselves no reason to be further interested in us. We can only arouse their interest anew if out of our own souls we again concern ourselves with the spiritual world, fostering thoughts, sentiments, and impulses of will, into which spiritual forces can flow. The question may and must be asked, how can human beings manage so to concern themselves with the spiritual worlds as to maintain their connection with the higher Hierarchies as the Earth evolution proceeds. The answer may deal with things which apparently have little to do with the question; but we shall see that they do provide the foundation on which we can rebuild onwards into the future our, connection with the spiritual world.

The first thing which we must examine is the effect of the various confessions, the creeds, existing among civilized people. Hitherto they were necessary, to guide the heart and, mind to spiritual realms, but in future they will help to detach man from the spiritual world, unless they admit something entirely new into their efforts. Fundamentally speaking, the creeds of the present day are based on the egoism of man, as we shall realize if we put before our souls one question of such great importance that it forms, and always must form, a touchstone for their views, the question of the immortality of the human soul. We can see, from the way in which this question is generally handled by the creeds, that they appeal largely to man's egoistic instincts. Of course there are deeper foundations for their speech, but these we are not discussing today: as a rule the creeds speak of the “continued existence of the soul after death" — that is, the continuation of the life of the human soul.

To deal with the subject of immortality from this point of view is comparatively easy, for human egotism asserts itself there emphatically. Man simply cannot bear — apart from all truth about the question — the thought of utter extinction at death, so that a certain response is always to be found in man’s soul when "life after death" is mentioned. The treatment generally given today to the idea springs from an egoistic interest in people. They would prefer not to die as souls at physical death. Naturally, the soul's continued existence after death will be assumed in all our future discussions on immortality, but the way in which anthroposophical spiritual science speaks of the continued existence of the soul after death is very far from being accepted by the creeds.

But this also is important: that people of our day must hear a very different language about immortality from that to which they are accustomed. One who discusses the question of immortality should not only speak of life after death, but also of that life which is lived here in the physical world between birth and death. For as you know, this life is also a "continuation"; it is a continuation of the life passed between our last death and that birth through which we are now in the physical world. That is the view which men must learn to hold — that the life here is a continuation of the spiritual life before birth. In the growth of a child from day to day, from week to week, from year to year, we must notice forces from the spiritual world arising from its inner being, forces which have come with birth and work so as gradually to form the being of man as time goes by. In a sense we lift the veil of the God in man when we enter into the life of the child to develop it. Social relations must take on something of a religious impulse permeating the whole of life between man and man. For this the important, the essential thing is an attitude which never forgets that physical life is a continuation of a pre-natal life, of spirit and soul.

Many things will follow on this. For one thing we shall recognize that our real humanity lies in the depths of our being, gradually emerging. I have referred to ancient times of human evolution, known from an anthroposophical standpoint as the first and second post-Atlantean epochs. People in those days were as capable of development right into their old age as only the young are nowadays. A child goes through a physical evolution about its seventh year with the change of teeth; through another metamorphosis when puberty occurs; but after that what goes on in his evolution is outwardly less noticeable. In olden times this was not so; what man went through in soul and spirit expressed itself into much later stages of life. Nowadays old age sets in at seventeen or eighteen, and we are amazed at its evidences. Here is an example: a short time ago, in Stuttgart, at a meeting of the Cultural Committee where present-day education was discussed from the most varied points of view, a young man got up (let us call him "a young man" though he might equally well be called an "old boy"!) who told us we needed instructing about the true ideals of education! He began by uttering some very high-sounding words, then read out the programme of a modern Educational Society. After much stumbling he finally broke down, and, having no more to say, gathered up the threads with "I must there­fore claim to have proved that old age no longer understands its own youth," and went out. I replied that I quite saw we had not understood him, for the simple reason that his speech and behaviour had been those of an old man; he had in fact enunciated as principles, like an ancient grey-beard, the last word in abstractions. Old age, nowadays, means the limit up to which a man can develop. Up to a particular age a person can absorb all sorts of things, and is not ashamed to develop himself. But at about twenty years of age he feels shame at the idea of developing farther. Seldom nowadays do we find people with grey hair and wrinkles welcoming with joy the dawn of each year because each year brings new possibilities of development to the organism and new knowledge, unattainable before, is within reach. At the inconsiderable age of thirty men are ashamed to make themselves capable of development, or to learn anything more. The point is that we should actually retain the possibility, all through life, of rejoicing in the coming year, because each year charms forth the divine-spiritual content of our own inner being in ever new forms.

I want to emphasize this point. We should really and truly learn to experience our life as capable of development not only in youth, but through its whole span between birth and death. For this a new education will be necessary. We elders find that to look back at our own schooldays evokes few pleasant thoughts. We must manage to shape school­days for the children of today so that to remember them will provide an ever new and invigorating source of life. Now this will bring, as you can see, the possibility of opening for mankind real perception of the soul-spiritual within themselves, of experiencing something extending beyond the everyday life which is stirred and stimulated from without.

Other knowledge will be recognized as necessary. There is a secret, intimately connected with the present stage of human evolution, which is not known today. In earlier times, before the middle of the fifteenth century, it was not necessary to take much notice of it, but today it must be reckoned with. This mystery of life is that man, constituted as he is today in body, soul and spirit, every night looks, to a certain extent, at the events of the coming day, but without always carrying that vision over into full day-consciousness. It is his "Angel" who has that clear consciousness. But what is experienced at night in community with that being whom we call the Angel is a pre-vision of the coming day. This is no subject for human curiosity, but a matter for practical life. Only when the feeling of this fact fills our inner being can we make right decisions and bring right thoughts into the course of daily life. Let us assume that a man has something definite to do, say at noon. This that he has to do has already been arranged by his Angel and himself during the preceding night, though the fact is not necessarily kept in consciousness and human curiosity has no part in it. People should be filled with the conviction that during the day they should realize in a fruitful way what they have arranged at night in co-operation with this Angel being.

Much that has happened of late might draw men's attention with almost shattering force to what I have just said. The last four or five years of agony should have taught men that the consciousness of their association with higher beings through the experiences of the night did not, alas! exist. If the feeling had permeated men that their doings in the day were in harmony with the decisions made with their Angels in the preceding night, how different events would have been! These things must be spoken of now, to point out how man must learn to regard this life between birth and death as a continuation of the life of spirit and soul which was his before birth. It must be made known that man in future should be able to experience throughout his whole life the revelation of the Divine in his own being, and that through all his life in the day this vivid consciousness should persist as: "What I do from morning till evening I have discussed with my Angel, while I slept." Men must turn to feelings which are more concrete with regard to the spiritual world than the modern abstractions of various creeds, which at the same time claim that they appeal to unselfish, not to egoistic human instincts. From such feelings will arise that which will provide the necessary relation to the beings belonging to the Hierarchy of the Angels, who will once more be able to interest themselves on our behalf. Men's attitude to the spiritual world must move in this appointed direction.

Yet again we must observe something. The creeds speak much about "God" and "The Divine." What do they really mean? Surely something of which a vague conscious­ness, at least, exists in the soul of man. After all, it is not, what name is given to a thing that matters, but what it means to a man's soul. Men talk of “God" and of "Christ," but all the time they only mean the "Angel" — the Angel to which they turn because they meet a response in their souls. Whatever the creeds may speak of today, whether of God or Christ or other divine being, the substance of the thought only relates to the Angel Beings who are connected with man, the Angeloi. Higher it cannot rise, since people are disinclined to seek any wider relation to the spiritual world than an egoistic one. The relation to the Archangeloi, the Hierarchy of the Archangels, must indeed be sought in another way. Men's interests today must be considerably widened. I will show you how that extension must take place, so that from making response only to the Angeloi, they may rise in their feelings to the Archangeloi.

They must realize that they have passed through terrible experiences all over the civilized world during the last few years. Many have asked about the "causes" of, these events, with mutual imputations of "guilt " and " innocence ": yet we need only look below the mere surface of things and we shall have little interest in all this talk about “causes " and "war-guilt" or " innocence," simply because we can see that what has come up to the surface in these last four or five years is, like waves of the sea, always there, but brought up from the depths to the surface by the forces below. An upheaval of human forces had been going on; one people after another shared in the enormous folly of those years; one could but say: "Some turmoil of elemental forces is surging upwards into view. The sea of human life has become unquiet — What is it?"

We shall never get things clear if we do not connect this fact of humanity's unrest with the whole period we call "history." We must convince ourselves that the armed struggle of the last few years is only the beginning of events which will take place in quite other spheres, but which have never before existed among us in this particular form. We are not at the end of a stage of evolution — only superficial observation could lead to that conclusion — we stand at the beginning of the greatest conflicts, the greatest spiritual conflicts of the civilized world, and we must put forth our best efforts to be equal to them. Increasing opposition is threatened in the soul-attitude of East and West in the near future, for East and West have developed in two quite different directions. If we would see into these things, we must set before our­selves certain phenomena in their deepest, most fundamental form as riddles to be solved.

For decades we have heard repeated in socialist circles holding the Marxian theory, that everything man experiences as art, religion, custom, law or science is just "Ideology " (I have discussed this at greater length in the first chapter of The Threefold Commonwealth). This means that a view which had been developing amongst the middle classes for the last three or four hundred years, but which they were too timid to admit, has been frankly acknowledged by the socialists of the last half-century. They assert that the genuine reality of social life consists in actual happenings; therefore the real lies only in the economic forces. All conceptions of art, religion, custom, science, law, morality, merely form a kind of vapour rising from true reality, and are mere ideology, with nothing but a semblance of reality. The socialists conclude that it is only necessary to change economic life and all other changes will ensue, since everything else — morality, law, religion and so forth — is only an unreal vapour arising from the events in the economic sphere, which is the "only reality."

If, however, the world be considered in no restricted sense but as a great whole, we shall defend this word "ideology " which, but for their timid dislike of facts, the middle classes might have been using for three or four hundred years. They did feel that the economic life was the "only reality" and what displayed itself as science, art or religion was like a vapour; all life was based on this, and it was reserved for their pupils to carry their reasoning to its logical conclusion. Socialists are, after all, only extreme pupils of the middle-class world. This is the view which, forming in the West, reached its climax in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Other impulses have formed the Eastern view of the world, and an Oriental would say: "I look at what is going on in the external world: I see what my senses convey to me, what I use as an instrument for transforming the world around, what shines down on me from the stars, and what I myself am as to my bodily nature — what is it all? It is Maya! What then is reality, and not illusion? Only what is experienced in the human soul — that is reality!" One who does not translate in terms of a dictionary, but according to the inner meaning, knows that the words "Maya" in the East and "Ideology " in the West mean one and the same thing. For thousands of years the Oriental has regarded the outer world which affects the senses — including economics — as Maya. The Westerner, on the other hand, sees his reality in what for the Oriental is "Maya," and what arises in his soul is for him "Ideology." Both views of the world have developed to a certain point. Talk with the leading men in the socialist parties especially in those places where the first Revolution (known here as the "November " Revolution) has not yet taken place, and it is evident that this revolution altered their ideas somewhat, but not their feelings. You hear the same views as obtained right up to the war, that it is not necessary to con­tribute anything from the will towards trans­forming, revolutionizing the world, but that all that will happen of itself. Something fatalistic has appeared in the West. People are convinced that they need only wait until the means of production are sufficiently developed, and then by a natural metamorphosis all that is concentrated in private capital will pass over into other forms. Thinking of this sort is as sensible as saying: "This room is full of bad air. I cannot breathe. The window could be opened, but I am not going to open it; I am waiting until the air improves of itself."

Fatalism of the West, Fatalism of the East — we know them well. In the East, though not at the very beginning, men fell into complete fatalism, as the philosophy of Maya developed. Every world-philosophy has, in its inner law, the impulse towards fatalism at some time, but we stand today at a point where we must get rid of fatalism. We must pass from mere observation and contemplation to the exertion of will and intention. We must rouse our wills by developing impulses from the truths I have described regarding birth as a continuation of pre-natal life, remaining young notwithstanding white hair and wrinkles, the playing in of the nightly work of the Angel into daily life. Man needs to acquire impulses for his life of will by widening his sphere of interest, by seeing not only what touches his own personal life but what affects the civilized world in manifold forms. Look­ing at the West, to which we ourselves belong, we see the inner world as ideology, the outer world as reality: in the East, ideology, Maya, in the outer world, reality in the inner world alone.  In the interaction of human beings at the present time, we have the task of finding the way of escape from that aspect of these philosophies which has already turned to fatalism. We must look for this way, and we shall only find it if we are in earnest about something which annoys people terribly today.

There was a remarkable example of this once, when my hearers were greatly vexed by something I said in a lecture in a South German town, though it was a truth necessary for the present time. The context of my lecture necessitated the remark that the leading classes of the present day have a decadent physical brain. Such statements are unpleasant both to utter and to listen to, but it is necessary that people should realize this fact. The very people to whom the present con­figuration of our times is due have, in achieving it, acquired a decadent physical brain. It is so, and we are in one sense in the same case as were the people of Europe during the, great migrations and the spreading of Christianity. The Christian impulse came over from the East, by way of Greece and Rome. Naturally the Greek and Roman world was far more highly developed than the. German. The Germans were barbarians. But the brains of the Greeks and Romans were decadent, there­fore the surge of Christianity was not absorbed by them in the same way as it was when it reached the Germans. That is a migration of peoples which went horizontally. today it is "vertical." today a wave of spiritual life is coming from the spiritual world. Just as Christianity was at first reflected from the Greeks and Romans, so the spiritual world is reflected from the bourgeoisie today, and that is decadent. The proletariat are not so yet; they are still able to understand what is meant by the spiritual world. But the others will need preparation through anthroposophy, through that part of the brain which is not yet physical that is the etheric brain. We are at present confronted with the fact that the leading classes are not only menaced with a decadent brain, but with entire decadence, if they do not realize that they must grasp the spiritual view of the world by supersensible means.

The tragedy of the bourgeois system is that it would grasp everything "physically," whereas our task today is to grasp things with the etheric brain, to take spiritual truths into our being. Modern humanity must steer in this direction, and the West must take the lead. Here we must take into account some­thing very important.

Observe the development of language, passing from East to West. Take the German language, today dreadfully misused. If we look back at the language of Goethe, of Lessing, we can see that not so long ago in the very words, through their peculiar quality, it was possible to express what of spiritual life lay within them. today we have dreadfully neglected our language, degraded it into phrases only; but that it can no longer express spirituality is not due to the language alone. The farther West we go as regards language, the more we find in speech, with its tunes and sounds, even with its grammar, a complete rejection of what is really spiritual. From this rejection of the quality of soul and spirit from the Anglo-American idiom follows the mission of the Anglo-American peoples. Their world­ mission consists in this: in learning, maybe instinctively, yet still learning (as they listen to other men, in course of acquiring world dominion), not only to comprehend the sound, but to interpret the gesture of the language, to hear more than the mere physical sound, to hear something which passes from man to man in speech, going beyond the spoken word. That works from etheric body to etheric body. Here lies the secret of the Western languages, that in them the physical tone loses its significance, while the spiritual gains it. It is part of their task to let the spirit filter into speech, not merely to hear physically, but to hear intuitively more than passes over into the sound. In the West, the spiritual must be sought behind language itself.

If we look at the East, we shall notice an ever-increasing urge among the peoples who, as we have seen, sink themselves into their own inner being, not to be bound by the old forms of conception as to "Karma," " Reincarnation," and so forth, but to look out into the world, and in that outer world to perceive something spiritual, even to establish a sort of Philosophy of Nature.

These are only trivial instances through which we can widen our interests from our own personality and our nationality to take in the whole of humanity, saying to ourselves "Here in the West is Ideology, though quite another Ideology from the Eastern one," and seeing how elemental forces are stirred up within earthly humanity as a result, of these antitheses. We learn to take our stand within the whole civilized world, and when we develop such knowledge of our position within it at the same time we build in our souls the means of acquiring feelings which lead higher than the sphere of the Angeloi. Our interests will be so much extended that we shall incline to ideas which ascend to the sphere of the Archangeloi, for all that I have been saying about the opposition of Ideology-Maya, etc., works in its primal force in the sphere beyond that of the Angeloi. We can see from this what is really needful for modern humanity. What will the so-called clever people call anyone who speaks of these things — Maya, Ideology and so forth — as having primal forces which function in the sphere of the Archangeloi? Just a fool, quite naturally, since men are so hide-bound by their acquired spiritual outfit that they feel no concern in the wider interests of mankind. That can only be achieved from a spiritual standpoint, by penetrating into everything which works for the great interests of humanity.

I have given you an idea of how to work up into the sphere of the Archangeloi. It is possible to rise stilt higher, and present-day humanity must learn that also. Our educated classes have, always been taught to look back to Ancient Greece. Young men (and in recent times young women also) have had to go through a certain schooling to absorb Greek culture, and have thus acquired an impulse which was enough to lead them to feel more and more deeply into the Greek world. This has a great significance for our civilization, that in our most important years of development we have learnt what Greece accomplished for the world. The Greeks did otherwise; it never entered their heads to teach their children the Egyptian tongue: they occupied themselves with immediate reality, for which they possessed a clear, sense. We occupy our young people, not with instruction concerning their environment and the impulses of reality, but with those of an olden time. We have no idea what we are really doing. It is not only that we teach our young children (I suppose I should say our "young ladies " and "young gentlemen ") the Greek language: for in a language, in the configuration of its sounds and its grammar, lies also the character of a whole people. In absorbing the Greek language, as is done today, man acquires the same soul-attitude in the world as was held in Greece. There all cultural life was such that only a small top-stratum shared in the culture; the rest were slaves. In Greece no occupation was worthy of a free man but science, politics and — even then in a supervisory capacity agriculture: everything else was a matter for slaves. This is hidden in the language, and when we take Greek culture and language into our own spiritual education, we unite aristocracy with it at the same time. For the Greek it was quite natural to construct his whole social organism in accordance with his intellectual tendency, for in his case that was connected with his blood. There were the ordinary masses: then those people of a higher type, who possessed the higher life of the mind through their blood. This finds expression even in Greek sculpture. Compare the position of nose and ears in the Hermes-type with that of the Zeus- or Athene-type. The Greeks knew perfectly well what they wanted to express when they set the Hermes-type over against the Aryan Zeus-type.

We are permeated with all this more than we think. When we form our views of the world, we really construct ideas still suited to what in the Greeks came through the blood. Our intellectual, our cultural life is saturated with what we absorb from the Greeks. Hellenism intrudes into our times luciferically. Hellenism, in the period which immediately followed it, was metamorphosed into Roman­ism. Compared with the Greeks the Romans were dull, prosaic people, but they did develop other aspects of life. They lived out in an abstract fashion what came to the Greeks from the blood. Unlike the Greeks they made even man into an abstraction, a "citizen of the State." A man, in the Roman sense, is not really "man"; he is a citizen of the State: an incomprehensible thing to the Greeks. To be born a human being did not make him a man, but being registered in some kind of State archives. This sometimes appears today in grotesque fashion. I once had an old friend, sixty-four years of age; one day he said to me that he had saved such and such a sum — he had always been very poor — and that he wanted to marry the love of his youth. He had become engaged at eighteen, but had no money to marry, and the couple had vowed to wait until they could. He returned to his birthplace, now that the way was open, but found that the marriage could not, take place because his community doubted his existence. Years before, the parsonage, with all the parish registers, had been burned down and there was no one alive who could give evidence as to his identity. My friend assumed that his existence was proved by his presence, but he had no "legal evidence." It is true the marriage did eventually take place, but the difficulties had shown him the much greater importance of a "birth-certificate " than of his own personality.

Men then are "citizens." They are what they are in an abstract connection. This view is essentially Roman, as is everything of this sort which we come across in ordinary life. Our education has been taken in hand by the State, which is already abstract, but will become more so under socialist influence. People are not educated today to take their place in the world as free human beings, but to have a professional calling and take their place in that. The State takes young people in hand, not at once, for then they are too “shapeless," so it leaves them for a time to their parents, then, stretching out its talons, it trains them to be useful to it, taking good care that they are so. It gives them an economic life, gives them everything prescribed, and then pensions them off. It means a great deal when a man can assure himself of a pension as well as an income — something substantial, which binds him to the abstract State and affects the rest of his mental attitude. The Roman attitude has passed into men of other times. Say to a man today: "to partake of immortality needs an activity of soul, that thou thyself mayst carry thy soul wide awake through the gates of death"; he will not understand. He has been made wholly un­accustomed to direct his understanding to such a question. Instead of this he is told: "You need only believe in Christ and in what the State does." First he will be looked after by the State, with a pension when he has worked long enough then the Church goes one bit farther; it offers a pension for his soul after death, so that neither in his lifetime need he do anything for his own soul nor when he carries it through the gate of death: A man is "registered " nowadays, and the political essence of Rome, already taken into our own being, will increase.

All sorts of dreadful experiences are possible because of this. Helping with the institution of the Waldorf School at Stuttgart, I have had to look at the various School Regulations. Looking back, I must admit that in the 'seventies and 'eighties of last century, the regulations were very small: they included what had to be studied in each class, the aim and the subject matter being given, but in everything else the teacher was left quite free. Nowadays we get an enormous syllabus with "Official," "Ordinance," written on the first page, and specific instructions as to the manner of teaching. So that what should only work on one living personality from out of another, is set down in rules and orders; it has become "official," it is "decreed "! That is the death of mind and spirit, directly traceable from Central Europe to Ancient Rome. This is the second thing we have absorbed — with Romanism, the politico­legal element.

In addition to this, however, there is some­thing which could not be transplanted from the old life into the new — the economic life, which can only be modern. It is possible to chew the cud of Greek knowledge, to allow the Roman political ideas to influence us, but we cannot "eat" what the Greeks and Romans have eaten. Economic life must be modern. We have gradually woven into our economic life the Greek life of intellect and the Roman life of rights, and our task is to disentangle them again. To understand that these three strata brought out of different epochs have, as it were, been joined together and must be separated means to extend one's interest in time (as, in the East and West in space) down to the present; that means to make ourselves capable of feelings which can raise us to the Archai! How few develop an interest for these things, an impartial interest in how the Zeitgeist (Time-Spirit) acts by thrusting one period into another. I spoke at Stuttgart on the artificial nature of our classical education. It may have been mere coincidence that a few days after there appeared in the papers great announcements signed by all kinds of Zöpfen — professors — (I beg their pardon!) to the effect that a classical education should not be undervalued, seeing that it had contributed to the greatness of the German people, so gloriously displayed in the latter days. This, literally, was to be read as the alleged opinion of educationists in April, 1919 — after what happened in October, 1918! And to think that this and other things should be possible in our times!

Unless we reach a stage at which we can see things so as to absorb the impulses which work into our physical world out of the spiritual — unless we realize that man, just as he is connected through his bodily organization with the animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms, is also connected in his spiritual organization with the Angeloi, Archangeloi and Archai (Angeloi as the guardians of personal development, Nation Spirits as guardians of development of peoples in space, Spirits of Time as guardians of development through­out the ages) — unless we can understand these things from their spiritual foundations, we can advance no farther. Everything depends on man having courage and force today to look into the spiritual world. We are at the beginning of a hard struggle, in which will be stirred up all the instincts spring­ing from the one half-truth that economic reality is the only reality, that everything belonging to soul and spirit is Ideology; and from the other half-truth that the only reality is the psychic spiritual, all outside it is Ideology, Maya. These contradictions will let loose in human nature such instincts that the spiritual conflict will blaze for long periods in forms of which people at present have no idea. We must grasp this; and, further, learn how we are to raise ourselves, in harmony with our time, to a view of the spiritual world as we conceive it. It is this which the times themselves ordain and demand; to this we must turn our attention.