7. Toward Imagination
18 July 1916, Berlin
When we look at the world around us as our senses and intellect perceive it, we have something we may call, metaphorically speaking, a great cosmic edifice. We form concepts, ideas, and images of what it is like and what goes on in it. What happens in this cosmic edifice, even down to the details, affects us so that we develop certain sympathies or antipathies for this or that, and these then are expressed in our feeling life. Prompted by our will we do this or that, and thus intervene in the processes going on in this cosmic edifice.
At first, people think that this building of the cosmos consists of separate parts, and so they study these parts and find them made up of still smaller parts, which they then examine, and so on. Finally, scientists arrive at what they call the smallest parts, the molecules and atoms. As I told you, nobody has ever seen these molecules and atoms; they are hypothetical — in a certain sense the hypothesis of their existence is justified, as long as we keep in mind that it is only a hypothesis. In short, we are to some extent justified in thinking that the cosmic building consists of parts or members, and there is nothing wrong with trying to get a clear picture of these. However, the people who give rein to their fantasy in thinking about the atom and who perhaps even talk about the life of the atom, or have still wilder notions about it — well, they are simply speaking about the nothing of a nothing, for the atom itself is merely hypothetical. To build a hypothesis upon other hypotheses is nothing else but building a house of cards; not even that, for in a house of cards we have at least the cards, but in speculations about the atom, we have nothing.
Based on the insights to be gained from spiritual science, people should admit that if they want to see more of the cosmic edifice than our senses perceive, they must arrive at a different perspective. They must come to a way of thinking that is as different from our thinking in everyday life (which is also that of ordinary science) as our usual, everyday way of thinking is from dreams. We dream in pictures, and we can have a whole world in these pictures of ours. Then we wake up and are no longer confronted with the pictures of our dreams but with realities that impinge upon us, that push and tug at us, demanding attention. We know this from life itself, not on the basis of a theory, for no theory can enable us to distinguish between dreams and so-called everyday reality. Only our direct experience of life can teach us this.
Now, it is also true that we can wake up from everyday life experiences, which we may call by analogy “a dream life,” to a higher reality, the reality of the spirit. And again, it is only on the basis of life itself that we can distinguish between this higher spiritual reality and that of everyday life.
Now, what we see when we enter this world can be described with the following image — of course, one could use many different analogies to show the relationship between spiritual reality and ordinary reality, but I want to use a special image for this today. Let's imagine we are looking at a house built out of bricks. At first glance, the house appears to be composed of individual bricks. Of course, in the case of a house we can't go beyond the individual brick. However, let's assume the house doesn't consist of just ordinary bricks but of ones that are in turn extraordinarily artful constructions. Nevertheless, on first seeing the house we would only see the bricks, without having any idea that each brick in turn is a small work of art, so to speak. That is what happens in the case of the cosmic edifice.
We need only take one part of this cosmic edifice, the most complete one, let's say, the human being. Just think, as a part of this cosmic edifice, the human being seems to us to consist of parts: head, limbs, sense organs, and so on. We have tried over time to understand each part in its relation to the spiritual world. Remember, just recently I told you that the shape of our head can be traced to our previous earthly incarnation. The rest of our body, on the other hand, belongs to this incarnation and bears within it the rudiments of the head for the next life on earth.
I also spoke about the twelve senses and connected them with the twelve forces corresponding to the twelve signs of the zodiac. We said that microcosmically we bear within us the macrocosm with its forces working into us primarily from the twelve signs of the zodiac. Each of these forces is different: the forces of Aries differ from those of Taurus, which in turn differ from those of Gemini, and so on. Similarly, our eyes perceive different things than our ears. The twelve senses thus correspond to the twelve signs of the zodiac, but there is more to it than that.
We know that the rudiments of our sense organs were developed already on old Saturn, then evolved further during the old Sun and the old Moon periods up to the time of our earth. During our earth period, we have become self-enclosed beings with completely developed sense organs. In the Moon, Sun, and Saturn periods, human beings were much more open to the great cosmos, and the forces of the twelve signs of the zodiac affected the essential core of the human being. While the rudiments of our sense organs were being formed, they were affected by the forces of the zodiac. Thus, when we speak of the connection between the senses and the signs of the zodiac, we mean more than a mere correspondence. We seek those forces that have built our sense organs into us. We do not speak superficially of some vague kind of correspondence between the ego-sense and Aries or between the other senses and this or that sign of the zodiac.
We speak about this correspondence because during the earlier periods of our earthly planet the senses of the human being were not yet developed to the point of being enclosed in the organism. It was only through the twelve forces that the sense organs were built into our organism. We are built up out of the macrocosm, and when we study our sense organs, we are actually studying world-embracing forces that have worked in us over millions and millions of years, and have produced such wonderful parts of the human organism as the eyes and the ears. It is indeed true that we study these parts for their spiritual content, just as we would have to study each brick in order to examine the artistic structure of a house.
I could explain this with yet another image. Suppose we had some kind of structure artistically built up out of layers of paper rolls, some of them standing upright, others at an angle — all of these arranged artistically into some kind of a structure. Now imagine we had not just rolls of plain paper, but inside each roll a beautiful picture had been painted. Of course, just looking at the rolled up paper, we wouldn't see the paintings on the inside of the rolls. And yet, the paintings are there! And they must have been painted before the paper rolls were arranged in the artistic structure.
Now suppose it is not we who build up this artful structure of paper rolls, but the paper rolls have to form it by themselves. Of course, you can't imagine they could do this by themselves; nobody can imagine it. But let's suppose because the pictures are painted on all the paper rolls, the latter now have the power to arrange themselves in layers. And that gives you a picture of our true cosmic edifice. We can compare the paintings on the rolls with all that happened during the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods, and is woven into every individual part of our cosmic building. These are not dead pictures, but living forces that build up everything meant to exist on earth. And we draw out what is artfully hidden in the structure made up of the individual rolls of the cosmic edifice — which science describes. This is what confronts us in our outer life. I have given much thought to finding an analogy corresponding as closely as possible to the facts of the matter and have come up with this image of the paper rolls with their living, active pictures. When you think this analogy through, you will find that when we first look at this structure, we cannot know anything about the paintings inside the rolls. If the structure is rather artful and ingenious, we can get an artful and ingenious description of it; however, it will not contain a word about the paintings inside the rolls.
You see, that's how it is with the conventional sciences. They describe this artistic structure, while ignoring completely the paintings on the inside of each roll. Now, you may wonder if a description of the elaborate structure of the rolls allows us to get an idea and to really know what is inside each roll as long as the rolls are rolled up and part of the whole structure? No, it does not! Conventional science is completely unable to arrive at the idea that the spiritual underlies our cosmic edifice. Therefore, simply continuing along the lines of conventional science will not lead to an understanding of spiritual science; something else must be added, something that has nothing to do with ordinary science.
Now picture all these layers of rolls; we can easily describe them and find them interesting and beautiful. Maybe some rolls are more slanted than others; maybe some are curved, and so on; all this can be nicely described. But in order to find out that there is a picture inside each roll, we will have to take out one of the paper rolls and unroll it. In other words, something special must be added to the human soul if we are to advance from the ordinary scientific outlook to that of the science of the spirit. The soul must be taken hold of by something of a special nature. This is what is so difficult to understand for our materialist culture. Yet, this must be understood again as it was in earlier cultural epochs when a spiritual world view permeated the physical one. In ancient times, people were always aware that everything they had to know about the spiritual content of the world was based on the spiritual taking hold of the soul. That is why people back then spoke not only about science, but also about initiation and the like.
Another analogy, one taken from the ancient traditions of spiritual science, will make the matter completely clear to you if you think it through. In spiritual science we speak of an “occult reading of the world,” and rightly so. What conventional science is doing cannot be called “reading the world.” If you look at what is written on a page of some book or other publication and you can't read at all, then what is written there will of course remain completely in comprehensible to you. Still, you could describe the handwriting; you could describe the lines, loops, and crossbars; you could tell what the individual letters look like and how they are combined. It will be a nice description, not unlike the one contemporary science gives of outer physical reality or the one contemporary history provides. However, this is not the same as reading.
Obviously, people do not learn to read by taking a page from a book, without having any idea what it means to read, and trying to figure out the meaning of the text from the shape of the letters. Reading is taught in childhood. We learn to read not by describing the shape of the letters, but because something spiritual is conveyed to us, and we are mentally and spiritually stimulated to read. It is the same with everything we call the higher and lower degrees of initiation. Initiation was not based on teaching souls to describe what was outside them, but on teaching them to read it, to decipher, so to speak, the meaning of the world. Thus, it was with good reason that what is spiritual in the world was called “The Word,” for the world has to be read if it is to be understood spiritually. And we do not learn to read by memorizing the shape of the letters but by receiving spiritual impulses.
That is what I want to make clear through the presentations in our circles. As you remember the themes running through our lectures, you will see I have always tried to use images. Today I am also using them, for it is only through images that one can lead the way into the spiritual. As soon as images are crammed into concepts applying only to the physical plane, they no longer contain what they should. This confuses people because they cannot grasp what is given in images in such a way that it is a true reality for them. Right away, they think of the images themselves in completely materialistic terms. When we look at more primitive cultures, we see that people then did not have our modern concepts but thought in images and expressed their reality in them. Even in Asian cultures, which are somewhat atavistic because they have kept features from earlier times, you find that to meaningfully express something profound, people always speak in images, images that definitely have the significance of a reality.
Let us take an example where the image really has the significance of an immediate reality, of a coarse and rough reality, so to speak. Europeans frequently find it very hard to understand Asians who have preserved older, atavistic ideas of reality; they often have only a very rough understanding of Asians. There is a very beautiful Asian novella telling the following story.
Once upon a time there was a couple, and they had a daughter. The daughter grew up and was sent to school in the capital because she showed special talents. On leaving school, she married a merchant, an acquaintance of her father. She had a son and died when the boy was four years old. The day after the mother's funeral, the child suddenly said: “Mother has gone upstairs to the top floor, and she must be there now!” And the whole family went upstairs.
Now we must put ourselves into the Asian soul in order to understand what follows. I am telling you something bordering closely on reality. Yet if a European were told by a four-year-old that his mother, who had been buried the day before, was upstairs and if he were then to go up with a candle to look around, he would of course find nothing there. The whole thing would be denied. In other words, we have to try to put ourselves into the Asian mind.
Well, the family went up there with a light and found the mother actually standing there before a dresser and staring at it. All the drawers were closed, and the people felt that there had to be something in the dresser that was troubling her. They emptied the drawers and took the items that had been in them to the temple to store them there. In that way those things would be removed from the world. They believed that now the soul would not return anymore; they knew it would return only if something was still binding it to this world.
However, the soul returned anyway! Every evening when the family looked upstairs, she was there. Finally, the family went to a wise guardian of the temple; he came, said he must be left undisturbed, and recited his sutras. And, when the “hour of the rat” struck — in the Orient, the time between midnight and two in the morning is called the hour of the rat — there was the woman again, staring at a certain spot on the dresser. He asked her if anything was there, and she gave him to understand by a gesture that there was indeed something. He opened the first drawer but nothing was in it, the second, nothing, the third, nothing, the fourth and still nothing. Then it occurred to him to lift up the paper lining of the drawers, and there between the last layer of paper and the bottom of the drawer he found a letter. He promised to tell nobody about this letter and to bum it in the temple. He did so, and the soul never returned again.
Now this oriental story actually agrees with reality; it expresses reality. It would be very difficult to present this matter in European concepts. Besides, the conceptions of modern Europeans are still too coarse. They think when something is real, then everybody must be able to see it. Europeans generally allow only for two things; either everyone sees something, and then it is a reality, or not everyone sees it, and then it is subjective and not objective. Now this distinction between subjective and objective applies only to the physical world but has no meaning in the spiritual world. There we cannot call anything others do not see subjective but not objective.
Now you may say that such things as told in that story also exist in Europe. Indeed, they do, but Europeans are generally glad to say it is only fiction and is not necessarily true. That is why it is so much easier to speak about the spiritual world in fiction. Fiction does not lay any claim to truth. People are content when they do not have to believe what is said in stories and the like. However, the objection that this is after all only a novella does not count. Europeans obviously have little understanding of Asians or they would not say such things. What Europeans call novellas, or art, is a most superfluous and useless game to Asians and means nothing to them. They even make fun of our telling stories about things that do not exist. Asians do not understand this. In what they call works of art, they tell only about what really exists, albeit in the spiritual world. That is the profound difference between the European and the Asian world views.
That Europeans write novellas about things that do not exist is, according to the Oriental view, a highly superfluous activity. In their view, all our art is only a rather superfluous and useless occupation. Clearly, we have to understand the Asian art works we possess as Imaginations of spiritual reality; otherwise we will never understand them at all. We Europeans in turn judge Asian stories not by Asian standards but by our own and call them fanciful and beautiful fiction, products of the fertile, unbridled Oriental imagination.
People will gradually have to realize that we have to speak more and more in images. Of course, if we were to speak in pictures only, we would be going against modern European culture, so we can't do that. But we can gradually allow ordinary thinking, applicable only on the physical plane, to turn into thinking about the spiritual world, and then into pictorial thinking, which develops under the influence of the spiritual world. Natural scientists also develop a view of the world, but if they think their view is clear and comprehensible, they make the same mistake as we would if we claimed we could paint a portrait, and the subject would then step out of the canvas and walk around the room.
In my latest book, Vom Menschenrätsel, I move from the usual logical presentation to a pictorial one. 1See Lecture Two, note 4. This has to become our general style of presentation if spiritual science is really to become a part of Western civilization. A philosophical treatise about the same matters would cite innumerable logical arguments, would turn the most elaborate and artificial phrases; yet it would be virtually dead. It would aim only at understanding the outer layering of the rolls, not what lives as paintings on the inside of each roll. These things become meaningful only when we apply them in our lives, for that is how we learn to understand life. So-called logical proofs have to be imbued with life before we can understand spiritual science in a living way.
As you know, some people are musical and others are not, and there is a very great difference between those who are musical and those who are not. In terms of the soul a musical person is quite different from an unmusical one. I do not mean this as a criticism of unmusical people; it is simply a statement of fact. Those who look more closely at life may perhaps not go so far as to agree with Shakespeare's statement, “The man that hath no music in himself ... Is fit for such treasons, stratagems and spoils ... Let no such man be trusted.” 2William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1.
Though we may not arrive right away at that conclusion, there is a certain difference in the souls of musical and unmusical persons.
Now, you may want to know why there are musical and unmusical people. If you look for an answer in psychology, which follows along the lines of the natural sciences, I do not think you will find much that could cast a light on this question. If psychology were to explain why one person is musical and another is not, if it were to deal with such subtleties, then it would finally do some good.
However, there is yet another difference between human beings. We find people who go through life and are, in a sense, hardly touched by what goes on around them. Others go through life with so open a soul that they are deeply affected by what is going on around them. They feel deep joy over some things and suffer over others; they feel happiness about some things and sadness about others. There are those who are dulled to impressions and those who are sensitive and empathize with all the world. There are people who shortly after entering a room that is not too crowded have a certain rapport with the others, because they can feel very quickly what the others feel by way of so-called imponderables. On the other hand, there are individuals who come into contact with many people but do not really get to know a single one of them because they do not have the gift I have just described. They judge others by what they themselves are, and when these others are different from them, they really consider them more or less bad people.
Still, there are those who give their time and attention to others, sharing their experiences. As a rule these are people who can also empathize with animals, with beetles and sparrows, who can feel joy with some events and sorrow with others. Notice how often this happens in life, especially at a certain age; young people are happy about all kinds of things. They are up one minute and down the next, while other people call them stupid because, to their minds, nothing really matters much anyway. So, there exist these two types of people. Of course, the two qualities are sometimes more and sometimes less developed; they are not necessarily very pronounced but are still clearly noticeable.
Now, the spiritual scientist, trying to understand the world from his point of view, comes to the conclusion that those people are musical in this life who empathized with everything and moved easily from joy to sorrow and from sorrow to joy in their previous life. This was internalized, and that is how the rhythmical flexibility of the musical soul developed. On the other hand, people who were dulled in their sensitivity to outer events in the preceding incarnation do not become musical. Nevertheless, they may have other excellent qualities, may even have been great world reformers and have influenced world history.
Imagine a person living in Rome at the time when Michelangelo and Raphael produced their great works and not seeing anything but immorality in the Rome of that time. Now Rome was indeed immoral and decadent. But this individual ignored everything that was not immoral, for instance, the art of Michelangelo and Raphael. Perhaps he became a very important personality, a reformer who accomplished great things. What I am telling you is not meant as malicious criticism. Still, people are unmusical because in the previous incarnation they did not receive vivid impressions of things that do deeply impress other souls.
Think how transparent life would become and how well we would be able to understand others if we approached them with such knowledge. And when we keep in mind that spiritual science imbues our souls with a longing to perceive in pictures, then all this should seem to us something desirable.
Of course, if everything were limited to concepts and if spiritual science were to dissect everyone and investigate what the person was like in previous incarnations, then people would do well to be on their guard against spiritual science. No one would venture forth among people anymore if they would analyze like this. However, this would happen only if we worked with crude concepts. If we stay with pictures, the latter lay hold of our feelings, and we arrive at an emotional understanding of others, which we do not need to transform into concepts. We turn it into concepts only when we express it as a general truth. It is quite all right to talk about the flexibility of the soul in a preceding incarnation and musicality in a later one, as I have done, but it would be in poor taste if I were to approach a person who is musical and describe what he or she was like in the previous incarnation based on this talent. These truths are derived from individual details, but the point is not to apply them to details. This must be understood in the deepest sense.
Most people may understand truths like these, but when we go a bit further, then what is meant to enlighten humanity can easily lead to nonsense. For example, we often speak about reincarnation in general terms, and at one time, I talked to one of our branch groups about the relationship between reincarnation and self-knowledge, a theme that deserves some attention. I said it would be good to try to apply certain concepts we acquire from spiritual science to our efforts to understand ourselves. I explained that at the beginning of our life karma often brings us into contact with people who were connected with us at about the middle of our previous life, when we were in our thirties. In other words, we are not right away with the people we were with at the corresponding time in our earlier incarnation. This is how I have explained various rules of reincarnation; you can also find in my lectures how reincarnation can be applied to self-knowledge. Well, what did all this lead to in those days? It turned out that shortly thereafter a number of people founded a sort of “Club of the Reincarnated.” Yes, indeed, there was a clique that explained who each member had been in the preceding incarnation or even in all previous lives. Of course they had all been exceedingly eminent figures in human history, that goes without saying, and they had all been connected in their earlier lives.
That was a nuisance for a long time. Naturally this is all terrible because it violates what I have emphasized, namely, that if you are to know anything about your previous incarnation, in our era you will not understand it from within yourself. Rather, your attention will be drawn to it through some outer event or through another person. In our time it is generally false when somebody looks within and then claims to have been this or that person. If we are to know anything, it will be told to us from outside.
Those who founded the “Club of the Reincarnated” would have had to wait a long time before being told about their previous incarnations. Yet they had all been important personalities, the most important in human history! When the thing became known, and those people were asked why they had done all this, they answered that they did it because I had said in a lecture one should cultivate self-knowledge in the light of reincarnation. Since then they had all been busy thinking about who they had been in previous lives and how they had been connected with each other.
In such a case we sin against the reverence we should have for the great spiritual truths. This reverence consists in staying appropriately with the image, with the metaphor; only when it is really necessary should the picture be left behind, and should we go beyond the metaphor. In spiritual science we have to develop reverence and to realize that this sophistry, this putting things into the concept, is always a bad thing. It is always bad to think about spiritual matters in the same way we think about things on the physical plane. Indeed, when we acquire this reverence, we also develop certain moral qualities, which cannot unfold if we don't carry all this in our soul in the right way. Accordingly, spiritual science will also lead to a moral uplifting of our modern culture.
Now we Europeans say — and rightly so — that because we can see the Christ Mystery in our spiritual life, we have an advantage over other cultures, for example, over the Asian or oriental ones. What those cultures know about the spiritual does not include the Christ Being. The Japanese, Chinese, Hindus, Persians, do not include the Christ Being in their thinking about the spiritual interrelationships in the world. We are therefore right in calling the Asian world view atavistic, a relic of an earlier age. Though those people may have an exceedingly lofty understanding of the world, as, for instance, in the Vedanta philosophy, their inability to understand the Christ Mystery makes their world view an atavistic one. To be able to penetrate deeply into certain connections is not necessarily a sign of great spiritual heights.
For example, I used to know a man who was among us for a long time and even belonged to the “Club of the Reincarnated,” and he propounded excellent theories about certain conditions of life on Atlantis. Continuing along the lines of my book on Atlantis, this person came to very interesting conclusions that were true. Yet, he was so loosely connected to our movement that he left it when external reasons made it convenient for him to do so. Under certain conditions, it takes only a particular formation of the etheric body to see into supersensible regions. However, if spiritual science is to flow in a living way into our culture, it has to take hold of the whole person so that he or she can grow close to its deepest impulses. And then spiritual science will create what our culture, which is developing more and more into a materialistic one, is lacking.
Thus, we are right in saying we have the advantage of the Christ Mystery over the Asian cultures. But what do Asians say about this? Now, I am not telling you something I just made up; I am telling you what the more reasonable Asians really say. They agree we have the advantage of the Christ Mystery over them. They say, “That is something we do not have, and that's why you Europeans think you are on a higher stage of cultural development. However, you also say, ‘By their fruits ye shall know them,’ and your religion tells you to love one another. But when we look at how you live, it does not seem as though you are doing that. You send missionaries to us in Asia who tell us all kinds of great things; however, when we come to Europe, we find people do not at all live as they should if all we've been told were true.” Well, that's what the Asians say.
Now just think whether they are so entirely wrong. At a religious convention where people from all religions were to speak, this case was discussed, and the Asian representatives said what I have just told you. They said, “You send us missionaries, which is very nice. However, you have had Christianity for two thousand years now, and we cannot see that it has advanced your moral development so much beyond ours.”
There are good reasons for this, my dear friends. You see, Asians live much more in the group-soul and much less as individuals. Morals are in a sense innate to them, inborn through the group-soul. Europeans, precisely because they are developing their I, must leave the group-soul behind and must be left to their own resources. That is why egoism inevitably had to appear. It goes hand in hand with individualism. People will only gradually be able to come together again by understanding Christianity in a higher sense.
Much has prevented those who have thought about Christianity, even the best of them, from truly understanding the consequences of the Mystery of Golgotha. Granted, it is certainly very “profound” to say we must experience the Christ in our own inner being. You see, there is what I would like to call a symbolical theosophy. As you know, I have always spoken out against this theosophy that wants to explain everything as symbols. It explains even the resurrection of Christ as merely an inner experience even though in reality it is a historical event. Christ really did rise again in the world, but many a theosophist finds it easier to deal with the matter by claiming it is merely an inner process. As you know, this was the special skill of the late Franz Hartmann; in every lecture he repeatedly explained theosophy to his audience by saying that one has to understand oneself inwardly, to comprehend God in oneself, and so on. 3Franz Hartmann, 1838–1912, doctor and theosophist. Founded his own movement within theosophy.
Now if you understand the Gospels properly, you will not find any grounds for the idea that the Gospels advocate people should experience the Christ only inwardly. There are theosophical symbolists who reinterpret various passages, but in reality everything in the Gospels confirms the truth of the great word, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” The Christ is a social phenomenon. The Christ passed through the Mystery of Golgotha as a reality, and He is here as a reality, belonging not to the individual but to the common life of all people. What He does is what is important. These things can often be better understood in pictures than in abstract concepts.
Just recently we went to see a friend on leave from the front lines of the battlefield, where he has since returned. This friend was kind enough to get us a taxicab, and when he returned with it and pulled up, he told us he had had a conversation with the driver. This driver was an altogether peculiar man, for when we had arrived and were about to get out, he opened the door and after he had been paid, he gave us two little pamphlets called “Peace Messenger.” He was making propaganda for the spiritual world while working his job! Then our friend told us that this driver had told him the essential thing is for people to find the Christ, everything depends on the Christ. In other words, our friend had picked out a cab at the taxi-stand and gotten into a conversation with the driver, who told him the world will advance only when people find the Christ, whom they have not yet found.
Well, the cab driver added a few other things and said, “You see, with Christ it's like this. Just think, I am a very respectable man, an exemplary man, and I have children who are all good for nothing. But am I any less respectable and exemplary a man because I have children who are no good? They all know me, or think they know me, but they are still good-for-nothings. That's how I think of the Christ. He belongs to us all, He is the person we all look to but that does not mean everybody necessarily really understands Him.”
This cab driver has created a marvelous picture of the special life of Christ, of His isolated life! He has discovered that Christ is living among us, living with us, belonging to us all and not to any one individual. He saw his sons who were all no good as the individuals, who were good for nothing and would have to struggle before reaching an understanding. If this cab driver had wanted to express this extraordinarily significant idea in philosophical terms, nothing would have come of it. But his picture reflects wonderfully what we are trying to understand. Of course, such a picture is not quite sufficient; an individual may understand it, but you will not influence our culture with it. I just wanted to show you that even the simplest soul can light on a true picture. This is how things should really flow into pictures. I have tried to achieve this particularly in the style of my latest book, which deals with non-theosophical matters. However, in its presentation this book is “theosophical,” if we want to use that expression.
It is important to understand our teachings more and more between the lines, so to speak, if we want to grasp correctly that they have to become life, the life of each one of us. And what weighs so heavily upon one's soul is just this awful difficulty of integrating these things into life.
You see, if these things are important to you, and particularly if you really know our rationalist culture, you will realize that what pulsates through spiritual science has to live in all branches of culture. It must influence thinking, feeling, and willing, only then will it fulfill its mission. To feel connected with our cause really takes quite some inner strength. It is a pity that it takes such an infinitely long time for people to feel thoroughly connected with the impulses of spiritual science. In the meantime, we can see people passing by and ignoring precisely what they should be focusing on.
Now let me tell you about another case. There was a very learned gentleman who used to be a member of our Society; in fact, he was tremendously learned, but his erudition did not satisfy him. He was profoundly unhappy in spite of all his learning, which included a knowledge of oriental languages and the culture of the Near East. Now this man came and asked for advice. In such a case my advice will necessarily have to show that through an understanding of spiritual science the spirit can enter into a science such as oriental philosophy. So I indicated that he should permeate all this scholarly material with what he had received from spiritual science. However, for him the two things merely continued to exist side by side. On the one hand, he pursued his oriental studies as this is done in the universities; on the other hand, he pursued spiritual science. The two never came together for him; he could not permeate the one with the other.
Now just think how fruitful it would be if someone who knows so much — and this man did indeed know a tremendous amount — were to take his science and learning and imbue it with theosophy! He wouldn't even have to let it be known that he thinks theosophically if he feared people might look askance at him for that. Still, he could then present all this in his university lectures. That man could very well have penetrated the culture on the Euphrates and the Tigris and the one a bit further west — he was particularly at home in Egyptology — with spiritual science and could have accomplished something remarkable. In any case, he could have achieved something more fruitful than the popularizing stuff produced by our common writers. Recently a piece by such a popular writer appeared in a widely read daily paper. The fellow had written an article on the discovery of a sphinx-like figure during construction for the Baghdad railway — well, even if his name is Arthur Bonus, he is still definitely not a “good one!” 4Translator's note: The Latin word bonus means “good.” This article is absolutely terrible!
The ideal we have in mind, my dear friends, is to let our thinking be carried by what spiritual science gives us. And it should be the same in life too, in our everyday life with each other. Spiritual science can be carried into everything. If we did not intend this, did not have this ideal, then spiritual science would not be able to bear fruit. The challenge to make it fruitful meets us everywhere.
Just think, there are excellent historians who write about the history of England at the time of James I, let's say. 5James I, 1566–1625, King of Scotland as James VI and of Great Britain as James I. Son of Mary, Queen of Scots. Succeeded to English throne at death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. During his reign group of scholars prepared new version of the Bible in English, called in his honor King James Bible (1611). Then there are excellent historians who write books about the life of Francisco Suarez, the Jesuit. 6Francisco Suarez, 1548—1617, Spanish theologian and scholastic philosopher. Joined Society of Jesus (1564), considered foremost Jesuit theologian. As you know, I have to be careful what I say when I speak about Jesuitism. That is, I must not say too much that is positive — or at least what can be misunderstood as positive. Nevertheless, it is true that most people know about this Suarez only that in one of his writings he is supposed to have explicitly preached regicide. But this is not true. In general, people often know things that are untrue but don't as often and as thoroughly know things that are true.
Now, excellent books about this Suarez are available nowadays; most of them are written by Jesuits. You can read these books about Suarez, the successor of Ignatius of Loyola, and understand them. 7Ignatius of Loyola, 1491–1556, Spanish religious. Founded Society of Jesus in 1539. Began composition of his Spiritual Exercises in 1523. That does not mean that you will become, or have been, a Jesuit, nor that you have to put up with people drawing such conclusions. The facts are clear, and when we connect them, we can answer one of biggest questions of modern history. These two individuals, James I and Francisco Suarez, the Jesuit philosopher, are complete opposites. At the time of James I, a very ahrimanic new development was inaugurated. Another development began with Suarez that was very luciferic. Their combined influence, and particularly their fights against each other, shaped much of what lives and weaves in the present age.
Here we come to mysterious connections. I don't want to blame anyone with what I am going to say now. For example, we find that a great deal of what these days is called historical materialism or Marxism, the Social Democratic outlook, can be traced directly to Suarez. Now please do not take this to mean that I am saying the Social Democrats are Jesuits. Nevertheless, there are in a certain sense good reasons for connecting the Social Democrats with the Jesuits. By the same token, many members of the opposing party, that is, those who oppose social democracy, can be traced back directly to what was inaugurated by James I.
With this, I have indicated something that lives in many people's thoughts. Particularly in occult communities you find two main streams, and from these flows something that is not occult. These two main streams produce two typical, contrasting figures: James I of England, in whom an extraordinary initiate-soul lived, and Suarez.
Now, if you read the biography of Suarez, you will not understand it at all if you have not really grasped spiritual science. Suarez was one of those people who are at first bad students and don't learn anything. According to the contemporary materialist view, such people are hopeless cases and not good for anything. However, one can easily prove that many great geniuses did not learn anything when they were in school. Well, Suarez was also one of the bad students, and even in college he was not yet what one might call a bright man. Then all of a sudden he changed, and every biography of him describes this sudden awakening. The gift of brilliance suddenly awakened in him, and he wrote extraordinarily interesting books, which are, unfortunately, not widely known. This happened all of a sudden, kindled by some of the things I told you about in my lectures on the spiritual exercises of the Jesuits, which Suarez also practiced. Through these he awakened something in himself that enabled him to develop special mental and spiritual forces.
Thus, the biography of Suarez proves — as it can also be proved in the case of James I — that he turned around, so to speak, and came from the unspiritual into the spiritual. This soul, which later achieved outstanding accomplishments, was born at a certain moment. Its development did not proceed in a straight line, but took place in a sudden jolt, produced either by karma or by an influence on the person in question that can be compared to how we learn to read in elementary school: not by describing the shape of the letters, but by receiving an impulse through which we learn to understand the letters.
Here, you see again how spiritual science can guide us in understanding these historical connections, and then we can see life quite differently. If you take in spiritual science in a living way, then your attitude to life really changes, an you can think of other things to do than what you have been doing. It is hard to imagine that a person who takes in spiritual science in a living way could come up with the strange idea, for example, that he or she is Mary Magdalene reincarnated. This would not occur to such a person; instead he or she would focus on other contents of the soul.
It is hard to have to watch how slowly the development in the direction I indicated proceeds. People really take Spiritual science far too much as merely a theory or as simply something to be enjoyed. However, it must be studied in a living way. Now that we are together before parting or some time at the beginning of summer, when we will h ave to return to Dornach, I would like to discuss briefly a few important points we must consider in this regard.
You see, my dear friends, if things had turned out as many people adhering to older traditions had expected at the time when we first established spiritual science here fourteen years ago, we would have become a sect. For all the ideas brought over from England were headed toward the formation of a sect. And many people felt very comfortable being completely secluded in their small circles. Then they could call the other people outside their circles fools. There was very little control over this. However, this kind of thing had to stop.
Spiritual science has to reckon with our whole culture. We have always considered this culture, and we have emphasized particularly in public lectures what one can get into European heads these days — regardless of how many objections were raised. Now I don't want to criticize — that would be silly — but still, we have to understand that our movement really must not become a sect and must not even have any characteristics of a sectarian movement if it is to fulfill its task. We can accomplish much if we take the general culture into account. People outside our movement for the most part write nonsense about it — if they write about it at all. You may say this does not matter in a deeper sense. On the contrary, it matters very much! That is why we have to defend ourselves and do what we can to stop it. We have to do everything possible so that eventually people will not write nonsense but something better.
However, in a spiritual sense it is even more harmful when what was intended only for members of our immediate circle is brought in the wrong way before the public so that our lecture cycles are now sold in second-hand bookshops. Granted, we may not be able to prevent this. Still it happens again and again, not only that our lecture cycles can be bought in second-hand bookshops but other equally detrimental things as well. For instance, somebody just recently told me about a person he had worked with for a long time. He said that person did not write anything on his own initiative but belongs to a somewhat dubious clique, which has complete control over him. He himself only sits down and goes ahead with his writing. Now this person has written many brochures about our spiritual science and even big books. In those you find not only quotations from my printed and published works, but also long passages from the cycles. In other words, it is not just that one can buy these cycles in second-hand bookshops, but, in fact, anyone wanting to write a stupid book these days is able to get hold of them. Such people then buy two or three cycles and copy passages that sound completely absurd when taken out of context, and then they can make a book out of all that.
These are the problems that result from our having to face the public while at the same time being a Society. However, we have to understand this problem if we want to overcome it. As I said, I do not want to criticize, for that would be totally useless; instead, I want to describe the problem. I want to show you where the difficulties lie, and we just have to watch for them. In the immediate future even more abominable things will be done against our Society than we have had to endure up to now. We won't be able to change that in the twinkling of an eye. Still, we must not ignore both the encouraging, pleasant elements and the annoying ones in the way the world judges our movement as though we were trying to become totally unmusical in the next incarnation.
You see, those who think purely egoistically — as I said, this is not meant as criticism, but merely as description think that spiritual science has more to say about certain relationships in nature than ordinary science. Thus, people turn to me for medical advice even though I have emphasized repeatedly that I am only a teacher or cultivator of spiritual science, and not a physician. Of course, people may want some friendly advice and to refuse that would be absurd. If people come for friendly advice, why should it be denied them even if it concerns matters of natural science? However, after everything that has happened, I have to request that nobody seeks my advice on medical matters who is not in the care of a physician. People who think selfishly do not consider that such things are not permissible nowadays and that they bring us into conflict with the world around us, and that is detrimental to our spiritual science. We have to make an effort to improve things; we have to advocate everywhere that there should be more than just the officially authorized medicine, which is based on pure materialism. We can certainly do this, but we must not just selfishly think of what is good for us individually if this could interfere with what our movement must be.
Spiritual science can give advice, and it would be absurd if it didn't. It would be pathetic indeed if one could not give some advice to a person suffering from this or that ailment. However, it is a great risk to give advice when the following happens — and I am telling you a true story here. Someone was ill in a town where I had just previously said that I definitely do not want people to turn to me in case of illness. I had said so publicly and officially. Now, someone became ill and was admitted into a sanitarium, where he remained for some time. A long-standing member of ours who had always been connected with the most intimate aspects of our cause wrote to this sanitarium, explaining that the patient in question could now be discharged because Dr. Steiner gave such and such advice. The member wrote this to the physician, who replied that this just goes to show we don't mean it when we claim theosophy wants to be nothing but theosophy and does not want to meddle in other people's business.
Yes, indeed, my dear friends, we have to pay attention to such things. If we ignore them, it will not be for the good of the movement. Of course, this is only one case, but variations of this are happening again and again. This leads to a peculiar feature of our movement, about which I have to speak now. What I am referring to is that the new good side of our movement comes to light less rapidly than other new developments that have also never before been there. They prove that our movement is indeed something new; however, these are peculiar novelties.
For example, let us suppose this or that were written in my published books. If no cycles were getting into the wrong hands, people outside our movement would refute what is in my books. Well, let them do it, but then they would present their opinion. It would never occur to people out there who do not belong to our Society to copy sentences from my books to prove I am a “bad guy.” No one would do this; instead people out there would present their own opinions. What happens in our Society, however, is that someone accepts our teaching — swallows it hook, line, and sinker, as the saying goes — but then refutes me with my own teaching. You can see an example of this in an as yet unpublished exposition.
As you may remember, in an earlier edition of
Riddles of Philosophy
— the book then was called
Views of Life and World in the Nineteenth Century
— I explained
that Leverrier discovered the planet Neptune merely on the basis of
his calculations about Uranus, before Neptune had been seen.
8Rudolf Steiner, The Riddles of Philosophy,
(Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1973).
Urbaine-Jean-Joseph Leverrier, 1811–1877, French astronomer. Investigated disturbance in the motion of Uranus (1845), making calculations indicating the presence of an unknown planet, which was discovered in 1846 and named Neptune. Neptune was first seen at the Berlin observatory, but its existence was already known earlier simply because of calculations. I referred to this example to show that something may follow from calculations, that we can know of a fact merely on the basis of our thinking.
Well, just recently someone wrote that he has applied this very obvious and convincing idea, but in a different field. He claims to have found that something is wrong in our movement, that there are disruptions and interferences like the ones Leverrier found in observing the planet Uranus. If Uranus does not move the way it should according to calculations based on the general laws of gravity, then obviously something is interfering. Similarly, according to this individual, something supposedly interferes with our movement. So he propounds the hypothesis that there is something disruptive here, interfering with everything. And then, in the same way Leverrier discovered Neptune, this individual discovered that the evil interferences in our movement are in me. As the astronomers in the observatory here turned their telescope to the place where Neptune was said to be, so this person focused his spiritual telescope on me and found the evil there.
This is a special case; the methods I have given are all applied to my character and I am refuted with myself. In this man's circle a letter was written recently — not by him but by others from his circle — saying that I have no right to complain about this refutation because I myself had always said spiritual science was the common property of everyone and that it would be wrong to think spiritual science originated with the spiritual investigator. Well now, when things get this confused, there can be no simple, clear explanation for them. This, indeed, is something new arising in our Society. Outside, where the old still holds good, others are refuted by means of what the critics themselves think. But within our Society people do not take their own thoughts, but what they read in the lecture cycles and use it against me.
For example, in the letter I mentioned you can find many quotations from my book An Outline Of Occult Science and others. 9Rudolf Steiner, An Outline of Occult Science, 3rd ed., repr., (Spring Valley, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1989). Everywhere you'll find exhortations to read this or that for yourself so you'll see I am actually an evil, bad guy. Now, the letter does not claim what I say is bad. On the contrary, because it is good, it can be used as evidence. This is something entirely new arising in our midst, a novelty based on the theory that our teaching can be accepted and then used to slander the one who is trying to popularize it. That is indeed something new!
This may be a particularly blatant case; still, on a smaller scale such things occur very frequently. If we so much as say anything about such things, then we get threats! Recently a letter informed us that articles and pamphlets, whose titles constitute a direct threat, would soon appear in shop windows and newspapers. As I said, if we dare make a sound, this is what happens. This is a novelty, something new in our movement, and we must pay attention to it.
We can see difficulties cropping up before they have fully emerged, so to speak, for we can predict what will happen. Tell me, should we really never talk about such a case as the one I have mentioned; should we always keep quiet about it? That is certainly possible. However, since the members themselves are not trying to discover such things, nobody in our circles would ever find out. Therefore, we must speak about it. But what happens when we speak about it? Pretty soon you will probably read in another letter — of course, this is just a hypothesis for now that I have been speaking about a private letter before a large number of members. And this is simply because there are certainly people here who will immediately report somewhere or other what I have said tonight. That is happening all the time. Not talking about these things is no good, but talking about them only encourages what is repeatedly being done. We can predict the outcome.
I do not want to criticize; I only want to point out that in a movement where spiritual science lives, that is, where occult things pulsate, difficulties do indeed arise, and we must pay attention to them. If we ignore them, they will continue and get worse. Yes, we have to be prepared for the attacks to get more and more trenchant. If we were a small sect, this would not be the case. But our movement had to become just what it has become, and so that's the way it is.
Much of what comes from outside is understandable although many attacks ostensibly from the outside actually can be proven to have originated within our circles. Just today we have learned that in Dornach we practice eurythmy, which supposedly consists in dancing to the point of reaching a trance, as the dervishes do, and so on. We were told this news was reported by members. Members have reported that we dance until we reach a state of trance! In reality this was told to one of our members by people totally unconnected with us, but these people said they had heard it from members whose names they mentioned.
These difficulties come up because we have united spiritual science and the Society, and we must examine them carefully. If we ignore them, we cannot progress properly and we risk the dissolution of our Society and its total annihilation. True, all this does not harm spiritual science as such, but it does harm what spiritual science is also trying to be. It is harmful when people come and tell me that much of what they read about spiritual science interested them, but then they sat at a table in a boarding house and heard a lady prattle on about theosophy and say all kinds of things, and, of course, they feel they cannot join a Society where such a lot of rubbish is talked that's supposed to be theosophy. Now, this is not an isolated case; this happens again and again in one way or another.
Speaking about these things at the end of a serious talk may be misunderstood. However, it is absolutely necessary, my dear friends, that you know about them and pay attention to them. Our Society must be the carrier and helper of spiritual science; however, it can easily develop in such a way that it works against what spiritual science is to bring to world evolution. Naturally, in the individual case it is easy to understand that much of this damage could not be prevented. Yet we can be sure that the damage will look quite different if we pay attention to it and if we ourselves try to keep to a certain line, a certain direction, so to speak. Sometimes it is indeed extremely difficult, but also necessary, to take a hard line in a certain direction. Then novelties like the ones I just described will be rightly judged. It does not happen anywhere else that a person is refuted with his own works, for the idea of accepting a person's teaching in order to refute him with them is in itself absurd and foolish. Of course, if someone talks nonsense, you can use his nonsense against him, but that is not the point here. Rather, the new twist here is that the teaching is accepted and the person is refuted on the basis of his teaching.
On a smaller scale, things like that are very widespread. And they are not far removed from another evil I will also speak about before coming to a close. Indeed, it happens nowhere else as often as in our movement that somebody does something one can condemn, in fact, has to condemn. Then people take sides. For example, somebody may say something against the leading personalities in our Society, or against long-standing members, or against the Vorstand, as we unfortunately have to call it. Yet, even if the allegations are completely unfounded and perhaps only made up, clearly revealing the accuser's underlying motivation, you will rarely find that people try to discover whether the unfortunate Vorstand is right. Instead, people immediately take sides with the person who is wrong.
In fact, that is the rule here: people take sides with those who are wrong, and write letters asking the victims of the attack to do something to preserve the friendship, to straighten things out again — after all, one must show love. When somebody commits an unkind deed against another, people do not write to the one who did the deed. Instead, they write to the one who suffered it that he should show some kindness and that it would be very unloving not to do something to set things right again. It never occurs to them to ask this of the one who is wrong. Such peculiar things happen in our circle.
Of certain other things we will not even speak; nevertheless, there may of course come a time when we have to speak about them too. Today, we wanted to talk about a serious topic since we are living in a serious time and our movement is to influence it in a serious way. Still, we absolutely had to point out these peculiar things. You must pay attention to them, for things are indeed happening that you will find hard to believe if you hear about them. Nevertheless, we constantly have to deal with such things, and nobody should misunderstand that I had to speak about them; instead you should all reflect on them a bit.
It is our intention not to have as long a
break between lectures as we had in the past. We may be able to meet
again in fall; however, it is better not to promise anything specific
in this time of uncertainties and obstacles. And so I ask you to use
the picture I have tried to paint in this winter of our souls and to
let your souls dwell on it during this summer. Bring to life in your
souls, in a kind of meditation, what we have talked about and reflect
on the basic requirements for the integration of our spiritual science
into the general culture.
10After these words, Rudolf Steiner spoke about
the day care nursery the members of the Anthroposophical Society in
Berlin had organized:
“I would like to add here that our dear friends who organized and cared so devotedly for our day care nursery are concerned that it might be forgotten — not completely of course, but perhaps almost forgotten. Naturally, we will have a kind of vacation, but after that the nursery will have to open again. Then we will need some money and, above all, some dear friends who will help with the day care — of course, only those who can help. Maybe there are women here who could help with the cooking or something like that. All this is needed. Those who have worked in the nursery and know something about such matters can tell you that its results are very good. The children gained something from having come here,- something has been made of them. Therefore, I would like to ask that the women who could take on this task again do so as a labor of love. Of course, if you take on such a task, you have to stay with it. If you cannot make a certain commitment to it, it is better not to take it on. For example, we cannot have somebody promising to be in the nursery at 5 o'clock and then send a note in the afternoon to cancel; we will not be able to find somebody else to fill in on such short notice. We have to know about cancellations at least one day in advance. Thus, I now ask those friends who can work in the nursery to contact Frau Dannenberg, who, together with others, has done so much for the nursery, so that the nursery can open again in winter.”
And so let us now part, my dear friends, in the realization that we can do much to help integrate what we take seriously into our times if we are all really committed to it. People now sacrifice much more than ever before in such numbers and in so short a time. We are living in a hard time, a time of suffering. May the hardships and sufferings also be a summons to us. No matter how difficult it may be to incorporate the spiritual into human evolution, it has to happen. However much or however little we can do as individuals, let us do it! Let us try to understand the right way to do our part so that what cannot come about of itself but has to be done through people will result. Of course, there will also be help from the spiritual world. Thus, let us remain united in thoughts like this even when we will be apart for a while. People who are united in spirit are always together. Neither space nor time can separate them, and particularly not a more or less short span of time. Let us remain united in thoughts that try again to penetrate a little bit what I have said here in these days to your souls.
We must take in the full weight of the significance of the truths connected with the Mystery of Golgotha. Let us realize that in order to understand this or that we have to be in the solitude of our souls and return there again and again. But let us also understand that we belong to humanity and that the One Who went through the Mystery of Golgotha brought something from spiritual heights to the earth for all human beings, for the working together of all people. And let us remember that He said: “When two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in their midst.”
Through all we experience in solitude we can prepare ourselves for what the Christ is destined to be to the world through us. But Christ is in our midst only if we try to carry into the world what we strive for in solitude, and we can do that only if we understand the conditions for carrying it into the world. Let us look at these conditions! Let us open our eyes, and, above all, let us have the courage to admit that things are as they are and must be dealt with accordingly.
When I speak here about Christ, I do so knowing that He is helping because He is an actively living being. We can feel His presence among us; He will help us! But we have to learn His language, and His language today is that of spiritual science. That is the way it is for the present. And we have to find the courage to represent and support this spiritual science as much as we can among ourselves and before others.
This summer, let us reflect upon this and let us meditate on it until we meet again.