Friday, October 31, 2014

Emily Dickinson's Haunted House

"Nature is a Haunted House—but Art—a House that tries to be haunted."

The nature of diseases

Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, November 10, 1908:

Those of you who have been attending these group lectures for years will perhaps have noticed that the themes have not been haphazardly chosen but have a certain continuity. In the course of each winter, too, the lectures have always had a certain inner connection, even if, on the surface, this has not been immediately apparent. Therefore it will obviously be of the utmost importance to follow up the various courses that are being held here alongside the actual group evenings, and which are intended for the purpose of bringing newer members up to the level, as it were, of these group lectures; for various things said here cannot be immediately understood by every newcomer. But there is something else we should note as well, which will gradually have to be taken into consideration in the various groups of our German section. As there is a certain inner thread in the lectures, it is incumbent upon men to form each lecture so that it is part of a whole. Therefore it is not possible to say the things that can be presented to advanced participants in that kind of single lecture in such a way that they are equally suitable for newcomers. We could speak about the same theme in a very elementary way, of course, but that would not do in face of the progressive path we are planning to take in the anthroposophical life of this particular group. This again is connected with the fact that the further we progress the more we can anticipate in the way of wide-spread lecture publications and reporting of lectures from one group to another. For with regard to these lectures I give in the groups it is becoming less and less immaterial whether you hear the one on one Monday and the next the following Monday. It may not be immediately apparent to the audience why the one lecture succeeds the other, yet it is important nevertheless; and when you lend lectures to one another you cannot take this into account at all. One lecture might get read before the other, and then it unavoidably gets misunderstood and causes confusion. I want to make a special point of this, as it is an essential part of our anthroposophical life. Even the inserting of a phrase here or there, or the over or under emphasising of a word depends on the whole development of the life of the group. Only when the publication of the lectures can be strictly supervised so that nothing is published unless it has been submitted to me, can any good come of this duplicating and publishing of lectures.

This is also a kind of introduction to the lectures about to be held in this group. There will be a certain inner connection in the course of this winter's lectures and all the preparatory material will eventually be directed towards a definite culmination with which the course will then close. Last week's lecture was a small beginning, and today's lecture will be a kind of continuation. But it will not continue like a newspaper serial, where the thirty-eighth installment follows on after the thirty-seventh. There will be an inner connection, even though the subject matter will appear to differ, and the connection will consist in the fact that the whole series will culminate in the final lectures. So, with these concluding lectures in view, we will start today by sketching the nature of illnesses, and next Monday we will talk about the origin, historic importance and meaning of the “Ten Commandments”. These could well appear to have nothing in common; however, you will eventually see that it all has an inner connection, and that these lectures should not be taken as separate ones, as is often the case with those given for a wider public.

We would like to speak today about the nature of illness from the point of view of spiritual science. As a rule people are not concerned about illness, or one or another type of illness at least, until they themselves fall sick with it, and even then their interest does not go much beyond the cure. That is, they are only concerned about their recovery. How this cure is effected is sometimes a matter of complete indifference, and the pleasantest thing is not to have any further responsibility for the “how”. Most of our contemporaries content themselves with the thought that the people who carry out the job have been appointed to do so by the authorities. In our time there exists in this sphere a much more rabid belief in authority than has ever existed in the religious sphere. The papacy of medicine, irrespective of its various forms, still makes itself felt with great intensity and will do so to an even greater extent in the future. Laymen are in no way to blame for the fact that this can and will be like this. For they do not think about these matters or care in the least about them unless it affects them personally and they suffer from an acute case that requires treatment. Thus a large section of the population calmly looks on whilst the papacy of medicine assumes greater and greater dimensions and insinuates itself into things in all manner of ways, like the way it is now speaking out and interfering so horribly in the education of children and the life of the schools, and claiming its right to a particular therapy. People do not care about the deeper significance that is actually behind all this. They look on whilst one or another law is instituted. People do not want to have any insight into these matters. On the other hand there will always be people who are personally affected and cannot manage with ordinary materialistic medicine, the basis of which does not concern them, but only the fact of whether they can be cured or not, and then they will apply to the people who work out of occultism — and there again they only care about whether they can be cured or not. But they do not care whether public life as a whole, with its methods and its way of understanding things, completely undermines a deeper method arising out of the spirit. Who cares whether the public prevents any cures being effected in the method based on occultism, or cares whether the one who applies the method is put in prison? These things are not taken seriously enough except when people are personally affected. However it is just the task of a really spiritual movement to awaken a consciousness of the fact that there has to be more than an egoistic desire for recovery; in fact there has to be knowledge of the deeper foundations in these matters, and this knowledge has to be made known.

In our age of materialism it appears to anyone who can see to the bottom of these matters as only too obvious why just the theory of illness in particular comes under the strongest influence of materialistic thinking. However, if we follow this or that slogan, or give special credit to this or that method, merely criticising what is trimmed with materialistic theories, despite the fact that it arises out of a scientific basis and is useful in many respects, we shall be making just as much of a mistake as if we were to go to the other extreme and put everything under the heading of psychological cures and suchlike, and fall victim in this way to all manner of one-sidedness. Present-day mankind must, above all, realise more and more that man is a complicated being and that everything to do with man is connected with this complexity of his being. If there is a kind of science holding the opinion that man consists merely of a physical body, it cannot possibly work beneficially with the healthy or the sick human being. For health and sickness, have a relationship to man as a whole and not to one part of him only, namely the physical body.

Nor must the matter be taken superficially. You can find plenty of doctors nowadays, properly recognised members of the medical profession, who would never admit to being sworn materialists; they profess to one or another religious faith, and they would staunchly deny the accusation of being materialistic. But this is not the point. Life does not depend on what a man says or believes. That is his personal concern. To be effective it is necessary to know how to apply and make valuable use in life of those facts that are not limited to the sense world but have an existence in the spiritual world. So that however pious a doctor is and however many ideas he has regarding this or the other spiritual world, if he nevertheless works according to the rules that arise entirely out of our materialistic world conception, that is, he treats people as though they only had a body, then however spiritually minded he believes himself to be, he is nevertheless a materialist. For it does not depend on what a person says or believes but on his ability to set in living motion the forces behind the external world of the senses. Nor is it sufficient for anthroposophy to spread the knowledge of man's fourfold nature and for everybody to go repeating that man consists of a physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego, even if people can define and describe them in a certain way. The essential thing is not just to know this, but to understand more and more clearly the living interplay of these members of man's being and the part the physical body, etheric body, astral body and ego play in the healthy and in the sick human being and what their interrelationship implies. Unless you make it your business to know what spiritual science can tell you about the nature of the fourth member of man's being, the ego, then however much you study anatomy and physiology you would not know anything about the nature of blood. That would be quite impossible. And you would never be able to say anything of any value about the illnesses connected with the nature of the blood. For the blood is the expression of the ego nature of man. And if Goethe's words in Faust: “Blood is a very special fluid” [see the lecture: Occult Significance of the Blood, e.Ed] are still quoted today, they do in fact say a very great deal. Present-day science has no inkling of the fact that scientists ought to treat blood, even physical blood, in an entirely different manner from any other organ of man's physical body, because these other organs are the expression of entirely different things. If the glands are the expression, the physical counterpart, of the etheric body, then even physically we have to look for something quite different in the composition of a gland, be it liver or spleen, than we have to look for in the blood that is the expression of a much higher member of man's being, namely the ego. And scientific methods must be guided by this if they are to show us how to work with these things. Now I want to say something which will really only be understood by advanced anthroposophists, yet it is important that it is said.

A materialistically-minded scholar of today takes it as a matter of course that when he makes a prick in the body blood will flow out that can be examined in all the known ways. And blood is described according to the method of investigating its chemical composition in exactly the same way as is done with any other substance, such as an acid. One thing, however, is left out of account, although, needless to say, it is not only bound to be unknown to materialistic science, but it is sure to be considered sheer folly and madness, and yet it is true: the blood flowing in the arteries, and sustaining the living body, is not what flows out when I make the prick and take out a drop. For the moment blood comes out of the body it changes to such an extent that we have to admit it is something quite different; and what flows out as coagulating blood, however fresh it is, is no proof of the living essence within the organism. Blood is the expression of the ego, a member of the human being that is at a high level. Even as physical substance blood is something that you cannot examine physically in its totality at all, because when you are able to see it, it is no longer the blood it was when it flowed in the body. It cannot be looked at physically, for the moment it is exposed to view and can be examined by some method similar to X-ray, you are no longer examining blood but something that is the external image of blood on the physical plane. These things will only gradually be understood. There have always been scientists in the world working out of occultism who have said this, but they have been called things like madmen or philosophers.

Everything to do with man's health or sickness really is bound up with man's manifold nature, with the complicity of his being; hence it is only through a knowledge of man arising out of spiritual science that we can arrive at a conception of man in health and in sickness. There are certain ailments in man's organism which can only be understood when we realise their connection with the nature of the ego, and these ailments also appear in a way — but in a limited way — in the expression of the ego, the blood. Then there are certain ailments in man's organism that point to an illness of the astral body and which therefore affect the external expression of the astral body, the nervous system. Now whilst mentioning this second case I shall have to ask you to be somewhat aware of the subtlety of thought necessary here. When man's astral body has an irregularity that comes to expression in the nervous system, the external image of the astral body, the first thing we notice physically is a certain disability in the functioning of the nervous system. Now when the nervous system cannot do its job in a certain area all kind of symptoms can result, affecting the stomach, head or heart. However, an illness that shows symptoms in the stomach does not necessarily point to a disability of the nervous system in a certain area and originate therefore in the astral body, it can come from something entirely different.

Those types of illnesses connected with the ego itself and therefore also connected with its external expression, the blood, appear as a rule — but only as a rule, for things are not so clear cut in the world, even though you can draw clear lines when you want to make observations — these illnesses appear as chronic illnesses. Various other disturbances appearing to begin with are usually symptoms. One or another symptom may appear, which nevertheless originates in a disturbance in the blood, and that has its origin in an irregularity of that part of the human being that we call the bearer of the ego. I could speak to you for hours about the types of illness that are chronic and which originate from the physical point of view in the blood and from the spiritual point of view in the ego. Those are chiefly the illnesses that are in the proper sense hereditary, and these are the illnesses that can only be understood by those people who look at the being of man from a spiritual point of view. Here and there are people who are chronically ill, who are, in other words, never really fit; they always have one or another thing the matter with them. To get to the bottom of this, we must ask ourselves what the actual basic character of the ego is like. What kind of a person is he? If you understand what life really is, then you will know that definite forms of chronic illnesses are connected with one or another basic soul character of the ego. Certain chronic illnesses will never occur in people who have a serious and dignified attitude to life but only in those of a frivolous nature. This can merely be an indication, to show the way these lectures are leading.

As you see, the first thing you have to ask yourself when somebody comes and says he has been suffering from this or that for years, is what kind of person is he fundamentally? You have to know what basic character type his ego is, otherwise you are bound to go wrong with ordinary medicine, unless you are lucky. The important thing in curing people of these, illnesses which are mainly the really hereditary ones, is to consider their whole surroundings, in so far as they can have a direct or indirect influence on the ego. When you have really got to know this aspect of a person, you may have to advise that he is sent to another natural surrounding, perhaps for the winter, if possible; or, if he has a certain job, to change it and encounter a different aspect of life. The essential thing will be to try to find the setting that will have just the right effect on the character of the ego. To find the right cure, you need, in particular, a wide experience of life, so that you can enter into the person's character and can say: For this person to recover, he must change his job. It is a matter of pinpointing what is necessary from the point of view of his soul nature. Sometimes, perhaps, just in this sphere, no recovery can be achieved at all, because it is impossible to effect a change; in many instances it can be effected, however, if people only know of it. A lot can be done for some people, for example, if they simply live in the mountains instead of the lowlands. These are the things that apply to the kind of illnesses that appear externally as chronic illnesses, and that are connected physically with the blood and spiritually with the ego.

Now we come to those illnesses that have their spiritual origin mainly in irregularities of the astral body and that appear in certain disabilities of the nervous system in one or another direction. Now a large part of the common acute illnesses are connected with what we have just mentioned, in fact most of them. For it is sheer superstition to believe that when someone has a stomach or heart complaint or even a clearly perceptible irregularity somewhere, the right treatment is to deal directly with the symptom. The essential thing could be that the symptom is there because the nervous system is incapable of functioning. Thus the heart can be affected simply because the nervous system has become incapable of functioning in the area where it ought to support the movement of the heart. It is quite unnecessary to maltreat the heart or, as the case may be, the stomach, for they may, in principle, have nothing directly the matter with them, for it is only the nerves that provide for them which are incapable of carrying out their job. If in a case like this the stomach complaint is treated with hydrochloric acid, it would be a mistake comparable to tinkering with an engine that is always running late because you think something is the matter with it — yet it still runs late. For you would find, on closer examination, that the engine-driver always gets drunk before driving; so you would do better to deal with the engine-driver, for the train would be punctual otherwise. So it could well be that with stomach complaints we have to treat the nerves that provide for the stomach instead of the stomach itself. In the domain of materialistic medicine, too, you may perhaps hear various remarks to this effect. But it is not just a matter of saying that with stomach symptoms you have to deal with the nerves first. This achieves nothing. You only achieve something when you know that the nerve is the expression of the astral body and seek for the causes in the irregularities to be found there. The question is, what is the main thing?

The first thing to consider in the treatment of this sort of complaint is diet and finding the right balance between what a person enjoys and what is good for him. What matters is his way of life, not with regard to externalities but regarding what has to be digested and worked through by him, and in this respect nobody can possibly know anything on the basis of purely materialistic science. We need to realise that everything around us in the wide world of the macrocosm has a relationship with our complicated inner world of the microcosm, and every kind of food there is has a definite connection with what is within our organism. We have heard often enough that man has passed through a long evolution, and how the whole of outside nature has been built up out of what has been thrust forth from man. Time and again in our studies we have gone back to the ancient Saturn period, where we found that there was nothing in existence apart from man, who, as it were, thrust forth the other kingdoms of nature: the plants, the animals, and so on. In that evolution man built up his organs in accordance with what they thrust forth. Even when the mineral kingdom was pushed out, certain specific inner organs arose. The heart could not have arisen if certain plants, minerals and mineral possibilities had not arisen externally in the course of time. Now what arose externally has a certain connection with what arose within. And only the person who knows of this connection can prescribe in individual cases how the macrocosmic element outside can be used in the microcosm, otherwise man will experience in a certain way that he is taking in something that is not right for him. So we have to turn to spiritual science for the actual basis of our judgment. It is always superficial to follow purely external laws taken from statistics or chemistry when prescribing dietary treatment. We need quite a different basis, for spiritual knowledge has to be active when we deal with man in health or sickness.

Then there are those types of illness, partly chronic and partly acute, which are connected with the human etheric body, and which therefore come to expression in man's glands. As a rule these illnesses have nothing to do with heredity, but a great deal to do with nationality and race. So that in the case of the illnesses originating in the etheric body and appearing as glandular complaints, we must always ask whether the illness is occurring in a Russian, an Italian, a Norwegian or a Frenchman. For these illnesses are connected with the national character and therefore take quite different forms. Thus for example a great mistake is being made in the field of medicine, for over the whole of Western Europe they have a completely wrong view of spinal consumption. Although they have the right judgment of it for the West [Europeans, they are quite wrong about it where the East European population is concerned, because it has quite a different origin there, as even these things still vary considerably nowadays. Now you will realise that the mixture of peoples affords us a certain survey. Only the person who can distinguish differences in human nature can make any judgment at all. These illnesses are simply treated externally today and lumped together with acute illnesses, whilst they really belong to quite a different field. Above all we must know that the human organs that come under the influence of the etheric body, and which can fall sick as a result of irregularities of the etheric body, have quite definite relationships with one another. There is for instance a certain relationship between a man's heart and his brain which can be described in a somewhat pictorial way by saying that this mutual relationship of the heart and the brain corresponds to the relationship of the sun and the moon — the heart being the sun and the brain the moon. So we have to know, if a disturbance occurs in the heart for instance, that in so far as this is rooted in the etheric body it is bound to have an effect on the brain. Just as when something happens on the sun, an eclipse for instance, the moon is bound to be affected. It is no different, for these things have a direct connection.

In occult medicine these things are also described by applying the images of the planets to the constellation of man's organs. Thus the heart is the sun, the brain the moon, the spleen saturn, the liver jupiter, the gall mars, the kidneys venus and the lungs mercury. If you study the mutual relationships of the planets you have an image of the mutual relationships of man's organs in so far as they are in the etheric body. The gall could not possibly ail — and this would show spiritually in the etheric body — without the illness having its effect on the other organs mentioned, in fact if the gall is described as mars, its effect would be similar to the effect of mars in our planetary system. You have to know the interconnections of the organs when there is an etheric illness, and yet these are principally those illnesses — and from this you will see that any form of one-sidedness must be avoided in the field of occultism — for which specific remedies are to be used. This is the place to use the remedies you find in the plants and minerals. For everything belonging to the plants and minerals has a profound importance for everything to do with the human etheric body. So when we know an illness has arisen in the etheric body, and it appears in a certain way in the glandular system, we must find the remedy that can correctly repair the complex of interconnections. Particularly with those illnesses where the first thing you have to look for is obviously whether they originate in the etheric body, and secondly whether they are connected with the national character, and all the organs are interconnected in a regular way, these illnesses are the first ones for which specific remedies can be used.

Now perhaps what you are imagining is that if it is necessary to send a person to another place, you will not be able to help him as a rule if he is tied to a job and cannot move. The psychological method is indeed always effective. What is called the psychological method works best of all when the Illness is actually in a person's ego being. Thus when a chronic illness of this type occurs, one that is in the blood, psychological remedies are justified. And if they are carried out in the right way, their effect on the ego will entirely compensate for what impinges on him from outside. Wherever you look you will be able to see the subtle connection between what a man experiences in his soul when he is habitually working behind a work bench and when he gets the chance to enjoy country air for a short while. The joy that lends wings to his soul can be called a psychological method in the widest sense. Then, if the therapist is carrying out his method properly, he can gradually exercise his own influence in place of this, and psychological methods have their strongest justification for this form of illness and should not be overlooked, because most of the illnesses came from an irregularity of the ego being of man.

Then we come to the illnesses arising out of irregularities of the astral body. Although purely psychological methods can be used, they certainly lose their greatest value, therefore they are seldom used for these. Dietary remedies apply here. The type of illness we described in third place are actually the first in which we are justified in using external medicines to assist the course of recovery. If we see man as the complicated being he is, the treatment of illnesses will also be a broad-minded one, and one-sidedness will be avoided.

The only illnesses left now are those that actually originate in the physical body itself, having to do with the physical body, and these are the actual infectious diseases. This is an important chapter and will be considered in greater detail in one of the coming lectures, after we have first of all dealt with the real origin of “Ten Commandments”. For you will see that this really has a connection. Today, therefore, I can only just mention that there is this fourth type of illness, and that a deeper understanding of these involves knowing the nature of everything connected with the human physical body. The basis of these illnesses is not physical but very much of a spiritual nature. When we have looked at the fourth type we shall still not have finished with all the important illnesses, for we shall see that human karma also plays in. That is a fifth category to be considered.

Let us say, then, that we shall gradually attain an understanding of the five different forms of human illness, that stem from the ego, the astral body, the etheric body and the physical body, and also from karmic causes. The sphere of medicine will not improve until this whole sphere includes a knowledge of the higher members of man's being. Up to now we have not had a medical practice that has really come to grips with what is at stake. Although, as with many another occult insight, these things have to be brought up to date and put in a modern form, you must realise that this wisdom is, in some respects, not new.

Medicine arose from spiritual knowledge and has become more and more materialistic. And perhaps in no other science can we see so clearly how materialism has overtaken mankind. In earlier times people were at least conscious of the fact that they had to have a knowledge of man's fourfold being in order to understand it. There have been instances of materialism before, of course, and even earlier than four hundred years ago clairvoyants observed materialistic thinking arising all around them in this sphere. Paracelsus, for instance, who is taken for a madman or dreamer and not understood at all today, drew full attention to the increasing materialism of medical science centred in Salerno, Montpellier, Paris and also certain parts of Germany. And just because of his responsible position in the world, Paracelsus felt compelled — as we do today — to draw attention to the difference between medicine based on spiritual knowledge or on materialism. Perhaps it is even more difficult nowadays to achieve anything with paracelsian thinking. For in those days the materialistic approach to medicine was not so rigidly opposed to the paracelsian approach as materialistic science is today to any insight into the real, spiritual nature of man. What Paracelsus said about this, therefore, still applies today, though its significance would be less readily recognised. If we look at the opinions held today by the people working at the dissecting benches and in laboratories, and at the way research is applied to the understanding of man in health and in sickness, we could, to a certain extent, react similarly to the way Paracelsus did. It might not be appropriate, though, to add a plea for understanding and forgiveness, too, perhaps, as Paracelsus did to his local contemporaries in the medical sphere — that is, with any real hope of forgiveness. For Paracelsus himself said he was not a man of good breeding, nor had he moved in high circles; he lacked grace and refinement, therefore he would be forgiven if what he said was not always couched in the best language. Whilst discoursing on the nature of the different illnesses Paracelsus said the following about the foreign and also the German medical doctors: “It is a bad business, all those foreign doctors, to name those in Montpellier, Salerno and Paris, who want to have all the credit and pour scorn on everybody else, yet they themselves know nothing and can do nothing, and it is common knowledge that it is nothing but talk and show. They are not ashamed of their enemas and purgatives, and rely on them even if the patient is dying. They boast about all the anatomy they know, and they cannot even see the tartar on people's teeth, let alone anything else. Fine doctors they are, even without spectacles on their noses. What kind of eyesight and anatomy have you got? You can do no earthly good with them, and see no further than your own noses. They work so hard, too, those German swindlers and thieves of doctors and newly-hatched fools, that when they have seen everything, they know less than they did before. So they choke in filth and corpses and afterwards put on holy airs — they ought to be thrown to the rabble!”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Be The Dove

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

The Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

For God so loved the world

John 3:16-21
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.


Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, November 2, 1908:

Today let us look at one of those aspects of spiritual science that show us how well qualified anthroposophy is to throw light on life in the widest sense. Not only does this knowledge help us understand everyday life, it also throws light on the great span of human existence that includes the time between death and a new birth.
Spiritual science can be of great help to us just where daily life is concerned; it can help us solve many problems and show us how to cope with life. Those people who cannot see into the depths of existence fail to understand many things they are encountering every moment of the day. The questions that cannot be answered out of sense experience mount up, and, being unanswered, remain problems that have a disturbing effect on life, breeding discontent. Being discontented in life, however, can never serve man's evolution nor his true welfare. We could enumerate hundreds of such life problems that are far more deeply illuminating than people usually imagine.
A word that contains many such problems is the word ‘forgetting’. You all know it as the word indicating the opposite of what we call the retaining of a mental image or a thought or impression. Certainly you will all have had some distressing experiences with what is conveyed by the word forgetting. You will all know the annoying experience you often have if one or another idea or impression has, as we say, slipped your memory. You may then have wondered why such a thing as forgetting has to belong to the phenomena of life.
Now it is only with the help of the facts of occult life that you can get answers to a thing like this, that is, answers that are of any value. You know, of course, that memory or remembering has something to do with what we call man's etheric body. So we can also assume that the opposite of memory, namely forgetting, will have something to do with the etheric body. Perhaps we are justified in asking if there is any significance in the fact that the things a human being has had at some time in his life of thought can also be forgotten? Or do we have to be satisfied with characterising forgetting in a purely negative way, as so often happens, and say that it is a defect of the human soul not to be able to remember everything all the time? We shall only throw light on forgetting by turning our attention to its opposite and considering the nature and significance of memory.
If we say that memory has something to do with the etheric body, we ought to ask ourselves how it happens that the etheric body acquires this task of retaining the impressions and thoughts in man, when the etheric body is present in plants where it has an essentially different task? We have often spoken of the fact that in contrast to the stone a plant has its whole material nature permeated by an etheric body. And this etheric body in the plant is the principle of life in a restricted sense, and also the principle of repetition. If the plant were only subject to the activity of the etheric body, then, beginning from the root of the plant, the leaf principle would repeat indefinitely. It is due to the etheric body that the parts of a living entity repeat again and again, for it is the etheric body that wants to keep on reproducing the same thing. That is why life has such a thing as so-called propagation, the bringing forth of its own kind, for this is due fundamentally to an activity of the etheric body. Everything depending on repetition in man or animal is attributable to the etheric principle.
The repetition of one vertebra after another in the spine comes from this activity of the etheric body. The termination of the plant's growth at the top, and the gathering up of its whole growth in the blossom is due to the astrality of the earth descending from without into the growth of the plant. The fact that in man the vertebrae of the spine widen and become the hollow bones of the cranium arises through the activity of man's astral body. So we can say that everything which brings things to a conclusion is subject to the astral principle and all repetition to the etheric principle. The plant has this etheric body, and man has it too. Of course there can be no question of memory in the plant. For to assert that the plant has a kind of unconscious memory with which it notes what the leaf it produced was like, grows a little further and then produces the next leaf on the pattern of the first, this kind of assertion leads to the strange illusions seen today in a recent trend of natural science. Some people even say that heredity is due to a kind of unconscious memory. We could almost call this bringing nonsense into natural scientific literature, for to speak of memory in the plant is actually sheer dilettantism on a higher level.
It is with the etheric body, which is the principle of repetition, that we are concerned. To be able to grasp the difference between the plant's etheric body and man's, which, in addition to the qualities of the plant's etheric body also has the capacity to develop memory, we shall have to become clear about the fundamental difference between a plant and a human being. Imagine planting a seed in the earth; out of it a quite definite plant will arise. From a grain of wheat a wheat stalk and ears will grow, and out of a bean will come a bean plant. You will have to admit that the plant's development is in a certain way irrevocably determined by the nature of the seed. It is true that the gardener may bring his influence to bear on it and alter and improve the plant by means of all sorts of horticultural methods. But that is really an exception to the rule, and is only of minor significance compared with the fact that a particular seed will produce a plant of a definite shape and growth. Is this also the case with man? Up to a point this is certainly so, but only up to a certain point. When a human being arises out of the embryo we see that his development is also enclosed within certain limits. Negroes come from negro parents, white children from white parents, and we could add various other examples to show that human development, just like the plant's, is also enclosed within certain limits. This limit, however, only extends as far as the physical, etheric and astral nature. Certain things can be traced in the permanent habits and temperamental nature of a child that show similarities with the temperament and instincts of his ancestors. But if the human being were just as enclosed within the limits of a certain form of growth as the plant is, then there would be no such thing as education, as the development of soul and spiritual qualities. If you imagine two children who have different parents but who are very similar with regard to ability and external characteristics, and then imagine that one of these children is neglected and does not have much education, while the other is carefully brought up and sent to a good school where his capacities are properly developed, you could not possibly say that this development of the child's capacities was already there in embryonic form as with a bean. The bean grows from the seed in any case without our needing to educate it. That belongs to its nature. Plants cannot be educated, but human beings can. We can pass something on to the human being and put something into him, whereas we cannot put anything of the kind into a plant. Why is this? Because the etheric body of the plant always has a certain finite number of inner laws which unfold from one seed to the next and have a definite round beyond which they cannot go. Man's etheric body is different. Besides the part that is used for growth, which is that part of his being that is also enclosed within certain limits like the plant, man's etheric body has as it were another part too, a free part, which does not have a natural use unless the human being is taught all kinds of things through his education, and things are thereby put into his soul which this free part of the etheric body deals with. So there is actually a part of man's etheric body that is not used by his organic nature. Man keeps this part of the etheric body for his own use; he uses it neither for growth nor for his natural organic development, but keeps it as a free organ with which he can take in the ideas of education.
Now the first thing that happens in this process of acquiring ideas is that man receives impressions. Man always has to receive impressions, for the whole of education is based on impressions and on the co-operation between etheric body and astral body. To receive impressions we need the astral body, but in order to retain these impressions, so that they do not disappear again, we need the etheric body. Even the minutest, apparently most trivial memory-picture needs the activity of the etheric body. To perceive an object you need the astral body, but to remember it when you turn your head away you have to have the etheric body. The astral body is necessary for perception, but to have an idea, a mental image, you need the etheric body. Even though very little activity of the etheric body is necessary for the retaining of ideas, so little that it hardly need be taken into account until it comes to permanent habits, inclinations, changes of temperament and so on, you still need the etheric body for remembering. It must be there for you to so much as remember one single mental image. For all retaining of mental images is based in a certain sense on memory.
Now through the impressions of education, through man's spiritual development, we have put all sorts of things into this free etheric organ, and we can now ask ourselves whether this free etheric organ has any significance at all for a person's growth and development. Yes it has! The older a man becomes — not so much in his youth — all that has been incorporated into the etheric body through the impressions of education gradually begins to participate in the whole life of the human body, also in an inward way. And the best way of forming an idea of this participation is to get to know a fact that is not usually taken into account. People think that what is of a soul nature is not of much importance for man's life in general. Yet the following can happen: Suppose a man gets ill simply because he has been exposed to an unsuitable climate. Now let us imagine that this man could be ill in two different situations. One might be that he does not have much to work upon in the free part of his etheric body. Let us assume that he is a lazy fellow, on whom the outside world does not make much impression, and whose education has presented great difficulties, because things go in through one ear and out through the other. A person like this will not have so much to help him recover as another person who has an alert, lively mind, and who in his youth took in a great deal and worked well, and has therefore provided well for the free part of his etheric body. It will, of course, still have to be proved by external medicine why the process of recovery meets with greater difficulties in the one than in the other. This free part of the etheric body that has grown energetic through many impressions asserts itself, and its inner mobility contributes to the healing process. In innumerable cases people owe their rapid or painless recovery to the fact that when they were young they received impressions with lively interest. There you see the influence the mind has on the body! In the case of recovery from an illness, it makes the world of difference if we have to deal with a man who goes through life with a dull mind, or with a man whose free etheric body, instead of being heavy and lethargic has remained alive. You can see this for yourself if you look at the world with your eyes open and notice how mentally lazy and mentally active people behave when they are ill.
You see then that man's etheric body is something quite different from a mere plant's. The plant lacks this free part of the etheric body which furthers the development of man, in fact man's whole development depends on his having this free part of the etheric body. If you compare the beans of thousands of years ago with the beans of today, you will notice a certain difference, of course, but beans have basically retained the same form. If, however, you compare the people of Europe in the time of Charlemagne with people today: why do present day people have such different thoughts and feelings? It is because they have always had a free part of their etheric body with which they could take something in and transform their nature. All this holds good in general. Now we must look at the way all that we have been describing works in particular instances.
Let us take the case of a man who cannot obliterate from his memory an impression he receives, and so the impression just stays there. It would be a strange thing if you had to think that everything that had made an impression on you since your childhood, every day of your life, from morning till night, were always in your mind. You know of course that it is only present after death for a certain time. And there is a good reason for it then. But man forgets it during life. All of you have not only forgotten innumerable things that happened to you when you were little, but also a lot of things that happened last year, and even a certain amount that happened yesterday. A mental image that has gone from your memory, that you have “forgotten”, has by no means disappeared from your whole being, your whole spiritual organism. Far from it. If you saw a rose yesterday and have now forgotten it, the picture of the rose is still in you, as well as all the other impressions you have received, even though they have been forgotten by your immediate consciousness.
Now there is a tremendous difference between a mental image whilst it is in our memory and after we have forgotten it. So let us imagine a mental picture we have formed of an external impression, and now have in our consciousness. Then let us see with our soul's eye how it gradually disappears and is forgotten. It is there nevertheless, and remains within the whole spiritual organism. What does it do there? What does this so-called forgotten image do? It has a very important function. From the moment of being forgotten it begins to work in the right way on the free part of the etheric body we have been speaking about, and make it serviceable for man. It is as though it were not digested until then. As long as the human being uses it for acquiring knowledge it does not yet work inwardly to bring life into the free etheric organ. The moment it sinks into oblivion it begins to work. So it can be said that work is continually in progress in and upon the free part of the etheric body. And what is it that does the work? It is the forgotten ideas! That is the great blessing of forgetting! As long as a mental image remains in your memory you connect it with an object. If you observe a rose and carry the mental image of it in your memory, you connect the image of the rose with the outer object. The image is thus chained to the external object and has to send it its inner force. The moment you forget the image, however, you set it free. Then it begins to develop germinal forces which work inwardly on man's etheric body. So our forgotten memories have great significance for us. A plant cannot forget. It cannot receive impressions either, of course. It would not be able to forget, anyway, because its whole etheric body is used for growth, and there is nothing left over. If mental pictures could enter into the plant, it would still have nothing there to be developed.
Everything that happens, however, happens in conformity to law. Everything that is meant to develop and yet is not helped in its development creates a hindrance to development. Everything in an organism that is not included in its development becomes a hindrance to development. If, for instance, all kinds of substances were secreted inside the eye and could not be absorbed by the general fluid of the eye, then sight would be impaired. Nothing must be allowed to remain that cannot be taken in and absorbed. It is the same with mental impressions. If, for instance, a man could receive impressions and never get them out of his consciousness, it could easily happen that the free part of the etheric body would be undernourished and would consequently be more of a handicap than a help to a man's development. There you have the reason why it is bad for a person to lie awake at night and not be able to get certain impressions out of his mind because he is worried about something. If he could forget them they would work beneficially on his etheric body. In this case it is obvious what a blessing it would be to forget, and at the same time you have an indication of the necessity not to force yourself to remember something, but rather learn to forget it. It is the worst thing possible for a man's inner health if there are certain things he just cannot forget.
What we can say about everyday things of the moment also applies to things of an ethical-moral nature. A warm-hearted disposition that does not bear grudges is really based on this, too. Bearing resentment preys on a person's health. If someone has done us a wrong and we remember the impression it made on us every time we see him, then we relate this image to him and let it stream outwards. But if we could manage to greet him warmly next time we meet him, just as though nothing had happened, that would really do some good. It is a fact and not a fantasy that it does some good. A resentful thought like this is dull and ineffective when turned outwards, but no sooner is it turned inwards than it becomes soothing balm for many a thing in man. These things are facts, and they help us see even more meaning in the blessing of forgetting. Forgetting is not a mere defect in man but one of the most salutary things in human life. If man were only to develop his memory, and if everything that makes an impression on him were to remain in his memory, his etheric body would have more to carry, and its contents would become more and more extensive, but at the same time it would become more and more dried up. It is thanks to forgetting that man is capable of developing. Besides, no mental image is completely lost to man. This is seen best in that mighty memory picture we have immediately after death. There it becomes apparent that no impression is entirely lost.
Having touched shortly on the blessing of forgetting both in the neutral and the moral sphere of daily life, let us now consider how forgetting works in the large span of life between death and a new birth. What actually is Kamaloca, that period of transition human beings go through before entering Devachan, the spiritual world proper? Kamaloca exists because immediately after death the human being cannot forget the inclinations, desires and pleasures he had in life. At death man first of all leaves his physical body behind him. Then the mighty memory tableau I have often described stands before his soul. After two, three or at the most four days this has completely finished. Then a kind of extract of the etheric body remains. Whilst the greater part of the etheric body withdraws and dissolves in the general ether, a kind of essence or framework of the etheric body remains behind, but in a concentrated form. The astral body is the bearer of all the instincts, desires, passions, feelings, sensations and pleasures. Now the astral body would not be able to be conscious of the tormenting privations in Kamaloca if it were not for the fact that it is still connected with the remainder of the etheric body, which gives it the continued possibility of remembering what it enjoyed and desired in life. And the breaking of habit is really nothing else but a gradual forgetting of all that chains the human being to the physical world. So if man wants to enter Devachan, he must first learn to forget all that binds him to the physical world. Thus we see that man is tormented here, too, because he still has memories of the physical world. Just as worries can torment man when they refuse to leave his memory, so likewise can the inclinations and instincts that remain after death torment him, and this tormenting memory of the connections with life expresses itself in all that the human being has to pass through during his Kamaloca period. Not until he has succeeded in forgetting all his wishes and desires for things of the physical world do the achievements and fruits of his previous life appear, in readiness for the work of Devachan. There they become sculptors and overseers working on the form of the life to come. For man largely spends his time in Devachan working on the new form he is to have when he re-enters earthly life. This work of preparing his future being gives the feeling of bliss which he has throughout Devachan. When man has passed through Kamaloca he begins the groundwork for his future form. The life in Devachan is always spent in using that extract he has brought with him for constructing the prototype of his next form. He forms this prototype by working into it the fruits of the past life. He can only do this, however, by forgetting the things that made Kamaloca so difficult for him.
We have seen that the suffering and privation in Kamaloca is caused by the human being's inability to forget certain connections with the physical world, and then the physical world hovers in front of him like a memory. However, when he has passed through the waters of ‘Lethe’, the River of Forgetfulness, and has learnt to forget, the achievements and experiences of his past incarnation can be put to work to build up bit by bit the prototype of the coming life. Now the joyful bliss of Devachan begins to take the place of suffering. When worries torment us in ordinary life, and particular images remain stuck in our memory, we introduce something hard and lifeless into our etheric body which undermines our health. Similarly, after death we have something in our being which contributes to our sufferings and privations, until, through forgetting, we have rid ourselves of all connection with the physical world. Just as these forgotten memories can become a source of health in man, so can all the experiences of the past life become a source of bliss in Devachan when the human being has passed through the River of Forgetfulness and has forgotten everything that binds him to life in the world of the senses.
So we see then that these laws of forgetting and remembering are also absolutely valid for life in its broadest sense.
Now you might ask: How can a man after death have any memory pictures at all of what happened in his past life, if he must forget this life? Someone might say: Can you talk about forgetting at all, seeing that man has laid aside the etheric body with which remembering and forgetting are connected? After death, of course, remembering and forgetting assume a slightly different form. They change in such a way that a reading of the Akashic Record takes the place of ordinary remembering. The happenings of the world have not disappeared, of course, they just appear objectively. When the memory of connections with physical life vanishes in Kamaloca, these events appear in quite another form, and arise before man in the Akashic Record. Then he does not need the connection with life which comes from ordinary memory. Every question of this kind that might be asked will find an answer. But we must leave ourselves time to do this gradually, for it is impossible to have all the answers straight away at our finger tips.
Now we shall understand many a thing in everyday life, if we know about the things just discussed. Much of what belongs to the human etheric body is shown in the way the temperaments react upon man. We have said that this enduring characteristic that we call temperament also has its origin in the etheric body. Let us imagine a person who has a melancholic temperament and who never gets away from certain mental images that he is always thinking about. This is something quite different from a sanguine or a phlegmatic temperament, where the images just disappear. A melancholic temperament works detrimentally on a man's health, in the sense we have been considering, whilst a sanguine temperament can in a certain way be extremely beneficial. Of course these things must not be taken in such a way that you come to the conclusion the human being must try to forget everything. But you can see that the healthy and beneficial side of a sanguine or phlegmatic temperament and the unhealthy side of a melancholic temperament can be explained by these very things we have just learnt. It is natural to ask whether a phlegmatic temperament is also working in the right way. A phlegmatic who only takes in trivial thoughts will easily forget them. That will be good for his health. But if, on the other hand, he takes in no other thoughts than these, it will not be good for him at all. This gets rather complicated.
The question as to whether forgetting is just a defect in human nature or something useful is answered by spiritual science. And we see, too, that strong moral impulses can follow from the knowledge of such things. If a man believes it is for his good — and this has to be taken quite objectively — to be able to forget insults and injuries done to him, then quite a different impulse will work in him. But as long as he believes that it does not make any difference, then no amount of preaching will help. When he knows, however, that he ought to forget for the sake of his well-being, he will let this impulse work on him in quite a different way. You need not immediately call it egoistic; it would be better to express it this way: If I am ill and feeble, and if I ruin my health spiritually, psychologically and physically, I am of no use to the world. We can also consider the question of well-being from an entirely different point of view. If a man is a thoroughgoing egoist he will not profit much from such considerations. But whoever has the good of humanity at heart and is therefore intent on working for it — and also, indirectly, has his own good at heart — if he is in a position to think about this, he will also draw moral fruits from such considerations. And we shall see that if spiritual science works into human life by showing man the truth about specific spiritual circumstances, it will give man the greatest ethical-moral impulses, such as no other knowledge and no merely external moral commands can do. Knowledge of the facts of the spiritual world, as imparted by spiritual science is, therefore, a powerful impulse which also in regard to the moral realm can bring about the greatest progress in human life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Piercing the Veil of Maya: The Redemption of Thinking

Rudolf Steiner, June 14, 1921:

"The intellectual comprehension of the world gives people the illusion that they can, with the content that they have put into their souls, become clear about the whole world: they they can reduce everything to intellectual concepts. For this reason, intellectuals, when they have their intellectual concepts, feel that they possess the whole world. Because such people have given themselves up to the illusion that they have grasped the whole world, they feel themselves intellectually satisfied precisely because of this universal intellectual element. They believe they need nothing more to understand and sense the world. You can understand that preceisely today intellectualism can take the upper hand because people now believe that they can fit the world into intellectual concepts. At the same time, because people are satisfied because they seem to have gotten the whole world into their 'I,' they lose their social connection with the rest of the world. The social element is atomized, split up into each individual. This situation exists throughout the Youth Movement, because, through their intellectualism, young people simply separate themselves into individual 'atoms,' each wanting his or her own religious creed. People are so absorbed with this that they are certain that the religious element cannot reach beyond their own skin. This shows that it is precisely this universal intellectual life that splits and atomizes the religious life and must therefore end in undermining religious life through the particular form modern science has taken. Here the most powerful force for the downfall of religious life exists among university theologians and other teachers of theology who have taken contemporary scientific thinking as adequate to understand the facts of religion as such. Not even laypeople today do as much to undermine the religious life as modern theology does."

Source: First Steps in Christian Religious Renewal, pp. 72-73

Piercing the Veil of Maya: Bursting the Bubble of Thought

Rudolf Steiner, June 14, 1921:

"We need hardly wonder that religious life is suppressed when we have a science that simply can no longer speak of the eternal at all. And the rest of the culture that has arisen shows to an even greater extent that science has become only a sparkling bauble, a glittering froth of thinking that has appeared everywhere in human culture."

Source: First Steps in Christian Religious Renewal, p. 77

Wisdom: The spiritual foundation of morality

from The Spiritual Foundation of Morality. Lecture 3 of 3.

Rudolf Steiner, May 30, 1912:

...Let us now ask: How can the sentient soul turn to one side or the other, away from what is right? The sentient soul is that quality in man which enables him to perceive the objective world, to take it into himself, to take part in it, not to pass through the world ignorant of all the diversified objects it contains, but to go through the world in such a way that he forms a relationship with them. All this is brought about by the sentient soul. We find one side to which man can deviate with the sentient soul when we enquire: What makes it possible for man to enter into relationship with the objective world? It is what may be called interest in the different things, and by this word “interest” something is expressed which in a moral sense is extremely important. It is much more important that one should bear in mind the moral significance of interest than that one should devote oneself to thousands of beautiful moral axioms, which may be only paltry and hypocritical. Let it be clearly understood that our moral impulses are in fact never better guided than when we take a proper interest in objects and beings. In our last lecture we spoke in a deeper sense of love as an impulse, and in such a way that we cannot now be misunderstood if we say that the usual, oft-repeated declamation “love, love, and again love” cannot replace the moral impulse contained in what may be described by the word interest.
Let us suppose that we have a child before us. What is the condition primary to our devotion to this child? What is the first condition to our educating the child? It is that we take an interest in it. There is something unhealthy or abnormal in the human soul if a person withdraws himself from something in which he takes an interest. It will more and more be recognized that the impulse of interest is a quite specially golden impulse in the moral sense the further we advance to the actual foundations of morality and do not stop at the mere preaching of morals. Our inner powers are also called forth as regards mankind when we extend our interests, when we are able to transpose ourselves with understanding into beings and objects.
Even sympathy is awakened in the right manner if we take an interest in a being; and if, as anthroposophists, we set ourselves the task of extending our interests more and more and of widening our mental horizon, this will promote the universal brotherhood of mankind. Progress is not gained by the mere preaching of universal love, but by the extension of our interests further and further, so that we come to interest ourselves increasingly in souls with widely different characters, racial and national peculiarities, with widely different temperaments, and holding widely differing religious and philosophical views, and approach them with understanding. Right interest, right understanding, calls forth from the soul the right moral action.
Here also we must hold the balance between two extremes. One extreme is apathy, which passes everything by and occasions immense moral mischief in the world. An apathetic person only lives in himself, obstinately insisting on his own principles, and saying: This is my standpoint. In a moral sense this insistence upon a standpoint is always bad. The essential thing is for us to have an open mind for all that surrounds us. Apathy separates us from the world, while interest unites us with it. The world loses us through our apathy: in this direction we become unmoral. Thus we see that apathy and lack of interest in the world are morally evil in the highest degree.
Anthroposophy is something which makes the mind ever more active, helps us to think with greater readiness of what is spiritual and to take it into ourselves. Just as it is true that warmth comes from the fire when we light a stove, so it is true that interest in humanity and the world comes when we study spiritual science. Wisdom is the fuel for interest, and we may say, although this may perhaps not be evident without further explanation, that Anthroposophy arouses this interest in us when we study those more remote subjects: the teachings concerning the evolutionary stages through Saturn, Sun, and Moon; the meaning of karma; and so on. It really comes about that interest is produced as the result of anthroposophical knowledge, while from materialistic knowledge comes something which in a radical manner must be described as apathy and which, if it alone were to hold sway in the world, would, of necessity, do untold harm.
See how many people go through the world and meet this or that person, but really do not get to know him, for they are quite shut up in themselves. How often do we find that two people have been friends for a long time and then suddenly there comes a rupture. This is because the friendship had a materialistic foundation and only after the lapse of time did they discover that they were mutually unsympathetic. At the present time very few people have the “hearing” ear for that which speaks from man to man; but Anthroposophy should bring about an expansion of our perceptions, so that we shall gain a “seeing” eye and an open mind for all that is human around us and so we shall not go through the world apathetically, but with true interest.
We also avoid the other extreme by distinguishing between true and false interests, and thus observe the happy mean. Immediately to throw oneself, as it were, into the arms of each person we meet is to lose oneself passionately in the person; that is not true interest. If we do this, we lose ourselves to the world. Through apathy the world loses us; through uncontrolled passion we lose ourselves to the world. But through healthy, devoted interest we stand morally firm in the center, in the state of balance.
In the third post-Atlantean age of civilization, that is, in the Chaldaic-Egyptian age, there still existed in a large part of humanity on Earth a certain power to hold the balance between apathy and the passionate intoxicating devotion to the world; and it is this which in ancient times, and also by Plato and Aristotle, was called wisdom. But people looked upon this wisdom as the gift of superhuman beings, for up to that time the ancient impulses of wisdom were active. Therefore, from this point of view, especially relating to moral impulses, we may call the third post-Atlantean age the age of instinctive wisdom. You will perceive the truth of what was said last year, though with a different intention, in the Copenhagen lectures on The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind. In those lectures we showed how, in the third post-Atlantean age, mankind still stood nearer to the divine spiritual powers. And that which drew mankind closer to the divine spiritual powers was instinctive wisdom.
Thus it was a gift of the gods to find at that time the happy mean in action, between apathy and sensuous passionate devotion. This balance, this equilibrium, was at that time still maintained through external institutions. The complete intermingling of humanity which came about in the fourth age of post-Atlantean development through the migrations of various peoples did not yet exist. Mankind was still divided into smaller peoples and tribes. Their interests were wisely regulated by nature, and were so far active that the right moral impulses could penetrate; and on the other hand, through the existence of blood kinsmanship in the tribe, an obstacle was placed in the way of passion. Even today one cannot fail to observe that it is easiest to show interest within blood-relationship and common descent, but in this there is not what is called sensuous passion. As people were gathered together in relatively small tracts of country in the Egypto-Chaldaic age, the wise and happy mean was easily found.
But the idea of the progressive development of humanity is that that which originally was instinctive, which was only spiritual, shall gradually disappear and that man shall become independent of the divine spiritual powers. Hence we see that even in the fourth post-Atlantean age, the Graeco-Latin age, not only the philosophers Plato and Aristotle, but also public opinion in Greece, considered wisdom as something which must be gained, as something which is no longer the gift of the gods, but after which man must strive. According to Plato, the first virtue is wisdom, and according to him, he who does not strive after wisdom is unmoral.
We are now in the fifth post-Atlantean age. We are still far from the time when the wisdom instinctively implanted in humanity as a divine impulse will be raised into consciousness. Hence in our age people are specially liable to err in both the directions we have mentioned, and it is therefore particularly necessary that the great dangers to be found at this point should be counteracted by a spiritual conception of the world, so that what man once possessed as instinctive wisdom may now become conscious wisdom. The Anthroposophical Movement is to contribute to this end.
The gods once gave wisdom to the unconscious human soul, so that it possessed this wisdom instinctively, whereas now we have first to learn the truths about the cosmos and about human evolution. The ancient customs were also fashioned after the thoughts of the gods.
We have the right view of Anthroposophy when we look upon it as the investigations of the thoughts of the gods. In former times these flowed instinctively into man, but now we have to investigate them, to make the knowledge of them our own. In this sense Anthroposophy must be sacred to us; we must be able to consider reverently that the ideas imparted to us are really something divine, and something which we human beings are allowed to think and reflect upon as the divine thoughts according to which the world has been ordered. When Anthroposophy stands in this aspect to us we can then consider the knowledge it imparts in such a way that we understand that it has been given us so as to enable us to fulfill our mission. Mighty truths are made known to us when we study what has been imparted concerning the evolutions of Saturn, Sun, and Moon, concerning reincarnation, and the development of the various races, etc. But we only assume the right attitude toward it when we say: The thoughts we seek are the thoughts wherewith the gods have guided evolution. We think the evolution of the gods. If we understand this correctly we are overwhelmed by something that is deeply moral. This is inevitable. Then we say: In ancient times man had instinctive wisdom from the gods, who gave him the wisdom according to which they fashioned the world, and morality thus became possible. But through Anthroposophy we now acquire this wisdom consciously. Therefore we may also trust that in us it shall be transformed into moral impulses, so that we do not merely receive anthroposophical wisdom, but a moral stimulus as well.