Even within the limits enjoined upon us by discretion at the present time when one speaks of these matters, one cannot discuss the Mystery of Evil without profound emotion. For here we touch upon one of the deepest mysteries of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, upon something which meets with little understanding today. Man's sensitivity to these things is but little developed as yet. Nonetheless, in all the so-called secret societies of recent times repeated attempts have been made to give certain indications, in the form of symbols, of the Mystery of Evil and the Mystery of Death which is related to it. But since the last third of the nineteenth century these symbolical representations have seldom been treated seriously, even in the Masonic communities, or have been treated in the manner I indicated here two years ago with reference to important events of the present day.
The indications I gave on that occasion were not without a deeper motive, for he who understands these things knows what unplumbed depths of human nature we touch upon here. There is ample evidence that in reality the will to understand these things scarcely exists today. But the will to understand will assuredly come with time and we must ensure by every means at our command that it is awakened. When speaking of these matters one must sometimes give the impression of wanting to criticize certain aspects of the contemporary scene. Even what I said yesterday, for example, on the subject of the ideological aspirations of the bourgeoisie since the last third of the nineteenth century can also be regarded as a criticism if taken superficially. Nothing of what is said here is intended as a criticism; I simply wish to characterize, so that we are aware of what forces and impulses have been operative. From a certain point of view it was necessary that these impulses should predominate. One could show that it was a historical necessity that the bourgeoisie of Europe should remain asleep from the forties to the end of the seventies. Nonetheless, the knowledge of this ‘cultural sleep’ ought to have a positive effect; it ought to awaken today certain impulses of cognition and volition which will prepare the ground for the future.
In the present epoch of the Consciousness Soul two mysteries (as I have already indicated, I can only speak of them within certain limits) are of particular importance for the evolution of mankind — the Mystery of Death and the Mystery of Evil. From a certain angle the Mystery of Death, which is related to the Mystery of Evil during the present epoch, immediately raises the vital question: what is the meaning of death for human evolution?
I recently said once again that what passes for science today takes the line of least resistance in these questions. For most scientists death is simply cessation of life, irrespective of whether it is the death of a plant, animal or human being. Spiritual science however cannot take the easy road by treating everything alike. Otherwise the death of a human being could be equated with the end of a clock. For man death is something totally different from the death of other beings. We can only understand the phenomenon of death against the background of those forces which are operative in the universe and which, when they lay hold of man, are responsible for his physical death. Certain forces, certain impulses are active in the universe: without them man could not suffer death. Man is part of the universe; these forces also permeate him and when they are active in him they cause his death. The question now arises: what do these forces which are active in the universe accomplish apart from bringing death to humanity? It would be a mistake to imagine that their sole purpose is to bring death to man; that is only a secondary effect. It would never occur to anyone to say: the function of a railway engine is to wear down the rails. Yet that is what actually happens, the engine gradually wears down the rails, it cannot do otherwise. But that is not its function — it is designed for a different purpose. If one were to define a locomotive as a machine whose function is to wear down the rails, one would obviously be talking nonsense. Nonetheless there is no denying the fact that there is a connection between the wearing down of the track and the nature of the locomotive. It would be equally mistaken to say that the forces in the universe which bring death to man exist for this sole purpose. This is only a secondary effect. Their real function is to endow man with the capacity to develop the Consciousness Soul. You see how close is the connection between the Mystery of Death and the evolution of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch [the present], and how important it is that in this fifth post-Atlantean epoch the Mystery of Death should be revealed to all. For the task of the forces which as a secondary effect bring death to man is to implant in him, in the course of his evolution, not the Consciousness Soul itself, but the capacity to develop the Consciousness Soul.
This leads not only to an understanding of the Mystery of Death, but also encourages us to think precisely in matters of importance. In many respects modern thinking — and again this is not intended as a criticism, I merely wish to characterize — is, if I may use the familiar expression which is much to the point, simply ‘sloppy’. The thinking current in modern science is almost without exception typical of the kind of thinking that says: the function of the locomotive is to wear down the rails. Most scientific pronouncements today are on this level. Such thinking will prove to be inadequate if we wish to create in the future a state of affairs beneficial to mankind. And in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul this can only be achieved in full consciousness.
I must constantly remind you that this is a truth of profound importance for our time. We frequently hear of people who, drawing upon a seeming fund of wisdom, suggest various social and economic measures, in the belief that it is still possible today to make these recommendations without the help of spiritual science. Only those who think in contemporary terms, in conformity with the needs of the time, realize that all proposals for a future structure of society which are not grounded in spiritual science are a snare and delusion. Only those who are fully aware of this think in conformity with the needs of the time. Those who still listen to the various learned discourses on political economy which are devoid of spiritual content are asleep to the demands of our time.
These forces, which must be described as the forces of death, took possession of man's corporeal nature in earlier times — how, you will find in my book An Outline Occult Science. They first penetrated into his soul life at that time. For the remainder of his earth evolution man must assimilate these forces of death, and in the course of the present epoch their influence upon him will be such that he brings to full expression in himself the faculty of the Consciousness Soul.
The method I adopted when enquiring into the Mystery of Death, i.e. into the forces which are active in the universe and bring death to man, is equally valid for indicating the forces of evil. Even the forces of evil are not designed to promote evil actions within the human order — that again is only a secondary effect. If these forces did not exist in the universe man could not develop the Consciousness Soul; he would be unable to receive as he should in the course of his future evolution the forces of the Spirit-Self, the Life-Spirit and the Spirit-Man. He must first pass through the stage of the Consciousness Soul if he wishes to receive after his own fashion the forces of the Spirit-Self, the Life-Spirit and the Spirit-Man. And to this end he must, in the course of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, i.e. up to the middle of the fourth millennium, fully unite his being with the forces of death. This lies within his power. But he cannot unite his own being with the forces of evil in the same way. The forces of evil in the cosmos are such that only in the Jupiter epoch will he be able to assimilate them as he now assimilates the forces of death. One can say therefore that the forces of evil act upon man with less intensity, they take possession of only a part of his being. In order to understand the nature of these forces of evil we must not look to their external effects, but must look for evil where it reveals its true nature, where it acts as it must of necessity, because the forces which appear as evil in the universe also play into man. And here we touch upon something that can be spoken of only with deep emotion, something we can only express if we assume at the same time that it will be received with the greatest seriousness. If we wish to enquire into evil in man we must not look for it in the evil actions of society, but in evil tendencies. We must first of all ignore completely the consequences of these tendencies which are manifested more or less in a particular individual and turn our attention to the evil tendencies themselves. The question then arises: in which people are evil tendencies active in our present fifth post-Atlantean epoch, those tendencies which, in their secondary effects, are so clearly manifested in evil actions?
We receive the answer to our question when we attempt to cross what is called the ‘threshold of the guardian’ and to acquire a real understanding of the being of man. And the answer is this: since the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, evil tendencies are subconsciously present in all men. It is precisely this influx of evil tendencies into people that marks his entrance into the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Expressed somewhat radically one could say with every justification: he who crosses the threshold of the spiritual world discovers that there is not a crime in the calendar to which every man, in so far as he belongs to the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, is not subconsciously prone. Whether in a particular case this tendency leads to an evil action depends upon wholly different circumstances and not upon the tendency itself. If we are to tell mankind the plain unvarnished truth today, we cannot escape unpalatable facts.
The pressing question then arises: what is the purpose of these forces which induce evil tendencies in man, what is the purpose of these forces in the universe when they first infiltrate man's being? They are certainly not present in the universe in order to provoke evil acts in human society. (The reason why they promote evil acts will be discussed later.) These forces of evil do not exist in the universe for the sole purpose of inducing people to commit criminal acts any more than the forces of death exist simply to bring death to man; their function is to awaken in man, when he is called upon to develop the Consciousness Soul, the tendency to open himself to the spirit.
Man must assimilate these forces of evil which are operative in the universe. By so doing he implants in his being the seed which enables him to experience the spirit consciously. The purpose of these forces of evil which are perverted by the social order is to enable man to break through to the spirit at the level of the Consciousness Soul. If he did not open himself to these tendencies to evil he would not succeed in consciously developing the impulse to receive from the universe the spirit which henceforth must fertilize the whole sphere of cultural life if it is not to perish. Our best course is to consider first of all what is to become of those forces of which the evil actions of men are a caricature and to ask ourselves what is destined to happen in the course of the evolution of mankind under the influence of these forces which, at the same time, are the source of evil tendencies.
When one speaks of these things one must touch upon the very core of human evolution. At the same time they are related to the calamities that have overtaken mankind at the present time and will still befall it. For those disasters, like flashes of summer lightning, are harbingers of quite other things that are destined to overtake humanity — lightning flashes that today often reveal the reverse of what is destined to happen. These observations are not a reason for pessimism, but rather should serve to arouse us and stimulate us to action.
Perhaps we shall best achieve our purpose if we start from a concrete phenomenon. I spoke yesterday of an important impulse in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul — the development of an active concern on the part of every man for his neighbour. This mutual concern for each other must grow and develop in the course of man's subsequent evolution on earth, especially in four domains. First, as man prepares his future development, he will see his fellow man in a progressively different light. Today, when a little over a fifth of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul has run its course, man still shows little inclination to see his fellow man as he will have to learn to see him in the course of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul, up to the fourth millennium. People still ignore the most important element in others, they have no real understanding of their neighbour. In this connection they have not taken full advantage of what art has implanted in their souls in the course of their different incarnations. Much can be learned by studying the development of art and on different occasions I have given indications of what can be learned from the evolution of art. If one observes the symptoms, as I have urged in these lectures, it is undeniable that in almost every branch of art artistic creation and appreciation are at a low ebb. Everything that has been undertaken in the field of art in recent decades clearly demonstrates that art is passing through a period of decadence. The most important contribution of art to the evolution of mankind is the training it provides for an understanding of future problems.
Every branch of culture, of course, has many ramifications and consequently all kinds of secondary effects, but art by its very nature embodies something that leads to a deeper and more concrete understanding of humanity. He who makes a thorough study of the artistic forms in painting and sculpture, or of the nature of the inner rhythms in music and poetry, as the artists themselves often fail to do today — he who has a deep inner experience of art is imbued with something which enables him to understand the human being in his image-nature. In the epoch of the Consciousness Soul mankind must develop the capacity to comprehend man symbolically. You are already familiar with some of the basic principles of this symbolical understanding. When we look at the human head we are reminded of man's earliest beginnings. Just as a dream is seen as a memory of the sensory world and thereby receives its characteristic stamp, so for those who understand reality everything pertaining to the sensory world is an image of the spiritual. We must learn to perceive the spiritual archetype of man through his image-nature. In future man will become to some extent transparent to his fellows. The form of his head, his gait, will awaken in us an inner sympathy and understanding of a different nature from what we find in human tendencies today. For we shall only know man as an I-being when we have this conception of his image-nature, when we can approach him with the fundamental feeling that what the physical eyes perceive of man bears the same relation to the true super-sensible reality of man as the picture painted on canvas bears to the reality which it depicts. We must develop this fundamental feeling in ourselves.
We must approach man in such a way that we no longer see him as a combination of bones, muscles, blood, and so forth, but as the image of his eternal, spiritual being. Supposing a person walks past us; we would not recognize him if he did not awaken in us the realization of what he is as an eternal spiritual super-sensory being. This is how we shall see man and this is how we shall be able to see him in the future. When we perceive human forms and movements and all that is associated with them as an image of the eternal, we shall feel warmth or coldness and of necessity will gradually be filled with inner warmth or cold. As we go through life we shall come to know humans very intimately; towards some we shall feel warm, towards others cold. Worst of all will be the situation of those who evoke neither warmth nor cold. We shall have an inner experience of others in the warmth ether that penetrates our etheric body; this will be the reaction of the enhanced interest that must be developed between people.
A second factor must provoke even more paradoxical emotions in contemporary man who has not the slightest desire to accept these new ideas. But perhaps in the not too far distant future this antipathy will be transformed into sympathy for the right understanding of humanity. This second phase of future development will bring a totally different understanding between people. In order to achieve this the two millennia from now until the end of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch will not suffice; a longer period will be necessary, reaching into the sixth epoch. Then, to the knowledge of the I will be added a special capacity, the capacity to feel, to sense in our neighbour when we approach him his relationship to the third Hierarchy, to the angels, archangels and archai. And this will be developed through an increasing recognition that man's response to language will be different from that of the present day. The evolution of language has already passed its zenith. In reality language has already become abstract. At the present time a wave of profound untruthfulness is sweeping over the world in that attempts are being made to create institutions on a linguistic basis. People no longer have the relationship to language which reveals through language the essence of man.
I have quoted on various occasions an example which may serve as a first step towards an understanding of this matter. I cited it again in a public lecture which I gave in Zürich because it is important to draw the attention of the public to these things. I pointed out in that lecture that a surprise awaits us when we compare the articles of Herman Grimm on the methodology of history (for he was a typical representative of Central European culture) with those of Woodrow Wilson. I carried out this comparative study most conscientiously and showed that it is possible to substitute certain passages of Woodrow Wilson for passages in Hermann Grimm, for the wording is almost identical. Equally one could exchange whole passages of Grimm on historical methodology for those of Wilson on the same subject. And yet there is a radical difference between the two which we perceive when we read them without concern for the content (for the content as such, taken literally, will have increasingly less importance for mankind in the course of its future evolution). The difference is this: in Grimm, everything, even the passages with which one may not agree, are the fruit of personal endeavour; he has wrestled with them sentence by sentence, step by step. In Wilson everything seems to be prompted by his own inner daimon, which subconsciously possesses him. What is important is the source, the origin of these writings: in the one case it is directly at the threshold of consciousness, in the other case in the daimonic promptings which find their way from the subconscious into consciousness ... so that one can say: the writings of Wilson are in part the product of possession.
I quote this example in order to show you that it is no longer of significance today that the words should be identical. I always feel extremely sad when friends of our movement bring me articles of some pastor or professor and say: Do look at this, it sounds quite anthroposophical! Now in our present cultural epoch even a professor who dabbles in politics may well write things which, taken literally, of course are in keeping with the realities of our time. It is not the exact words that matter, but the region of the soul whence these things arise. It is important to discover behind the words their spiritual source. All that I have said here does not spring from a desire to lay down definite principles. It is the ‘how’ that matters. It is important that these words should be permeated by that force which derives directly from the spirit. He who finds a verbal similarity between the articles of the pastor or professor and what I have said here without feeling that my words spring from a spiritual source and are imbued with spiritual substance because they reflect the totality of the anthroposophical worldview, he who ignores this ‘how,’ fails to understand me if he does not distinguish between modern opinions that smack of Anthroposophy and Anthroposophy itself.
It is of course not very pleasant to point to examples of this kind because the tendency today is often to take the opposite course. But when we speak in earnest, if our words are not intended simply as an anodyne, a kind of cultural soporific, it is a duty, a necessity even, not to shrink from selecting such examples, though they may be distasteful to many. For those who are in earnest about the future must be prepared to face the consequences for everyone if they ignore the fact that the world may be fated to have its organization determined by a half-baked American Professor [Woodrow Wilson]. It is not easy to speak of realities today because many are satisfied with illusions. Nonetheless one speaks of realities in those spheres where it is absolutely necessary, and where it is important, or at least should be important, for man to hear of them.
People must learn to see through words; they will have to acquire the capacity to grasp the gesture in language. Before this epoch, before this fourth millennium has run its course, people will have learnt to listen to one another differently from the way they do at the present moment; they will find in language an external expression of man's relation to the third Hierarchy, to the angels, archangels and archai, a means whereby he can attain to the super-sensory, to the spirit.
And thus the soul of man will be heard through language and this will lead to a totally different community life. And a large part of the so-called forces of evil must be transformed so that it will be possible by listening to what a person says to hear the soul through the words. Then when the soul is heard through the words people will experience a peculiar sensation of colour and through this sensation of colour arising from language men of all nations will learn to understand one another. A particular sound will evoke the same sensation as the perception of the colour blue or of a blue surface. Another sound will evoke the same sensation as the perception of the colour red. The normal sensation of warmth we feel when we look at a man becomes to some extent colour when we listen to him. And we shall have to experience in ourselves what echoes from human lips to human ears on the wings of sounds. This will be experienced by man in the future.
Thirdly, people will experience inwardly the emotional reactions of others. In this respect language will play an important role — and not only language. When one person confronts another they will experience in their own respiration the emotional configuration of the other. In future time respiration will adapt itself to the affective life of the person who confronts us. In the presence of one person we shall breathe more rapidly, in the presence of another we shall breathe more slowly. According to the changing rhythm of our respiration we shall feel the kind of person with whom we are dealing. Think how the social life of the community will be cemented, how intimate corporate life will become! It will be a long time, no doubt, before this goal is achieved. It will take the whole of the sixth post-Atlantean epoch and the early years of the seventh epoch before respiration is adapted to the life of the soul. And in the seventh epoch, a part of what is now the fourth stage of development will be realized. That is, when people belong to a community of their own volition, they will have to ‘digest’ one another, if you will pardon this crude expression. When we are compelled to will this or that in common with another, or will to want it, we shall have inner experiences akin to those which we have in a primitive form today when we consume a certain food. In the sphere of will people will have to ‘digest’ one another, in the sphere of feeling to ‘breathe’ one another; in the sphere of understanding through language they will have to experience one another through sensations of colour. And people will come to know one another as I-beings when they learn to see each other as they really are.
But all these forces will be more inward, more related to the soul. They will be fully developed only in the course of the Jupiter, Venus and Vulcan epochs [future incarnations of the Earth]. The earth evolution of mankind already demands psychic and spiritual indications of this development. The present age with its strange and calamitous development is the revolt of mankind against what is destined to follow from the developments which I have just described. Because in future all particularist tendencies in society must be abandoned. Mankind rebels, and the trivial doctrine of national self-determination is noised abroad. What we are witnessing today is a revolt against the divinely ordered course of evolution, a struggle to resist the inevitable. We must be aware of these things if we are to lay a firm foundation for an understanding of the Mystery of Evil. For evil is often a secondary effect of the force that must intervene in human evolution. When a locomotive that has to cover a long distance strikes a bad section of the track, it destroys the rails and comes to a halt. In its evolution mankind is moving towards the goals I have described to you. And it is the task of the Consciousness Soul to recognize that mankind must press forward consciously to these goals. But the present tracks are badly laid and it will be some time before better lines are in position, for often people proceed to replace the old tracks by others which are not a whit better.
But, as you see, spiritual science has no wish to be pessimistic. It sets out to show man where he really stands in evolution today. But it demands nonetheless that, at least for certain solemn moments of recollection, he can renounce certain current tendencies. And because men find it so difficult to make this sacrifice, because, in spite of everything, everyone immediately reverts to his old routine, it is extremely difficult to speak frankly on these matters today. For we touch upon here — and this is characteristic of our time — problems of the nature of evil which threaten to destroy mankind today and one must constantly exhort men to wake up.
Indeed, many things can only be discussed within certain limits and in consequence much will be omitted entirely or deferred to another occasion. Let us take an example that concerns us closely and do not take it amiss if I present it in the following way. A week ago I was asked to say something on the subject of the symptomatology of Swiss history. I have given the matter most careful thought from every angle. But if I, as a foreigner, were to embark upon the symptomatology of Swiss history from the fifteenth century until the present day in the presence of Swiss nationals here in Dornach, I would find myself in a very strange situation. Let me illustrate the problem from another angle. Suppose that in July of this year (1918) someone in Germany or even in Austria had described the events and personalities as people do today, imagine what an outburst there would have been if he had portrayed five, fifteen or thirty years ago, for example, the conditions in Austria today! I am aware, therefore, that I would cause grave offense if I were to speak of Swiss history as the Swiss will speak of it here in Switzerland twenty years hence. For people cannot do otherwise, given their innate conservatism, than close their ears to what must be said from the standpoint of the future. It is true that in many spheres ordinary people — and after all we must count ourselves amongst them — especially in spheres that touch them closely, are unwilling to hear the truth. They prefer an anodyne. I assure you that I would give offense if I did not temper to some extent the subject on which I have been asked to speak. In the light of further reflection I think it is best to leave matters alone for the present. For judgements which are passed now — and from which one would dissent to some extent — are reminders that, if we wish to portray certain events today, we should do as I did yesterday. When one criticizes the Russian revolution and when one describes the relationship of the bourgeoisie to the broad masses and to the more radical elements of the extreme left, any such criticism is regarded here in Switzerland as relatively harmless, like an edifying Sunday afternoon sermon, and is tolerated. And then one can abandon oneself, I will not say to the illusion, but to the pious hope that what I have said will penetrate into a few souls and will prove more efficacious than the normal Sunday afternoon sermons ... although even in matters of moment, the experience of recent years has often demonstrated the contrary. But to comment on the immediate situation is not the task of one, who not being a Swiss national, would speak to the Swiss of their own history. When I gave a general survey of recent history in a public lecture in Zürich, I had of course to speak with a certain reserve, although I did not hesitate to indicate the radical consequences which must be drawn from the facts. It is extremely convenient for the majority of people today to look upon Woodrow Wilson as a great man, as a benefactor of mankind. But if one denies this and speaks the truth, the truth is found to be unpalatable and one is regarded as a mischief-maker! And this has always been the case with those truths which are drawn from the well-spring of the super-sensory. But today we are living in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul and it is necessary that mankind should be aware of certain truths.
There is really no point in continually repeating the obvious — that people today are not receptive to spiritual ideas. The question is not whether people are receptive or not, but whether we ourselves take the necessary steps in order to bring before mankind the necessary truths when the opportunity arises. And in addition we should harbour no illusions about the receptivity of mankind to truths. We must be quite clear that, today especially, men are seldom receptive to what is vitally necessary for them ... and that they insist upon ordering the world in a way that does not correspond with the true evolutionary impulse of our epoch. Indeed one experiences the bitterest disappointments in this domain. But one accepts them without resentment, in order to learn from them what we are to do under certain circumstances.
I will speak later of these matters in greater detail. It would have been a splendid thing if only a few people could have been found in Central Europe who, from an understanding of certain Masonic impulses, could have realized the significance of what I said here two years ago on the subject of secret societies. But, inevitably, there was no response. One cannot imagine a more sterile attitude than that of Central European Masonry in recent decades. This is shown by the fact, frequently mentioned, that one meets with resistance when one refuses to amalgamate in any way the teachings of spiritual science with the Freemasonry of Central Europe. On the other hand when a super windbag, the so-called Nietzsche specialist, Horneifer, appeared and talked solemn nonsense about symbolism and the like, he was taken seriously in many quarters. The deeper reason for all this is that certain demands are made upon those who wish to take up spiritual science, and this is by no means easy! One finds today advocates of a renewal of the spirit who explain to people that they need only lie down on a couch and relax and the higher ego, God, and heaven knows what else, will awaken in them and then there will be no need to wrestle with these terrible concepts of anthroposophically orientated spiritual science. One need only listen to one's inner voice, surrender passively, then the higher mystical ego will manifest itself and one will feel and experience the presence of God in one's self.
I have known statesmen who prefer to listen to those ‘pundits’ who recommend that they take the easy path to the higher ego rather than listen to the teachings of spiritual science. A friend told me recently that one of these pundits had said to him when he was still one of his disciples: you have no idea how stupid I am! Yet this very man who confessed to his stupidity in order to show that intelligence is not needed in order to introduce people to the primal sources of wisdom, this man has a large following everywhere. People prefer to listen to such men rather than to those who speak of the thorny path ahead if man is to understand the task of the Consciousness Soul, who tell us of four aspects of evolution or that men must experience one another through warmth, through a sensation of colour, through respiration, that they must ‘digest’ one another. In order to arrive at an understanding of this, one must swallow a whole library of books — a most unpleasant prospect! But people find this prospect unpalatable, most unpalatable! But if people find this prospect unpalatable, that is due to the impulse which is impelling our age towards catastrophe, to the tragedy of our time. This situation, however, is no cause for pessimism; rather is it a call to energetic action, to translate our knowledge into deeds. And this cannot be repeated too often.
I mentioned yesterday the problem of suction and pressure in connection with the Russian revolution. I leave it to each of you to ask yourselves if this problem after all is not a matter deserving of careful reflection. Otherwise people might say: It is true that in Russia the bourgeoisie failed to unite with the peasants, but here in Germany we are more fortunate, bourgeoisie and peasants will join forces and then socialism will come into its own. But they forget that many people in Russia said the same and it is precisely because people held this view that Russia collapsed. We will continue our discussion tomorrow.