The Historical Evolution of Humanity
Lecture VII of a series of lectures given to members of the Anthroposophical Society in Dornach, Switzerland on October 1, 1916. This text was prepared for publication from stenographic notes and was not revised by the speaker.
In our previous studies I have tried to show that a meaning, a wisdom-filled guidance, exists in the historical evolution of mankind that can only be discovered when ones digs deeper into spiritual foundations. I endeavored to bring this especially to your attention yesterday, and for some weeks I have sought to present it with various concrete examples. People in general live within their age in such a way as to let events come upon them, causing happiness or unhappiness, joy or sorrow; they derive their inner experiences from the impulses of the age. To a certain degree they also reflect upon things. But their meditating upon what happens does not signify much because the spiritual development of our age is not fitted for a full penetration into the causes that hold sway spiritually behind the phenomena.
Now, as I have pointed out to you, he who goes deeply into the events of the time should continually bear in mind that with so-called civilized humanity's present-day thinking and feeling, the social order can only be maintained for a few more decades. A reshaping of sentiment and thinking is essential to mankind, a transformation of many ideas, perceptions, feelings and will impulses; spiritual science is ready to contribute its share toward the understanding of such a renewal.
Official history today is really of little help in making a person understand why the things that go on around him are as they are. For the most part, official history does not desire to look into the inner growth of things, but instead registers what happens externally and, in what might be called the simplest and most convenient manner, always considers what has happened earlier to be the cause of what follows. But when one traces things back to their causes in the simple, easygoing way that modern history largely employs, one sees many absurdities. Ultimately, one would have to come to the opinion that the greatest part — yes, perhaps even the most widespread part of what happens — owes its existence not to sense, but to absurdity. If the full consequences of the views that people are so prone to entertain in our time were examined logically, one would have to admit that there is not sense, but nonsense in history. Let us take an example that anyone who studies ordinary history can see for himself.
Let us consider, for instance, the origin of the orthodox English denomination, the Anglican Church, to which many people belong; let us seek its external historical origin. Well, we shall find that Henry VIII reigned from 1509 to 1547, and that he had six wives. The first, Catherine of Aragon, was divorced from him and, considered quite externally, this divorce played a great historical role. The second, Anne Boleyn, he beheaded. The third, Jane Seymour, died. The fourth, he divorced. The fifth, Katherine Howard, he also beheaded. Only the sixth survived him and, if one investigates history further, it will be found that that was really only through a sort of mistake! A different fate was planned for her, too. I refer to this somewhat complicated matrimonial history of Henry VIII, who, as stated, reigned from 1509 to 1547, less for its historical content than in order to lead up to a consideration of his character. One can really gain some idea of a person's character if one knows that he has had two wives beheaded, been divorced from a certain number, and so on.
Now, taken purely historically, the divorce of the first, Catharine of Argon, played a definitely significant role; one need only look at two events to see this. The first was that Henry VIII, the Defender of the Faith, as he called himself, that is, of the Catholic faith emanating from Rome, became the opponent of the Pope because he refused to annul the marriage. Henry became the opponent of the Pope, of the Catholic Church issuing its orders from Rome, and simply on his own authority and power separated the English Church from the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, a kind of Reformation took place that was of a quite individualistic nature since the old customs, ceremonies and rituals were preserved. It was not the cause, as it was with the Protestants, that a renewal had been sought from a real spiritual basis and spiritual force. Everything of an ecclesiastical nature was preserved, but the Church in England was to be cut off from the Roman Catholic Church simply because the Pope had refused to sanction Henry VIII's divorce. Thus, in order to obtain a different wife, this man founded a new church for his people that has existed ever since.
So we have the outer historical fact that many millions of people have lived throughout a long period in a religious communion because a king's divorce could only be brought about through his creating this religious body! This is a fact of external history. Is it not an absurdity? When one looks at the matter more closely, then another absurdity is added, a real inner absurdity, because it cannot be denied that many thousands of people, since the divorce of Henry VIII and the founding of the English Church, have found really deep, inner religious life within the communion that originated in such a questionable manner. This implies that something can arise in history through a most questionable procedure, and the ensuing fruits can bring — and have, in fact, brought — the greatest inner healing of soul to many thousands of people. One must only follow things to a certain conclusion. As a rule, one skims over things in their development but if one will observe their consequences, it will be clear that, when we look at facts from the point of view that is held today, we arrive at all sorts of absurdities.
I have spoken of one fact that emerged, but we must record yet another — the execution of Sir Thomas More, that most significant and gifted pupil of Pico della Mirandola. He it was who wrote Utopia, a wonderful work in which, out of a kind of visionary perception, he created the idea of a social relationship among men. I cannot enlarge on this today but another time it may be pursued further. One sees how this pupil of Pico della Mirandola, Thomas More, created in his book, from a certain atavistic clairvoyance, a picture of the social order. Let the people who are so clever think as they will of the practicality of this picture; ingenuity and impulses of genius live in it.
Although such a picture is not immediately practicable in the outer world, yet it is precisely for such pictures that Johann Gottlieb Fichte's words hold good regarding social and other ideals that have been set up for humanity. He observed how again and again people say, “Well, here come thinkers, preaching all sorts of ideals, but they are impractical men; one cannot make use of their ideals!” In response to such objections, Fichte said, “That these ideals are not directly applicable in real life is known to us, too, just as well as to those who make such objections — perhaps better. But we also know that, if life is truly to advance, it must be continually shaped according to such ideals. People who do not want to know anything of such ideals show nothing more than that in the evolution of humanity they are not to be counted upon. So may the good God grant them rain and sunshine at the right time and, if possible, food and drink and a good digestion also, and, if it can be done, good thoughts, too, from time to time!” So says Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and with justice. It is, after all, mankind's ideals that find realization in the world, although other forces and other impulses work together with them; the ideals do not always work directly, but indirectly.
Through the influence of Henry VIII, however, many charges were brought against Thomas More, and he was executed. It is precisely in such an execution and in the creation of the English Church, that we can see two events that must be observed more closely if we wish to know them in their deeper meaning. One can understand why this particular evolution took the course it did only when one considers outstanding individuals who appeared in the years following the time of Henry VIII and his activities.
Let us first consider the fact that a religious body was created in order to bring about a divorce. As already stated, that need not have any particular consequences for the individual if he be religiously inclined. He can find his salvation, and many have, even within a church so founded. But with regard to the religious question in historical evolution since that time, we see, in fact, that through this external creation of a religious communion something quite extraordinary has been brought about. In order to understand this, we must note what has proceeded by way of spiritual impulse from the civilization into which this religious body has been placed. Viewing matters objectively, we must be clear that after the spiritual influences coming from the south-west [apparently Rome is meant. ed.] began to decline, cultural influences coming from England continually increased. The influence of English spiritual culture became ever stronger, first in the West and then on the entire European continent. If one wishes to speak of the strongest influences working in a spiritual sense in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe, one must naturally have in mind the impulses proceeding from England. Certain people appear within English civilization who are inspired by this cultural impulse; persons also appear in France in whom these cultural impulses live.
There arose in England, for example, the extraordinarily influential philosopher, Locke. Today, it is true that not many people know anything about him, but the influences of such men nevertheless go through thousands of cultural channels unknown to external life. Locke had an immense influence on Voltaire, who influenced European thinking greatly. This influence goes back to Locke. How much has directly come to pass under what we may call the Locke-Voltaire influence! How many thoughts would not have spread over Europe if this Locke-Voltaire influence had never existed. What a different part political and social life in Europe would have played if the European soul had not been fed such thoughts. In France, for instance, we see these same impulses live on in the immensely influential Montesquieu. If we then look to wider intellectual influences on the continent, we see how through Hume, and later on through Darwin, human thinking is revolutionized. Again we see, as through Locke and Voltaire, so also through Hume and Darwin, that an immense influence is exercised. And there is Karl Marx, the founder of modern socialism, whose influence cannot as yet be evaluated by the self-styled “cultivated” people because it exists so widely. When Marx began to study and to write his fundamental work, Capital, he went to England. To be sure, Hegelism lived in Marx, but a Hegelism colored by Darwinism. One who studies the constitutions of the different European countries in the nineteenth century and their constitutional conflicts, will realize how profound was the influence of the cultural impulses coming from England. All this can only be indicated here.
If, however, we now turn our minds to the outstanding personalities who give Europe a certain configuration, we find in all of then a specially developed, abstract rationalistic thinking that makes an excellent instrument for research in, and for learning to know and deal with, the physical world. In Locke and Voltaire, in Montesquieu and also in Hume and Darwin, in everything dependent on them, a faculty lives that is transmitted to European thinking and feeling, so that even those who know nothing of it are still deeply influenced by it. This faculty creates a kind of thinking that is peculiarly fitted to understand and deal with the materialistic relations of the world, and to create social orders that arise from materialistic connections.
Now we see a certain concomitant phenomenon that appears in all these thinkers and is emphatically not without significance. They are keen and at times brilliant thinkers, penetrating minds with respect to material matters, but they are all thinkers who take a peculiar stand toward man's religious evolution, definitely refusing to apply thinking to the sphere of religious life. Not one of them — neither Locke, nor Hume, nor Darwin, nor Montesquieu — is willing to apply thinking to what he considers to be concerns of the religious life. But neither do they dispute this religious life. They accept it in the form in which it has developed historically. To them, it was commonly accepted that one is Catholic or Protestant just as one is French or English. This means that one accepts it as something that is there; one does not criticize; one adapts oneself to it and lets it stand. But neither does one allow the subject to be broached in thought. Such energetic and keen thinkers as Hume and
Montesquieu feel that the religious life should stand and be recognized in external life, but the discrimination that one employs to the full in material things should not be allowed to enter into matters concerning the spiritual sphere.
This is a direct historical consequence of the callous organization of the religion of England by Henry VIII. That is the inner meaning of the matter. This mood, which is poured out over countless European impulses, is dependent on the fact that a certain religious body was created through a man's desire for a divorce — a matter of indifference to everyone. A matter of indifference, a man's wish to be divorced, stands at the source and results in a mood in which one does not concern oneself with these affairs, but rather lets them stand for generations, centuries. This way of thinking about religious matters could only have come about through such an historical event standing at the beginning. Only when one views things from the inner aspect does one find the right connection.
Now for the other event, the execution of Thomas More that took place in 1535. Here, for various reasons, a man is executed who sees into the spiritual world, although in distorted, caricatured form. He is executed. I cannot go into the inner reasons today, but externally it is because he does not join those who take the Oath of Supremacy; that is, does not recognize the separation of the English Church from Rome. Such a man goes over into the spiritual world. The soul has thus left the physical body after having already had, while still in that physical body, deep insight into the spiritual world. This remains; it lives on further in the world as cause. What Thomas More had perceived of the spiritual world while in the physical body remains so closely united with him when he passes with his soul through the gate of death, that he can, through this circumstance, exercise a great influence upon the age that follows.
So these two streams work together. An external one, which I have described, that is apathetic toward the religious life, though full of an apparently orthodox recognition of it, and a soul that has grown powerful because, in the physical body, it has experienced the supersensible and allows it to radiate out over succeeding evolution. It streamed into the other spiritual atmosphere I described about eight days ago (Lecture VI). The spiritual atmosphere from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries is, as we know, also permeated by the impulses that have arisen through the persecution and death of the Knights Templar.
Founded in 1119, the Knights Templar were first active in the Crusades. Then they spread out toward Europe, and through special circumstances many of them became victims of the avarice, the gold avarice, of Philip the Fair. I have described this to you, as I said, but let us see once more how these Knights were sacrificed. Let us turn our attention again to what we presented from the actual course of events, namely, that countless numbers of these Knights were tortured after having previously experienced a Christian initiation through the principles and impulses living in the Templar Order. Let calumnies assert what infamous things they please of the Knights Templar; that these were not true can be proved from history. Exceptions, of course, exist everywhere, but in essence the calumnies are not true. What was inculcated in the Templar Order was this: that each member of the Order should realize that his blood did not belong to himself but to the task of familiarizing Western mankind
— and to some extent Eastern also — with the Mystery of Golgotha in the spiritual sense. What streamed to the Knights from this devotional mood toward the Mystery of Golgotha changed gradually into a kind of Christian initiation, so that a great number of them could actually see to some extent into the spiritual worlds. Through this power, however, they were exposed to quite special danger when their consciousness was dulled through the agonies of torture, as happened in hundreds of cases. Their consciousness was darkened through the torture; their day-consciousness was crippled and a subconscious was aroused. All the temptations to which one who strives toward such spiritual heights is exposed came to expression on the rack. So it came to pass as Philip the Fair had foreseen; in his own way he had a touch of genius, inspired by avarice and covetousness, as I have described. It came to pass that a great number of Knights admitted, in a subconscious state, not only the extraordinary charge of denying the Christian religion and the Mystery of Golgotha, an admission which, arising from their temptations, was understandable, but they also accused themselves of other crimes. A certain number afterward recanted when they were released from the rack and consciousness returned; others could not recant. In short, fifty-four of them met with a cruel death, including the Head of the Order, Jacques de Molay.
Souls thus passed through the gates of death who had not only looked into the progressive spiritual world in waking consciousness by having attained a Christian initiation and beheld the secrets of the Mystery of Golgotha, but who also knew something of evolution and could work into it by having learned to know those forces opposing human effort that spoke through their lips on the rack when they, in innocence, had accused themselves of crimes. These horrible and terrible experiences assumed an appropriate form when these souls were in the spiritual world. I have already related how, after these souls had gone through the gate of death, impulses streamed from them that would then work further in the supersensible impulses from the fifteenth century on into our time. The inspiration living in different gifted personalities comes, if one observes its real cause, from the fact that souls were carried up into the spiritual world having first experienced what Philip the Fair had subjected them to before they died.
This has all been a preparation for the time in which we are now living. These causes, and many others, would first have to be described if one would fully understand among what thoughts a man born since then has been placed. What flowed out of the events I have recorded lived in everything; one can prove that by actual history. I will only refer to one instance, but I could point to many. In the age of which I speak, a most powerfully effective educational book, Robinson Crusoe, was produced. One need only think how the ideas living in this book become familiar to the tenderest, earliest age of childhood. This book has not only gone through hundreds of editions in its original form and has been translated into all languages, but it has been recreated in every possible tongue. There are not only Bohemian, Hungarian, Spanish, French, German, Polish and Russian, but also other translations. In all these languages there are new creations in the spirit of Defoe. What lives in it, how souls are molded by it, is generally never considered at all. All of Robinson Crusoe would have been unthinkable if it had not been preceded by those events I have related.
All these things have their inner connections, and this is true down to the actual details. Today, a man walks from one street in the city to another on some business or other. At most, if he thinks of it at all, he only thinks of the immediate cause. The fact that he would not take this walk nor have this business if everything I have just mentioned had not come about before, is not considered at all. In general, inner connections are but little observed. I have often called attention to how seldom people are inclined to turn their minds to inner connections. For instance, a man who looks at things quite externally may perhaps sometimes wonder who built the St. Gotthard tunnel. Tunnels are not built nowadays unless certain calculations are made in differential calculus. The St. Gotthard was not only built by those who laid stone on stone, but without the calculus it would not have been built at all. The solitary thinker, Leibniz, devised the differential calculus; thus, he was a co-builder. All this is part of it. I am only saying this for the purposes of elucidation; the example in itself does not tell us much; it is only to make things clear.
Our age stands under all these influences — the thinking and the entire configuration of our age — that I have sought to characterize. Now one definite peculiarity is to be emphasized for this age. According to prevalent belief, it stands, not only with both feet, but also with hands and, in fact, the whole body, within reality. It is the pride, not to say the arrogance, of our age that people believe they are standing deep in reality. They are immensely proud of it. But as a later age will show, as regards thought, our age is by no means rooted in reality; it is far less so than was an earlier age. What will a later age teach? Well, it will naturally not deny that our age has produced great thoughts and achievements. The Copernican world conception makes its appearance; Galileo creates modern physics; Kepler modern astronomy; we have galvanic, voltaic electricity appearing, with all that grows out of it; we have the steam age, and so forth. Thus, the thoughts that have been formed in this age are striking; they are grand. Over and over again people emphasize, though they may not express it in the same words, how conscious they are that we have made such fine progress, in contrast to the silly superstitions of people in earlier ages. In short, men are entirely convinced that Copernicus, for example, finally established the fact that the sun stands still, or perhaps has a movement of its own. In any case, it does not move around the earth every twenty-four hours, but the earth itself revolves, and also moves around the sun in the course of the year, etc. These things are well known. They are understood today as if man had finally cast off the ancient superstition of the Ptolemaic world conception and had set truth in place of the former error. Earlier humanity believed all sorts of stupid things because it trusted its senses. The men of more recent times, however, have at last arrived at seeing that the sun is in the center and Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn move in ellipses around it — Uranus and Neptune being further out. At last, one knows this. At last, one knows that in the course of the year the earth revolves around the sun, and so on. In fact, one has made wonderfully fine progress!
We are no longer far distant from the time in which we will understand what all this means. The true reality was of no consequence at all to the spiritual powers upon whom Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo were dependent; it was rather to bring definite faculties into the human head. What matters is the education of humanity through the education of the earth.
Thus, humanity is obliged for a time to think in this way about the cosmos in order to be educated in a certain way through thoughts. It is with this that the wise guidance of the world is concerned. If one should begin to look at the matter spiritually — not merely externally, mathematically or physically as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and especially their successors have done — one would come to yet other remarkable things. One will say, “Good, now we have a physical cosmic system; when we study it we must, as we know, calculate it and treat it geometrically as is taught today in practically every elementary school.” But spiritually, things are otherwise. You see, to an observer able to behold the spiritual, the following is presented, for example. He comes upon a certain movement of the sun; it takes this course.
Seen from a certain point if view, it is the sun's course; but when I draw this line here and bring the sun back again, the point does not fall exactly on the earlier point; it lies somewhat above it. This is a real movement of the sun that can be perceived spiritually.
But the earth, too, makes certain movements in the course of a year. Observed spiritually, it describes this orbit.
You must picture it in three dimensions. If you picture the orbit of the sun lying in a plane, then the orbit of the earth lies in this plane — seen, that is, from the side. If here is the orbit of the sun drawn as a line the earth orbit is so:
But, as you see from this, there is a point in the cosmos, where the sun and the earth are both together, but not at the same time. When the sun is there on its path, or rather has left this point by a quarter of its path, the earth begins its movement at the point that the sun has left. After a certain time we are, in fact, on the spot in cosmic space where the sun was; we follow the sun's path, cross it and are, at a certain time of the year, at the very place where the sun has been. Then the sun and earth go forward and after a time the earth is again practically at the spot where the sun was. Together with the earth, we actually pass in space through the spot where the sun has been. We sail through it. We not only sail through it, however, because the sun leaves behind results of its activity in the space it has traversed, so that the earth enters into the imprints left behind by the sun and crosses them — really crosses them. Space has living content, spiritual content, and the earth enters and crosses, sails through, what the sun has called forth.
You see, this is how the matter looks spiritually. Spiritually one must draw lines like these when one thinks of the orbits of earth and sun. There is a similar relationship with the other planets, too. At certain times we are approximately at the places where Mercury was, etc. The planets carry out quite complicated movements in universal space, and they enter into the imprints of each other. We have now the external picture, the purely geometrical picture. The other picture will be added, and only from a combination of the two will a later humanity attain the concept it must have.
You see, I am now telling you these things, but imagine for a moment that you relate what I have said to an astronomer. He would say, “Someone has lost his senses, has gone mad, to present such things. They are out of the question.” But it was not so long ago that the members of a famous Academy of Science also said, when meteoric stones that fall to the earth were spoken of, “That is a senseless statement!” This happened not at all long ago; many similar things could be recorded. Today, in orthodox physics, one recognizes the so-called law of the conservation of energy as something fundamental. The first to speak of it, Julius Robert Mayer, was confined in a madhouse. One could, of course, relate hundreds of such stories. But the point is this, that you see from what I have told you — I have given it only as an example — how the nature of thinking in astronomical fields, that wonderfully effective thinking from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, has had rather the faculty of bringing men away from reality. Men do not at all stand, as they believe, with both feet, both hands and the body in the real, but they give themselves up to the most fantastic ideas and imagine these to be reality. Men had to be educated like this in these centuries. They had to give themselves up to fantastic ideas about outer nature so that they might not be merged in the external events in the old way, but that, by virtue of these fantastic ideas, they might all the more obtain a feeling of the inner ego. This feeling has been greatly intensified during the last few centuries precisely through these fantastic materialistic ideas. That had to happen; the feeling of the ego had at some time to be engendered in the development of mankind's history. I have chosen an astronomical example, but it could be shown in every sphere how human evolution followed a course in the centuries just past that drew man away from true reality.
Now you will ask if men have known of such things as this, that together with the earth we enter the tracks of the sun, that twice in the year we are where the sun has been operative in space. Have men ever known anything of this? Yes, they have known it before, and it can even be easily proved historically that they knew it. Imagine that a person knows, really knows, that at a certain time in the course of the year the earth on its path so crosses the sun's path that the earth enters into the tracks of the sun and follows it. The reverse comes about when the earth turns back again toward the other side. The first time it is as if the sun descended below the earth's path, and the second, as if the sun ascended and the earth's path were underneath. The first time, the human being moves up with the earth above the sun's path, finding the traces of the sun by ascending; the other time, he moves down and passes under the traces of the sun. What can the person say who knows this and who also possesses the means to confirm it? He is able to know that now, at the point where the earth's path crosses the sun's path, he is passing through the place where the sun has stood. What could such a man say? He could say that this is an especially important time for us because we are at the place where the sun has been. This is expressed in the spiritual atmosphere and one meets the picture that the sun has left behind in the ether. Here, at this point in time, one establishes a festival! The ancient mysteries celebrated two such festivals of which but faint memories still remain in those of today, though the connection is no longer known. Please do not understand this as if I wished to give the actual point in time, but in the ancient mysteries it was known when we cross the sun's path and find in the ether the sun's content that has remained behind. In the time of such knowledge it was right for special festivals to be established at definite times of the year.
With the knowledge of today people are separated from these connections. Nor will they respect these things much since they say, “Well, what good is it to me if I do know that I am on the same spot that the sun was on? Of what use is that to me?” That is how modern man would speak. But the ancient Egyptians, for instance, did not speak in that way in their mysteries. On the fifteenth day of that month when they knew that the earth is passing through the point the sun has left, they interrogated the priestess of Isis, who had been prepared in the sanctity of the Temple. They knew that through the special spiritual preparation that this priestess could undertake, she could bring to light what can be experienced when one passes through the aura of the sun, and the priests might write down what they heard from the priestess, for example, “Rainy year, sow seeds at such and such a time...” In short, they were purely practical; that is, things that were important for guiding life in the succeeding year were noted. They lived according to these directions because they knew how the heavens work down into the earth.
This is what they investigated. It was already a time of decline when this science was betrayed by the opponents of the Osiris-Isis cult. The only way they could protect themselves — this external event has again a connection with the Osiris-Isis saga — was henceforth to impart at fourteen different temples what earlier, in ancient Egypt, had been the secret of only one temple. This was the art of living with the course of the year and investigating spiritually the influences on the earth.
The humanity of our age had to break away completely from such a relationship with the heavens because it had the task of finding the path away from the ambiguity of impulses and instincts, and of forming the pure ego. The ego did not act strongly at a time in which men made themselves mere instruments of heavenly activities, nor did it work strongly in the ages when the priest taught his immediate pupils, “There stands the Pleiades. When they are there, we must begin the days of Isis; then we must see that what we learn prophetically is the best way to proceed in the coming year.” They placed themselves as completely within the course of the universe as a cell is incorporated into our organism. Humanity could only become individual, personal, if in a definite epoch it were torn out of this connection, if all these human faculties of spirit that mediated such connections passed into a state of sleep. Thus a sleep regarding the spiritual was prepared, and mankind has slept most deeply in respect of spiritual matters ever since the fourteenth century. It has been a sleeping culture but now the time has come for an awakening.
Do not say, “I wish to criticize Creation and the Creator; why has he let me sleep?” This means putting oneself with one's intellect above cosmic wisdom. During the course of the earth stage, human evolution must go through its sleep periods just as much as the individual man must sleep in the course of twenty-four hours. Spiritual faculties, which is to say, a concept of the world in the sense of these faculties, slept deeply in the centuries indicated. On the other hand, man dreamt of geometrical lines in space; he dreamed the dream of the Copernican, the Galilean and the Darwinian world conception. Man needed this dream, this training, even the illusion of experiencing a special reality through the dream. Ultimately, it is the same with our sleep. In the evening we are tired and we go to sleep. Then we wake up refreshed with an inner feeling of reality. If humanity had developed the ancient spiritual faculties further, if these had not slept, men would have been tired out and would not have reached reality. They came to reality precisely by the fact that in their thinking and reflecting, and also in their social organizations, they had left reality. Because these capacities slept, past centuries have brought renewal and refreshment to mankind. In a certain respect, humanity has even become freer than it was in earlier centuries, and it will have to regain spiritual knowledge — and later spiritual power — in order to progress even further on the path of freedom.
Such things can be known! But again today's true materialist will say, “Well, and what if they are known!” I have, in fact, found materialists who say, “Good gracious, why must I think about the life of the soul after death. I shall see all that when death has arrived. Why need I bother now in the physical body about this life after death?” This seems to be quite plausible, this idea that it would be really unnecessary, here in the physical body, to bother about the supersensible life. But this is not the case; it was so only in an earlier age when man was not yet ready for freedom. Today, the position is such that certain thoughts can only be grasped by the supersensible hierarchies if men grasp them here in earthly existence. The gods only think certain thoughts if they live in human bodies. These thoughts must be carried into the spiritual world through the gate of death; only then can they be active. It is truly so: one who will not think about the supersensible is like a farmer who says to his neighbor, “You are a silly fellow. Every year you put by a certain part of the grain for seed. I only became a farmer this year, but I am not as foolish as you. I shall grind it all, eat it and calmly wait. The grain will certainly grow again by itself.” Such a farmer resembles a person who is not willing to hear that, as well as consuming what we experience in the world, we must also lay aside certain seeds in the soul to guide it along its path in the spiritual worlds. Inasmuch as we pursue the science of the spirit, we are creating the right seeds for the present time. And the science of the spirit must be pursued.
You see from this that our time can become ever more clear to us through the spiritual understanding of its fundamental character and nature. This deepening of our inner faculties that must be striven for in order to come to a more real astronomy, for example, must also be striven for in social thinking. Regarding our thinking, we — or at any rate, most of us — have become as much asleep and dreaming in outer lives as we are in regards to astronomy, for instance, which I chose for an example. In the centuries gone by, and right up to today, very much has become veiled from humanity. Nor will what was present earlier appear again — investigations, for instance, through a priestess of Isis or through the Celtic druidical mysteries in which a priestess was similarly employed. To seek in that way to know about the action here of the spiritual will not recur; much more inward ways will be found, ways much more suited to future humanity. But they must be found.
Now, connect this with something I have already indicated yesterday. Remember that the servant of Osiris prepared the priestess of Isis before the fifteenth of a certain month of the year in order to obtain certain prophetic utterances from her when she traversed the sunspace with her soul. What happened through this Isis cult? What occurred was that actual time — not the abstract time of which we dream today, but actual time, was investigated. The time of year, the point of time, was, in fact, an especially important point, and the point on the return path was again important. How time works — concrete, real time — was expressed through the content of what the Isis priestess had to say. Then, might not the inscription on the Isis image read, “I am the Past, the Present and the Future?” this is the order of time. But only when such prophetic research was penetrated with a noble mood resembling the mood of virginity, when coming near to Isis was symbolized by the fact that Isis wore a veil, only then could one bring forth what was necessary. The whole must be steeped in holiness, in the atmosphere of a sacrifice.
Do not imagine that wisdom was not connected with the practical in those ancient times. What was called wisdom was fully united with practical things. Everything had a practical direction. One investigated the voice of the gods in the Egyptian temples, but the investigations were made in order to know in the right way which days or hours were most suited for sowing. Everything was connected with practical life. One investigated the action of the gods in practical life, and was conscious of how they penetrate it. Indeed, it was necessary that this temple service should be kept holy. What evils could have been committed if it had not been treated as sacred! It must never be asserted that these things that relate to past ages will arise again in the same way. They will arise quite differently. But a knowledge will again be won for humanity that will be directly fitted for entering practical life. A spiritual knowledge — but just because it is spiritual, a practical knowledge — will again appear in which the things around us will be fully mastered. Neither an Isis nor an Osiris cult will appear. Something else will arise that will bear the traces of our having passed through the centuries since the Isis and Osiris cult existed. It will show that the new science of the spirit must be sought with full consciousness and in freedom. But the things that have taken place must be tested a little in their reality. History must be different from what it so often is today, when people merely make researches in documents and records.
One comes, however, upon all sorts of peculiar explanations, like the one I have already given regarding Isis. When there stood as inscription on her image, “I am the Past, the Present and the Future,” one who was initiated knew that this referred to concrete reality and that the veil only expressed a certain attitude of mind. Today, people say of the veiled Isis image at Sais that the veil means that one cannot penetrate behind wisdom, that one will never know who Isis is. But when the inscription, “I am the Past, the Present, and the Future, no mortal hath yet lifted my veil,” stands there, one must explain it as meaning that the veil is not lifted because one only approaches its holiness when veiled as a nun, not because something lies behind it that one cannot know and that cannot be communicated to anyone. If the explanation that people usually give were correct, then one must really compare it with the trivial statement, “I am called Hans Muller, but you will never know my name.” She says indeed who she is — “I am the Past, the Present and the Future” — and this implies that it is for her to impart the Mysteries of Time, while what flows out of Time into Space is to be mediated by the Osiris priest. He is to carry the temporal into the spatial and is to receive in thought what comes from the soul, that is, the Isis revelation that is embedded in the universe and its course.
Today, the science of the spirit is still largely held to be foolish. But when it has really been understood, it will be seen to contain a science much more real than the scientific dream of the past centuries. Quite different practical operations, practical mastery of the outer world, will come to light when the time arrives. It is not yet time today; mankind must first have knowledge and know in the spirit of spiritual science before it can act in the spirit of the science of the spirit.
I wanted to go into this in order to point out precisely at this time how it is only through a true understanding of what has happened that an understanding can also be reached of what has to happen. In the future, humanity must be guided beyond the karma of many things with which it is heavily burdened in our present grievous and painful times. Today mankind is burdened with the karma of the dream life of the past centuries. This mystery must first be profoundly grasped; then it will be easier to understand our sorrowful present and also to understand how humanity must gradually prepare a different karma for the future.
For many more lectures and books by Rudolf Steiner, see the Elibrarian's site at http://www.elib.com/Steiner