Roman Catholicism

by Rudolf Steiner

Lecture III

Dornach, June 6, 1920

My Dear Friends,

You will have noticed that all my lectures for years past have stressed the importance, both for the spiritual and social evolution of humanity, of the spread of what we spiritual scientists call the results of initiation research. You know also that by the word initiation, to use an ancient term, we understand a seeing into a spiritual world separated from our physical-sensible world by a kind of veil; a veil which may very easily lead to illusions. What is first given to man is the physical-sensible world, and he makes use of this either for the concerns of ordinary life or in pursuit of what today is called science. He combines his perceptions in the physical world with all kinds of concepts, ideas and so on; but all that does not lead him beyond the world of the senses; and we may say that the only means through which in ordinary life the human being can to a certain extent look beyond and above the sensible is in dreaming. The dream, as we experience it today in ordinary life, is only a poor imitation of what may be called experience in the supersensible world. The supersensible world has to be perceived not only with the same degree of consciousness that one has in ordinary life, a degree of consciousness which is not there in the dream condition, but with a consciousness of even higher degree. In order to experience the supersensible world, one must enhance one’s consciousness, to come to a state which bears a similar relation to that of ordinary life, of ordinary consciousness, as that of ordinary consciousness bears to sleep consciousness, or at any rate to dream consciousness. Thus a kind of awakening out of the ordinary consciousness has to take place. Hence the dream is, of course, only a poor imitation of what is experience din that other condition.

But really the dream differs far less from ordinary thinking than is believed to be the case. When you become aware of the picture world of an ordinary dream, it is actually in its content essentially the same as what underlies one’s thoughts, only that in thinking the human being enters into the outer world through his senses; and therefore what is arranged in the dream by mere analogy, is in thinking ordered in accordance with quite external relationships, is ordered by the perception of the outer sense world, in accordance with what this world says to us. You can have a kind of proof of this if you sit down and shut your eyes, or let us say if you are lazy and just allow your thoughts to wander, and then notice how they have wandered, notice that as you recall them in your mind you can hardly find between them any more connection than one finds in the events of a dream. The ordinary uncontrolled flow of man’s ideas is in a certain sense subject to the same law as that of the dream. It is only through our senses that we are torn out of our dreams. And as soon as we silence our senses, then we really begin to dream. This dream activity has to be intensified. It has to be so organized that it becomes permeated by a higher consciousness than that which our ordinary senses confer. Then imaginative consciousness arises, and then by degrees comes inspired consciousness, of which I told you yesterday in my public lecture, that it is recognized by Thomism as a justified source of cognition.

In our initiation science, then, we have the results of such an intensified condition of consciousness. The difficulty in the present evolution of humanity and in that of the near future is that humanity will most certainly need this science of initiation, and will not be able to get on without it, for if only the materialistic knowledge that has been developed in the last three to four centuries should continue to permeate human evolution, conditions such as we are now experiencing in the present social chaos of the civilized world will repeatedly recur, broken only by short intervals. What science has been able to give to humanity since the middle of the Fifteenth Century has certainly been sufficient for the making of technical discoveries; has been sufficient to spread over the earth a network of commerce and business intercourse, but it does not suffice for the creation of social arrangements really adapted to the consciousness of present-day humanity. That is something which has gradually to be realized. As long as the science of our universities, our recognized public education, rejects the science of initiation, as long as an external, material science is alone recognized, so long will humanity be perpetually in the grip of chaotic social conditions, such as we are now having. The science of initiation will alone be able to save humanity of the future from such chaotic social conditions. Above all, the science of initiation will be able to give those human beings who can approach it a consciousness of the fact that the life here on earth, which we enter through the gate of birth, is the continuation of a spiritual life which we have spent in the supersensible world between the last death and this present birth. Now you know that this spiritual life which precedes our birth or conception is not spoken of in the churches of our modern civilized world. It is never spoken of, and for a quite definite reason. Because at a certain point of time, which coincides with that of the Greek evolution between Plato and Aristotle, all consciousness of a pre-natal spiritual life was lost. Plato speaks clearly of that life, but Aristotle vehemently defended the theory that every time a human being is born on the earth, a quite new soul unites with his physical body. The Aristotelian doctrine is that for each physically-born human being a new soul is created.

Now if one holds such a view, one cannot say otherwise than that the life which begins with death, which a man begins by throwing off his physical body — and of this Aristotle also speaks — continues to exist and does not again descend to earth. For, of course, unless one can speak of a prenatal existence, one has no justification for believing otherwise than that after his death man remains forever in a spiritual world. That had already led Aristotle to draw some very weighty conclusions. For instance, he argued that if anyone between birth and death here on earth has led a life which burdens his soul with evil, that human being is for all eternity forced to look back on that evil, which can never again be blotted out or overcome. So that according to Aristotle’s view, when the man dies, he has to look back eternally on the one earth life for which he has to pay.

This doctrine of Aristotle was taken over in its entirety by the Catholic Church, and when in the Middle Ages the Church sought for a philosophy which could carry its theology, it took over, as regards the life of the soul, this Aristotelian doctrine, and one can still today recognize its echo in the idea of eternal punishment in hell.

Now, after having for thousands of years had this doctrine of the origin of the soul with the body impressed upon them, how is it conceivable that people can free themselves from it again and arrive at the truth? They can only do so by receiving a new spiritual science. Without this renewal of spiritual science mankind will not be able to accept a life before birth as a justified belief or, rather, before conception. Just think what it signifies for the whole evolution of humanity not to speak of a prenatal life. When in the churches of today we are told only of a life after death, that simply arouses instincts connected with man’s egotistical desire not to be extinguished at death.

My dear friends, an essay, a thorough-going study is needed — “On the Cultivation of Human Egotism by the Churches” — In such a study one would have to explore the real motives which are worked upon in the sermons and doctrines of all the usual religious denominations, and one would everywhere find that appeal is made to the egotistical instincts of man, especially to the instinct for immortality after death. One could extend this study to cover more than a thousand years, and one would see that these religious denominations, by eliminating the life before birth under Aristotelian influence, have fostered in the highest degree the egotism in human nature. Churches, as cultivators of the deepest egotistical instincts, is a subject well worthy of study. By far the largest part of the religious life of the modern civilized world today panders to human egotism. This egotism can be felt in pronouncements which I could quote by the dozen. Again and again it is written, especially in pastoral letters, “that spiritual science busies itself with all kinds of knowledge about supersensible worlds, but man does not need that. He only needs to have the childlike consciousness of his connection with Christ Jesus.” That is said both by pastors and by the faithful; this childlike connection with Christ Jesus is always emphasized. It is brought forward with immense pride against what is, of course, far less easy to attain — penetration into the concrete details of the spiritual world. It is preached over and over again. Again and again man is led to believe that he can be most Christian when he least exercises his soul forces, when he least strives to think something clear with what he calls his Christ consciousness. This Christ consciousness must be something which man attains by absolute childlikeness — so say these easy-going ones. And best of all they like to be told that Christ has taken all the sins of mankind on Himself, and has redeemed mankind through His sacrificial death, without men having to do anything themselves. All this points to the belief that through the sacrificial death of Christ, immortality is guaranteed after death; but that merely tends to nourish in humanity the most extreme egotism. By this cultivation of egotism on the part of the churches, we have finally brought about what is dawning today over all the civilized world. Because this egotism has been so widely cultivated, mankind has become what it is today. Just think if the human being, not merely theoretically with ideas and concepts, but with the whole inner life of his soul were to grasp the truth that this earthly life as he enters it through birth lays upon him the obligation of fulfilling a mission which he has brought with him from a life before birth! Just think how egotism would vanish if that thought were to fill our whole souls, if this earthly life were regarded as a task which must be fulfilled because it is linked to an over-earthly life through which we have previously passed! Egotism is combated by the feeling that stirs in us when we look upon life on earth as a continuation of an over-earthly life, just as it is fostered by the religious denominations which speak only of life after death. That is what is important for man’s social well being, to restore the fact of his pre-existence to the consciousness of mankind of the present and of the future, and of course the idea of reincarnation is inseparable from that of the pre-existence of the human soul.

Thus we can say that the Catholic Church itself accepted the Aristotelian doctrine and made it into a dogma of her own; but this dogma must now be replaced by the higher knowledge of repeated earth lives, of pre-existence, which Aristotle was clearly the first to leave out of account.

You see, if you can estimate what importance it has for mankind to absorb certain elements into its inmost life of soul, then you will recognize what it means for man’s life of feeling in its widest sense. It means that the human being gets quite another consciousness of himself. Now, my dear friends, let us add to what has just been said, the words of St. Paul, that this ordinary consciousness must become permeated more and more by the consciousness, “Not I, but Christ in me.” When we look upon ourselves as something different, Christ will also become different within us. If we look upon ourselves as something which, even as regards the soul-spiritual, has only originated at birth, then of course the Christ can only be in what has come into existence with this present birth, and will only have the task of carrying our souls through the gate of death and further through all eternity. But if we know that we have had a prenatal life, we can know also that it is the Christ Himself Who has laid on us a mission for this life on earth, that we have to develop our own forces, that we have to find Him in our forces, that we have to seek Him as the best we can have in us, the best in our spirit and soul.

The Catholic Church, by doing away with the spirit in the Eighth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in the year 869 has always taken care that those belonging to it should never think about the real psycho-spiritual nature of man. The Church laid down in that Council that man consists only of body and soul, though the soul has a few spiritual attributes; but that to regard man as consisting of body, soul and spirit is heretical, and when the Jesuit Zimmerman brought forward certain reproaches against spiritual science, he reckoned as its deepest sin that it seeks to re-establish the validity of trichotomy, by declaring that man consists of body, soul and spirit. For thereby the true nature of man and also his real relationship to the Christ must inevitably come to light. But what the Church worked for more and more was that man should not come to a true understanding of his real relationship to Christ. We may say, my dear friends, that the development of the western churches consists really in drawing an ever denser and denser veil over the real secret of Christ.

You see, fundamentally, all institutions are built on external abstractions. When a state is young it has but few laws and people are relatively unfettered by them. The longer a state exists, and especially the longer the various parties in the state apply their clever arguments, the more laws are made until finally no one knows where he is, for there is no longer only one law, but everything is entangled in the meshes of intertwining laws from which one has the greatest difficulty in freeing oneself.

That is the case also with the churches; when a church begins to make its way through the world, it has relatively few dogmas; but men must have something to do, and just as the statesman is always making laws, so do Churchmen create more and more dogmas, until finally everything becomes dogma, dogma becomes consolidated. It is only since the time when Scholasticism was at its height that this consolidation of dogma has been especially noticeable in modern civilization. Anyone who really studies thoughtfully the Scholasticism of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas will find that in their time everything to do with dogma was still fluid, still a matter for discussion, that discussion was still taken as a matter of course. True, in the Scholastic period there was already a certain opposition within the western church. There was the opposition between the Dominicans and the Franciscans. The Dominican Order, of which Scholasticism was the flower, developed its knowledge through strictly logical ideas. The Franciscan Order declined to do that; the Franciscans wanted to achieve everything through a childlike feeling. I will not now enter into the relation between Dominican and Franciscan teaching, but I should like you to imagine what it would be like if people fought as vigorously today about the content of Dominican and Franciscan doctrine as they did in the Middle Ages, when they discussed dogma so freely. Of course, the Roman bishop even at that time declared people to be heretics; and he could have gone on doing so for a long while, had not the secular governments come to his assistance and burnt the people whom he merely wanted to condemn. In this matter one has to admit that greater blame falls on the secular rulers. All this did not prevent there being free discussion in the Catholic Church at that time. This free discussion has gradually been completely eliminated. Free discussion was something which the Catholic Church, as time went on, could not stand. And why not? Because a quite new consciousness was arising in humanity. This was the transformation of consciousness in man, which took place, as I have often explained to you, in the middle of the Fifteenth Century. The human being wants ever more and more to form his own judgment from the depths of his own soul. In the Middle Ages that was not so. Man then had a kind of communal consciousness, and only a few learned people, the real scholars, could get beyond that. They were able to evolve out of this common uniform folk consciousness because they had been trained in Scholasticism. This also applies to a certain number who were trained in the Rabbinical teaching. In general, however, man’s consciousness was uniform. It was a community consciousness, a family consciousness. But the individual consciousness was developing more and more.

Now, one thing that the Catholic Church had always had, because it had attracted highly educated people, was historical foresight. The Catholic Church knows quite well what I am now saying, that the principle of modern development is to foster the individual consciousness of man — but the Catholic Church is unwilling to let this individual consciousness arise. She wants to maintain that dull communal consciousness, from which only those will stand out who have received a scholastic education. Now, my dear friends, there is a very good way of maintaining this dull communal consciousness — it is always a dull one. And this is to damp down the ordinary consciousness which a person has whenever he makes use of his sense organs, to subdue it thoroughly. Just as the dream damps down the ordinary consciousness, similarly the consciousness is subdued for the purpose of making of it a dull communal consciousness. Now one of the many characteristics of the dream is that in many respects it is a liar. Or would you deny that the dream is a liar, that it represents things which are not true? It is, however, not due to the dream but to the subdued consciousness that when we dream we cannot test what is true and what is untrue. Hence it is one of the properties of this subdued consciousness that it takes away from human beings the possibility of distinguishing truth from untruth. Now if one is versed in these matters, what does one do? One relates to people under authority things which are not true, and one does this systematically. Thereby one subdues their consciousness to the dim state of the dream consciousness. Thereby one succeeds in undermining what since the middle of the Fifteenth Century has been seeking to emerge as individual consciousness in the souls of men. It is a fine undertaking so to work under authority as to write articles such as are now appearing in the “Katholischen Sonntagsblatt”; for thereby one succeeds in preventing men from developing in the way they should since the middle of the Fifteenth Century! Although the individual may not know it, the whole hierarchy is behind what happens in this respect, and has organized things extremely well. If one believes that these things happen out of mere naivety or purely from rancor, one is making a great mistake. Naturally, we must fight lying and untruth with all the means at our disposal, but we must not believe that these lies proceed out of simplicity or even out of the belief that what is said is the truth; for if these people spoke the truth, they would not attain what is their purpose to attain, which is to subdue consciousness by deliberately telling men lies, and that is a mighty and diabolical undertaking.

Now, my dear friends, this, too, must be said quite frankly. The simplicity is entirely on the other side. Simplicity today is not on the side of the Catholic Church but on the side of their opponents. They do not believe that the Catholic Church is great in the direction I have described; they do not believe that the Catholic Church long ago foresaw that the social condition which has now come over Europe would some day come about, and that the Catholic Church took her own measures to make her influence felt in those social conditions. What the Catholic Church intends is to create a bridge between the most radical socialism, Communism, and its own domination.

You see, this magnificent foresight is something one has to recognize in everything which has a real spiritual basis, a spiritual foundation that is rooted in a real spiritual life, and not in mere abstraction. You see, with all this modern enlightenment one arrives at nothing which can have a far-reaching significance in the course of human evolution. But the ceremonies practiced in the Catholic Mass are of far greater significance than all the sermons from evangelical pulpits, because they are deeds accomplished in the sensible world, and in their form they are at the same time something which enchants the spiritual world into the sensible world. For that reason the Catholic Church has never been willing to deprive herself of magical means of working on human beings. These magical means do exist. And we must not believe that anything other than re-entry into the spiritual world in all true inner sincerity and uprightness can be effective against these things. And as what one might call an external sign that the Catholic Church has always had a connection with the spiritual world, you can take something which I have already told a few of you.

In the first decade of the Twentieth Century a Papal Encyclical was issued which declared various things to be heretical. Papal Encyclicals speak in such a way that they always adduce the doctrine in question and then say: “Whoever believes that is anathema.” Thus it quotes some doctrine taken from one of the books of Haeckel or someone, and then says: “Whoever believes that is anathema.” It does not state what is true, but says: “Whoever believes that is anathema.”

Now, you see, the science of initiation makes it always possible to investigate such things, and I set myself the task of making certain investigations concerning this Encyclical. I am bound to say that here, as in so many other things, what was promulgated by the Pope “ex cathedra” at that time was really drawn from out of the spiritual world. I mean that what has flowed into that Encyclical did come down from the spiritual world. But in an extraordinary way it was completely reversed! Everywhere where there should have been a ‘yes’ there was a ‘no’, and vice-versa. That is something — and I could give other instances — which shows that the Roman Church has today some sort of real connection with the spiritual world but one that is extraordinarily harmful for mankind. Therefore, we need not be surprised that it sees in the rise of modern spiritual science something which it wishes at all costs to get rid of, for, my dear friends, what is the effect of this new spiritual science? It brings about a consciousness of a prenatal life, of pre-existence. That may not be! Under no circumstances shall that happen! So spiritual science must be condemned; for spiritual science calls man’s attention to his own being, makes him aware that he consists of body, soul, and spirit. Under no circumstances may that be; therefore spiritual science must be condemned. People would see, for example, that the dogma of eternal damnation in hell is an Aristotelian consequence of the creation of the soul at physical birth. Suppose a Catholic theologian today studies the connection between Aristotle and Scholasticism, and perceives that the Scholastics derived their proof of the origin of the soul together with the physical body from the philosophy of Aristotle! He would see behind the scenes of the origin of dogma. What is done to prevent this? The theologian is made to take the oath against Modernism. He is made to swear that it is part of his creed that he can never come to a historical conclusion contrary to dogmas which are given out from Rome. The fact that he has taken this oath works so strongly on his feelings that he is confused in his sober research and can never come to see that dogma is bound up with the historical evolution of humanity. Now things cannot remain in this state if the science of initiation arises, and therefore this science of initiation must under all circumstances be condemned.

Why am I telling you these things, my dear friends? So that you may not take the matter too lightly. For in our anthroposophical spiritual science it is verily not a question of the sort of things which go on, for instance in the Theosophical Society. That the Theosophical Society is not to be taken seriously is clearly to be seen from the fact that one day it came to accept by a majority the whole farce of Krishnamurti as the reborn Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Such a comedy is only based on hypocrisy, even though this hypocrisy be taken seriously by many. But what should grow on the soil of Anthroposophy, of spiritual science, should be a search for truth, sincere through and through. It is therefore something which, as the Catholic Church is well aware, penetrates behind the scenes, to what must not be discovered if that church is to maintain the dominion in the world to which she lays claim.

All that I am now saying is simply to show you that these things may not be taken lightly. For it must be recognized that the Catholic Church has shown great foresight. Though the individual sheep follows the lead and merely obeys orders, though he may be ignorant of what this systematic lying means for the whole evolution of mankind — though the individual knows nothing and does as he is told, the whole system is thoroughly well established, for the lying will be believed by large numbers.

On the other side there is the naïve belief that all the external fabrication of natural laws which today forms the subject of our university education can be of significance for the further development of humanity, that all that nonsense about the conservation of matter and energy can be of significance for the further development of mankind! Today people cannot even look with an unprejudiced eye upon the snow which is spread before them every winter (if they are living in the temperate zone), yet through the covering of the forces of growth by the snow crust one part of the earth goes through a complete transformation; and folk consciousness which speaks of the purity of the snow knows far more than our modern science which talks of the conservation of matter and energy. Of course I can only say what I am now saying because I have spent many weeks in showing you how ill-founded are the modern laws of the conservation of matter and energy, how in fact in every human being matter and energy are destroyed, as they work up towards the head, and new matter and new energy arise. All these things are bound to be fiercely contested in some quarters, and the only thing which can help is for as many people as possible to become conscious of the present task of mankind — to be aware that the individual consciousness must lay hold of the world. It will do so, but it can either lay hold of the wisdom of the world or of the blind instincts. If it seizes hold of the blind instincts there will come about a completely antisocial condition, such as is now being prepared in Russia. That, my dear friends, will gradually evoke an antisocial condition against which the English or North American governments, not to speak of the French or any other, will be absolutely defenseless. It would be childish to believe that the English Parliament will be able to deal with what will then lay hold of humanity if the individual consciousness works merely by instinct. But there is one power which will be ready to deal with it, and that is the power of Rome. It is only a question of how it will be done. Rome can establish a dominion; it has the necessary means for this. Thus the only real question is not whether Bolshevism or the Anglo-Saxon bourgeoisie will get the upper hand; the question is whether there will be antisocial chaos, Roman domination, or the resolve on the part of mankind to fill itself with that spirit which in 869 at the Council of Constantinople the western Church declared it heretical to recognize.

There is no other alternative than that mankind determine not to go on living in the way which is natural when there are only materialistic thoughts about the world. How does mankind live in a materialistic world? People earn their living in accordance with the fluctuations of the market; there is no other measurement for the social order. After that they may perhaps have a philosophy of life, as a sort of luxury, but only as a luxury. Those supposed to be still more profound say that one must raise oneself into the spiritual world and leave the evil material world behind; a really profound nature can have nothing to do with the material world; he must understand nothing about the material world, but become a mystic and live in the higher world! But even these profound natures as well as the less profound have children and have the notion that these children must “earn,” that it would be very, very wrong if the children were not sent to schools where they would be trained in present-day methods of earning a living. Thereby they have already come to terms with the existing state of things; thereby they hand on this materialism to the next generation.

Now when someone talks like this he is an inconvenient person, and it is best simply to revile him, for to hear what I have just been telling you is for most people as if they were being irritated by vermin. Now people do not like being irritated in this way by psychic vermin and so they cover themselves with a thick skin which makes them impervious to what spiritual science has to say about our present culture. It is on this side then that the naivety lies; and when the Catholic Church saw that people were becoming so one-sided, they took care to have people specially trained, and in this they really were indirectly guided by spiritual impulses. And the foundation of the Jesuit Order by Ignatius Loyola as a result of fundamental influences from the spiritual world is one of the most significant events of metahistory, and in it one has to do with a strong spiritual efficacy.

Now, my dear friends, we must, of course, among ourselves be able to speak frankly; hence I have been obliged to speak of the grand but questionable training of the Jesuits. I also dealt with this theme in the cycle “From Jesus to Christ,” which some misguided member has now delivered into the hands of a mudslinger and fabricator of nonsense. You know that in the Karlsruhe cycle I discussed the fundamental basis of Jesuit training. What, may I ask, is the use of stating in each cycle that it is printed as a manuscript for members only, when mudslingers have the cycle at their disposal and can use it for the preparation of all sorts of lies? This incident bears out in a remarkable way what I have already often said, that the time would come when one could no longer count on these cycles being restricted to a small circle, for mankind is not at present fit to be entrusted with anything. Of course, everything written in that quarter is rubbish and untrue, but it is written not on the basis of my public writings, but of private cycles which have been passed on, and I have good reason to believe that one of the first cycles given into the hands of the Catholic clergy was that very Karlsruhe cycle on the Jesuits. For they on their part are not inclined to let the truth about Jesuit training be known. The world must know nothing of how Jesuits are trained; the world must know nothing of their powerful discipline.

Modern mankind in its simplicity is merely retarding its own consciousness. On the subject of the Jesuits there are absolutely no true ideas. There are numerous men within that Order of such spiritual capacity that if they were scattered about the world and did not spend their time in the way they do but were working at external science or painting or poetry, they would be honored as individual geniuses; they would be recognized as the great minds of mankind. Within the Jesuit Order there are countless men who would be great lights if they were to appear as individuals and were busy with something different — with, for instance, materialistic science. But these men suppress their very names; they submerge themselves in their Order, and one of the conditions of their strength is that the world should know nothing of the way in which many a head, clothed in black cassock and Jesuit cap, has been trained.

These things are intended to show you how fundamentally different the whole form of consciousness is in different categories of human beings. But our modern simpletons, who consider themselves enlightened, will not take these things seriously. That must be emphasized again and again, and that, my dear friends, is what I had to speak to you about today.

Now for the next two weeks while I am away we can have no more lectures here. In conclusion to what I have said, partly in public, partly in these private lectures, I had to add all that I have said here today in order that you should not ignore the importance of this misuse of our lecture cycles by our own members.* Of course, when the cycles were given, I thought I had to do with people who would respect the undertaking which in a certain sense they had been given. But I was mistaken, and it is quite clear from the rubbish that appears in articles today who has all the cycles at his disposal!

* All of Rudolf Steiner's lectures have now been published and are in the public domain.[Ed.]

Lecture I

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