Natural Science; the Anthroposophical Movement
16 January 1921, Dornach
Translated by Hanna von Maltitz
Our consideration during my presence this time will be to contemplate the vital earnestness embedded in anthroposophical knowledge needed for the great task of our time. When we say “with regard to the great task of our time” we don't need to think of something drifting over our heads which has been organized by some person in authority but we should be clear today that whatever weaves between people in everyday life contains, or is permeated to some extent, with something which belongs to the great task of our time. This should obviously be one of the primary implications of the Anthroposophic world view moving through our souls. This Anthroposophic world view directs us towards recognizing the existence of the spirit within everything, not existing somewhere in abstract heights, but living within the existence surrounding our everyday lives. This is what we must learn to apply to the great task of life and to every small daily experience and action.
When we consider life today from this angle we can ask ourselves: what are the components of life surrounding us from the reference point of spirituality? We have the remnants of ancient knowledge in various forms which was passed traditionally by word of mouth to adherents gathered in communities and their faith in the everlasting nature of the human being. In the most varied forms, most differentiated nuances, this most varied knowledge of this faith was brought to people. Humanity lived within this faith with the belief that all their soul needs were satisfied through this way. Besides this belief of confessions respective to their followers of that time, we have a popular addition today which originated from science, attributed to the present educational institutions. This science was gradually skilled by only considering sense-physical matter, at most penetrating it with inadequate spiritual suggestions, the latter now on the wane. The tendency is increasing towards regarding science as the only physical sense perceptible observation which at best can be combined with the mind.
Wherever we look at today's civilized world we get the impression that people create from two sources: on the one hand out of what is taught as so-called serious, exact knowledge, accepted on authority because on authority everyone accepts knowledge if they have not themselves worked within the subject of the knowledge in question, and therefore this knowledge is mostly accepted. Besides this, people surrender to their popular publications regarding how they should think about facts regarding astronomy, physics and chemistry, about biology, zoology, mineralogy, botany, history and so on, and more besides, submitting to it all and agreeing to be informed in such a way that they can say: All this must be true because it originates from the people who are in control of things through familiar instances of authority and so we accept whatever else flows from their various declarations. Proposing the creation of a bridge between the two is kicked out, because these declarations mostly instruct people to keep knowledge and faith separate and in no way try and merge them. Rising out towards a conscious penetration of these facts is rarely found. Efforts are necessary throughout to recognize scientific authorities arriving through the usual channels to presenting exact knowledge. However, one is inclined not to research these things in order to prove how they really relate to their creation through their scientific methodology.
On the other hand one is disinclined to research the origins of knowledge propagated through tradition which today is offered by official representatives. Awakening fully consciously towards what actually is presented rarely happens. When it does happen it very seldom results in seeing the issue in its true light. Should we accept it offends someone if we oppose what is termed dogma within the Catholic or Protestant denomination, regarding this dogma as “nonsense,” then we are opposing it for the sake of it and at the same time rejecting traditional confession, without finding the possibility to replace it with an alternative.
An example of dogma — I want to refer to a central dogma — is for instance that of the Trinity, the threefold personality of the godly Being. Whoever finds a dogma such as this presented through the denominations, finds it easy to some extent to oppose it according to today's scientific way of thinking. This expression can easily be revealed as “nonsense” in such a dogma. Whoever does go back to the way such a dogma was created will find that dogmas of common confessions have for a long time been propagated within humanity and that the point of origin of these dogmas, often characterized as humanity's earlier evolutionary steps according to instinctive clairvoyance, atavistic clairvoyance, are there, by looking into the spiritual world. Out of such clairvoyance these dogmas have emerged and one can say that something like the Trinity dogma has emerged out of deep, thorough insights within the structure of world existence. At one time this dogma of the Trinity was a deeply recognized truth. It presented a deep insight into the relationship of reality. However this was during ancient times when within the soul's abilities the powers of an instinctive clairvoyant knowledge fitted within such a dogma. This dogma then spread itself. It no longer fits into the current teachings of human soul forces. As a rule each person who has experienced this dogma from its origins has since then gone through several earthly incarnations. Souls had various experiences during these incarnations. In the outer world this dogma has been retained, transmitted from one generation to the next. Today it has taken on a form through words used to proclaim it which no longer can be understood. Now these souls are born again and come across this dogma in church. There is no human relationship between on the one side what the confession of the human soul is met with and on the other side what the soul from within itself strives to experience and to know. What works so badly at present is not that the dogmas are false but that the dogmas are in a form trapping the truth which in today's time are obsolete and thus the dogmas no longer offer what the soul of today needs. Thus we can say: these dogmas are preached today as if breathed by the wind. — Even those who inwardly confess to them do not apply these confessions as soul truths because they don't understand them for the most part. By accepting something which is not understood, creates an inner falsehood. As a result of this inner untruth so much damage has been done through the falsehoods in the world.
The results of untruthfulness within humanity in the last few years have really been immeasurable. Basically it shouldn't surprise us that this is so, from the simple basis that when the soul lives in falsehood the ego can be recognised as not having any sense of truthfulness in outer life. This should be kept in mind by all those who believe today that they should uphold traditional declarations. This is quite a serious situation with which we need to deal in this area.
Regarding dogmas, one could say the souls who have experienced various earthly lives where these dogmas were current, have grown out of them since they were formulated. Just as I have mentioned in the last two lectures that we need to be serious about these things, so we must during the examination of repeated earthly lives be serious. Vitally serious.
Just look from the same point of view at what humanity is given today through physical science. Here knowledge is being formed from purely physical sense perceptions. This has to be joined with what lives in the soul which has to fill itself with something which is merely sense perceptible material.
Examine how a living person stands within his or her life. They carry within them a soul which has gone through earthly lives and now don't find any connection to outer religious declarations. They connect however in certain areas of their life with what today is recognized as scientific. The question must be asked: What happens in the human soul when it connects with this recognised, merely physical sensory aspect of observable science? The soul, now integrated in the physical organism, had during an earlier incarnation incorporated quite a different relationship to nature, to the environment and the relevant world which cannot today be found in this knowledge. Only relatively few presently incarnated souls can be discovered who were not sufficiently incorporated in their former life in such a way as to relate to a definite knowledge containing spiritual imaginations, as I mentioned about natural phenomena, by incorporating a spiritual element. The sheer abstract science which has developed over the last three to four centuries didn't exist before. Not so very far back the kind of natural science existing then was such, even though it contained a sense perceptible element, it also contained within it something permeated by the spiritual. As a result many people who don't accredit it with anything special, presently with physical sense perceptible science don't find anything satisfactory about science, so they leave it lying and don't bother about it, or go digging and researching all kinds of tomes, what Basilius Valentinus or some or other person had handed out for natural science. It is true that all kinds of spirituality lived within the imagination about nature it at that time, but today, deep respect is only stirred within those who engage with it and just because it is not understood it is regarded most profound.
The important thing here is that even today's incarnated soul has no real relationship with ancient wisdom and with what goes on through the rest of life which is already fed, even grafted in school, in some or other form coming from sense perceptible observations. What is really presenting itself here if one considers the inner aspect?
Within our body we have the soul which has been in previous lives yet we come to some extent into our body without having any relationship to what the soul had experienced in a previous life. Throughout various earthly lives — as a necessity for the development of freedom — the soul developed in such a way that it was emptied of all it had absorbed before, in order not to have a relationship any longer to anything taken up earlier and thus have available capacity for what is actually living in the world at present. Our soul no longer brings with it anything from former earthly lives. We do bring results of our moral qualities with us but basically not what has lived in us from earlier earthly lives from which any kind of innate knowledge of world secrets could result. Today souls do not enter bodies in the same way it happened in Greek times. Souls who incarnated during the Hellenistic time entered life with still some old empowered knowledge which enlivened the body with soul spiritual life forces. Today this is not the case. Today the soul enters the body in a way which is consumptive. To an ever increasing degree this is the case; the souls which are born today has some destructive influence and lame the body, gradually dragging death forces through it. If evolution is to continue this way it will lead to the undermining and decline of earthly life. People would become weaker and weaker in their will forces. People will appear less and less able to have a grasp for detecting active impulses. People will gradually go through life like automatic detectors. How sad this is that we have to see the future in this way, and how seldom it happens that people are inwardly fired up through lively ideas. How often we find that people at present can be said to suffer from a soul sclerosis, turning out dead ideas and only allowing their minds to accept tradition and thus becoming machines.
It is really like this: if we go with an unprejudiced attitude through life and observe how people are placed in life, we can basically not differentiate, one person from another, amongst dozens of them. We can actually not tell them apart. We talk to A, to B, and then with C and they all say the same thing. Each one individually believes in having said something particular, but we can't find any particular difference between them, they all say the same thing. We actually only have one kind of human being in a variety of copies, and we can ask ourselves: Are we not being deceived — isn't what we talked about today the same as yesterday's conversation? — This corresponds completely to the observation of consecutive earthly lives in relation to our present earthly life. The soul no longer brings with it what it had in earlier lives, which went from one earthly life to the next and ever again appear, although with a decreasing power which is like an innate wisdom. That is no longer there. When we consider such souls and their connection to the external, sense perceptible scientific observation, then we see they are packed with transitory wisdom; with a wisdom which when expressed in imaginative ideas, is regarded as transitory. In order to conceal this fact by a terrible illusion, the old “Law of conservation of matter” in the nineteenth century was reinvented by the “Law of the conservation of energy.” This law was made up to conceal that there is nothing which can be conserved in nature, that everything is transient, even matter and energy. Nothing is left over for the soul when it is reincarnated in the future as a human machine; the soul being crammed with sensory observation and scientific material, because this fails to exercise anything alive and gives no fructifying power to the soul.
The soul born today comes over from an earlier earthly life, eager to be fructified by something which in turn will help it progress in its next earthly life. However the absorption of knowledge stemming only from the perishable offers a soul death; murders the soul. This is something which must be considered in all earnestness today, when the idea continues that non-understanding can relate to obsolete dogma, that only laming, deadening can come through non-spiritually penetrated scientific knowledge, and that the soul must experience a second death, suffer a soul death. It depends on individuals and on humanity, to rejuvenate their souls. Humanity dare not choose some comfortable passive attitude and say: I am an everlasting being, and the everlasting kernel of my being will preserve me forever through all circumstances. — This doesn't correspond to the effect of reality. The everlasting kernel within human beings exists of course but it has to be fructified in this decisive age if it doesn't want to be destroyed. There is no other way to keep the soul alive than to break free of mere sensory scientific observations and to justify a true spiritual science and to see how in all sensory observations the spirit is alive even in relation to physical facts. It comes down to not only registering purely sensory material but to promote what lives in everything that is sensory and penetrate it with spiritual imagination which actually lives within it and must not be excluded. As a result the souls coming out of a previous earthly life can take up this spirit-filled natural science, become fructified and thereby enable their vitality to be carried forward to the next incarnation. The continued existence of the soul, its health, in fact the continued existence of the soul life itself, the aversion to the soul death of humanity depends upon the spiritualization of our natural knowledge!
From of these facts and not out of any kind of prejudice today we are required to spiritualize natural science. When so many human beings turn against this spiritualization then this attitude, while ignorant about the actual meaning of these facts, are spurred on by minds we all well know about, in order to assert themselves so much more in their human nature, thus reducing what souls bring with them from earlier incarnations. Out of the entire grain of our present lives where the spiritual is being composed out of not only spiritual science but also sense perceptible knowledge, it is apparent in the most absurd sense that repeated antagonistic acts are against the intention to spiritualize natural science. It can't be stressed often enough how necessary it is in our time to deeply and inwardly understand such things — and if I dare use such a word — modify such facts. We can't take this seriously enough that today there's a rejection of spiritually permeated scientific knowledge, whether it comes across in the manner which I've heard mentioned — I don't know to what extent it is connected to the truth — through a decision by colour supporting students who boycotted lectures in the last weeks or if it appears in some other form. Today one can collect a whole jolt of writings opposing spiritual science. Dark, unsavoury streams validate that these things like to slumber and yet relatively soon they will become strongly apparent. Today it is much more comfortable to be unaware of things than being aware of them. However we no longer stand at a point where we can undo the past and remain uncommunicative to the world. This can no longer be allowed. The only way now is forwards. However this forward striving is connected to an active participation which can take on ever more evil forms — one can no longer call them discussions, but let us do so — “discussions” of the time. Only if we succeed from a strong basis, only if each one does his or her part and can come together, representing spiritual science and not be shy, everywhere unreservedly characterize it in an unconcealed manner where hidden aspects let hostility rise against spiritual science, only then can we hope to survive. It deals far less with only the literal interpretation of hostility against spiritual science, being caught up and acting defensively against it. It is certainly in one way or another necessary but it is not enough. Ultimately it is only a secondary appearance — when out of foolish misleading or misunderstanding ill-willed hostility rises against spiritual science. This is to some extend something secondary which naturally needs to be placed in the right light. Secondary it's obvious — I have recently mentioned it in an open lecture — what such people like Frohnmeyer have to say regarding the main statue group in Dornach, which can be experienced as a Christ figure: “In Dornach can be found a `Statue of the ideal human being' with above a `luciferic' trait and below one with animal characteristics.” — It is certainly necessary to point this out but ultimately not only to merely defend spiritual science but from a far deeper, more meaningful foundation. Whoever is capable of presenting such a terrible falsehood in the world, damages humankind in everything which is written and spoken, where it works instructively on mankind. Not only is it most significant that such a bludgeon of a lie is spoken but it is most significant that a person today is capable of such a strong lie as a symptom of paths mankind followed earlier. Attacks on spiritual science are recognisable according to how today's sense of truth is grasped. As a result, wider field work should be carried out in the spiritual realm. This is what it comes down to. We dare not shrink back from encountering this lack of a sense of truth on all fronts. Humanity must learn to understand that only with a real sense of truth can one work into the future when the soul has to find the way through this incarnation into the incarnation of the next age. Today this doesn't involve some kind of formality but actually the real life of the soul through consecutive earthly lives. If you search you will find the connection between every earlier characterized falsehood in thinking — in outer encountered confessions of the soul, without an inner connection with the truth — and the falsehood of the outer world. Actually it is quite an amazing phenomenon that such falsehoods come to the fore so strongly particularly in those — which doesn't mean I want to say they are not present in colleagues of other faculties — who pose as teachers of mankind, who should be the great Keepers of the Seals of religious truths.
This is the primary responsibility of today's humanity who strives for some kind of relationship with a spiritual life: to seek out cultural historical falsehoods. It is extraordinary how deeply these cultural historical falsehoods are taken up. They are a characteristic of our time. From out of politics where it has sown its foul marsh plants it has finally penetrated into other areas. Already the condition has arisen that people can hardly differentiate between truthfulness and falsehood in relation to certain phenomena of life. You see, step by step a certain life phenomenon plays into falsehood in daily life which plays a role in both daily life as well as in the greater affairs of life. Finally falsehood today itself has sprung from the same tendency, unconcerned whether it appears amongst enlightened men — certainly lit by a strange light — who gather in Geneva, or whether it appears in various bourgeois and proletarian coffee-gossipers. Whatever has lived as spirit in Geneva's various bourgeois and proletarian coffee-gossiping found it a popular falsehood, and I might mention in parenthesis — those present should not take it as evil — those who are within the Anthroposophical movement haven't quite been ratted out. This untruthfulness is a cultural phenomenon of the present and needs to be examined. Above all it should in no circumstances be excused but should be characterized before the contemporaries are revealed. We repeatedly experience that when something appears out of a pressing urgency and point to these things, that individuals within the anthroposophical movement, while finding these things uncomfortable, while they must live within this falsehood and as a result experience the characteristics of falsehood and find if highly uncomfortable some way or another, always take this characteristic of untruth as evil.
These things I have spoken about today should be thought about in relation to my two or three previous lectures related to the reincarnation of souls into today's civilised world, as well as to the interests present in part of humanity, that decisive element which wants to connect with humanity in the present age, and not to allow it to come close to humanity, can give an understanding of the immense seriousness of the task of our time within which we stand.
These present tasks are permeated with the deepest earnestness. Because of this, because it is so essential to examine these points of view on our home ground, I had spoken about things in conclusion and how painful it is for me that today so much time is taken into account without the simultaneous possibility of continuing the earlier anthroposophical work, as it was accessible just before this need — a requirement it is indeed — to work through these things which have often been spoken about and even today do actually exist. If we should want to place ourselves really in the right relationship with these things then it is necessary, imperative from out of the spiritual beings of present tasks.
Today we must make it increasingly clear: Our friends have engaged themselves in the anthroposophical movement in manifold ways since its inception at the start of the twentieth century. The anthroposophical movement is something which is not only a reality on the physical plane but which forms an uninterrupted ingredient of the spiritual worlds, a direct part of the spiritual world. Obviously outer practical participation is also a part of the spiritual worlds but not in the sense as it is within the anthroposophical movement. Regarding this, I want to say a few words.
The anthroposophical movement continues in its spiritual aspects whether the people representing it are hardworking or lazy; whether they make the effort to work progressively or against progress, going forward quicker or slower, yet they remain present in their spiritual reality. Because it has become necessary to bring about practical things in life which have grown out of the demands of the present, it appears different with these things. These things must be done at their allotted time, because it is impossible to cope with them when they are not completed at the right time. For things in practical life it can be so that when done in a slow trot, they simply happen too late. Within the anthroposophical movement one has in many cases become accustomed to things happening slowly or quickly. It is becoming more often the practice that what has been acquired here is being applied to things where the same practice is unsuitable. This is precisely what lies at the foundation of what I have recently wanted to characterise, by my indication to create a renewed possibility for that from which everything finally flows namely the anthroposophical movement, and maintaining it as such. How long have I already pointed out that it is not possible to have personal interviews now? Yes my dear friends, we have in the last days of the past week — very few people really work in practical matters — we have filled our days until three in the morning. People still turn indignant when their wishes are not taken into account after a personal meeting. However I'd like to know where the time should come for that. It has to be understood. For this reason no kind of casual manner should exist in anthroposophical life — just the opposite — a life enforcing strength comes from the anthroposophical life. As you are guaranteed that such empowerment comes from anthroposophical life, then other necessities will impact on practical life by themselves. Above all else this re-strengthening must come. This empowerment must come in such a way as to drive out all dreaminess from the soul. Whatever is brewing in some or other island of life, not bothered by what is going on in life today, is exactly what lames the pursuit of real tasks. These tasks are paralyzed when people on the one hand remain blind, sleepy towards what is happening in outer events around them and on the other, their salvation, even though this is more the lust of their soul becoming involved in all kinds of alien mystical problems on their island of life.
I'm touching on something extraordinarily important, something which is a direct application of ideas regarding the great tasks of our time and our own movement.
Every one of us must work together towards the enlivening of the anthroposophical movement. We can only work towards the strengthening of the anthroposophical movement when we cultivate a free and open insight for what causes decline in the greatest part of our cultural life. Anthroposophists for the most part don't worry about the appearances of decline. They don't get anything out of turning to the force permeating our civilization today which steers it towards the abyss. Despite it not wanting to be heard on the one side, on the other side it is again forgotten, I have to ever again point out that things do not improve on their own. Today's contemplative brooding, which is a kind of transcendental demonstration with many, is something which harms us tremendously. Instead of shaking up the will and saying to yourself: `I will do this' — contemplation persists whether here or there the relationships are such that something could be done.
My dear friends, at the beginning of the (20th) century the way the anthroposophical movement was thought about is not the way you would think about it today. Clever people who appeared at that time would have stipulated how things must work, and the cleverer ones would have distinguished between Schwabing and Munich, and everyone could hear the grass grow which indicated who could procure which area. Then some came who had discovered extraordinary relationships in Hannover and Frankfurt. This was encountered all over the place. If someone had really listened then no one would have taken a single step. At the time it was already a wicked thing but today, where much is dealt with in everyday practical life, it is even more evil because today it is not about tracking down such grass growing but that we engage our will forces to do something, to really work. It is of course tremendously easy to say: `I sense the transcendental atmosphere of this or that place, that one could do this or that ...' It is much easier than doing something. One should hardly ever apply the external and as far as possible bring about the inner approach. This is something which of course can't be stressed enough.
With anthroposophical seriousness encouraged, the real power can be cultivated in our relationship to external things and these must be encountered with real interest. We need to know after all what is going on in the world — and there are many things that do advance. Yet in our circles it is amazing how few are concerned with what is happening.
I want to highlight a deplorable fact. This fact has many causes but there is only enough time today to list a few. Clearly the subscription to our magazine for three-foldness hasn't increased by a single one. In addition our membership comprises thousands and thousands of members. It is really very sad that such a fact must be recorded. Yet this is a fact and this is only one of them. Do you believe that it is quite true to say that the opponents are the other guys and they are at their posts everywhere? These machinations are spreading around us. I say these things not without care and not without caution for what we should incur today, when we don't summon all the individual strengths we have. We need them. We must be steeped in so much anthroposophy that we can get to it or we will be too late. On the other hand I don't see that what has to be undertaken is being done, to then only lapse by saying that we got to it too late.
There is much beauty in the advancing, above all in the participation, of some students in our striving. From this very area the most fruit can develop when these things are met with real, true understanding but we must be clear about how these things should be met. Nebulous mysticism is out of the question. It depends on how something is met out of one's inner life's diligence.
So this and much more can be said today but I think that whatever else you need can be discover within yourselves when you develop a train of stimulated thought and take it further. In order for you to develop further is the issue I want to pose as my preliminary wish at the conclusion of this last agreement. Now the times are such that I can't express such a wish in what is to be fulfilled in years to come but that I can only look for the weeks when I can be here again. Basically the situation is like this, that we really use our time, that actually not a single week can be lost because we have not used it.
Therefore my dear friends, I would like to say two things in conclusion: first I want to express the wish that what I have said today must be understood until our next meeting, and secondly, that our next meeting can take place as a result of things which have been aligned with this wish. With this in mind I wish you farewell!