Whitsuntide in the Course of the Year
23 May 1915, Dornach
Translated by Violet E. Watkin
Man perceives in himself and in nature both what we call growth and what we call destruction, or perhaps dissolution. And he instinctively forms his ideas in such a way that he is permeated with a certain belief in reality when, whether in himself or in nature, he perceives building up — growth: He forms ideas about what in a sense goes outside reality, loses reality, by directing his glance to destruction, to dissolution; so that it seems quite natural to him to describe what thus goes outside reality, when he perceives it being dissolved, as gradually passing over into the so-called nothingness of the physical world.
I have often said that if we want really to arrive at ideas concerning the spiritual world, we must modify in many respects those ideas acquired in the physical world. We must have different ideas from those acquired in the physical world if we wish to enter at all with our thinking into the spiritual world. It is especially important that we should form a concept which is actually found everywhere in our study of spiritual science, but which we cannot too often bring before our souls — the concept of a connection during physical life between our consciousness and the corresponding processes in our physical organism, We shall never grasp the working of consciousness in the physical world unless we can connect it with the concept of destruction or dissolution. Were there only growth, only development in us as physical beings, we could never be conscious beings in the physical world. In this physical world what is represented in growth, in budding and sprouting, never leads to consciousness. Consciousness can begin only where the processes of growth are invaded by destruction, by processes of dissolution. On this basis we should make ourselves familiar with the ideas which initiation gives us concerning man's so-called evolution
We know that at first the child grows into the world as in a kind of dream. This dream-life of the child is, however, closely united with his growth, with all the sprouting and budding processes; and the younger the child whom we consider, the more do these budding and sprouting processes meet our eye. Only when the individuality in the human organism gains sufficient power to oppose the sprouting and budding, and can bring into them processes of dissolution, does fuller and more complete consciousness appear. We become conscious to the extent to which we are capable of pulling down in us what inner Nature builds up.
When anyone who has gone through initiation observes how consciousness arises in man, he finds that every conscious thought that is grasped, and every conscious feeling that asserts itself, are bound up with the fact that processes of destruction are contending with the building-up processes in the organism. When we look at conscious life we look at destruction; and we must accustom ourselves to have not merely a positive feeling for reality wherever we see a process of sprouting, budding, a process of growth, but we must rise to a feeling for the conscious life of the spirit by observing what part this conscious life of spirit plays in the physical world, by observing, that is, the processes of death and destruction. It is for this reason that we have to alternate the conscious processes with the unconscious processes of sleep, so that what we have destroyed during our waking life of thought may be built up again by the unconscious forces of nature in our organism. That is the swing of life's pendulum — that the soul force when it wakes to consciousness wears out and destroys what mere nature creates in the human organism; and that from the moment the soul, in sleep, forsakes the natural life of the body, from that moment the processes, activities, of sprouting and budding go forward. Hence it is not correct to believe that man's waking life is to be compared with life in summertime, when the earth is budding and sprouting. No! the earth itself as spiritual being wakes when towards autumn the dying processes begin, and it is during the winter that the earth is fully awake. During summer, during the budding and sprouting processes, we have the sleeping life of the earth. The Earth-Spirit sleeps during the summer and during the winter it wakes.
I have previously pointed out that it is due to spiritual initiation that the moment of time when man is destined to unite himself with what in earth-evolution should call up the fullest waking life — with the Christ Impulse — that this moment has been placed in the middle of winter, not in the summer, namely, the Christmas festival. On the other handy I have also called attention to how in more ancient times, when manes knowledge proceeded more from his participation in the sleeping condition of the earth, when his soul had to sink into the sleeping Earth-soul in order to have Imagination, the. dream-like Imagination of the old spiritual vision, then the corresponding festival, the John festival, had to be held during the heat of summer. This festival might be said to signify union in dream and ecstasy with the sleeping, dreaming spirit of the earth. The Christmas festival signifies a conscious union with the waking Earth-spirit. It is just through conceptions such as these, my dear friends, that we come to feel man's renewed connection with the cosmos We enter into this connection concretely, not by merely enthusing in a general way about man being a microcosm of the macrocosm, but by gaining accurate knowledge of how the mighty Earth-being sleeps and wakes, taking the whole year for this alternation, whereas man sleeps and wakes in the course of twenty-four hours.
And now we must turn our gaze with more precision to what we experience in the physical world as consciousness. Let us sketch diagrammatically the sprouting, budding life of our nervous system (see diagram). Clairvoyance actually sees the sprouting, budding life, for example, of the nervous system, especially of the brain, in this form of a fiery wave. Now the human life of soul is in truth outside this sprouting, budding life, Were I to draw the human soul-life as it is in the night, in sleep, I should have to draw it completely outside this figure; in waking life, however, we must picture the soul-life as permeating itself with this budding, sprouting, let us say, fiery life. Thus were the soul-life to permeate the physical organic life only, no consciousness would arise, flow does consciousness arise? For that, the soul must work upon the physical. In the physical to begin with are budding, sprouting processes of growth which are as it were distributed over the life of the nerves. It is these processes of growth that are now broken down and destroyed. A process arises similar to what takes place when the budding and sprouting plant gradually withers and decays; thus the soul life induces processes of destruction in this budding, sprouting life. The destructive processes I indicate here by holes in the shading.
When we are awake, therefore, our soul-life destroys the physical processes of growths breaks them down. Man as a rule knows nothing of this destruction. Clairvoyant vision alone perceives it and makes it possible to say: “Now that you have put yourself into relation with the spiritual world (I say expressly with the spiritual not the physical world) if you wish to have ideas you must destroy something in you.” What makes initiation such a shattering experience is that we perceive this destruction, that we know that If we bring ourselves into relation, let us say, with an Angel or an Archangel being of the spiritual world and want to gain some ideas concerning that being, that is, if we want to perceive the being truly, we must first destroy something in ourselves.
Not that anything is actually destroyed by initiation, but through initiation we become conscious of what is all the time being destroyed in the everyday process of perception. It is just the same when we put ourselves in relation with a flower or an animal, only in the usual course of life we are not aware of it. We begin to know of it only when these processes of destruction work back as reflection into the life of the soul. That is the change. Suppose, for examples you see a red flower. What you experience in the red flower causes you to call forth in yourself a process of destruction, You are, however, unaware of this. But what is destroyed is reflected into your soul and brings about that you have the red flower as an idea, as a perception. Thus you must first create in yourself a copy of the red flower by destroying the sprouting and budding processes, and while you destroy these you create what you then see. Conscious life consists in such processes of destruction, which again are followed by building-up processes It is an inner working at one's own organism and, strictly speaking, lies at the root of all works of human culture. When we instigate cultural work we also destroy something in nature. We cannot build a house if we do not go outside to get wood for it by a process of destruction, and what is thus the product of destruction, torn away from nature, we build up into our artistic creations. Strictly speaking, we do this in all works of art. We do just the same as the destroying, demolishing processes do to the budding, sprouting, which arrest processes of growth. What is embedded into the living organism as an inserted element of death forms the content of conscious being. Every time we display consciousness we are planting what is dead into what is alive, and the more conscious we become the more do we insert a dead man into our living man. Then sleep has the task of dissolving away these dead elements, all but certain remains which, persisting as processes throughout the whole of physical life, lie at the foundation of memory, Were everything to be dissolved by sleep, we should have no memory, no recollection. Thus you see if we want to acquire consciousness we have to recognise in our life a real winter. Consciousness means spreading the destroying, withering life of.nter over the budding, sprouting summer life, We have to make winter within us if we wish to become conscious. Thus we must in a sense learn to value the winter, because were it always summer in our life the spirit could not experience the physical consciously but would remain for ever unconscious.
Something more may arise out of these considerations, my dear friends. A materialistic observer of the world may easily say: It is not possible to look into the way in which consciousness works in the physical body. But when through spiritual science we learn that a parallel exists, in the way referred to, between the individual life of man and the life of the Earth-spirit, then we come to the following conclusion - that if we wish to have a concept of sleeping man and what he really is, all we need do is to imagine ourselves in the budding; sprouting life of summer where everything buds and blossoms. What goes on outside in the earth goes on in miniature and imperceptibly in manes physical nature. We should simply experience summer in man when we look at him asleep, and winter when we look at him awake. If we wish to know what happens to consciousness when it makes use of the physical body as instrument, we must observe how in autumn everything begins to dry up and wither, everything begins to die away, In the external picture we can make of winter we have a true idea of what the waking consciousness brings about in man's physical organism by using it as an instrument. That is why when the soul is outside the body and clairvoyant consciousness looks at the body out of which the soul has departed, it perceives the body as a budding, sprouting world. It is childish to believe that the clairvoyant, when outside the body with his soul, sees the body in the same way as in physical life we see another human being. We are wrong in thinking that the man lies there with his soul hovering above and that the soul looks back on the body and sees the man lying there beneath. That is not so. The moment the soul goes forth, the body becomes the world, a summer world; and if the soul remains clairvoyant on returning to the body, it experiences in itself the personal, individual winter.
We can thus discover an inner connection between the life of man and the life of the earth. When we consider the life of the earth and look first at summer time, outside us we see in this summer time what works and weaves in us in the same way but works and weaves during our sleeping condition. If we now seek to express in a few words the feeling of this working and weaving in sleep, we can do so as follows. All this is the world of coming to birth, of arising, And when we feel ourselves in this world, we can say, “OUT OF THE DIVINE WE ARE BORN”. For in so far as with our own forces we belong to this world, this budding and sprouting world, we must say: EX DEO NASCIMUR, Out of the Divine we are born. Man has been able to say EX DEO NASCIMUR at every stage of earth evolution and will be able to say it also in each future evolutionary stages
On the other hand it is essential for our own cycle of time, which follows the Mystery of Golgotha, that we should now understand that the forces of dying life work in us; melting forces, dissolving life, and that with this melting away, this dissolution of life, consciousness is connected. We find the consciousness of the earth, the waking earth-life, in the winter time. In order in winter to live with the earth in the physical world, we must dive down into what is dying, But since the Mystery of Golgotha, we do this by taking the Christ Impulse with us into what is dying: IN CHRISTO MORIMUR. We make this into a guiding motto through the other half of the year, when the earth is awake, awake in the dying life: IN CHRISTO MORIMUR.
Thus the earth's year is divided for us into two halves, into the half which has its culminating point at Midsummer, for which the saying holds good: EX DEO NASCIMUR, and the other half which has its culminating point at Christmas time, for which we have the saying: IN CHRISTO MORIMUR.
We should not think that the correct conception of man as the microcosm of the macrocosm is merely an abstraction, Nor should we think that we can do very much if we hold to abstract ideas about it. Rather should we be clear that we shall meet this conception more and more on really coming to the true life of the Spirit of the Earth. You see, when we observe the earth in winter with its dying, freezing life, this dying, freezing life is the expression of the thinking, feeling and perception of the waking Earth-spirit. But we must think of the Earth-spirit in connection with what surrounds us as our immediate world. We should picture the world, as it were, as a great spiritual being having the earth as physical instrument. And we get this idea of what the earth is thinking, especially of what it is thinking during winter, when we consider the whole manner in which the surroundings of the earth work into the earth. Imagine yourself on a night in winter, with your gaze directed to the stars, with perhaps the moon among the stars, and you have to say that the whole constellation of this starry world is an outward expression, a picture, of what is thought consciously on the earth, and we live in it because the cosmos enters into relation with the earth. You then see how we are standing in a living way within the thinking of the earth, in all that weaves and waves around the earth as earthly thinking, just as in summer, livingly with our own soul, we are within the earth-sleep;
Nevertheless, in summer we should take our place consciously in the life of the earth. We should call on. our astral forces so as not to succumb to the earth-sleep, Many people very easily fall asleep in the heat of summer, because during the universal sleep of the earth their astral forces are not strong enough to keep them awake. If we ourselves sleep during the summer time our activity is only equal in value to that of the earths In winter we should develop in the subconscious the forces for sleep which withstand the universal earth-life, whereas for the waking life during winter we need the forces lying more in the direction of the waking life of the Earth-spirit. So we might say we swing with our own life, with the lesser oscillations of our own life, within the yearly oscillations of the Earth-being, of the conscious Earth-being. And this conscious Earth-being is completely dependent on the star constellations There you have a living impression of the way in which our own soul-life is interwoven indirectly with the life of the stars in the sleeping and waking of the earth This gives us a living picture of what astrology is really meant to be, if it is at all to be taken seriously. Therefore, as I have often said Astrology is either the purest dilettantism, or it can only be striven for as an essential part in the deep study and knowledge of spiritual science.
Recently I have often emphasised, my dear Friends, how necessary it is that those who are drawn to spiritual science should acquire conceptions that will lead them from what is merely the content of thought into living reality, Think what entirely new sides of life open to us when we know that consciousness is based on a breaking-up, destruction, and that there has to be destruction for consciousness to have its physical instruments. For in very truth just as we cannot work in the physical world without destroying nature, so we cannot become conscious without the destruction in us of our processes of growth. Clairvoyance has to look upon these continuous processes of destruction, it has without bias to see how our whole life through, a gradual death is taking place for consciousness to be able to exist. Initiation consists in our receiving as it were a concentrated picture of this process of destruction spread out over the whole time between birth and death. This process is concentrated in actual physical death; were not physical death to come about, in the spiritual world after death we should never be able to develop consciousness. Death, the destruction of the physical and etheric bodies, is the primary condition for the development of consciousness in the time between death and a new birth. As a plant cannot be there if the root is not, so the consciousness between death and a new birth cannot exist if it is not rooted in the process of death. As in the first years of physical existence we have to strive for the possibility of destroying from the standpoint of the soul the early processes of budding and growth, consciousness only awaking to the extent to which we can embed the processes of destruction into the processes of growth — as only when the force of the destructive process has reached a certain stage a consciousness develops — so we have to destroy and discard the whole body. And the act we thus perform, this shedding first of the physical and then of the etheric body, is the starting point for the consciousness between death and a new birth. We acquire the faculty of consciousness between death and a new birth by being able to kill ourselves — we may be allowed to say this, for it corresponds with the truth — by being able, that is, to undergo the processes that take place in death. As life here between birth and death has its starting point in the merely plant-like life of the child, so the life between death and a new birth has its starting point in the process of death. We are here looking at strictly destructive processes, and it is important that we should adapt ourselves to the possibility of sharing in the life of the whole course of nature and that of the entire spiritual cosmos.
If you examine the modern life of spirit, my dear friends, you will find that in reality — I have pointed to this before — the development of man is gradually withdrawing more and more from the inner process of existence, and only the external world is considered. There is a growing disinclination to look at the whole of nature, the tendency being more and more to consider only half of her — the growing, budding and sprouting forces. Where annihilation begins, there existence is thought to cease. The materialist cannot think otherwise, since he can never form ideas about spiritual life in the physical world, because these ideas about spiritual life in the physical world begin just where the processes of destruction begin. He wants to investigate only the growing processes for to him they are the sole reality. When anything begins to wither he sets out to investigate what grows up over it, or he seeks in the dying process the chemical remains, that iso the material, the physical. The important point is that man has no wish to direct his attention to the other half, to the dying. Yet it is only from what passes away that men can acquire an insight into the existence of the conscious soul-life. This is a vastly important truth — that the modern world-outlook, because it has developed in the way indicated because it always directs attention to what is budding and sprouting, has deprived itself of the power to see the spiritual, the spiritual only betraying its presence in things when they begin to disintegrate. As long as there is budding and sprouting, the spiritual works within the beings, not appearing as spirit but manifesting externally through material processes. If the spiritual is to appear in the beings, processes of destruction must take place. The spirits of the blossoms, the elementary spirits of the plants, may not remain when the blossoms open and the flowers are developed, when the sun with its sounding waves charms forth the budding, sprouting life. “If it strikes you, you are deaf.” Read these words at the beginning of Part II in Goethe's “Faust” with understanding, The spirits must dive down, They can emerge only when the budding and sprouting life withdraws.
You see, the poetic perception of Goethe was so living that he thoroughly realised how the budding and sprouting that comes forth with the rising of the sun makes it necessary for the elves to recede. But this will become clear to us, my dear friends, that at the sight of the physically dying world there arises first the misty realm of the spirit and then the whole true spirit realm. It is not without meaning when in folklore we hear that to become spiritual the trees must first decay, that only when they are decaying do they let us see the spirit. If we go out into the country and see a decaying, dried-up tree-trunk, it is really showing for the first time its spiritual appearance. There must everywhere first be destruction before the spiritual is to appear.
Modern spiritual life, it is true, consists just in this — that souls have withdrawn from such an intimate living together with nature that they are able to feel the decaying forces and in them all that is spiritually alive. Hence it is that today when we speak of the spiritual, people can form no conception of it at all, for they only consider the world in so far as it buds and sprouts. When it ceases to do this, when decay sets in, for them it leaves the field of reality. If you speak to them of the realm of true life, if you say that the spiritual rises out of the dying, if you tell them all this, you will find that they are listening to something that has absolutely no meaning for them. It may actually happen that if you are speaking today to a gathering of people who have had no previous preparation through spiritual science and you talk of the spiritual living in the world, they have no notion of what is in question. To such people world-conceptions are a matter of complete indifference, They take no interest in discovering; what may be found at the basis of things:. One can have the same kind of experience that we once had at a lecture. You know that we try as far as possible to keep away those who are generally the least cultured of those attending our lectures, those who write for the newspapers. As a rule they understand the minimum of what is spoken about, But sometimes it happens that these very clever people of the present day cannot be kept away. One cannot always act in such a drastic way as was done recently at a certain place in Austria when a reporter came to the lecture and our chairman said to him: “You will certainly not understand anything and had better stay away.” The man had actually bought a ticket. It can't always happen like that, It happened on another occasion that a reporter wrote: “What is this spiritual science meant to be? It is obvious that one person pictures the world in one way and another somehow else, Everyone has a right to his opinion.” Thus in our time you find all over the place complete lack of interest mixed with utter frivolity whenever a world-conception is in question. And this was once written about a lecture: “One person sees the world as a box of bricks, another makes a brew of toads gall with tiger's intestines, a third is a monist, a fourth stares at the confusion without thinking at all, a fifth looks through two pairs of spectacles at the forces of the soul and so (says the writer) we could go on indefinitely.” He is completely indifferent to all these points of view.
This lack of interest towards a spiritual comprehension of the world is not diminishing, it is increasing, and will go on doing so unless a deepening comes about in the world through spiritual science, Deepening through spiritual science will prove of the greatest value, my dear friends, because it does not merely call upon man's faculty for forming concepts and ideas, but seizes upon his whole soul and permeates it so that he actually feels himself as microcosm in the macrocosm, and really experiences individually what has first to build itself up on the processes of destruction. We can attain an actual living-together-with-the-dead only when we can see in the destructive process of death a process that makes a foundation upon which the spiritual being of man rises after death — a process continuing to work up to the time of a new birth.
Thus spiritual science must mean both familiarizing ourselves with the truth of things and letting the truth of things take hold of our very being. Modern spiritual life is a withdrawal from the truth, a becoming apathetic It is becoming a matter of indifference whether there is real clairvoyant vision or whether “toads' gall is brewed with tiger's intestines”. In its culture and ethics modern spiritual life is on the way to the most frivolous and cynical indifference towards all existence that has to do with the depths of being, On the other hand, spiritual science is developing and can develop in a natural way, since the human soul, simply by interesting itself in the results of spiritual investigation, is taken hold of by the cosmic process, carried into it, interwoven with it. It is not necessary to be clairvoyant, but only to enter honestly into the experiences resulting from clairvoyance, getting to know spiritual science; then one will be laid hold of and carried along by what is received through anthroposophical concepts into a living mutual experience and mutual feeling with the cosmos, For this it is certainly necessary that spiritual science should not be looked upon as something adding to the enjoyment of life, but again and again we must penetrate further with our thought into what spiritual science gives. We need not be clairvoyant at first but must accustom ourselves to consider the things of life from many aspects, in the sense of spiritual science. Hence among us things are described from the most varied aspects. Then the experiences take hold of one and carry the soul in feeling if not with knowledge right into the life of the spiritual world, into the spiritual manifesting in the material.
But now my dear friends, in what spiritual science wishes to bring about in knowledge, in art, in religious feeling, and in ethical will — spiritual science takes its place in our spiritual life as something of which we have to be conscious that it is a new element in modern culture. Any anthroposophist must become conscious of this new thing. Yesterday I pointed this out in another connection — namely, that it is necessary for us to give a new form to the Christ Impulse, that our figure of the Christ is essentially different in form from that of Michelangelo's . Our thinking and feeling have to be thoroughly transformed in face of the new standpoint. Then men will begin to have an inkling of what life is as a whole — intensive, living life, For this has ceased. Wherever we look in our environment there is no longer the feeling Goethe expressed when he said: “Art must be the expression, the true expression, of living cosmic laws.” Art has to be an interpretation of the mysterious laws of nature. Today there is no longer any understanding for that. Hence one sees that in all spheres there is a gradual falling away from the real inner life of truth, in what appears as knowledge on the one hand, and on the other as art. In art today we are fond of speaking of compositions, of juxtapositions of individual parts. What art was in olden times, what it must again become — a creating out of the truth of the things themselves — has vanished. In the fullest sense there is an ahrimanic conspiracy against truth, which is spread abroad in the world, and this appears today in the sphere of art as well as in that of science. In the sphere of science we see everywhere a clinging to what is merely perceived by the senses.
In art, too, we see what resembles this. We see, in man, the possibility of feeling and perceiving the inner truth of things gradually dying out. Thus works of art can be produced and admired throughout the civilised world like “Jean Christophe”, the novel by Romain Rolland.
Anyone who creates out of true art, who feels inner truth, inner ruling truth, will never jumble together such a “work of art” as “Jean Christophe”; he would know that the individuality of a Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Strauss, Gustav Mahler, has its inner truth for each one of them. If we jumble them all together, we produce a vexatious chaos of decadent art like this tiresome “Jean Christophe”, which, however, to the regret of all concerned with real art, is admired throughout the civilised world. It is admired, let me say, because today there is a secret conspiracy against the real, essential truth. Indeed, people are no longer aware that they are sinning against the real, essential truth in admiring this so-called literary work and in letting pass as valid not the living individualities built up from a unity that is alive, but a chaotic, foolish work that is all patched together.
We must, my dear friends, be alive to the various sources of perversion out of which the soul willingly creates at the present time; we must calmly and courageously acknowledge what is thus perverted so as to bring to consciousness the significance of the impulse of spiritual science and its intervention in man's living world of truth. Then we shall understand. that we live in an age in which we must be clear that what confronts us as summer-life, budding, sprouting life, is EX DEO NASCIMUR; diminishing life, the destroying of the soul-life, but spirit issuing forth from this destruction in our life since the Mystery of Golgotha — IN CHRISTO MORIMUR. But in the future men must not remain standing on this ground; when this budding, sprouting life of summer when comes, when the Earth-spirit sleeps, we must find the strength to develop and carry into the sleep of the Earth-spirit a higher force arising from the life of soul resulting from clairvoyant knowledge. Then we have to say: As the world in summer is EX DEO NASCIMUR, so the world in winter; and since the Mystery of Golgotha, is IN CHRISTO MORIMUR.
But as we go to meet the sleep, the summer life, the sleep of the external organism of the earth, let us be conscious that we can carry into this time what we now experience out of this actual living together with the spiritual world, what the spirit carries into this time of the earth's sleep — the mood of Whitsuntide. If we have felt: IN CHRISTO MORIMUR aright, we shall bear the Whitsun mood into this sleep-condition of the earth by receiving the impulse spiritual science is able to give.
We are born out of the Divine; the summer life of budding, sprouting nature is witness to this We live with the Christ, and feel that we do, by living ourselves into the winter; when the earth wakes we take the Christ Impulse with us into the life of dying Nature: IN CHRISTO MORIMUR, But by going forward again to meet the summer with the Mystery of Golgotha, we carry the Whitsun mood into life so that it may awake in the darkness of summer, in the budding and sprouting and that amidst the sleeping Earth-spirits we ourselves awake in spirit: PER SPIRITUM SANCTUM REVIVISCIMUS.