Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy L7

ma·te·ri·al·ism: a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.

 

LECTURE VII
Dornach, April 22, 1921

A future study of history will record these days as belonging among the most significant ones of European history, for today central Europe’s renunciation of a will of its own became known. It remains to be seen in what direction matters will develop further in the next few days, but whatever takes place, it is, after all, an action that much more so than many that have preceded it in our catastrophic age, is connected with human decisions of will that originated in the full sense of the word from the forces of decline in European civilization. Such a day can remind us of the periods from which emerged everything within European civilization, the origin of which I described in the past few weeks. It has its point of departure, as it were, in what is described so superficially by history but what so profoundly influenced the civilization of mankind after the fourth Christian century.

We have characterized these events from several perspectives. We have outlined how after the fourth century the element that could be termed the absolutely legalistic spirit invaded the ecclesiastical and secular civilization of the Occident and then became more and more intensified. We then indicated the sources from which these matters originated. Indeed, already earlier we have called attention to the fact that in the middle of the nineteenth century modern humanity underwent a crisis that, although given little notice, can even be described from an anatomical, physiological standpoint, as we saw here a few weeks ago. All that then took its course in the second half of the nineteenth century, particularly in the last third, culminating in the unfortunate first two decades of the twentieth century, stands under the influence of what occurred in the middle of the nineteenth century.

This day in particular gives us cause to introduce these considerations we intend to pursue in the next few days with the contemplation of a certain personality. This is something we have done already on several occasions, but it might be especially important from the viewpoint I wish to assume today. One could say that this is an individual who, partly as a spectator and partly as one undergoing the events of history as a tragic personality, experienced what was present in the form of forces of decline within European civilization in the last third of the nineteenth century. I am referring to Friedrich Nietzsche.

We are not assuming our standpoint today in order to biographically consider the personality of Nietzsche in any way. We only do so in order to demonstrate a number of aspects of the last third of the nineteenth century through the person of Nietzsche. After all, his activities fall completely within this period of the nineteenth century. He is the personality who participated, I would like to say, with the greatest sensitivity in all the cultural streams pervading Europe during that period. He is the one who sensed the forces of decline inherent in these trends in the most terrifying manner and who, in the end, broke down under this tragedy, under these horrors.

Naturally, one can approach the picture we have in mind from any number of directions. We shall focus on a few of them today. Friedrich Nietzsche grew up in a parsonage in central Germany. This implies that he was surrounded all through his childhood by what can be designated as the modern confinements of culture, the narrowness of civilization. He had around him all that expresses itself in a philistine, sentimental manner and yet simultaneously exhibited smugness, conceit, and trivial contentment. I say complacent, conceited, for this culture believed it had a grasp on the untold number of secrets of the universe in threadbare, superficial sentiments. I say content with trivialities because these sentiments are indeed the most commonplace. They penetrate philistine sentimentality from the very simplest human level and, at the same time, are valued by this philistine sentimentality as if they were the pronouncements God uttered in the human mind.

Nietzsche was a product of this narrowness of culture, and as a young man he absorbed everything someone can acquire who passes through the present-day higher forms of education as a, let me say, unworldly youth. Already during his early teens, Nietzsche was attracted with all his heart to everything that streams out of Greek tragedies such as those by Sophocles or Aeschylus. He imbued himself with all that strives out of Greek humanism towards a certain spiritual-physical world experience. And with all of his human nature, with his thinking, feeling, and willing, Nietzsche wanted to stand within this experience of world totality of which Man can feel himself to be a part, an individual member.

Time and again, the soul of young Friedrich Nietzsche must have confronted the mighty contrast existing between what the majority of modern humanity in its philistine sentimentality and narrow, trivial self-contentment calls reality and the striving for loftiness inherent in the tragic poets and philosophers of early Greek antiquity. Certainly, his soul swung back and forth between this philistine reality and the striving for sublimity in the Greek spirit that surpasses all trivial human striving. And when he subsequently entered the sphere of modern erudition, the lack of spirit and art, the mere intellectual activity of this modern scholarship was particularly irritating to him. His beloved Greeks, through whom he had most intensely experienced the striving for loftiness, had for him been remolded by modern science into philological, formal trivialities. He had to find his way out of the latter. Hence he acquired his thorough antipathy against that spirit he considered the source of modern intellectualism. He was seized with profound antipathy against Socrates [Note 5] and all Socratic aspirations.

Certainly, there are the impressive, positive sides of Socrates; there is all that one can learn in a thorough manner through Socrates. Yet, on the one hand, we have Socrates as he once existed within the world of Greece and, on the other hand, there is Socrates, the ghostly specter haunting the descriptions of modern high school teachers and university philosophers. With whom could young Nietzsche become acquainted when he initially observed his surroundings? Only with the ghostly specter Socrates! This is how he acquired his dislike against this Socrates, out of what has arisen through this Socratism within European civilization. Thus, he saw in Socrates the slayer of human wholeness that in the art and philosophy of the pre-Socratic age had streamed through European civilization. In the end, it seemed to him that what overlooks the world from the foundation of existence is a reality turned philistine and desolate. He felt that any lofty, noble striving to ascend to the spiritual spheres of life must struggle to overcome such a reality.

Nietzsche was unable to discover such noble tendencies in anything that could have emerged from the prevailing striving for knowledge; he could find it only in what originated from efforts of artistic character. For him, what had developed as tragic art out of ancient Greece illuminated the philistine atmosphere into which Socratism had finally turned. He saw Greek tragedy reborn, as it were, in what Richard Wagner was endeavoring to create as tragedy out of the spirit of music towards the end of the 1870’s and beginning of the 1880’s. [Note 6] In the musical drama to be created he saw something that by ignoring Socratism was connected directly with the first Greek age of total humanism. Thus, he recognized two streams of art, on one hand, the Dionysian, orgiastic one that, arising from unfathomable depths, attempts to draw the whole human being into the world, and, on the other hand, the one that eventually was so perverted in Europe that it lost all its luster and decayed into the absolute spiritual sclerosis of modern scholarship, namely, the Apollonian stream. Nietzsche strove for a new Dionysian art. This pervades his first work, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music (Die Geburt der Tragoedie aus dem Geist der Musik). Right away, he had to experience how the typical philistine railed at what expressed itself in this book out of a knowledge borne aloft by wings of imagination. Immediately, the leading philistine of modern civilization, Wilamowitz, mobilized. (Subsequently he became the luminary of the University of Berlin and clothed the Greek creators of tragedy in modern, trivial garments that won the undying admiration of all those who penetrate as deeply into the Greek word as they are distant from the Greek spirit.) Right away the collision occurred between the stream that, borne by the spirit, tried to penetrate the artistic element based on knowledge and the other that does not feel comfortable within this richly imaginative spirit of knowledge, this knowledge borne by the spirit, and that therefore escapes into philistine pedantry.

Everything his soul could experience through this contrast was then poured out by Nietzsche in the beginning of the 1870’s in his four so-called Thoughts Out of Season (Unzeitgemaesse Betrachtungen). The first of these contemplations was dedicated to the educated philistine proper of the modern age. These Thoughts Out of Season have to be considered in the right light. They were certainly not intended as attacks against individual persons. In the first contemplation, for example, the otherwise quite worthy and upright David Strauss w[as not meant to be attacked personally. He was to be considered as the typical representative of modern philistinism in education which is so infinitely content with the trivialities developing out of this modern life. We actually experience this again and again, because, basically, matters have not improved since those days, they have only intensified.

This is approximately the same experience as the one we have when we attempt to contribute something to the comprehension of the world out of the depths of spiritual science. Then people come and say that although what is being said concerning an etheric and astral body and spiritual development may all be true, it cannot be proven. One can only prove that two times two is four. Above all else, one has to consider how this unprovable spiritual science relates to the certain truth that two times two is four. You can hear today in all possible variations — although perhaps put not quite so bluntly — that the objection that two times two is four must be raised against every utterance concerning soul and spirit land. As if anybody would doubt that two times two is four!

Friedrich Nietzsche wished to strike out against the philistinism of modern education when he described its prototype, David Friedrich Strauss, the author of Old and New Faith (Alter and neuer Glaube), this arch-philistine book. He also tried to demonstrate how desolate things stood with modern spirituality. We need only recall some important facts to show just how desolate they are. We need only remember that in the first half of the nineteenth century there still existed fiery spirits, for example, the historian Rotteck, who lectured on history in a one-sidedly liberal form but with a certain fiery spirituality. We only have to recall that in Rotteck’s History (Geischichte) something of the totality of man holds sway, albeit a somewhat withered one, something of the human being who at least brings into the whole experience of mankind’s development as much spirituality as there is rationality in it. We need only compare this with the people who said later, It will lead nowhere to try and develop a national constitution or social conditions out of human reason. Instead, we ought to study ancient times, concentrate on history. We should study the way everything developed and accordingly arrange matters in the present.

This is the attitude that, in the end, bore its dull fruits in the teachings of political economy represented, for instance, in somebody like Lujo Brentano, [Note 11] the attitude that only wished to observe history, and actually held that anything productive could only have been brought into humanity’s evolution in ancient times.

It held that nowadays one would really have to empty out the human being and then, like a sack, stuff him full with what can still be gained from history so that modern man, aside from his skin — and at most a little of what lies under the skin — would, underneath this tiny area, be stuffed full with what former ages have produced, and would in turn be able to utter ancient Greek insights, old Germanic knowledge, and so on. One did not think nor wished to believe that the modern human soul could be imbued with any productivity. History became the catchword of the day. Nietzsche in the 1870’s was disgusted by this and wrote his book The Use and Abuse of History in Life (Vom Nutzen and Nachteil der Historie fuer das Leben) in which he indicated how modern man is being suffocated by history. And he demanded that productivity be attained once again.

The artistic spirit still lived in Nietzsche. After he had turned to Wagner, “a philosopher, as it were,” he again dealt with another philosopher, namely Schopenhauer. In Schopenhauer’s ideas he saw something of the reality of the otherwise dull and dusty spirit of philosophy. Nietzsche regarded Schopenhauer as an educator of modern humanity, not only as someone who had been but as someone who ought to become such a teacher. And he wrote his book Schopenhauer as Educator (Schopenhauer als Erzieher). He followed this with Richard Wagner in Bayreuth, pointing out in an almost orgiastic manner how a revival of modern civilization through art would have to come about.

Strange indeed are the depths from which Richard Wagner in Bayreuth originated. Friedrich Nietzsche himself had painstakingly edited out everything he had written in addition to what was then published under the title, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth. One could almost say that for each page of this book, printed in 1876, there exists a second page that contains something completely different. While Bayreuth and its activities are enthusiastically celebrated in this book, in addition to each page Nietzsche wrote another, as it were, different page filled with deeply tragic sentiments concerning the forces of decline in modern civilization. Indeed, even he could not believe in what he was writing; he could not believe that the power to truly transform the forces of decline into those of ascent lay in Bayreuth. This tragedy prevails especially in those pages, deleted at that time, that remained in manuscript form and were made public only after Friedrich Nietzsche had fallen ill. It was at that time that the great change came over him, actually already in 1876. This period of Nietzsche’s life ended tragically in the agony over the forces of decline inherent in modern culture.

Already in 1876 the disgust concerning the decline was stronger in his mind than the joy over the positive forces he had initially noted in Bayreuth. Above all, his soul was inundated by the observation of all that has pervaded modern civilization of untrue elements, of the present-day lack of truthfulness. And I would like to say this concentrated itself in his mind into a picture of what affects this modern civilization on the human level. He was actually no longer able to discover in this modern culture any redeeming spirituality that could surmount the philistine view of reality. Thus, he entered his second period in which he opposed the distorted self-concept of human beings in modern times with what he called the “all-too-human” (Allzumenschliche), with the true concept of the human being, of which people these days do not want to know anything.

One would like to say, Just look at those individuals who have celebrated modern history in this manner, such as Savigny, Lujo Brentano, Ranke and the other historians and ask what they are actually doing? What is woven into the tapestry of the active spirit of the times? Something is being produced that is supposed to be true. Why is it presented as truth? Because those individuals who speak of such a truth are in reality themselves spiritually impotent. They deny the spirit because they themselves do not possess it and cannot discover it. They dictate to the world: You must be thus and thus — for they lack the light they are supposed to shed over the world. The all-too-human, the whole all-too-narrow attitude is what is built up to the human element and presented as absolute truth to mankind. From 1876 on, this dwelled as a feeling in Nietzsche while he wrote his two volumes Human, All Too Human (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches); then Dawn Morgenroete, and finally, Joyful Science (Froehliche Wissenschaft), by means of which Nietzsche plunged as if intoxicated into nature so as to escape from what had actually surrounded him.

Nevertheless, a tragic feeling was present in him. Northern Germany, northern Europe in general and central Europe had had an effect on him; he absorbed all that and from Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner in particular he found his way to Voltairism; the text Menschliches, Allzumenschliches was dedicated to Voltaire. He attempted to revive Socratism by trying to breathe new life into it, but he did this by seeking the all-too-human truth, human narrowness, behind the lie of modern civilization. He tried to reach the spirit out of this human narrowness. He did not find it behind the accomplishments of men of more recent times. He believed he could find it through a kind of intoxicated plunge into nature. He endeavored to experience this intoxicated plunge into nature in his life by traveling south repeatedly during his vacations in order to forget, in the warm sun and under the blue sky, what men have produced in the modern age. This drunken plunge into nature underlies his Morgenroete and the Froehliche Wissenschaft as the basic feeling. He did not find joy through it; his sense of tragedy remained. It is especially pronounced when we see him express his sentiment in poetry and hear: [

Die Krähen schrei’nund ziehen schwirren Flugs zur Stadt:

bald wird es schnei’n, —wohl dem, der jetzt noch — Heimat hat!

(The ravens shriek and fly with flutt’ring wings to town;
soon it will snow, —how fortunate is he who now still has — a home!

Nietzsche, too, had no home. “Fly, bird! Rasp your song in sounds of wasteland birds.” He had no home because this is the impression he had of himself, as if ravens were shrieking round him when he fled again and again from Germany to Italy. Soon, however, it became evident that he could not remain in this mood. There are verses by Nietzsche in which he remonstrates against anybody who takes this mood expressed in the lines, “The ravens shriek and fly with flutt’ring wings to town,” too seriously. He did not wish to be considered only as a tragic person; he also wanted to laugh about everything that had occurred in modern culture. As I said, just read the few lines that follow after the above poem in the most recent Nietzsche edition. So in the last third of the nineteenth century we have, in a sense, in Nietzsche a spirit predestined to abandon everything people in the modern age have produced, to flee everything the arts and the sciences have accomplished, in order to find something original, to discover new gods and smash the old

We might say that this individual was too deeply wounded by his age for these wounds to heal, much less for them to give rise to a productive new impulse. Thus, from these wounds sprang forth creations and ideas devoid of content. The Superman appeared, pervaded by sensuous, bleeding lyricism. In the last third of the nineteenth century, it was no longer possible for Nietzsche to penetrate to the true human being on the basis of natural science, which had extinguished man, or on the basis of sociology or the social structures of the last century, an age that possessed machines but no longer the human being, except as he stands in front of the machine. Nietzsche did, however, experience the urge to escape through negation, to flee what was no longer known and felt to be human. Instead of a comprehension of the human being out of the whole cosmos, instead of an “occult science,” there emerged the abstract, lyrical, sultry and overheated, pathological and convulsive Superman, appearing in visions before his soul in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Also sprach Zarathustra; [Note 18] visions that in part touch the deepest aspects of human nature but that basically always sound disharmonious in some way, expressing intentional disharmony.

Then, there is the other negation, or rather idea devoid of content. This life between birth and death cannot be understood if it is not at the same time seen as extending beyond the one earth life. Those who truly possess a feeling for grasping the one life between birth and death, who take hold of it with such a profound feeling and lyricism as did Friedrich Nietzsche, those sense in the end: This life cannot be comprehended as a single one, it must be viewed in its development through many lives. But as little as Nietzsche could bestow a content on the human being and therefore proceeded in a convulsive manner to his negation, the Superman, as little could he give substance to the idea of repeated earth lives. He hollowed these lives out; they turned into the desolate, eternal return of the same. Just think for a moment what can arise in our mind concerning repeated earth lives, which are linked to each other in karma through a mighty progression of destiny. Just picture how one life pours content into the following one; then imagine these earth lives as shadowy, empty husks, emptied of all content, and there you have the eternal return of the same, the caricature of the repeated earth lives.

Impossible to penetrate to the image of the Mystery of Golgotha by means of what the modern confessions represent — this is how what could have disclosed itself to him through Christianity appeared to Nietzsche! It was impossible to penetrate the religious conceptions that had come about since the fourth century and to arrive at an idea of what had occurred in Palestine at the beginning of the Christian era. Yet, Nietzsche was filled with a profound desire for truth. The all-too-human had come before his soul in a saddening form. He did not wish to participate in the lie of modern civilization; he was not fooled by an image of the Mystery of Golgotha such as the one presented with absolute mendacity to the world by the opponents of Christianity, by the likes of Adolf Harnack. [Note 19] Even in the lie, present as actual reality, Nietzsche still tried to discern the truth. This was the reason for his distortion of the Mystery of Golgotha in his Antichrist. [Note 20] In the Antichrist, he depicted the image one has to present on the basis of the modern religious conceptions if, instead of lying, one wishes to speak the truth based on this form of thinking and yet, at the same time, is unable to penetrate what modern knowledge offers and to come to what in truth is present in the Mystery of Golgotha.

This is approximately Nietzsche’s state of mind in the years 1886 and 1887. He had abandoned everything offered by modern cultural insights. He had passed on to the negation of man in the Superman, because he could not attain to the idea of man in modern knowledge, which has eradicated the human being from its field. From his feeling concerning the one earth life he had received an inkling of repeated earth lives, but modern thinking could not give him any content for them. Thus, he emptied out what he sensed; he no longer had any content; only the formal continuation of the eternally same, of the eternal repetition, stood before his soul. And in his mind, he beheld the travesty of the Mystery of Golgotha, as he described it in his Antichrist, for if he wished to cling to the truth, he could find no way leading from what modern theology offers to a conception of the Mystery of Golgotha

He had been able to study quite a bit concerning the Christian nature of modern theology in the writings of Overbeck, the theologian from Basle. The fact that this modern theology is not Christian is in the main proven in Overbeck’s texts dealing with modern theology. All the unchristian elements pervading modern Christianity had lived deeply in Nietzsche’s soul. The hopeless lack of vision in this modern knowledge had deprived him of a true overview of what is produced in the human being in one life for the next one. Thus arose in him the empty idea of the return of sameness. The Christian impulse had been taken from him by what calls itself the Christian spirit in the modern age, and he saw the untruthfulness of his age, and he could not even believe any longer in the truthfulness of art in which he had tried to believe at the beginning of his ascending career. He was already filled with this tragic mood when utterances burst forth from his soul, such as “And the poets lie too much …” Out of their innermost human nature, poets and artists of the modern culture have indeed lied too much and lie too much to this day. For what the forces of the future need most and what modern civilization possesses least of all is the spirit of truth.

Nietzsche strove for this spirit of truth; which alone can present to the human being the true idea of himself. Through the development in repeated earth lives, it alone can bestow on this one earth life a meaning other than that of the senseless return of the same. Through a sense for truth, he thirsted for the true conception of the One Who tread the earth in Palestine. He found only a travesty of it in modern theology and present-day Christian demeanor. All this broke him. Therefore, the personality of Friedrich Nietzsche expresses the breakdown of the spirit striving for truth amid the falsehood that has arisen since the point of crisis in modern times, namely, since the middle of the nineteenth century. The rise of this untruthfulness is so powerful that people do not even have an idea of how deeply they are enmeshed in its nets. They do not even give a thought any more to how truthfulness should replace falsehood at every moment.

In no other way, however, than by realizing that our soul has to be imbued with this fundamental feeling that truth instead of falsehood must prevail, only through this profound feeling can anthroposophical spiritual science live. Modern civilization has been educated in the spirit of untruth, and it is against this spirit of falsehood — this can really be cited as an example — that anthroposophic spiritual science has to fight the most. And today, matters have reached the point, as I mentioned already at the conclusion of my last lecture, where even in regard to our anthroposophically oriented spiritual science we find ourselves in a deep, intense crisis. What we need to do very much is to work, to be intensely active out of enthusiasm for truth. For the malaise our culture suffers from is exemplified in what is happening hourly and daily, the malaise that will cause its downfall if humanity does not take heart.

In the last issue of a weekly magazine, which usually expresses widely prevailing public opinion, we read of agitation against Simons’ political policies. It goes without saying that neither anthroposophic spiritual science nor the threefold social order have anything to do with Simons’ politics. Anthroposophic spiritual science, however, is thrown together today with Simons’ politics by a far-reaching spirit of falsehood. People know what is achieved by such means, and much will be achieved. Something of the whole rotten mendacity comes to expression when one reads a sentence that with quotation marks, appears in this magazine and is supposed to characterize Simons: “He is the favorite disciple of the theosophist Steiner, who has prophesied a great future for him. He stands firmly on the gospel of the threefold social order, but in the spirit of his home town of Wuppertal he is also a devout Christian.”

Well, there are as many lies here as there are words! I did not say there were as many lies as there were sentences, I said on purpose, There are as many words as there are brazen lies — with the exception of the last sentence — but the first sentences are lies word for word.

By adding this last sentence to the preceding ones, absolute paralysis is added to mendacity. Just imagine the creature that would come into being if somebody would become my favorite pupil, if I would predict a great future for him, if he would firmly cling to the “gospel of the threefold social order” and, on top of that, if he would be a pious Christian in the sense of the good citizens of Wuppertal! Imagine such a person! This, however, is present-day civilization. As insignificant as it may appear, it is a clear symptom of modern civilization. For those who frequently attack such things, attack with the same lies and the same paralysis. And the others are not even aware of the strange figures that are “conjured up before their stupid eyes” [— forgive me but I am merely quoting something that is said by the gnomes in one of my mystery plays. They do not notice at all what is conjured up before their, let us say, “intelligent” eyes — intelligence in the sense of modern civilization. People actually swallow anything today, because the feeling for truth and veracity is lacking, and the enthusiasm is missing from the assertion of truth and truthfulness in the midst of an untruthful, lying culture.

Things cannot progress as long as these matters are not taken seriously. A different picture must be placed before the soul today. These days, it becomes quite clear that Europe is intent on digging the grave of its own civilization, that it wishes to call on something outside of Europe so that, above the closed grave of the old civilization as well as above the already closed grave of Goetheanism, something completely different can arise. We shall see whether anything can still come out of that culture for which the politicians are now digging the grave. We shall see whether something can emerge from it that will truly receive the forces of progress; that will discover the human being, find the only true impulse of the idea of eternity in repeated earth lives, and discover the true Mystery of Golgotha and Christianity as the right impulse in the face of all that appears in this area as untruth and falsehood.

https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA204/English/AP1987/MaTask_index.html

Cult of Materialism. We are all victims to the cult of… | by Natalie Chung | Medium

Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy L6

ma·te·ri·al·ism: a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.

LECTURE VI
Dornach, April 17, 1921

During the last few days, I have tried to show how Western civilization originated and that a significant and mighty turning point can be noted in mankind’s overall evolution in the fourth Christian century. It was also necessary to point out how Greece gradually developed in the direction of this twilight, so to speak; how, based on quite different impulses, the civilization of central and western European culture came about, and how a comprehension of Christianity developed under these influences. To begin with, let us try and refer to the facts under consideration once more from a certain different viewpoint.

Christianity originated in the western Orient from the Mystery of Golgotha. Insofar as its specific nature was concerned, Oriental culture certainly was already in decline. The ancient, primordial wisdom existed in its last phases in what developed in Asia Minor and Greece as Gnosticism. The Gnosis, after all, was a form of wisdom that combined, in the most manifold ways, what presented itself to the human being as phenomena of the cosmos and nature. This not withstanding, in comparison to the directly perceived, instinctive insight into the spiritual world that was the foundation of Oriental development, Gnosticism already had a more, shall we say, intellectual, rational character. The spiritual life that permeated all human perception in the ancient Orient was no longer present. It was actually from the last vestiges of the ancient wisdom that people sought to fit together the philosophical and humanistic view that was then employed as a body of wisdom for understanding the Mystery of Golgotha. The substance inherent in the Mystery of Golgotha was clothed in the wisdom retained from the Orient in Greece.

Now let us consider this wisdom from the point of view of spiritual science. If we view human beings as they devoted themselves once upon a time to this wisdom, we find that the main thing in the ancient Orient was that people saw the world with what was active in their astral body, with what they could experience in their soul through their astral body — even though their sentient soul and rational or intellectual soul had already developed. It was the astral body that worked into these soul members and enabled people to actually turn their glance away from the earthly phenomena and to still perceive quite clearly what enters in the spiritual, super-sensible sphere from the cosmos. As yet, human beings did not have a view of the world based on the ego. Their self expressed itself only dimly. For the human being the ego was as yet not an actual question. Human beings dwelled in the astral element, and in it they still lived in a certain harmony with the world phenomena surrounding them. In a sense, the really puzzling world for them was the one they beheld with their eyes, the one that ran its course around them. For them, the comprehensible world was the super-sensible world of the gods, the world in which the spiritual beings had their existence. Human beings looked across to these spiritual beings, to their actions, their destinies. It was indeed the essential characteristic of the view of the ancient Orient that people’s attention was directed towards these spiritual worlds. People wished to comprehend the sensory world on the basis of these spiritual worlds.

Today, finding ourselves within our civilization, we take the opposite view. To us, the physical-sensory world is given. Proceeding from it, in one way or another, we try to comprehend the spiritual world — if we attempt that at all, if we do not reject doing so, if we do not remain stuck in pure materialism. The material world is seen as given by us. The ancient Orientals saw the spiritual world as given. On the premise of the physical world, we try to discover something with which to comprehend the wondrousness of the phenomena, the purpose of the structure of the organisms, and so on; based on this physical, sensory world, we try to prove to ourselves the existence of the supersensory world. The ancient Orientals tried to comprehend the physical, sensory environment on the basis of the superphysical, supersensory world given to them. Out of it, they wished to receive light — indeed, they did receive it, and without it, the physical, sensory world was to them only darkness and trepidation. Thus, they also experienced what they sensed to be their innermost being as still completely illuminated by the astral body, as having emerged from the spiritual worlds. People then did not say, I have grown out of earthly life. Rather, they said, I have grown and descended out of divine-spiritual worlds; and the best I bear within me is the recollection of these divine spiritual worlds. Even Plato, the philosopher, speaks of the fact that the human being has insights, memories, of his prenatal life, the life he led prior to descending into the physical material world. The human being certainly viewed his ego as a ray emerging from the light of the super-sensible world. For him, the material world, not the supersensory world, was puzzling.

This world view then had its offshoots in Greece. The Greeks already experienced themselves within the body, but in it they discovered nothing that could have explained this body to them. They still possessed the traditions of the ancient Orient. They viewed themselves in a certain sense as a being that had descended from the spiritual worlds but that in some ways had already lost the awareness of these spiritual worlds. It was actually the final phase of the Oriental life of wisdom that appeared in Greece, and it was on the basis of this world view that the Mystery of Golgotha was to be understood. After all, this Mystery presented the human being with the profound, tremendous problem of life, with the question how the super-sensible, cosmic being from other worlds, the Christ, could have found His way into a human corporeality. The permeation of Jesus by the Christ was the great problem. We see it light up everywhere in the Gnostic endeavors. People had no such insight of their own concerning a link between the super-sensible aspect of their own nature and the sensory-physical element of their being, and because they had no perception of the connection between the soul-spiritual and the corporeal-physical in reference to themselves, the Mystery of Golgotha became an unsolvable problem for the thinking influenced by the Greek world view. It was, however, a problem with which Greek culture struggled and to which it devoted its finest resources of wisdom. History records much too little of the spiritual struggles that took place then.

I have called attention to the fact that the body of Gnostic literature was eradicated. If it were still available, we would be able to discern this tragic struggle for a comprehension of the living union of the super-sensible Christ with the sense-perceptible Jesus; we would observe the development of this extraordinarily profound problem. This struggle was extinguished, however, an end was put to it by the prosaic, abstract attitude originating from Romanism which is only capable of carrying inner devotion into its abstractions by means of whipping up emotions. The Gnosis was covered up and dogmatism and Church Council decisions were put in its place. The profound views of the Orient that contained no juristic element were saturated with a form assumed by Christianity in the more Western world, the Western world of that age, the Roman world.

Christianity emerged from this Romanism imbued, as it were, with the legal element; everywhere, legal concepts moved in as the Roman political concepts spread out over Christianity. Christianity assumed the form of the Roman body politic, and from what was once the world capital, Rome, we see the emergence of the Christian capital city of Rome. We see how this Christian Rome adopts from ancient Rome the special views on how human beings must be governed, how one’s rule must be extended over men. We observe how a kind of ecclesiastical imperialism gains ground because Christianity is poured into the Roman form of government. What had been molded in spiritual forms of conception was transformed into a juristic and human polity. For the first time, Christianity and external political science were forged together and Christianity spread out in that form. Such mighty forces and impulses dwell in Christianity that they could, of course, be effective and survive despite the fact that they were poured into the mold of the Roman political system. And as the Roman political system took hold of the Western world, side by side with it, the humble narrations, the factual reports concerning what had taken place in Palestine, continued on.

In this Western world, however, people had been prepared in a quite special way for Christianity. This preparation consisted in the fact that the human being was aware of himself based on his physical nature; he sensed his ego by means of his physical being. Here, the difference became evident between the way Christianity had passed, as it were, through the Greek world, which then declined, and the form of Christianity that then turned into the actually political Christianity, the governmental, Roman Christianity. Then, more from the northern regions, another form of Christianity emerged that was poured into the northern people, called Barbarians by the Greeks and Romans. It streamed into those northern people who due to their nature and in concentrating their own being, so to speak, sensed their ego. Out of the totality of man in the physical-sensory realm, out of the human physical and sensory ego incarnation, they arrived at self-comprehension. Now they also tried to grasp what reached them as a simple story about the events in Palestine. Thus, in this Barbarian world, the humble tale of the events in Palestine encountered the ego-feeling, I would like to say, the blood-ego-feeling, particularly in the central and northern European realm. These two aspects came together. On the premise of this ego comprehension of man, people tried to grasp the simple report of the events in Palestine. They did not wish to comprehend its deeper content. They did not try to permeate it with wisdom. They only tried to draw it into the physical-sensory, human sphere.

In the Heliand, we can observe how these tales concerning the events in Palestine appear drawn completely down to the human level, into the world of European people, the ego-world. We see how everything is brought down to the human level; unlike the way it was in Greece, people later had no ability to penetrate the Mystery of Golgotha with wisdom. The urge developed to picture even the activity of Christ Jesus as humble human activity without looking up into the super-sensible, and increasingly to imbue these tales with the merely human element. Furthermore, into this were fitted the Church Council resolutions spreading out dogmatically from the Roman-Christian Empire. Like two worlds that were alien to one another, these two merged — the Christianity that in a sense had Europeanized the report from Palestine and the Christianity representing the Greek spirit in juristic, Romanized, abstract form. This is what then lived on through the centuries.

Only a few individuals could place themselves into this stream in the manner I described yesterday, when I spoke of the sages who developed the conception of the Grail. They pointed out that the impulse of Christianity had indeed once been couched in Oriental wisdom, but that the bearer of this Oriental view, the sacred vessel of the Grail, could be brought to Europe only by means of divine spirits who hovered above the earth, holding on to it. Only then, so they said, a hidden castle was built for it, the Castle of the Grail on Mont Salvat. To this was added that a human being could only approach the miracles of the Holy Grail through inaccessible regions. Then these sages did not say that the surrounding impassable region a person has to penetrate in order to reach the miracles of the Grail is sixty miles wide. They put it in a much more esoteric way when they described this path to the Holy Grail. They said, Oh, these people of Europe cannot reach the Holy Grail, for the path they must take in order to arrive at the Holy Grail takes as long as the path from birth to death. Only when human beings arrive at the portal of death, having tread the path, impassable for Europeans, the path that extends from birth to death, only then will they arrive at the Castle of the Grail on Mont Salvat.

This was basically the esoteric secret that was conveyed to the pupil. Because the time had not yet come when human beings would be able to discern with a clear consciousness how the spiritual world might once more be discovered, the pupils were told that they could enter into the sacred Castle of the Grail only by way of occasional glimpses of light. In particular, they were given strict injunctions that they had to ask, that the time had come in human development when the human being who does not ask — who does not develop his inner being and does not seek the impulse of truth on his own but remains passive — cannot arrive at an experience of his own self. For man must discover his ego by means of his physical organization. This I, which discovers itself through the physical organization, must in turn raise itself up by its own power in order to behold itself where, even in the early Greek culture, this self was still beheld, in super-sensible worlds. The I must first lift itself up in order to recognize itself as something super-sensible.

In the ancient Orient, people saw what occurred in the astral body; the consequences of former earth lives were beheld in it. This is why one spoke of karma. In Greece, this conception was already obscured. The cosmic events were observed only with dim astral vision. This is why people spoke vaguely of destiny, of fate. This view of destiny is only a diminished, weaker form of the fully concrete conception held by the ancient Orient concerning man’s passage through repeated earth lives, the consequences of which make themselves known to experience within the astral body, though only instinctively. Thus, the ancient Orientals could speak of karma developing in the recurring incarnations on earth, the consequences of which were simply present in astral experience.

Now the development moved westward to the ego experience. This experience of the ego was initially tied to the physical body. It was egotistically self-enclosed. The first ego experience dwelled in dullness, even when it contained a strong impulse towards the super-sensible worlds. Parsifal, who undertook his pilgrimage to the Holy Grail, is described as a dim-witted man. It must be clearly understood that when the Mithras worship spread across the West from the Orient, it was rejected by the West; it was not comprehended. For he who sat on the bull, who was to become the victor over the base forces, experienced himself, after all, as emerging from these lower forces. If Western man beheld Mithras riding on the bull, he did not comprehend this being, for this being could not be the one the ego felt and experienced out of its own physical organization. An understanding for this riding Mithras faded away and disappeared.

It can be said that all this had to come to pass, for the ego had to experience its impulse in the physical organization. It had to connect itself firmly with the physical organization, but it must not allow itself to become set in this firm experience within the physical organization.

It was a profound reaction to the Orient’s treasures of wisdom, when the West increasingly aimed for what developed out of the purely physical element. This reaction was a necessity. Any number of views did come together in Europe to make this reaction a very strong one. But it was not proper for it to extend into this spiritual striving for more than a few centuries. A new spirituality has indeed emerged since then in the first third of the fifteenth century, but it was an abstract spirituality, a sublimated, filtered spirituality.

Human beings took hold of physical astronomy and physical medicine, and, to begin with, they had to have this stimulus based on the ego impulse sensing itself in the physical element. But it must not continue to become firmly set in European civilization if this European culture wishes to avoid its decline. Truly, more than enough forces of decline are present, vestiges which should only be vestiges and which should be recognized as such.

Just remember how the most up-to-date theology — I have often emphasized this — has lost the faculty for comprehending Christ; increasingly it has arrived at the point of turning Christ Jesus completely into an earth being, a human being. It has put the “humble man from Nazareth” in the place of Christ Jesus. Proceeding from Romanism, out of a materialistically oriented principle of authority, the living spirituality, by means of which the human being can really become familiar with the Mystery of Golgotha, was lost more and more. And observe how in modern times a science is developing that tries to comprehend everything external but that does not wish to penetrate to the human being. As a result of this science, see how impulses arise in society that try only to bring about a human, physical order but that do not want to penetrate the human, physical structures with any divine-spiritual, supersensory, spiritual principle.

During all this it is as if in human souls, in a few human souls, there remained an individual glimpse of light. When a ray of the astral element still dwelling within them combined with the ego, these individuals received such glimpses of light. It is part of the most impressive phenomena of modern Europe when we observe how, out of the East, there resounds a mighty admonition in the religious philosophy of Soloviev,  a religious philosophy steeped, so to speak, in Eastern sultriness. But something resounds from there to the effect that a super-sensible, spiritual element must permeate the earthly social order. In a sense, we see how Soloviev dreams of a kind of Christ-state. He is capable of that because within him are the last vestiges of a subjective astral experience illuminating the ego.

Compare these dreams of a Christ-permeated state with what has been established in the East accompanied by the negation of all spiritual elements, something that harbors only forces of decline — what an overwhelming, colossal contrast! The world should pay attention to such a colossal contrast. If people had already today sufficient objectivity to observe these things, they would be able to see, on the one hand, the one who raises the demand of the Christ-permeated state, the Christ-permeated social structure, Soloviev. They would view him as somebody still stimulated by the Oriental element and casting, so to speak, a final spark into this Europe growing torpid, in order to revive it again from this viewpoint. On the other hand, Czar Nicholas or his predecessors could well be placed together with Czar Lenin; the fact that they give vent to different ideas in the historical development of mankind does not constitute a fundamental difference between them. What matters are the forces living in them and shaping the world, and the same forces dwell in Lenin that dwell in the Russian Czar; there really is no fundamental difference. It is naturally difficult to find one’s way within this melee of forces that extend into European civilization from earlier times. Initially, it is indeed a melee of forces and a firm direction must be sought. Such a firm direction can be found in no other way than by lifting the ego up to a spiritual comprehension of the world. Through a spiritual comprehension of the world, the Christian impulse must be reborn. What has been striven for in regard to the external world since the first third of the fifteenth century must be striven for in reference to the totality of the human being; the whole human being has to be understood based on the knowledge of the world.

The comprehension of the world must be viewed in harmony with the understanding of humanity. We must understand the earth evolution in phases, in metamorphoses. We have to look at earlier embodiments of our earth, but we must not consider a primordial nebula devoid of human beings. We have to look at Saturn, sun, and moon as already permeated with the activity of human beings; we must observe how the present structure of the human being originated from the earlier metamorphoses of the planet earth and how the human form in an early phase was likewise active there. We must recognize the human being in the world, and out of this knowledge of man in the world an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha can well up once again. Human beings must learn to understand why an impassable region surrounds the Castle of the Grail, why the path between birth and death is difficult terrain. When they understand why it is difficult, when they grasp that the ego experiences itself based on the physical organization, when they sense how impossible a merely physical astronomy, a merely physical medicine are, then they themselves will clear the paths. Then people will bring something into this hitherto difficult terrain between birth and death that comes into being through their own soul efforts.

Out of the substance of the soul and spirit, human beings have to fashion the tools with which to break the ground on the field, the soul-field, leading to the Castle of the Grail, to the Mystery of Bread and Blood, to the fulfillment of the words, “Do this in remembrance of me” [Luke 22:19]. For this remembrance has been forgotten; people are no longer aware of what dwells in the words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” For this is truly done in remembrance of the mighty moment of Golgotha if the symbol of the bread, that is what develops out of the earth through the synthesis of cosmic forces is understood. It is done rightly if we understand once again how to comprehend the world through a spiritualized cosmology and astronomy, and if we learn to comprehend the human being based on what his extract is, namely, the element where the spiritual directly intervenes in him — if we grasp the Mystery of the Blood. Through work on the inner being of human souls the path must be discovered that leads to the Holy Grail. This is a task of cognition, this is a social task. It is also a task that, to the greatest extent possible, is hated in the present

For due to being placed within the ego education of Western civilization, human beings develop above all a longing to remain passive inwardly in the soul, not to allow earthly existence to give to them what could bring progress to their souls. The active taking hold of the soul forces, the inward experiencing, and this does not necessarily mean occult development but merely the experience of soul nature in general; yet this is something European humanity does not like. Instead, it wishes to continue what was natural for the epoch directly preceding it, namely, the ego development, which does, however, lead to the most blatant egotism, to the blindest raging of instincts, when it is extended beyond its own age. This ego feeling, extending beyond the time properly assigned to it, first of all has penetrated the sentiments of national chauvinism. It appears in national chauvinism; from these feelings arise the spirits who wish to keep the path to the Holy Grail in an impassable condition. But it is our obligation to do everything that can be done in order to call human souls to activity in the area of knowledge as well as in the social sphere. Yet, all those forces filled with hatred against such activity of the soul emerge in opposition to such a call. After all, haven’t people been conditioned long enough so that they concluded, We must consider heretical all our own soul efforts to free ourselves from guilt; we must properly cultivate the awareness of sin and guilt, for we must not progress by means of our own efforts, but must be redeemed in passivity through Christ?

We fail to understand Christ if we do not recognize Him as the cosmic power that completely unites with us when through questions and inner activity we work our way through to Him. Everywhere today, from the denominations, from theology and those who were always connected to theology, from the military and science — from all this we see arise those powers today that try to obstruct the path of inner activity.

For a long time, I have had to call attention to the fact that this is the case, and I have had to say again and again: the arising opposing powers will become more and more vehement. Indeed, to this day this has certainly come true. It is definitely not possible to say that the opposition has already reached its greatest strength. Not by a long shot has it attained its culmination. This opposition has a strong, organizing power in concentrating together all the elements that, while they are in reality destined to decline, can obstruct in their very decline for the time being everything working with the forces of upward striving progress. The forces fostering the activity of souls are weak today in comparison to the opposing elements. Those forces that, based on the comprehension of the spiritual world, try to turn the progressive forces into forces of their own soul are weak. The world has taken on an ahrimanic character. For it was inevitable that the ego, having comprehended itself in the physical element, is taken hold of by ahrimanic forces if it remains in the physical element and does not lift itself up at the right time to a spiritual understanding of itself as a spiritual being. Indeed, we see this process of usurpation by the ahrimanic powers; we observe it in the fact that, little as the sleepy souls would be willing to admit this, an actual tendency towards evil is making itself felt everywhere today.

An inclination towards evil is clearly noticeable, for example, in the manner opponents fight against anthroposophical spiritual science and everything related to it. From the most questionable sources come the means with which individuals battle today against spiritual science, even individuals who enjoy a prestigious standing in the world in scientific or theological circles. The truth is not what people are concerned with. It is only a matter of what slander suits these individuals best and what they like better. It is truly a matter of humanity being strongly possessed by the forces of evil, by a love for evil. Those who are unable today to reckon with this tendency for evil, with this ever increasing love for evil in the battle against anthroposophy, will not be able to develop a feeling, an awareness of the kind of opposing forces and powers that will yet arise in the future. For years, reference has been made to this ever-increasing development. If nothing more can be attained than a clear feeling of it, then this clear feeling, which is, after all, also a force, must at least be maintained. We have to look into the world and be aware of the way it surrounds us. With a sober mind we must realize what is really facing us in the filthy slander that is now emerging from among our opponents and that is the more impressive the more tarnished its source.

It is really necessary to become acquainted with this particular tendency, with this love of evil, that will become more and more prevalent. It is truly necessary not to wallow groggily in excuses that the opponents are convinced of what they say. Do you really believe that in individuals such as the one who has emerged as the newest opponent against anthroposophical spiritual science even the possibility for an inner force of conviction is present? Not even the possibility of conviction is present in him. He acts out of quite different deeper motives. It is indeed a clever move to seek particularly in this direction, to seek for the manner of viewing things that is based on fooling the opponent. Who is the better commander? He who can best fool the enemy! But when this principle is transferred to the means of battling against truth, then such a battle is a battle of the lie, of the personified lie against truth. We must realize that this battle of the personified lie against truth is capable of anything, that it will definitely attempt to take away from us what we have tried and are still trying to attain in the way of outward supports in order to find bearers of truth in this civilization. It is not exaggerated to say that there exists the most profound and thoroughgoing wish to deprive us of the Waldorf School and this building. And if we pay no attention to this; if we do not even develop in us a feeling concerning the ways and means of this opposition, then we remain sleeping souls. Then we do not take hold with inner alertness of what is trying to pour forth out of anthroposophical spiritual science.

Basically, we should not be surprised now that the opponents could turn out the way they did for that could have been known long ago. The overwhelming impression for us today certainly is that there are too few individuals who can be active representatives of our spiritual movement. It is generally still easier to be effective among human beings by means of force, control, and injustice than by means of freedom. The truth that is to be proclaimed through anthroposophical spiritual science is permitted to count only on human freedom. It must find people who ask questions. One certainly cannot say, Why doesn’t this truth possess in itself the strength to compel human souls by virtue of divine-spiritual power? It does not wish to do that; it cannot do that. The reason is that it will always consider inner freedom, the freedom of the human being in general, to be something absolutely inviolable. If the human being is to come to anthroposophy out of his own judgment, he must become one who asks questions; out of the innermost freedom of judgment he must convince himself. The word of spiritual truth will be spoken to him; convincing himself of it is something he must do on his own. If he wishes to cooperate and be active in society, he must do so out of the innermost impulse of his heart. Those who belong in the truest sense of the word to anthroposophical spiritual science must become people who ask questions.

What do we encounter on the side of the opposition? Do not believe that only those who band together who are in some way one-sided in any one creed. No, in a Catholic church in Stuttgart, a sermon tells its listeners, Go to the lecture by Herr von Gleich. There you can invigorate your Catholic souls and can vanquish the opponents of your Catholic souls! And these Catholic souls go there; the Catholic, General von Gleich, gives a lecture and concludes with a song by Martin Luther! A fine union of one side and the other — the opponents organize as one! It certainly matters not if they agree in any way in their faith, their convictions.

For us, what matters is the strength to stand firmly on the ground of what we recognize as right. Yes, nothing will be left undone to undermine this ground; of this you can be sure. I had to bring this up one more time, particularly in connection with the considerations concerning the course taken by European civilization; for it is necessary that at least the intention develops to place oneself firmly on the ground we must recognize as the right one. It is also necessary that among ourselves we do not give ourselves up to the popular illusions concerning the various oppositions. Their aim is to undermine the ground we stand on. It is up to us to work as much as is humanly possible, and then, if the ground under us should become undermined and we do slide down into the chasm, our efforts will nevertheless have been such that they will find their spiritual path through the world. For what appears now are the last convulsions of a dying world. But even if it is in its last throes of death, this world can still strike out like a raving maniac, and one can lose one’s life due to this frantic lashing out. This is why we must at least recognize what kind of impulses give rise to this mad lashing out. Nothing can be achieved by what is timid; we must appeal to what is bold. Let us try to measure up to such an appeal!

I had to include this so that you would sense that we face an important, significant, and decisive moment, and that we have to consider how we are to find the strength to persevere.

https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA204/English/AP1987/MaTask_index.html

Cult of Materialism. We are all victims to the cult of… | by Natalie Chung | Medium

Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy L5

ma·te·ri·al·ism: a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.

LECTURE V
Dornach, April 16, 1921

Yesterday I referred to the significant turning point in the development of Occidental civilization in the fourth century A.D. I pointed out that, on the one hand, this was the time when Greek wisdom disappeared from European culture, wisdom through which people had tried to bring to expression the depths of Christianity in a wisdom-imbued way. The time of the outer expression of this disappearance falls somewhat later, namely, when Emperor Justinian declared the writings of Origen heretical, abolished Roman consulship, and closed the Greek Academy of Philosophy at Athens. The guardians of Greek wisdom thus had to flee to the Orient, withdrawing, as it were, from European civilization. The wisdom teaching that had extended from the East as far west as Greece and had assumed its special form there, is one aspect of the picture.

On the other hand, the Mithras worship was supposed to indicate in a significant external ritual how, with their soul-spiritual nature, human beings were to raise themselves above all that could be comprehended through the interplay of beings of the planetary sphere with terrestrial forces, how the human being could sense his full humanity. This was the object of the Mithras cult. This Mithras worship, which was intended to reveal to man his own being, likewise disappeared after it had spread through the regions along the Danube and on into central and western Europe. These two streams, one a cultic stream, the other a stream of wisdom, were replaced in Europe by factual narrations of the events of Palestine. Thus, one has to say that neither a cultic worship, which would have recognized in Christ Jesus the victor over all the human being, was meant to bring under his control in the course of world evolution, nor a wisdom that would have tried to grasp the actual mysteries of Christendom in a wise manner were able to enter Europe. Instead, the superficial narration of the events of Palestine became popular. The concepts that should have been found in these happenings in Palestine were instead steeped in the flood of juristic thinking, which replaced the investigation of cosmic secrets with the determination of dogmas by means of majority resolutions in Church Councils, and so forth.

This very fact indicates that a change of great and far-reaching significance had taken place in the fourth century A.D. in the development of Western civilization, and consequently in the evolution of the whole of mankind. Proceeding from the Orient, all the influences that had laid hold of eastern European civilization were in a sense pushed back again towards the Orient. Only the increasing tendency towards abstract thinking in the Roman world maintained itself in the Occident alongside the comprehension of the external, sensory world of facts.

How alive the conceptions of the Greek gods had been among the Greeks, and how conceptually abstract the ideas were the Romans entertained of their gods! Actually, in the later period, what the Greeks possessed of ideas concerning the super-sensible world was already lifeless, although quite alive as such within itself. Yet, it was a lifeless element in comparison to the living conceptions of the super-sensible worlds present during the ancient Persian and Indian civilizations, which represented a living within these higher worlds. In those times, albeit with a purely instinctive human perception, people lived in communion with the super-sensible worlds just as mankind in the present communes with the sensory world. For human beings in the ancient Orient, the spiritual world was readily accessible. For them, the beings of the spiritual world were present just as other human beings, our fellowmen, live side by side with us. Out of this living, super-sensible world, the Greeks built up their system of concepts. In the ages before Aristotle, up to the fourth century B.C., Greek ideas were not abstract ideas gained through external sensory observation and then lifted up into abstraction. These Greek ideas still originated from the living, super-sensible world; they were born of a primeval power of vision. These living Greek ideas still imbued a person with soul sustenance and warmth; insofar as he could share in them, they bestowed on him the necessary enthusiasm for his form of social order. Certainly, we must never forget that a large part of the Greek people was denied a share in this life of thought; this was the extensive world of the slaves. But the bearers of Greek culture certainly participated in a realm of ideas that was basically a downpouring of super-sensible, spiritual powers into the world of the earthly sphere.

In comparison with this, the Roman world — separated from Greece only by the sea — definitely had a quite abstract appearance. The Romans described their gods in the same prosaic, unimaginative ways as, shall we say, our modern scientists speak of the laws of nature. Although this is an indication of the significant change I have to point out here, we confront this change in a special way if we turn our attention to a factor in the life of soul that found only partial realization in world history and did not develop to its full potential.

Consider for a moment the destiny of the ancient Greek people. It is fraught with a certain tragedy. After its period of great glory, Greek culture pined away and, in essence, vanished from the stage of world history, for what replaced it in that territory cannot be said to have been a true successor. The Greek nation went into decline in a severe, world-historical illness, and from its ancient ideas it produced what, I would say, represents the dawn of all later culture. It brought forth Stoicism and Epicureanism, systems or views of life in which the more abstract mode of thought, characterizing the later Western civilization, already found an early expression. But we can see in Stoicism and Epicureanism, even in the later Greek mysticism, that they express a decline of ancient Greece.

Why was it that this culture of Greece was destined to decline and ultimately to pass away from the stream of world evolution? One could say that this decline and death of the ancient Greek people indicates a significant mystery in world history. With faculties of vision handed down to them as an echo of the ancient Oriental worldview, the ancient Greeks still beheld the soul-spiritual human being in his full light. After all, in the earlier periods of Greek culture, every individual knew himself to be a being of soul and spirit that had descended through conception and birth from the spiritual worlds, that has its home in a super-sensible sphere and is destined for super-sensible spheres. Yet, at the same time, even in its prime, Greece sensed its decline in world history — I have often referred to this. It sensed that human beings cannot fully attain to humanity on earth by merely looking up into super-sensible worlds. It felt itself surrounded and pervaded by the earth’s forces. Hence the ancient saying: “Better it is to be a beggar in the sense world than a king in the realm of shades” The Greeks of earlier periods had still beheld all the shining glory of the super-sensible world; at the same time, by attaining full humanity in ancient Greece, they sensed that they could not maintain this radiance of the spiritual worlds. They felt they were losing it and that their soul nature was becoming ensnared in the things of the earth. Fear of death arose in them because they realized that life between birth and death can estrange the soul from its spiritual home. Greek culture must definitely be described in accordance with this feeling.

Men like Nietzsche basically had true insight into these matters. Nietzsche had the right feeling when he designated the period of Greek development preceding the Socratic and Platonic age as the tragic epoch of Greek culture. For already in thinkers such as Thales, and particularly Anaxagoras and Heraclitus, we observe the twilight of a magnificent world view which modern history does not mention at all. We note the fear of becoming estranged from the super-sensible world, of becoming tied to what alone remains from the passage through life between birth and death, namely, of becoming linked to the world of Hades, the world of shades, which basically becomes man’s lot. Nevertheless, the Greeks preserved one thing; they saved what appeared at its height in the Platonic idea. There emerged amid the onset of progressive decline this world of Platonic ideas, the last glorious remnant of the ancient Orient, though it, too, was then fated to perish in Aristotelianism.

Yet these Greek ideas did appear, and Greek thinking constantly sensed how the human ego is really something that is becoming lost in human life. This was a fundamental experience of the Greeks. Take the description I gave concerning ego evolution in my book Riddles of Philosophy,  where I described that the ego was then connected with thinking, with external perception. But since the whole ego experience is bound up with thinking, the human being experienced his I not so much within his own corporeality. Rather, he felt it linked to all that lives in the world outside, to the blossoming of the flowers, to lightning and thunder in the sky, to the billowing clouds, to the rising mist and the falling rain. The Greeks experienced the ego connected to all this. They sensed with the forces of the ego, as it were, but without the housing of this ego. Instead, they felt, When I look out upon the world of flowers, there my ego is attached, there it blossoms in the flowers.

It is justifiable to say that this Greek culture could not have continued. What would it have become if it had continued? It was not inherently possible for it to continue on a straight line. What would it have become? Human beings would gradually have come to consider themselves earth beings that are subhuman. The actual soul-spirit being in us would have been experienced as something that really dwells in the clouds, the flowers, the mountains, in rain, and sunshine, a being that occasionally comes to visit us. If the development of Greek culture had continued in the same direction, human beings increasingly would have felt that at night, when they had fallen asleep, they could experience the approach of their own ego in all its radiance and that it paid them a special visit then. But upon waking in the morning and becoming involved in the world of the lower senses, they also would have felt that insofar as they are a being of the earth they are but the outer housing of the ego. A certain estrangement from the ego would have been the consequence of an unbroken development of what can be noticed or sensed as the fundamental keynote or actual basic temperament of Greek nature.

It was necessary that this ego, which was escaping, as it were, into nature and the cosmos, should be firmly anchored in the inner constitution of the human being, an organic being moving about on the earth. A powerful impulse was required for this to happen. It was, after all, the peculiar characteristic of the Oriental world view that while it clearly drew attention to the ego — precisely because of its teaching of repeated earth lives — it also had the inherent tendency to alienate this ego from the human being, to deprive us of the ego. This is how it came about that the Occident, unable to rise to the heights attained by Greece, lacked the inner strength to assimilate the wisdom of Greece in its full strength and allowed it instead to flow back, so to speak, towards the Orient. The West also lacked the strength to take possession of the Mithras cult and allowed it to flow back to the Orient. By dint of the robust, sturdy forces of human earthly nature, the West was capable only of listening to purely factual narrations of the events of Palestine and then of having them affirmed by dogmas laid down in the Councils. At the outset, the Europeans were confronted with a materialistic view of the human personality.

This became most evident in the transition in the fourth century. All knowledge that would have been capable of producing a deeper comprehension of Christianity gradually withdrew back into Asia, all insight that could have brought about a cult in which the Christ Triumphant would have appeared rather than He who is overwhelmed by the burdens of the Cross, whose triumph can only faintly be surmised behind the shadow of the Crucifix. For the Occident, this ebbing away of the wisdom and the ancient ceremonial worship was initially a matter of securing the ego. From the robust force dwelling in the barbaric peoples of the north, the impulse emerged that was intended to supply the power to attach the ego to the earthly human organism.

While this was happening in the regions around the Danube, somewhat south of there, and in southern and western Europe, Arabism was transplanted from the Orient in forms differing from those of the earlier Oriental wisdom. Arabism then made its way as far as Spain, and southwestern Europe became inundated by a fantastic intellectual culture. This was a culture that in the external field of art could not achieve anything more than the arabesque, since it was incapable of permeating the organic realm with soul and spirit. Thus, in regard to the cultic ceremonies, Europe was filled, on the one hand with the narration of purely factual events; on the other hand, it was engrossed in a body of abstract, fantastic wisdom that, entering Europe by way of Spain, turned in filtered form into the culture of pure intellect.

Within this region, where the stories about the events of Palestine referring solely to the external aspects prevailed, where only the fantastic intellectual wisdom from Arabism existed, there a few individuals emerged — after all, a few isolated individuals appear now and again within the totality of mankind — who had an idea of how matters really stood. In their souls a feeling dawned that there is a lofty Christian mystery, the full significance of which is so great that the highest wisdom cannot penetrate it; the most ardent feeling is not strong enough to develop a fitting ceremonial worship for it. Indeed, they felt that something emanated from the Cross on Golgotha that would have to be comprehended by the highest wisdom and the most daring feeling. Such ideas arose in a few individuals. Something like the following profound Imagination arose in them. In the bread of the Last Supper, a synthesis of sorts was contained, a concentration of the force of the outer cosmos that comes down to the earth together with all the streams of forces from the cosmos, penetrating this earth, conjuring forth from it the vegetation. Then, what has thus been entrusted to the earth from out of the cosmos, in turn springs forth from the earth and is synthetically concentrated in the bread and sustains the human body.

Still another element pierced through all the clouds of obscurity that covered the ancient traditions. Something else was passed on to these European sages, something that, it is true, had had its origin in the Orient but penetrated through the cloud cover and was understood by some individuals. This other mystery, which was linked with the mystery of the bread, was the mystery of the holy vessel in which Joseph of Arimathea had caught the blood flowing down from Christ Jesus. This was the other aspect of the cosmic mystery. Just as the bread was regarded a concentrated extract of the cosmos, so the blood was regarded as the extract of the nature and being of man. In bread and blood — of which wine is merely the outer symbol — this extract expressed itself for these European sages. They had truly stepped forth as if out of the hidden places of the mysteries and towered far above the masses of the European population who could only hear the facts of Palestine, and who, if they advanced to scholarliness, found their way only slowly into the abstract fantasy of Arabism. In these wise men, who distinguished themselves by something that was like the overripe fruit of Oriental wisdom and at the same time the ripest fruit of European perception and feeling, there developed what they called the Mystery of the Grail. But, so they told themselves, the Mystery of the Grail is not to be found on earth.

People have grown accustomed to developing the kind of intelligence that found its highest form in Arabism. They are in the habit of not looking for the meaning of external facts, but are satisfied with being told of these outer facts from the aspect of sensory reality. One must penetrate to an understanding of the Mystery of the Bread, which is said to have been broken by Christ Jesus in the same chalice in which Joseph of Arimathea caught His blood. As legend tells it, this chalice was then removed to Europe, but was preserved by angels in a region high above the surface of the earth until the arrival of Titurel [Note 9] who created for this Grail, this sacred chalice, a temple on Mont Salvat. Through the clouds of abstraction and narrations of mere facts, those who had become European mystery sages in the manner described above wished to behold in a sacred, spiritual temple the Mystery of the Grail, the mystery of the cosmos that had disappeared along with etheric astronomy and the Mystery of the Blood that had vanished along with the ancient view of medicine. For just as the ancient medicine had fallen victim to abstract thinking, the old etheric astronomy, too, had passed over into abstract thought.

At a certain period in time, this whole trend of abstract thinking had reached its prime and had been brought to Spain by the Arabs. It was precisely in Spain where the Mystery of the Grail could not be found outwardly anywhere among people. Only abstract intellectual wisdom prevailed. Among the Christians, there was only narration of bare, external facts; among the Arabs, the Moors, there existed a fantastic development of the intellect. Only in the heights, above this earth, hovered the Holy Grail. This spiritual temple, this Holy Grail, this temple that encompassed the mysteries of bread and wine, could be entered only by those who had been endowed by divine powers with the necessary faculties. It is not by chance that the temple of the Grail was supposed to be found in Spain, where one literally had to move miles away from what earthly actuality presented, where one had to break through brambles in order to penetrate to the spiritual temple that enshrined the Holy Grail.

It was out of such prerequisite feelings that the conception of the Holy Grail developed. The invisible Church, the super-sensible Church, which is nevertheless to be found on earth — this was what concealed itself in the Mystery of the Grail. It was an immediate presence that cannot be discovered, however, by those who turn their mind indifferently to the world. In ancient times, the priests of the mysteries went out into the world, looked around among human beings, and based on seeing their auras, concluded, Here is one we must receive into the mysteries; there is another one we must accept into the mysteries. People did not need to ask; they were chosen. Inner initiative on the part of the individual was not required; one was chosen and bidden to enter the sacred mystery centers. This age was over already around the eleventh, twelfth, and ninth and tenth centuries.

The impulse urging a person to ask, What are the secrets of existence? had to be grounded in the human being through the Christ force, which had moved into European civilization. No one could approach the Grail who passed through the outer world with a drowsy, apathetic mind. It was said that he alone could penetrate into the miracles, that is, the mysteries of the Holy Grail, who in his soul felt the inclination to ask about the secrets of existence, both the cosmic secrets and those of man’s inner being. Fundamentally speaking, it has remained so ever since. After the first half of the Middle Ages, however, when human beings had been earnestly directed to pose questions, had been told that they should indeed ask questions, a great reaction set in beginning with the first third of the fourteenth century. By that time, those who asked about the Mysteries of the Holy Grail had become fewer and fewer in number, and inertia was creeping into the souls of men. They turned their attention wholly to the outer forms of human life on earth, to all that may be seen, counted, weighed, measured, and calculated in the cosmos.

Nevertheless, the sacred challenge had already entered European civilization in the early Middle Ages, the sacred challenge remained: To enquire into the mysteries of the cosmos as well as into the inner mysteries of man, namely, the mysteries of the blood. After all, it was in a great variety of phases that humanity has passed through what materialism with all its forces by necessity had to bring into European civilization. Momentous, stirring words were uttered, though in many instances they have died away. We have to consider how great the possibility was for momentous words to be spoken within European civilization. What was destined for a certain age, namely, the factual narration of the events of Palestine, the permeation of these outer facts with Arabism, which was accomplished by scholasticism in the Middle Ages, was indeed of great significance for that particular age. But just as it developed out of an age of greater wisdom and ceremonial practices, both of which had only been pushed back to the East, it also did not understand how to listen to the super-sensible mysteries of Christianity, the mysteries of the Holy Grail. All the truly compelling voices that resounded in the early Middle Ages — and there were more than a few of them — were silenced by Rome’s Catholicism, which was becoming more and more engulfed in dogmatism, in the same way as the Gnosis — as I pointed out again yesterday — was eradicated root and branch.

We must not form a negative judgment of the period between the fourth and the twelfth and thirteenth centuries merely on the basis of the fact that of the numerous voices raised, as it were, in holy, overripe sweetness throughout European civilization — which, for the rest was barbaric — only the somewhat awkward voice of one man has remained who could not write, that of Wolfram von Eschenbach. For all that, he was still great; he was spared by the dogmatism that had gripped Europe and had basically eradicated the powerful voices that had called amid strife and bitterness for the quest of the Holy Grail. Those who raised this call for the Holy Grail meant to let it resound in the spirit of freedom dawning in the dull souls. They did not wish to deprive the human being of his freedom; they did not mean to push anything on him; he was to be the questioning one. Out of the depths of his own soul he was to ask about the miracles of the Grail.

This spiritual life that later became extinct was truly greater than the spiritual life opposing it, although the latter, too, was not without a certain greatness. When what has been described by the servants of the Holy Grail as a spiritual path was then superseded by the earthly path of the journey to the physical Jerusalem over in the East, namely, when the crusade to the Grail was replaced by the crusades for the terrestrial Jerusalem, when Gottfried of Bouillon set out to establish an external kingdom in Jerusalem in opposition to Rome, letting his cry, “Away from Rome!” ring out, his voice was really less persuasive than that of Peter of Amiens. His voice sounded like a mighty suggestion to translate into something materialistic what the servants of the Holy Grail had intended as something spiritual.

This, too, was one of the paths that was taken because of materialism. It led to the physical Jerusalem, not to the spiritual Jerusalem, which was said to enshrine in Titurel’s temple what had remained of the Mystery of Golgotha as the Holy Grail. Legend held that Titurel had brought this Holy Grail down to the earth’s sphere from the clouds, where it had hovered, held by angels during the age of Arabism and the factual narration of the events of Palestine. The age of materialism, however, did not begin to ask about the Holy Grail. Lonely, isolated individuals, people who did not have a share in wisdom but dwelled in a kind of stupor, like Parsifal, were the ones who set out to seek the Holy Grail. But they also did not really understand how to ask the proper, appropriate question. Thus, the path of materialism, which began in the first third of the fourteenth century, was preceded by that other path of materialism already expressed in the turn to the East, the eastward journey to the physical Jerusalem. This tragedy was experienced by modern humanity; human beings had to and still have to undergo this tragedy in order to comprehend themselves inwardly and to turn properly into people asking questions. Modern mankind had to and still has to experience the tragedy that the light that once had approached from the East had not been recognized as spiritual light. The spiritual light had been rejected, and instead people set out to find a physical country, the physical materiality of the Orient. In the Middle Ages, humanity began to seek the physical East after the spiritual East had been rejected at the close of antiquity.

Such, then, was the situation in Europe, and our age today is still a part of it. For if we understand the true, inner call resounding in human hearts, we still are and should be seekers for the Holy Grail. The strivings of humanity that emerged beginning with the crusades still await their metamorphosis into spiritual endeavors. We have yet to arrive at such a comprehension of the cosmic worlds so that we will be able to seek for the origin of Christ in these cosmic worlds. As long as these cosmic worlds are investigated only with the methods of external, physical astronomy, they naturally cannot be conceived of as the home of Christ. From what the modern astronomer teaches as the secret of the heavens, which he describes only by means of geometry, mathematics, and mechanics and observes only with the telescope, the Christ could not have descended to earth in order to incarnate in the human being Jesus of Nazareth. Neither can this incarnation be understood on the basis of knowledge about the physical nature of the human being, knowledge that is obtained by moving from people in actual life to the clinic, where the corpse is dissected for the purposes of research so that views concerning the living human being are arrived at based on the corpse.

People in antiquity possessed an astronomy inbued with life and medical knowledge filled with life. Once again, our quest must be for a living astronomy, a living medicine. Just as a living astronomy will reveal to us a heaven, a cosmos, that is truly pervaded by a spirituality and from where the Christ could descend, so an enlivened medicine will present to us the being of man in a way that enables us to penetrate with insight and understanding to the Mystery of the Blood, to the organic inner sphere where the forces of the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego transform themselves into the physical blood. When a true medical knowledge has grasped the Mystery of the Blood and a spiritualized astronomy has understood the cosmic spheres, we shall comprehend how it was possible for the Christ to descend from these cosmic spheres to the earth, how He could find on earth the human body that could receive Him with its blood. It is the Mystery of the Grail that in all earnestness must be sought in this manner, namely, by setting out on the path to the spiritual Jerusalem with all that we are as human beings, with head and heart. This, indeed, is the task of modern humanity.

It is strange how the essence of what ought to come to pass weaves objectively through the sphere of existence. If it is not perceived in the correct way, it is experienced outwardly, it is superficially materialized. Just as formerly the Christians flocked to Jerusalem, so now large numbers of Jewish people travel to Jerusalem, thus expressing yet another phase of materialism that indicates how something that ought to be understood spiritually by all of modern humanity is interpreted only materialistically. The time must come when the Mystery of the Grail will once again be comprehended in the right way. You know that I have mentioned it in my An Outline of Occult Science. It is, in a manner of speaking, woven into the text that refers to all we must seek to discover along this path of spiritual science. Thus, I indicated what we have to acquire as a kind of picture and Imagination for what must be sought in earnest striving of the spirit and with profound human feeling as the path to the Grail.

Tomorrow, we will discuss this further.

https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA204/English/AP1987/MaTask_index.html

Cult of Materialism. We are all victims to the cult of… | by Natalie Chung | Medium

Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy L2

ma·te·ri·al·ism: a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.

Before I begin, let me emphasize that this lecture does not form part of the sequence of lectures presented in the context of the courses, but in a certain respect is intended to relate to what I have outlined yesterday evening. There, we dealt with studying that particular form of development within humanity’s historical evolution that occurred in the middle and also in the second half of the nineteenth century; the evolutionary impulse of materialism. I said that in these considerations our attention should not be turned so much to materialism in general, which calls for other viewpoints, but rather to theoretical materialism, to materialism as a world view. I drew attention to the fact that this materialism must be confronted with a sufficiently critical mind, but that, on the other hand, materialism has been a necessary phase of evolution in the history of mankind.

We cannot simply speak of rejecting it and say that it is an aberration; materialism needs to be understood. For the one does not exclude the other. Particularly in these reflections, it is important to extend the sphere of thoughts relating to truth and error further than is ordinarily the case. It is generally said that in the logical life of thoughts it is possible either to error to find the truth. What is not mentioned is that under certain circumstances the glance we cast upon the external world may discover errors in outer reality. Difficult though it may be for modern thought to admit to errors in the events of nature — something that spiritual science has to do — it is obvious for people today to admit that there are actual errors in the results that arise in the course of the historical development and manifest themselves, so to speak, in the communal, social sphere. These errors cannot be corrected by mere logic, but demand comprehension based on the conditions that gave rise to them.

In thinking, all we have to do is reject error. We have to extricate ourselves from error and, overcoming it, reach the truth. But in the case of errors rooted in the factual realm, we must always say that they also have a positive aspect and are of value in a certain sense for the development of mankind. Theoretical materialism of the nineteenth century should therefore not merely be condemned in a narrow, one-sided manner; instead, we should grasp its significance in human evolution.

Theoretical materialism consisted in the fact — and what remained of it still consists in this — that man devotes himself to a conscientious and exact investigation of the external material facts, that in a certain sense he loses himself in this world of facts. Then, proceeding from this investigation of facts, he attains to a view of life that tends to the conclusion that there is no other reality except the world of facts, and that everything pertaining to soul and spirit is, after all, merely a product of the material course of events. Even a conception of life such as this was necessary during a certain epoch of time, and the only danger would be a rigid adherence to it so that it could influence the further development of humanity in an age when other contents have to enter human consciousness.

Let us try today and investigate the actual basis of this evolutionary impulse leading to theoretical materialism. We come to it when, from a certain standpoint, we picture once more the threefold nature of the human organism. I have characterized it on many occasions. I have said: We must distinguish within the whole organization of the human being the part that, in regard to his physical being, may be designated as the organization of the senses and nerves. This is chiefly concentrated in the human head, but in a certain sense, it extends over the whole human organism, also penetrating the other parts of it. As a second member, we have the rhythmical organization. We encounter it chiefly in the rhythm of breathing and in the circulation of the blood. The third part in a wider sense is the metabolic organization of the human being, including the whole system of the human limbs. The human limb system is a system of movement, and every form of movement is basically an expression of our metabolic processes. One day, when people will investigate more closely what really takes place in the metabolic processes whenever the human being moves, they will discover the intimate connection between the limb system and the metabolic system.

In considering these three systems in the human being, we have, first of all, pointed out the fundamental difference between them. I have already drawn your attention yesterday to the fact that, by means of the same drawing, two men with entirely different world views wanted to clarify matters relating to the human head organization as well as to the processes of human thinking. I pointed out that it so happened that I was once present at a lecture given by an extreme materialist. He wished to describe the life of the soul, but he actually described the human brain, the individual sections of the brain, the connecting fibers, and so on. He arrived at a certain picture, but this picture he drew on the blackboard was, for him, only the expression of what goes on materially and physically in the human brain. At the same time, he saw in it the expression of soul life, particularly the conceptual life. Another man, a philosopher of the school of Herbart, spoke of thoughts, of associations of thoughts, of the effect one thought has upon another, etc., and he said he could make use of the same picture on the blackboard. Here, quite empirically, I should say, we encounter something most interesting. It is this that somebody for whom the observation of the soul life is something quite real, at least in his thoughts — this must always be added in case of Herbartianism — clarifies to himself the activity of the soul life by using the same picture employed by the other lecturer, who depicts the soul life by trying to set forth only the processes in the human brain.

Now, what lies at the foundation of this? The fact is that in its plastic configuration the human brain is indeed an extraordinarily faithful replica of what we know as the life of thought. In the plastic configuration of the human brain, the life of thought really does express itself, we might almost say, in an adequate manner. In order to follow this thought to its conclusion, however, something else is needed. What ordinary psychology and also Herbart’s psychology designate as chains of thoughts, as thought associations in the form of judgments, logical conclusions, and so on, should not remain a mere idea. At least in our imagination — even if we cannot rise to clairvoyant Imaginations — we should allow it to culminate in a picture; the tapestry of logic, the tapestry presented to us by psychology of the life of thought, the teaching of the soul life, should be allowed to culminate in a picture. If we are in fact able to transform logic and psychology in a picture-like, plastic way into an image, then the human configuration of the brain will emerge. Then we shall have traced a picture, the realization of which is the human brain.

On what is this based? It is based on the fact that the human brain, indeed the whole system of nerves and senses, is a replica of an Imaginative element.  We completely grasp the wonderful structure of the human brain only when we learn to investigate Imaginatively. Then, the human brain appears as a realized human Imagination. Imaginative perception teaches us to become familiar with the external brain, the brain we come to know through psychology and anatomy, as a realized Imagination. This is significant.

Another fact is no less important. Let us bear in mind that the human brain is an actual human Imagination. We are indeed born with a brain, if not a fully developed one, at least with a brain containing the tendencies of growth. It tries to develop to the point of being a realized Imaginative world, to be the impression of an Imaginative world. This is, as it were, the ready-made aspect of our brain, namely, that it is the replica of an Imaginative world. Into this impression of the Imaginative world we then build the conceptual experiences attained during the time between birth and death. During this period we have conceptual experiences; we conceive, we transform the sense perceptions into thoughts; we judge, we conclude, and so on. We fit this into our brain. What kind of activity is this?

As long as we live in immediate perception, as long as we remain in the interplay with the external world, as long as we open our eyes to the colors and dwell in this relationship with colors, as long as we open our organs of hearing to sounds and live within them, the external world lives on in us by penetrating our organism through the senses as through channels. With our inner life, we encompass this external world. But the moment we cease to have this immediate experience of the outer world — something I already called your attention to yesterday — the moment we turn our eye away from the world of colors, allow our ear to become inattentive to the resounding of the external world, the moment we turn our senses to something else, this concreteness — our interplay with the external world in perceiving — penetrates into the depths of our soul. It may then be drawn to the surface again in the form of pictures by memory. We may say that during our life between birth and death insofar as our thought life is concerned, our interplay with the external world consists of two parts: the immediate experience of the external world in the form of perceptions and the transformed thoughts. We surrender, as it were, completely to the present; our inner activity loses itself in the present. Then, however, this immediate activity continues. To begin with, it is not accessible to our consciousness. It sinks down into the subconscious but may be drawn to the surface again into memory. In what form, then, does it exist in us?

This is a point that can be explained only by a direct view attainable in Imagination. A person who honestly pursues his way in his scientific striving cannot help but admit to himself that the moment the riddle of memory confronts him he cannot advance another step in his research. For due to the fact that the experiences of the immediate present sink down into the subconscious, they become inaccessible to ordinary consciousness; they cannot be traced further.

But when we work in a corresponding way upon the human soul by means of the soul-spiritual exercises that have frequently been discussed in my lectures, we reach a stage where we no longer lose sight of the continuations of our direct life of perceptions and thoughts into conceptions that make memories possible. I have often explained to you that the first result of an ascent to Imaginative thinking is to have before your soul, as a mighty life-tableau, all your experiences since birth. The stream of experience normally flows along in the unconscious, and the single representations, which emerge in memory, rise up from this unconscious or subconscious stream through a half-dreamy activity. Those who have developed Imaginative perception are offered the opportunity to survey the stream of experiences as in one picture. You could say that the time that has elapsed since birth then takes on the appearance of space. What is normally within the subconscious is then beheld in the form of interconnected pictures. When the experiences that otherwise escape into the subconscious are thus raised to direct vision, we are able to observe this continuation of present, immediate perceptual and thought experiences all the way into conceptions that can be remembered. It is possible to trace what happens in us to any sort of experience we have in our mind, from the point in time when we first lose sight of it until the moment we recall it again. After all, between experiencing something and remembering it again something is taking place continuously in the human organism, something that becomes visible to imaginative perception. It is possible to view it in Imaginations, but it is now revealed in a quite special way.

The thoughts that have lost themselves, as it were, in the subconscious region an activity connected with our life-impulses, our impulses of growth; they stimulate an activity in us that is related to our impulse of death. The significant result revealing itself to Imaginative perception in the way I could only allude to today is the following: Human beings do not connect the memory-activity, leading to the renewal of thinking, of thought and perceptual experiences, with what calls us into physical life and maintains digestion in this life, so that substances that have become useless are replaced by usable ones, and so on. The power of memory that descends into the human being is not related to this ascending life system in man. It is linked to something we also bear within us ever since our birth, something we are born with just as we are born with the forces through which we live and grow. It is connected with what then appears to us, concentrated into one moment, in regard to the whole organism in dying.

Death only appears as a great riddle as long as it is not observed within the continuous stream of life from birth to death. Expressing myself paradoxically, I might say that we die not only when we die. In reality, we die at every moment of our physical life. By developing within our organism the activity leading to memory as recollective thinking — and in ordinary physical life every form of cognition is actually linked up with memory — insofar as this cognition is developed, we die continuously. A subtle form of death, proceeding from our head organization, is forever going on within us. By carrying out this activity that continues on into memory, we constantly begin the act of dying. But the forces of growth existing in the other members of the human organism counteract this process of death; they overcome the death forces. Thus we maintain life. If we only depended on our head organization, on the system of nerves and senses, each moment in life would really become a moment of death for us. As human beings we continuously vanquish death, which streams out, as it were, from our head to the remaining organism. The latter counteracts this form of death. Only when the remaining organization becomes weakened, exhausted through age or some kind of damage, thus preventing the counteraction against the death-bearing forces of the human head, only then does death set in for the whole organism.

Indeed, in our modern thinking, in the thinking of today’s civilization, we really work with concepts that lie side by side like erratic blocks, without being able to correctly recognize their interrelationship. Light must enter into this chaos of erratic blocks constituting our world of concepts and thoughts. On the one hand, we have human cognition which is so intimately tied to the faculty of memory. We observe this human cognition and have no idea of its kinship to our conception of death. And because we are completely ignorant of this relationship, what could otherwise be deciphered in life remains so enigmatic. We are unable to connect the experiences of everyday life with the great extraordinary moments of experience. The insufficient spiritual view over what lies around as fragmentary blocks in our conceptual world brings it about that despite the splendid achievements of the nineteenth century life has gradually become so obscure.

Let us now consider the second system, the second member of the human organization, the rhythmical organization. It is also present in the human head organization. The interior of the human head breathes together with the breathing organism. This is an external physiological fact. But the breathing process of the human head lies, as it were, more within; it conceals itself from the system of nerves and senses. It is covered over by what constitutes the chief task of the head organization. Still, the human head has its own concealed rhythmical activity. This activity becomes evident mainly in the human chest organization, in those processes of the human organism that are centered in the organs of breathing and in the heart.

When we observe the outward appearance of this organization, unlike in the case of the head organization, we cannot see in it a kind of plastic image for what exists as its counterpart in the soul, namely, the life of feeling. When we observe the soul experiences, our feelings manifest as something more or less undefined. We have sharp contours in our thoughts. We also have clear concepts of thought associations. In the details pertaining to our life of feeling we have no such sharp outlines. There, everything interpenetrates, moves and lives. You will not find an Herbartian who, in making an outline of the life of emotion, would characterize this in a sketch that might resemble one drawn by an anatomist or a physiologist for the lungs or the heart and circulatory system. Here, you find that such a relationship does not exist between the inner soul element and the outer aspects. This is also the reason why Imaginative cognition does not suffice to bring before the soul this relationship between the soul’s life of feeling and the rhythmical system. For this we need what I have characterized in my books as Inspiration, Inspirative perception. This special form of perception through Inspiration attains to the insight that our emotional life has a direct link to the rhythmical system. Just as the system of nerves and senses is linked to the conceptual life, so the rhythmical life is linked to the life of feelings.

But, metaphorically speaking, the rhythmical system is not the wax impression of the emotional life in the same way that the brain’s configuration is the wax impression of the conceptual life. Consequently we cannot say that our rhythmical system is an Imaginative replica of our life of feeling. We must say instead that what unfolds and lives in us as the rhythmical system has come about through cosmic Inspiration, independently of any human knowledge. It is inspired into us. The activity carried out in the breathing and in the blood circulation is not merely something that lives within us enclosed by our skin; it is a cosmic event, like lightning and thunder. After all, through our rhythmical system, we are connected with the outer world. The air that is now within me was outside before; it will be outside again the next moment. It is an illusion to believe that we only live enclosed within our skin. We live as a member of the world that surrounds us, and the form of our rhythmical system, which is closely connected to our movements, is inspired into us out of this world.

Summing this up, we can say: As the basis of the human head we have, first of all, the realization of an Imaginative world. Then, in a manner of speaking, below what thus realizes itself as an Imaginative world, we have the realm of the rhythmical system, an Inspired world. Concerning our rhythmical system, we can only say: An Inspirative world is realized within it.

How do matters stand in regard to our metabolic system, our limb-system? Metabolism belongs together with the limb-system, as I have pointed out already. Our metabolic processes stand in a direct relationship with our volitional activity. But this relationship reveals itself neither to Imaginative nor to Inspirative perception. It discloses itself only to Intuitive cognition, to what I have described in my books as “Intuitive knowledge.” This explains the difficulty of seeing in the external physical processes of metabolism the realization of a cosmic Intuition. This metabolism, however, is also present in the rhythmical system. The metabolism of the rhythmical system conceals itself behind the life-rhythm, just as the life-rhythm conceals itself behind the activity of nerves and senses in the human head.

In the case of the human head we have a realized Imaginative world; hidden behind it a realized Inspirative world in regard to the rhythm in the head. Still further behind this, there is the metabolism of the head, hence a realized Intuitive element. Thus we can comprehend our head, if we [see] in it the confluence of the realized Imaginative, Inspired, and Intuitive elements. In the human rhythmical system the Imaginative is omitted; there we have only the realization of the Inspired and Intuitive elements. And in the metabolic system Inspiration, too, is omitted; there, we are dealing only with the realization of a cosmic Intuition.

In the threefold human organism, we thus bear within us first the organization of the head, a replica of what we strive for in cognition through Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition. In trying to understand the human head, we should really have to admit to ourselves that with mere external, objective knowledge gained through the observation of the outer sensory world, which is not even Imagination and does not rise up to the Intuitive element, we should stop short of the human head. For the inner being of the human head begins to disclose itself only to Imaginative knowledge; behind this lies something still deeper that reveals itself to Inspiration. In turn, behind this, lies something that makes itself known to Intuitive knowledge. The rhythmical system is not even accessible to Imagination. It reveals itself only to Inspirative cognition, and what is concealed beneath it is the Intuitive element. Within the human organism, we certainly ought to find metabolism incomprehensible. The true standpoint in regard to the human metabolism can be none other than the following. We can only say that we observe the metabolic processes of the external world; we try to penetrate into them with the aid of the laws of objective perception. Thus we attain knowledge of the external metabolism in nature. The instant this outer metabolism is transformed and metamorphosed into out inner metabolism it becomes something quite different; it turns into something in which dwells the element that discloses itself only to Intuition.

We would therefore have to say: In the world that presents itself to us as the sensory realm, the most incomprehensible of all incomprehensible problems is what the substances, with which we become familiar externally through physics and chemistry, accomplish within the human skin. We would have to admit: we must rise up to the highest spiritual comprehension if we want to know what really takes place within the human organism in regard to the substances we know so well in their external aspects in the world outside.

Thus we see that in the structure of our organism there are, to begin with, three different activities. First of all, something that discloses itself to Intuitive knowledge is active in the structure of the human organism, building it up out of the world’s substances. In addition something is active in this organism that reveals itself to Inspirative knowledge; it fits the rhythmical system into the metabolic organism. Finally, something is active in the human organism that reveals itself to Imaginative knowledge; it builds in the nervous system. And when this human organism enters through birth into the external physical world, all that is ready-made, as it were, by virtue of its own nature, then evolves further inasmuch as human beings develop objective knowledge between birth and death.

Concerning this objective knowledge we have seen that it is tied to the activity of memory; it is not connected with constructive but with destructive forces. We have seen that this form of knowledge is a slow dying proceeding from the head. We may therefore say that the human organism was built up through what could be comprehended by means of Intuition, Inspiration, and Imagination. This dwells in this human organism in a manner inaccessible to present-day cognition. On the other hand, what is built into our organism between birth and death by means of our objective insights breaks down and destroys this organism. We actually think and form concepts on the basis of this destruction when we unfold our conceptual life, the life of thoughts.

We really cannot be materialists when we comprehend what this knowledge, so intimately linked with the faculty of memory consists of. For if we wanted to be materialists, we would have to imagine that we are built up by forces of growth; that those forces are active that absorb the substances and transmit them to the various organs in order to bring about, in a wider sense, the digestive processes within our organism. We should have to picture this faculty, inherent in growth, digestion, and the constructive forces in general, continuing and culminating somewhere in the conceptual process, in thinking which arrives at objective knowledge. Yet this is not the case. The human organism is built up through something that is accessible to Intuition, to Inspiration, and to Imagination. Our organism is built up when it has absorbed these forces into itself. But then regression begins, the process of decay, and what brings this decay about is ordinary knowledge between birth and death.

Through the processes of ordinary perception we do not build anything into the constructive forces; rather, by destroying what has been built up, we create, first of all, the foundations for a continuous element of death in ourselves. Into this continuing element of death we place our knowledge. We do not immerse ourselves in material elements when we think; no, we destroy the material element. We hand it over to the forces of death. We think our way into death, into the destruction of life. Thinking, ordinary perception, is not related to growing, budding life. It is related to death, and when we observe human perception, we do not find an analogy for it in the natural formations including the human brain. We discover an analogy only in the corpse that decays after death. For what the decaying body represents, I might say, intensively, in a certain greatness, must continuously take place within us when we perceive objectively in the ordinary sense of the word.

Look upon death if you wish to comprehend the cognitive process. Do not look upon life in a materialistic manner; look upon what represents the negation, the elimination of life. Then you arrive at a comprehension of thinking. To be sure, what we call death then acquires an entirely different meaning; based on life it attains to a different significance.

Even external phenomena enable us to grasp such things. Yesterday, I said to you that the culmination of the materialistic world view lies in the middle or in the last third of the nineteenth century. This culmination viewed death as something that must absolutely be rejected. In a sense people at that time felt noble by viewing death in this way, as ending life. Life alone they wanted to consider and wished to see it as ending with death. Frequently, one looks back somewhat disdainfully upon the “child-like folk-consciousness.” Take the word “verwesen,” (to decompose) which points to the process of what occurs after death. The prefix “ver” always indicates a movement towards what the word expresses. “Verbruedern” (to become like brothers, to fraternize) means to move in the direction of becoming brothers; “versammeln” (to gather together) indicates moving in the direction of gathering, of meeting. In the vernacular, “verwesen” does not mean decomposing, ceasing to be; it means moving in the direction of Wesen, of being, of life. Such word formations, connected with a spiritual way of grasping the world during the epoch of instinctive knowledge, have become exceedingly rare. In the nineteenth century people materialized everything; they no longer lived in the spiritual essence permeating the word. Many examples could be cited to show that the culmination of materialism became evident even in speech.

We can therefore understand that after the human being had been developed, as I said yesterday, to a point of culmination by forces that disclose themselves to Inspiration, Intuition, and Imagination, he then attained to the highest culmination in the nineteenth century, followed in turn by a decadence. We can understand that the human being distanced himself, as it were, from the power enabling him to comprehend himself inwardly by developing in the strongest measure the forces that, as conceptual forces, are most akin to death, the forces of abstraction. It is from this point that it is possible, proceeding from today’s lecture, to advance to what constitutes the actual, essential impulse within what we may call the materialistic impulse of knowledge in human history.

https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA204/English/AP1987/MaTask_index.html

Cult of Materialism. We are all victims to the cult of… | by Natalie Chung  | Medium

 

Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy L1

ma·te·ri·al·ism: a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.

It was in the middle and second half of the nineteenth century that materialism had its period of greatest development. In today’s lecture we will center our interest more on the theoretical side of this materialistic evolution. A great deal of what I shall have to say about the theoretical aspect can also be said in almost the same words of the more practical aspect of materialism. For the moment, however, we will leave that aside and turn our attention more to the materialistic world conception that was prevalent in the civilized world in the middle and second half of the nineteenth century.

We shall find that we are here concerned with a twofold task. First, we have to gain a clear perception of the extent to which this materialistic world view is to be opposed, of how we must be armed with all the concepts and ideas enabling us to refute the materialistic world view as such. But in addition to being armed with the necessary conceptions, we find that from the point of view of spiritual science we are required at the same time to do something more, namely, to understand this materialistic world view. First of all, we must understand it in its content; secondly, we must also understand how it came about that such an extreme materialistic world view was ever able to enter human evolution.

It may sound contradictory to say that it is required of man on the one hand to be able to fight the materialistic world view, and on the other hand to be able to understand it. But those who base themselves on spiritual science will not find any contradiction here; it is merely an apparent one. For the case is rather like this. In the course of the evolution of mankind moments must needs come when human beings are in a sense pulled down, brought below a certain level, in order that they may later by their own efforts lift themselves up again. And it would really be of no help to mankind at all if by some divine decree or the like it could be protected from having to undergo these low levels of existence. In order for human beings to attain to full use of their powers of freedom, it is absolutely necessary that they descend to the low levels in their world conception as well as in their life. The danger does not lie in the fact that something like this appears at the proper time, and for theoretical materialism this was the middle of the nineteenth century. The danger consists in the fact that if something like this has happened in the course of normal evolution, people then continue to adhere to it, so that an experience that was necessary for one particular point in time is carried over into later times. If it is correct to say that in the middle of the nineteenth century materialism was in a certain sense a test mankind had to undergo, it is equally correct to say that the persistent adherence to materialism is bound to work terrible harm now, and that all the catastrophes befalling the world and humanity that we have to experience are due to the fact that a great majority of people still tries to cling to materialism.

What does theoretical materialism really signify? It signifies the view regarding the human being primarily as the sum of the material processes of his physical body. Theoretical materialism has studied all the processes of the physical, sensory body, and although what has been attained in this study is still more or less in its first beginnings, final conclusions have nevertheless already been drawn from it in regard to a world view. Man has been explained as the confluence of these physical forces; his soul nature is declared to be merely something that is produced through the workings of these physical forces. It is theoretical materialism, however, that initiated investigation of the physical nature of the human being, and it is this, the extensive examination of man’s physical nature, that must remain. On the other hand, what the nineteenth century drew as a conclusion from this physical research is something that must not be allowed to figure as more than a passing phenomenon in human evolution. And as a passing phenomenon, let us now proceed to understand it.

What is really involved here? When we look back in the evolution of mankind — and with the help of what I have given in Occult Science we are able to look back rather far — we can see that the human being has passed through the greatest variety of different stages. Even if we limit our observation to what has taken place in the course of earth evolution, we are bound to conclude that this human being started with a form that was quite primitive in comparison to its present form, and that this form then underwent a gradual change, approaching ever nearer to the form the human being possesses today. As long as we focus on the rough outline of the human form, the differences will not appear to be so great in the course of human history. When we compare with the means at the disposal of external history, the form of an ancient Egyptian or even an ancient Indian with the form of a man of present-day European civilization, we will discover only relatively small differences, as long as we stay with the rough outlines or superficial aspects of observation. For such a rough viewpoint, the great differences in regard to the primitive forms of development emerge only in early man in prehistoric ages.

When we refine our observation, however, when we begin to study what is hidden from outer view, then what I have said no longer holds good. For then we are obliged to admit that a great and significant difference exists between the organism of a civilized man of the present and the organism of an ancient Egyptian, or even an ancient Greek or Roman. And although the change has come about in a much more subtle and delicate manner in historical times, there has most assuredly been such change in regard to all the finer forming and shaping of the human organism. This subtle change reached a certain culmination in the middle of the nineteenth century. Paradoxical as it may sound, it is nevertheless a fact that in regard to his inner structure, in regard to what the human organism can possibly attain, man had reached perfection at about the middle of the nineteenth century. Since then, a kind of decadence has set in. Since that time, the human organism has been involved in retrogression. Therefore, also in the middle of the nineteenth century, the organs that serve as the physical organs of human intellectual activity had reached perfection in their development.

What we call the intellect of man requires, of course, physical organs. In earlier ages, these physical organs were far less developed than they were in the middle of the nineteenth century. It is true that what arouses our admiration when we contemplate the Greek spirit, particularly in such advanced Greeks as Plato and Aristotle, is dependent on the fact that the Greeks did not have such perfect organs of thinking, in the purely physical sense, as had men of the nineteenth century. Depending on one’s preference, one might say, “Thank heaven that people in Greek times did not possess thinking organs that were as perfect as those of the people in the nineteenth century!” If on the other hand, one is a pedant like those of the nineteenth century, wishing to cling to this pedantry, then one can say, “Well, the Greeks were just children, they did not have the perfect organs of thought that we have; accordingly, we must look with an indulgent eye upon what we find in the works of Plato and Aristotle.” School teachers often speak in this vein, for in their criticism they feel vastly superior to Plato and Aristotle. You will only fully understand what I have just indicated, however, if you make the acquaintance of people — and there are such! — who have a kind of vision that one may call, in the best sense of the word, a clairvoyant consciousness.

In such people, the presence of clairvoyant consciousness — if there are any in the audience who possess a measure of it, they will please forgive me for telling what is the plain truth — is due to the inadequate development of the organs of intellect. It is quite a common occurrence in our day to meet people who have a measure of clairvoyant consciousness and possess extraordinarily little of what is today called scientific intellect. True as this is, it is equally true that what these clairvoyant people are able to say or write down through their own faculty of perception, may contain thoughts far cleverer than the thoughts of people who show no signs whatever of clairvoyance but function with the best possible organs of intellect. It may easily happen that clairvoyant people who, from the point of view of present- day science are quite stupid — please forgive this expression — produce thoughts cleverer than the thoughts of recognized scientists without being themselves any the cleverer for producing them! This actually occurs. And to what is it due? It comes about because such clairvoyant persons do not need to exercise any organs of thought in order to arrive at the clever thoughts. They create the corresponding images out of the spiritual world, and the images already have within them the thoughts. There they are, ready-made, while other people who are not clairvoyant and can only think have to develop their organs of thought first before they can develop any thoughts. If we were to sketch this, it would be like this. Suppose a clairvoyant person brings something out of the spiritual world in all manner of pictures (see drawing, red). But in it, thoughts are contained, a network of thoughts. The person in question does not think this out, instead, he sees it, bringing it along from the spiritual world. He has no occasion to exercise any organ of thought.

Consider another person who is not gifted with clairvoyance, but who can think. Of all that has been drawn in red below, there is nothing at all present in him. He does not bring any such thing out of the spiritual world. Neither does he bring this thought skeleton with him out of the spiritual world (see drawing on left). He exerts his organs of thinking and through them produces this thought skeleton (see drawing).

Diagram 1

In observing human beings today, one can find among everywhere examples of all the stages between these two extremes. For one who has not trained his faculty of observation, it is nevertheless most difficult to distinguish whether a person is actually clever, in the sense that he thinks by means of his organs of reason, or whether he does not think with them at all, but instead by some means brings something into his consciousness, so that only the pictorial, imaginative element is developed in him, but so feebly that he himself is not even aware of it. Thus, there are any number of people today who produce most clever thoughts without having to be clever on that account, while others think very clever thoughts but have no special connection to any spiritual world. To learn to apprehend this distinction is one of the important psychological tasks of our age, and it affords the basis for important insight into human beings at the present time. With this explanation, you will no longer find it difficult to understand that empirical super-sensible observation shows that the majority of mankind possessed the most perfectly developed organs of thought in the middle of the nineteenth century. At no other time was there so much thinking done with so little cleverness as in the middle of the nineteenth century.

Go back to the twenties of the nineteenth century — only, people do not do this today — or even a little earlier, and read the scientific texts produced then. You will discover that they have an entirely different tone; they do not yet contain the completely abstract thinking of later times which depends on man’s physical organs of thought. We need not even mention what came from the pen of people like Herder, Goethe or Schiller; grand conceptions still dwelled in them. It does not matter that people do not believe this today and that commentaries today are written as if this were not the case. For those who write these commentaries and believe that they understand Goethe, Schiller, and Herder simply do not understand them; they do not see what is most important in these men.

It is a fact of great significance that about the middle of the nineteenth century the human organism reached a culmination in respect of its physical form and that since that time it has been regressing; indeed, in regard to a rational comprehension of the world it is regressing rapidly in a certain sense.

This fact is closely connected with the development of materialism in the middle of the nineteenth century. For what is the human organism? The human organism is a faithful copy of man’s soul-spiritual nature. It is not surprising that people who are incapable of insight into the soul and spirit of man see in the structure of the human organism an explanation of the whole human being. This is particularly the case when one takes into special consideration the organization of the head, and in the head in turn the organization of the nerves.

In the course of my lectures in Stuttgart, I mentioned an experience that is really suited to throw light on this point. It happened at the beginning of the twentieth century in a gathering of the Giordano Bruno Society of Berlin. First, a man spoke — I would call him a stalwart champion of materialism — who was a most knowledgeable materialist. He knew the structure of the brain as well as anyone can know it today who has studied it conscientiously. He was one of those who see in the analysis of the brain’s structure already the full extent of psychology — those who say that one need only know how the brain functions in order to have a grasp on the soul and to be able to describe it. It was interesting; on the blackboard, the man drew the various sections of the brain, the connecting strands, and so on, and thus presented the marvelous picture one obtains when one traces the structure of the human brain. And this speaker firmly believed that by having given this description of the brain he had described psychology. After he had finished speaking, a staunch philosopher, a disciple of Herbart, rose up and said, “The view propounded by this gentleman, that one can obtain knowledge of the soul merely by explaining the structure of the brain, is one I must naturally object to emphatically. But I have no cause to take exception to the drawing the speaker has made. It fits in quite well with my Herbartian point of view, namely, that ideas form associations with one another, and connecting strands of a psychic character run from one idea to another.” He added that as a Herbartian, he could quite well make the same drawing, only the various circles and so on would for him not indicate sections of the brain but complexes of ideas. But the drawing itself would remain exactly the same!

A most interesting situation! When it is a matter of getting down to the reality of a subject, these two speakers have diametrically opposed views, but when they make drawings of the same thing, they find themselves obliged to come up with identical drawings, even though one is a wholehearted Herbartian philosopher and the other a staunchly materialistic physiologist.

What is the cause of this? It is in fact this: We have the soul-spirit being of man; we bear it within us. This soul-spirit being is the creator of the entire form of man’s organism. It is therefore not surprising that here in the most complete and perfect part of the organism, namely the nervous system of the brain, the replica created by the soul-spirit being resembles the latter in every way. It is indeed true that in the place where man is most of all man, so to speak, namely in the structure of his nerves, he is a faithful replica of the soul-spiritual element. Thus, a person who, in the first place, must always have something the senses can perceive and is content with the replica, actually perceives in the copy the very same thing that is seen in the soul-spiritual original. Having no desire for soul and spirit and only concentrating, as it were, on the replica, he stops short at the structure of the brain. Since this structure of the brain presented itself in such remarkable perfection to the observer of the mid-nineteenth century, and considering the predisposition of humanity at that time, it was extraordinarily easy to develop theoretical materialism.

What is really going on in the human being? If you consider the human being as such — I shall draw an outline of him here — and turn to the structure of his brain, you find that first of all man is, as we know, a threefold being: the limb being, the rhythmic man, and the being of nerves and senses. When we now look at the latter, we have before us the most perfect part of the human being, in a sense, the most human part. In it, the external world mirrors itself (see drawing, red). I shall indicate this reflection process by the example of the perception through the eyes. I could just as well sketch the perceptions coming through the ear, and so on. The external world, therefore, reflects itself in the human being in such a way that we have here the structure of man and in him the reflection of the outer world.

Diagram 2

As long as we consider the human being in this way, we cannot help but interpret him in a materialistic manner, even though we may go beyond the often quite coarse conceptions of materialism. For, on the one hand, we have the structure of the human being; we can trace it in all its most delicate tissue structures. The more closely we approach the head organization, the more we discover a faithful replica of the soul-spiritual element. Then we can follow up the reflection of the external world in the human being. That, however, is mere picture. We thus have the reality of man, on the one hand, traceable in all its finer structural details, and on the other hand we have the picture of the world.

Let us keep this well in mind. We have man’s reality in the structure of his organs, and we have what is reflected in him. This is really all that offers itself initially to external sensory observation. Thus, for sensory observation, the following conclusion presents itself. When the human being dies, this whole human structure disintegrates in the corpse. In addition, we have the pictures of the outer world. If you shatter the mirror, nothing can mirror itself any longer; hence, the pictures, too, are gone when the human being has passed through death. Since external sense observation cannot ascertain more than what I have just mentioned, is it not natural to have to say that with death the physical structure of the human being disintegrates? Formerly, it reflected the outer world. Human beings bear but a mirror-image in their soul and it passes away. Materialism of the nineteenth century simply presented this as a fact. It could not do otherwise, for it really had no knowledge of anything else.

Now the whole matter changes when we begin to turn our attention to the soul and spirit life of man. There, we enter a region which is inaccessible to physical sensory observation. Take a fact pertaining to the soul that is near at hand, the simple fact that we confront the outer world by observing it. We observe and perceive objects; then we have them within us in the form of percepts. We also have memory, the faculty of recollection. We can bring up in images from the depths of our being what we experience in the outer world. We know how important memory is for the human being.

Let us consider this set of facts some more. Take these two inner experiences: You look through your eyes at the external world, you hear it with your ears, or in some other way you perceive it with your senses. You are then engaged in an immediately present activity of the soul. This then passes over into your conceptual life. What you have experienced today, you can raise up again a few days later out of the depths of your soul in pictures. Something enters into you in some manner and you bring it up again out of your own being. It is not difficult to recognize that what enters into the soul must originate in the external world. I do not wish to consider anything else for the moment except the fact that is clearly obvious, namely, that what we thus remember has to come from the outer world. For if you have seen some red object, you remember the red object afterwards, and what has taken place in you is merely the image of the red object which, in turn, arises again in you. It is therefore something the external world has impressed upon you more deeply than if you occupy yourself only with immediate perceptions in the outer world.

Now picture what happens: You approach some object, you observe it, that is to say, you engage in an immediate and present soul activity in regard to the observed object. Then you go away from it. A few days later, you have reason to call up again from the depths of your being the pictures of the observed object. They are present again, paler, to be sure, but still present in you. What has happened in the interval?

Let me ask you here to keep well in mind what I have just said and compare this singular play of immediate perceptual thoughts and pictures of memory with something that is quite familiar to you, the pictures appearing in dreams. You will easily be able to notice how dreaming is connected with the faculty of memory. As long as the dream images are not too confused, you can easily see how they tie in with the memory images, hence, how a relationship exists between dreams and what passes from living perceptions into memory.

Now consider something else. Human beings must be organically completely healthy if they are to tolerate dreaming properly, so to speak. Dreaming requires that a person has himself fully under control and that at any time a moment can occur when he is certain he has been dreaming. Something is out of order when a person cannot come to the point of perceiving quite clearly: This was a dream! You have met people who dreamed they were beheaded. Suppose they could not distinguish afterwards between such a dream and the actual beheading; suppose they thought they really had been beheaded and yet had to go on living! Just imagine how impossible it would be for such people to sort out the facts without becoming totally confused! They would constantly feel that they had just been beheaded, and if they presumed they had to believe this — one can just about imagine what sort of words would break from their lips!

You can see, therefore, that human beings should be able at any moment to have themselves in hand so well that they can distinguish dreams from the thought life within reality. There are people, however, who cannot do this. They experience all kinds of hallucinations and visions and consider them realities. They cannot distinguish; they do not have themselves well enough in hand. What does this signify? It means that what dwells in dream has an influence on their organization, and that the organization is adapted to the dream picture. Something in their nervous system is not fully developed that should be developed; therefore, the dream is active in them and makes its influence felt.

Thus, if someone is not able to distinguish between his dreams and experienced realities, it means that the power of the dream has an organizing effect on him. If a dream were to possess itself of our whole brain, we would see the whole world as a dream! If you can contemplate such a fact and appreciate its full value, you will gradually learn to apprehend the facts to which ordinary science today does not wish to aspire because it lacks the courage to do so. You will learn to perceive that the very same power that energizes the dream life is present in us as organizing and quickening power, as power of growth. The only reason why the dream does not have the power to tear asunder the structure of our organism is that the latter is too strongly consolidated, that it has so firm a structure as to be able to withstand the effects of the ordinary dream. Thus, the human being can distinguish between the dream experience and that of reality.

When the little child grows up, becoming taller and taller, a force is at work in it. It is the same force as the one contained in the dream; only in the case of the dream we behold it. When we do not behold it, when it is instead active inside the body, then it, the very same power that is in the dream, makes us grow. We need not even go so far as to consider growth. Every day, for example, when you eat and digest and the effects of digestion spread throughout your organism, this happens by means of the force that dwells in dreams. Therefore, when something is out of order in the organism, it is connected with dreaming that is not as it should be. The force we can, from the outside, observe working in dream life is the same as the one that then works inwardly in the human being, even in the forces of digestion.

Thus, we can say that if we only consider the life of man in the right way, we become aware of the working of the dream force in his organism. When I describe this actively working dream force, I actually enter upon the same paths in this description that I must tread when I describe the human etheric body.

Imagine that someone were able to penetrate with his vision everything that brings about growth in the human being from childhood on, everything that causes digestion in man, everything that sustains his whole organism in its state of activity. Imagine that I could take this whole system of forces, extracting it from the human being and placing it before him, then I would have placed the etheric body before the human being. This etheric body, that is, the body that reveals itself only in irregularities in a dream, was far more highly developed prior to the point in time in the nineteenth century to which I have referred. Gradually it became weaker and weaker in its structure. In turn, the structure of the physical body grew correspondingly stronger. The etheric body can conceive in pictures, it can have dreamlike imaginations, but it cannot think. As soon as this etheric body begins to be especially active in a person of our time, he becomes a bit clairvoyant, but then he can think less, because, for thinking, he particularly needs the physical body.

Therefore, it need not surprise us that when people of the nineteenth century had the feeling that they could think particularly well, they were actually driven to materialism. For what aided them in this thinking the most was the physical body. But this physical thinking was connected with the special form of memory that was developed in the nineteenth century. It is a memory that lacks the pictorial element and, wherever possible, moves in abstractions.

Such a phenomenon is interesting. I have frequently referred to the professor of criminal anthropology Moritz Benedikt. Today as well, I would like to mention an interesting experience he himself relates in his memoirs. He had to address a meeting of scientists, and he reports that he prepared himself for this speech for twenty-two nights, not having slept day or night. On the last day before giving the address, a journalist who was supposed to publish the speech came to see him. Benedikt dictated it to him. He says that he had not written down the address at all, having merely impressed it onto his memory. He now dictated it to the journalist in his private chamber; the following day he gave this speech at the meeting of scientists. The journalist printed what he had taken down from dictation, and the printed speech agreed word for word with the speech Benedikt delivered at the meeting.

I must confess, such a thing fills me with admiration, for one always admires what one could never find possible to accomplish oneself. This is indeed a most interesting phenomenon! For twenty-two days, the man worked to incorporate, word for word, what he had prepared into his organization, so that in the end he could not possibly have uttered a single sentence out of the sequence impressed onto his system, so firmly was it imbedded!

Such a thing is possible only when a person is able to imprint the whole speech into his physical organism purely out of the gradually developing wording. It is actually a fact that what one thinks out in this way stamps itself onto one’s organization as firmly as the force of nature firmly builds up the bone system of man. Then, the whole speech rests like a skeleton in the physical organism. As a rule, memory is tied to the etheric body, but in this case the latter has imbedded itself completely in the physical organism. The entire physical system then contains something in the way it contains the bones, something that stands there like the skeleton of the speech. Then it is possible to do what Professor Benedikt did. But this is only possible when the nerve structure of the physical organism is developed in such a way that it receives without resistance into its plasticity what is brought into it; gradually, of course, for twenty-two days, even nights, it had to be worked in.

It is not surprising that somebody who relies so much on his body acquires the feeling that this physical body is the only thing working in the human being. Human life had indeed taken such a turn that it worked its way completely into the physical body; people therefore arrived at the belief that the physical body is everything in the human organization. I do not think that any other age but ours, which has attached this high value on the physical body, could have come to such a grotesque invention — forgive the expression — as stenography. Obviously, when people did not rely as yet on stenography, they did not attach so great a value to preserving and accurately recording words and the sequence of words such as is the aim in stenography. After all, only the imprint in the physical body can make so fast and firm a record. It is therefore the predilection for imprinting something in the physical body that has brought about the other preference for preserving this imprinted word, but by no means for retaining anything that stands one level higher. For stenography could play no part if we wished to preserve those forms that express themselves in the etheric body. It takes the materialistic tendency to invent something as grotesque as shorthand.

All this, of course, is added only by way of explanation of what I wish to contribute to the problem of understanding the appearance of materialism in the nineteenth century. Humanity had arrived at a certain condition that tended to engrain the soul-spiritual into the physical organism. You must take what I have said as an interpretation, not as a criticism of stenography. I do not favor the immediate abolition of stenography. This is never the tendency underlying such characterizations. We must clearly understand that just because one understands something, this does not imply that one wishes to abolish it right away! There are many things in the world that are necessary for life and that yet cannot serve all purposes — I do not want to go further into this subject — and the need for which still has to be comprehended. But we live in an age, and I have to emphasize this again and again, when it is absolutely necessary to penetrate more deeply into the development of nature as well as into that of culture, to be able to ask ourselves: Where does this or that phenomenon come from? For mere carping and criticizing accomplish nothing. We really have to understand all the things that go on in the world.

I would like to sum up what I presented today in the following way. The evolution of mankind shows that in the middle of the nineteenth century a certain culmination was reached in the process of the structural completion of the physical body. Already now, a decadence has set in. Further, this perfection of the physical body is connected with the rise of theoretical materialism. In the next few days, I shall have to say more about these matters from one or another viewpoint. I wished to place before you today what I have just summed up.

https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA204/English/AP1987/MaTask_index.html

Cult of Materialism. We are all victims to the cult of… | by Natalie Chung  | Medium