31 October 1914, Berlin
Dear friends, once again our thoughts must first of all be for those who are at the front, having to meet the challenge of our time with their bodies and their whole being. Let us therefore direct our thoughts to the spirits who are protecting the men who are at the front.
Spirits of your souls, guardian guides,
On your wings let there be borne
The prayer of love from our souls
To those whom you guard here on earth.
Thus, united with your might,
A ray of help our prayer shall be
For the souls it seeks out there in love.
And for those who have already passed through the gate of death in the course of these events, we say:
Spirits of your souls, guardian guides,
On your wings let there be borne
The prayer of love from our souls
To those whom you guard here on earth.
Thus, united with your might,
A ray of help our prayer shall be
For the souls it seeks out there in love.
And the spirit we have sought in our endeavours for so many years, the spirit who went through the Mystery of Golgotha, the Christ spirit, the spirit of courage, the spirit of strength, the spirit of unity, the spirit of peace — may he rule over everything you are asked to do these days.
More than at other times the serious purpose of our spiritual efforts must live in our souls during these days, these weeks — a seriousness which enables us to be aware how everything we aim for in our spiritual movement has to do with all that is truly human. We are aiming for something that addresses itself not just to human existence as it is for the moment, an existence that will pass with human physical body. We are speaking of laws, of forces in soul and spirit, that directly address the higher self in man, a higher self which is more than the self that may wither away with the body and its existence. We have frequently spoken of ‘Maya’ when referring to outward appearances, and it has often been stressed that outward appearances, the processes of physical life, become Maya because man does not properly penetrate them with his mind, his perceptive faculties. He therefore does not sense, does not perceive, what is really significant; the real essence of the things perceptible to the outer senses. Man uses his perceptive faculties to draw a veil, a tissue of deception, over the events of the physical world. This makes them become Maya.
There is one particular great truth that we should have in mind these days as we look for love and understanding, for a loving comprehension of what is happening all around us — an insight that, fundamentally speaking, is at the centre of everything we aim for in spiritual science. In our day this has to present itself to our souls with the full gravity and moral weight inherent in it. It is the realization — and this has by now become the simplest and most elementary fact in our spiritual life—that life on earth recurs. The fact that in the course of time our souls progress from body to body. The part of man that is eternal hastens from body to body through man's successive incarnations on earth. On the other hand, there is the part that has to do with human existence in a physical body, the part present on the physical plane that provides the configuration. the formation, the particular stamp to human existence in an outer physical body.
One particular thing that provides the outer stamp, determining the character of a person as it were, in so far as he is living in a physical body on the physical plane, is what may collectively be referred to as nationality. This is something we should never forget, especially today. If we turn the mind's eye to what we call man's higher self, the concept of nationality loses significance. For when we pass through the gate of death everything encompassed by the term ‘nationality’ is among the things we cast off. And if we do in all seriousness want to be what we think people with spiritual aims should be, it is proper to remember that in passing through successive incarnations the human being belongs not to one but to a number of different nationalities. The part of him that links him to a particular nationality is among the things that are cast off, have to be cast off, the moment we pass through the gate of death.
Truths that belong to the realm of the eternal do not have to be easily understood. Indeed, they may well be truths which at times go against our feelings — truths we achieve with difficulty particularly in difficult times, and also find difficult to achieve and retain in their full strength and clarity in difficult times such as these. A true anthroposophist must do this, and it will be exactly in this way that he arrives at a real understanding of the physical world around him. The basic elements for such understanding have already been presented in our anthroposophical work. You will find that the lecture cycle on folk souls' in a sense contains everything needed to gain insight into the way human beings, in so far as they are in the eternal realm, are connected with their nationalities. Those lectures were of course given in peacetime when souls are more ready and prepared to accept objective, unvarnished truths. Perhaps it will be difficult to take these truths as objectively today as they could be taken in those days. Yet this is the very way in which we can prepare our souls to develop the strength they need today, if even today we are able to take these truths objectively.
Let us bring before our mind's eye the picture of a warrior going through the gate of death on the field of battle. We need to understand that this is very much a special case, to go through the gate of death like this. We need to understand that entrance is made into a world that we are seeking with every fibre of our souls in spiritual science, so that it may bring clarity even into physical life. Let us remember that death means the entrance into that spiritual world and that it is not possible to take other life impulses directly into that world, for they would bear no fruit. The only life impulses we are able to take there are those that animate the efforts of our hearts and minds and in the final instance aim to join all peoples on the earth in brotherhood. Then a simple popular saying can be seen in a new way in the light of anthroposophy. It is the proverb which says ‘Death is the grand leveller’. It makes them all equal — Frenchmen. Englishmen, Germans and Russians. That is indeed true. Considering this in relation to what is going on all around us on the physical plane today, we shall indeed become aware of the solid ground that enables us to overcome Maya in this field and look to events for their essential meaning.
Consider it in relation to the feelings of antipathy and hatred that fill the hearts of the peoples of Europe at present. Consider it in relation to all the things peoples in the different regions of European soil feel about the others, expressing it in spoken and written words. And let us also see in our mind's eye all the antipathy coming to full fruition in our time.
How should we see these things with the eye of truth? Where in this field do we find something that will take us beyond Maya, beyond the great illusion? We do not get to know about each other on earth by an approach that considers everything that is generally human as something abstract. We get to know one another by getting in a position where we are able really to understand the peculiar qualities of the peoples who are spread out over the whole earth, to understand them in concrete terms, in what they are in particular. We do not get to know a person in this life by simply saying: He is a human being like myself and must have all the same qualities that I have. No, we have to forget about ourselves and really consider the qualities of the other person.
In the lecture cycle on the folk souls I showed how the different aspects of the soul within us — the sentient soul, the intellectual or mind soul, the spiritual soul, the ego and the spirit-self — are distributed among the nations of Europe and how every nation fundamentally represents a one-sided aspect. I also said that the different nationalities will have to work together, to become the soul of Europe as a whole, just as the different aspects of our own soul need to work together. Looking at the Italian and the Iberian peninsulas we find that the national element comes to expression in the sentient soul. In France, it comes to expression as intellectual or mind soul. Moving on to the British Isles we see it coming to expression as spiritual soul. In Central Europe the national element comes to expression as ego. When we finally look to the East of Europe, that is the region where it fully emerges as spirit-self—though that is not quite the right way of putting it, as we shall see later. What comes to expression there is something that lies in the national character. But the eternal in man goes beyond what is national and this is what human beings are looking for when entering more deeply into the spirit. Compared to this, the national element is a mere garment, an outer envelope, and the more a person is able to gain insight into this the higher he will ascend. In so far as man lives in the physical world, he does live in the outward trappings of what is national and this gives his body its configuration and, fundamentally speaking, also provides the configuration for certain qualities, character traits.
Today we see the members of different nations facing one another in dislike, in hatred. I am not at this point speaking about what is going on in the combat situation. I am speaking of what is going on in the feelings, the passions, of human souls. Here we have a soul. It needs to prepare for its reception into a spiritual world through which it will now have to pass between death and its next birth, a world that will guide it towards an incarnation that will belong to quite a different nationality from the one it is now leaving. This is a fact which shows very clearly, in the best and most powerful way, how man resists the higher self that is within him. Consider some real ‘nationalist’ today, someone with national feelings who directs his antipathy very particularly against the members of another nation and, indeed, may be ranting and raving against this other nation in his own country. What is the meaning of such ranting and raving, of such antipathy? It signifies a premonition—My next incarnation will be into this nationality! The higher self has already at subconscious level established links with the other nationality. This higher self is resisted by that part of us which on the physical plane. This is man raging against his own higher self. Wherever the ranting and raving is worst, wherever the hatred felt against other nationalities is greatest and where the most lies are told about them, someone seeing things not as Maya but in truth can perceive the true reason, which is that a great many members of the nation that rages most, is most cruel in its attitudes and lies the most, will have to assume that other nationality at their next incarnation.
That is the full seriousness of what we teach, the moral greatness that lies behind it. There is much in man — very much, infinitely much — that wants to resist having to recognize his higher self, the part of him that is eternal. This is what makes it so tremendously difficult to speak objectively at the present time. It certainly is a strange phenomenon that before this war started infinitely appreciative comments reached us from England, appreciative of the German character, German competence and particularly the intellectual life in Germany. I attempted to give examples of this in my last public lecture.5 It is possible to give many more examples, and this shall also be done. What was going on there?
From the occult point of view, there had been an instinctive feeling that an element was being striven for in Central Europe that had to do with regaining youth — I spoke of the Faust type of soul in that last public lecture — a search for the spiritual, preparing for the spiritual, something the whole of Europe would one day turn to, truly turn to. This is something people were instinctively aware of in times gone by. The desire has been to understand what is going on in Central Europe. Yet being wholly bound up with the national element, we shall only be able to relate to this in full understanding in the life between death and rebirth. Then it will be possible to relate to this and understand, and the way will be found to the teachers of Central Europe. It is embarrassing to speak of this now for it may appear like boasting in someone who comes from Central Europe. Yet the objective truths must be told. So there is an instinctive feeling for something that will be looked for in the life between death and rebirth: a uniting with souls that have striven for what is altogether human — with the Goethe soul, the Schiller soul, the Fichte soul. [Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762–1814, German idealist philosopher.] There has been some awareness of the fact that, having passed through the gate of death, we shall look above all for the Goethe soul, the Fichte soul, the Schiller soul and other souls that had their last incarnation in Central Europe. This fact had come to expression instinctively, and now once more, for the last time, infinitely passionate nationalistic feeling is rising against it. When we realize that the words so often heard now from the west and the north west are but covering up this feeling of resistance we shall have come to understand the truth, to replace Maya, misconception. We shall then understand how earth man, having eternal man within him, does not want what the eternal man within him wants; how the love he must feel in eternity is in the temporal world transformed into hatred.
We shall find that the best way of achieving love in understanding, and understanding in love, will be to get to know the characteristics of European peoples' using the means spiritual science is able to provide. We are allowed to do so in so far as we are always addressing the higher self in man. And all who want to share in our way of thought or feeling will recognize this higher self and therefore be able to listen to everything that has to be said with regard to the outer garb, knowing that we are speaking of the outer garb.
In a certain sense every nation has its specific mission. — In due course we shall be able to enter the building in Dornach and find that the sequence of columns, their capitals and the architraves above them, express in their forms what comes to expression in the impulses we discern in Europe. But I am not going to talk about this now for it is best to talk about it when we have the building before our eyes. That is what I did there a few days ago. 6Rudolf Steiner, ‘Der Dornacher Bau als Wahrzeichen geschichtlichen Werdens und kiinstlerischer Umwandlungsimpulse’ (1914) Dornach 1937 (Proposed for GA 287). — If we consider the impression our soul may gain even without seeing the building, we note above all that the inhabitants of the southern peninsulas — Italy and Spain — are, in a way, bringing back in their modern mission the elements that in the past had appeared in the third post-Atlantean epoch, in Egypto-Chaldean civilization. As soon as we grasp this, we gain a true insight into the soul of an Italian or Spanish national. This can be traced down to specific details. It is possible to say that we find in reality what we have previously perceived in the spirit. What were the characteristic features of Egypto-Chaldean civilization? This is something we have spoken of many times. They had a feeling for the great, cosmic astrology. Stars and constellations were not seen the way we see them today. Instead, spiritual entities were perceived and the constellations were seen as their physical exterior. The spiritual was seen in everything. If this is to be repeated as the mission of a nation in the time after the Mystery of Golgotha it has to be repeated in such a way that it now is part of the inner soul — that the great cosmic tableau seen by the Egyptians and Chaldeans now presents itself as though born anew out of the soul. This is nowhere more evident than in Dante's Divina Comedia, a work representing the high point of culture on the Italian peninsula. [Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321.] Even in details, the elements of ancient Egypto-Chaldean culture emerge again as though born out of the soul, resurrected in the inner life.
The essence of Greek culture is today found in the French nation, down to the character of their leading personalities. Voltaire [1694–1778] for instance can be understood only if one compares him to a real Greek. And if you consider the form Corneille [1606–16841] and Racine [1639–1699] gave to their works you can see how they were wrestling with the Greek form. This is of great significance in the history of civilization. The struggle with outer form, with what Aristotle [384–322 BC] established with regard to form, lives on in Racine and Corneille. If we look to French culture to find again the culture of the intellectual or mind soul that set the tone in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, we should find what was best in that culture. With the intellectual or mind soul coming to grips with the world, we should find exactly what relates to this. The greatest poet therefore, beyond compare in that respect, will have to be one whose creative work arises out of the intellectual or mind soul. A nation achieves greatness where its incomparables are brought to the fore. And the French poet who is unsurpassable is Molière [1622-1673]. With him the French soul reached its true, characteristic height — there it is unsurpassable. An echo of this was still alive in Voltaire.
An element that repeats nothing of the past but belongs to the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, something that has come up new in this epoch as it were, is the British soul. The principal aim of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch is to develop the spiritual soul, to bring it out. The spiritual soul is particularly in evidence in the essential nature of the British folk soul. It is characteristic of the British soul that it faces events. Fourteen, fifteen years ago, when I was writing the first edition of my Riddles of Philosophy 7Rudolf Steiner, Die Rätsel der Philosophie in ihrer Geschichte als Umriss dargestellt. (GA 18) Riddles of Philosophy. Tr. F. Koelin. Anthroposophic Press, 1973. I struggled to find a term to describe the British philosophers and it then became clear to me that they are onlookers in life. They face things the way the spiritual soul faces life as an onlooker. And the greatest creative spirit in the British soul, the man who stood there and faced the British character traits giving expression to all of them, down to the very depths of the soul, was Shakespeare. There the British soul is incomparable, in the onlooker mode.
Moving on to Central Europe we find ‘...what is forever evolving, and never actually is...’ as I have already described it in the public lecture. It is the ‘I’ as such, the innermost part of man. How does this relate to the elements of man's soul? It relates individually to the sentient soul, the intellectual or mind soul and the spiritual soul, developing links with all of them. Let us consider this in the case of Goethe. We note how he longed to go to Italy. And as it was in his case so all the best minds of Central Europe always longed for Italy, to achieve fertilization of the ego and let it conceive from the sentient soul. And the ego also exchanges forces with the intellectual or mind soul. Let us try and observe how that close bond between ego and intellectual or mind soul has really always been there through the centuries. Note how Frederick the Great [1712–1786], that most German of princes, really only spoke and wrote in French, how he had a special appreciation of French culture. This is evident, for instance, from his relationship with Voltaire. We can also note how the German philosopher Leibniz [1646–1716] wrote his works in French. That is exactly how the ego relates to the intellectual or mind soul. And when the ego is from the depths of the soul seeking the thing it strives for, something pushes up from the depths of the ego, from unfathomable depths of the ego: the spiritual soul tries to grasp it. This can be seen in the case of Goethe. I have often shown how he tried to grasp the way organisms evolve one from another. He established a whole system for organisms. That arose from the depths of the ego. But it is not immediately compreshensible. People need something that is easier to understand, they need things presented the way they arise from the spiritual soul. So they did not take up what Goethe had to offer but took up Darwin [1809–1882]. We still have not reached the point today where we are able to give recognition to Goethe's Theory of Colours. 8‘Goethe's Theory of Colours’ in Goethes Naturwissenschaftliche Schrifien, hersg. und kommentiert von Rudolf Steiner ( GA 1c). Transposed into the spiritual soul in Newton's [1642–1727] work it became what is currently accepted as the science of physics.
These things indicate the way in which individual, in this case national, characters are facing one another. We rise above the outer Maya which holds men captive and come to the truth when we learn to look at things in the light of spiritual science. We come to a truth that will show us that just as individual soul forces are warring with each other in a human being so the soul forces incorporated in the folk souls are at war with each other. It is not by chance that now in our day — when the teaching I have just presented has emerged — war makes its appearance as the great teacher, telling mankind in such a bloody, such a terrible way the very thing we are also telling them in spiritual terms. It is not by chance that whilst we are able to discuss this here there rages outside what is probably one of the bloodiest struggles ever. Fundamentally speaking, it represents the same truths but we must first penetrate them in their Maya to understand them as they really are.
In speaking about these things we must for once remove from the words that are spoken every nuance of feeling, of sympathy or antipathy, and use words merely for characterization. Then we shall understand things rightly. For these are things contained within the self of man, in so far as it is wrapped in the national element. We can follow this through in detail. To begin with, to prepare for what we must come to understand, let me say the following.
Let us take a Central European living in the ego culture. In my public lecture I said that the Central European aspires to his god in such a way that he will be joined to him. He wants to be united with his god. With regard to the thinking process, we can make the I generally say: ‘Man thinks’. Yet the statement ‘Man thinks’ really says very little indeed. We need to learn to look more carefully with the aid of spiritual science. We must gradually learn not to speak thoughtlessly but instead put things in the right way. For people who do not really care about the reality of things it is, of course, all right the way one just says it, but it is right only to say: ‘the Central European or Scandinavian thinks’ — with ‘thinking’ here considered an activity because it is the evolving of thought that matters. ‘The ensouled being thinks’ — that is what matters in Central Europe and in the Nordic countries. Man is so bound up with thought that this thought is the product of the soul's own activity, that the soul's activity consists of nothing else but the soul being caught up in thought.
The same cannot be rightly said for the Frenchman. In that case we have to say: ‘He has thoughts’. For ‘thinking’ and ‘having thoughts’ are not the same — there is a subtle difference. My Riddles of Philosophy can help to make this clear. In Western Europe people have thoughts. Thoughts are something that comes; they are given just as sensory perceptions are given. That is how it is with thoughts. They enter into the soul, they are fully alive in it, people have them, even grow intoxicated with them, are delighted to have them. One accusation made against the Germans is that their thoughts show a certain coldness. That may well be. A German has to form them first in his individual soul. They need to be warmed through there and only stay warm for as long as they are part of the immediate activity.
So much in preparation. For, indeed, the expression of individual national characteristics will always be found to show something coming alive that has already been put forward in the principles of spiritual science, something you will find in my lectures on folk souls. Let us consider individual expressions of national character.
The Italian and the Spanish character is determined by the sentient soul. We can observe this in life down to the finer detail. Everywhere we come upon the sentient soul. (This does not, of course, refer to life in the higher self.) As soon as a native of those countries is wholly within his national element he is within the sentient soul. This is particularly attached to everything connected with home and sensitive to everything that is not home but, rather, ‘alien country’. If you try, for instance, to understand all that is part of the national element in Italy you will find that an Italian sees another person who is not Italian as a foreigner who lives abroad. All the struggles that took place in Italy during the 19th century had specifically to do with home territory. Here we have a recapitulation of Egypto-Chaldean culture.
Next let us consider the people of Western Europe, those living on French soil. (Remember, we need to rid ourselves of anything to do with sympathy and antipathy.) They are recapitulating Greek civilization. Their attitude to someone from another country will be like that of the Greeks — they will call him a barbarian. Greek civilization is recapitulated here. We can understand this even if the wildest feelings of antipathy are raging. There always is a nuance present of the way people in ancient Greece considered non-Greeks.
The English people have the specific mission to nurture the spiritual soul and this comes to full expression in materialism. Here we specially need to rid ourselves of all antipathy. The nurturing of materialism results in men being simply positioned next to each other in space. This is something that was not experienced in the past: awareness of the rival. The spiritual soul is conscious of another person as its rival in physical life.
What is the situation as regards the Central Europeans, including the Scandinavians? It would be most interesting to go into full detail of this another time. What does a German feel when face to face with another national, in the position where the Italian sees the foreigner, the Frenchman the barbarian and the Englishman his rival? One needs to find the pregnant phrase always for these things. A German faces his opponent — this may also be in a duel and may have nothing at all to do with any feeling of antipathy even — it is merely an matter of fighting for existence or for something connected with one's existence. The enemy need not be denigrated in the least. Again it is possible to observe this even in fine detail. This war in particular shows how the German national faces his enemy as though in a duel.
Let us now turn to the East. We have spoken of the sentient soul coming into its own on the two southern peninsulas, the intellectual or mind soul among the French, the spiritual soul in the British Isles. In Central Europe and up north in Scandinavia the national element comes into its own in the I, the ego. It shows differentiation between different regions but overall is experienced by what is called the ego soul. As I have said, it lives as spirit-self in the East. How do we characterize the spirit-self? It approaches man, comes down upon him. In the ego, man is striving. In the three soul aspects, man is also striving. The spirit-self on the other hand descends. It will one day descend upon the East as a true spirit-self. These things are true, as we have often said. But it needs preparation, preparation to the effect that the soul conceives, that it becomes well versed in its conceiving.
Surely the Russian people have done nothing else so far but conceived. We have had the works of Soloviev, the greatest Russian philosopher, translated within our movement. 9Soloviev, Vladimir: Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works), tr. Harry Kohler, with an introduction by Rudolf Steiner; Stuttgart 1921. Also Gedichte von Wladimir Solovjeff tr. by Marie Steiner, 2nd edn (Dornach 1949). If we consider his works in depth we find that it is all Western European culture and philosophy. It is a little different because it has been born out of the Russian folk soul. What is it that is approaching in the Russian soul in contradistinction to western European culture? Italy and Spain are a recapitulation of the third post-Atlantean epoch, the French people a recapitulation of the culture of ancient Greece. The Briton shows the new element that has come in, something we very definitely acquire on the physical plane. In Central Europe it is the ego that has to emerge clearly. In Russia we have receptiveness, conception. First it was Byzantine Christianity that was received, descending like a cloud and then spreading. And western European culture was received even during the reign of Peter the Great [1672–1725]. At present, one would say, only the material basis for conception is there. What we do have there is a reflection of Western European culture, and the soul's work consists in preparing itself for conception, making itself receptive. The Russian folk-soul will only be in its right element when it realizes that Western European elements have to be received the same way as the ancient Germans, for instance, received the Christian faith, or the way the Germanic people took in Greek culture through Goethe. It will be a while yet. The physical element in the people of the East is reacting against the things that need to be taken in, and so the East is still resisting what will be coming towards it. The spirit-self has to descend.
The element coming across from the West is not the spirit-self — but the soul uses it, in a way, to prepare, to practise, receptiveness. And how does a Russian see another national? As someone who stands in opposition, someone descending upon his consciousness. And so the person who is a foreigner to the Italian, a barbarian to the Frenchman, a rival to the Briton and an opponent to the German is a heretic in Russia. That is why, fundamentally speaking, the Russians have only fought religious wars until now — all their wars have so far been religious wars. The aim was to liberate all nations or bring them to the Christian faith — the Balkan countries and so on. And even now Russian country people feel the other person to be ‘evil’ incarnate. They see the other person as a heretic and always believe they are fighting for the faith — even today! These things are true down into detail and we come to understand them if we are truly willing really to look into things. And so we may also ask what it is we see confronting us in the East of Europe.
The way he is in physical life, man is in a way unjust to his higher self. Someone living in the intellectual or mind soul, a person whose imagination is particularly well developed, will ‘have’ thoughts. The concept of how he should appear to himself, in so far as he is a particular national, presents itself before his higher self. He feels that it is his glory; a third self as it were, a national self which stands between him as a higher self and as a national person. He fights on the basis of this. After death he first of all has to be overcome this unless he has already overcome it beforehand through spiritual science. He must pass through something that first of all presents itself to his soul as the Inspiration of his own image of himself.
Someone living in the spiritual soul as a national will above all be inclined towards the things the spiritual soul has made its own in the physical world. This will be like a grievous memory in the world that lies between death and rebirth.
The Central European is a seeker. This is evident even from derogatory remarks made by his enemies who may say he is fit only to plough the fields and search among the clouds. However far he may have advanced, he is, even here, seeking the self in. spirit. In the efforts he makes during his progress on earth he will therefore, in a sense, try already get rid of whatever has to be got rid of when we go through the gate of death and enter the spiritual world.
Someone who has been in a Russian body during his last incarnation must first of all, on passing through the gate of death, assume the consciousness of an angelos, merge into the inner being of an angelos — unless he has gone through a different preparation with spiritual science — and share in all that comes down from the hierarchies above him.
All these are reasons why we may say that if we look to the West of Europe it seems natural that strife arises out of the very nature of men in so far as they are nationals, for the national element is connected with something that is an outer covering. It is quite natural for strife to arise. In the spiritual world anything that rightfully belongs there can spread without hindrance. But external means have to be used to assert the image one has of oneself. It needs to be able to spread in order to emerge. Anything looking for competition must of course be able to spread. It is perfectly understandable that strife comes from the people who represent the spiritual soul. If we are really seeking the I, the ego, in Central Europe, let us see if the qualities of the ego can already be brought to bear.
I have already stressed, for example, that the ego needs to be fanned to life again every morning. It is in an unaroused state when we enter into the sphere of sleep with it and needs to be fanned to life again every morning when we wake up. If I may refer to Austria — I heard it said even when I was young that Austria would one day fall apart when occasion arose. We knew different; it might have any amount of centrifugal force within it but it was held together from outside, it could not fall apart. Let us consider Germany. Does it show the ego character in its outer aspect, in its form? It is a fact of considerable import that for much of a century the Germans have pressed for unification. They did not achieve this from the inside. It took an external impulse, not from inside Germany but from outside, from the centre of France, to let the Germany of today come into being in accord with the ego character. We can only understand the world if we consider it in the light of spiritual science. Fundamentally speaking, the ego does not have the inclination to hit out; for the overweening forces from the physical plane would then go over into the spiritual sphere. This is something we could demonstrate over and over again in German history, in the history of Austria and the history of the Scandinavian peoples. The feeling is right, therefore, that a German, or a Central European, has to be made to come out in war. Fundamentally speaking, he is unable to start a war of his own accord. If he goes to war out of initiative, he does it the way the initiative does it in the ego, and there have of course been such wars in the interior. That is what we must feel the attitude of Central Europe to war to be.
And what emerges in the East for someone able to get a feeling for national character? For the Russian it is the most unnatural thing in the world to wage war. If he were to know himself he would feel it to be most unnatural for him to wage war. We of the West cannot become Tolstoyans, however well we understand all things Russian. But for the Russian it is unnatural to wage war. War has to be imposed on him, for it is totally against the national character. A Russian feels towards war the way he feels about religious war — it is something coming from outside. War cannot be made plausible to him for he would rather pray for what is to come to him. It is therefore quite natural to look for the motives that causes Russians to go to war not in the national character but in the motives imposed on them from outside. More than anywhere else we have to say in this case that it is not the people who make war — it is the people only in an external sense and seemingly — but rather whatever it is that they have to turn against most of all. In Russia war is always a 'Maya', illusion, in the worst sense. This is why we can state clearly and precisely what I posed as a question in my public lecture: Who could have prevented the war? — If we actually want to talk of the possibility of its being prevented. — For the French, war has been something natural since 1871 and it would not be natural to speak of their being able to prevent it. Anyone forced to fight his rivals naturally does not have the right to be indignant when neutrality has been breached in some place or other, and in this case the indignation needs to be reinterpreted into the national element. But it is natural for him to go to war. We cannot take that amiss. In that case war can no more be rejected than when, in interpreting the nature of living creatures, one has to find a different phrase out of the element of the spiritual soul than from the the standpoint of the ego and therefore speaks of the 'struggle for survival'. Goethe did not coin that phrase, because from the ego point of view it does not apply. But where it is a question of war being a falsehood, where it even has to be reinterpreted first into a religious war, there we have to say that it has risen externally and therefore could also have been prevented externally. Looking into all the depths one is able to look into—the war has indeed been a necessity but that is another thing—we have to say: It is true that Russia could have stayed an onlooker, and the war could have been prevented. If Russia had remained an onlooker the war could have been prevented. For here a war has been grafted onto a national character when basically it is something quite unnatural.
Such things, as we speak about them, come from the spiritual world. They arise from it. But it is always possible to verify them, to confirm them, in the outside world. Anything we arrive at out of the spiritual world finds confirmation in the outside world. We could say that it would be a natural gesture for the Russian national character to pray and wait for what is to come. It is very strange; even Russian intellectuals are waiting in expectancy — I have already referred to this — in the feeling that something belonging to the future has to come towards them. What will have to come for them still lies far ahead in the future and we have seen how there is refusal to accept what has to be taken up now. It is perhaps more than just an outer symbol that now, when battles are being fought on the Black Sea, the Russian still looks in that direction — to see an embodiment, as it were, of what he may expect in the spirit — pointing to the Hagia Sophia. 10Santa Sophia. the Great Church of the Holy Wisdom, principal church of Constantinople, Built by Justinian in 532 –7, it was converted into a mosque when Constantinope fell to the Turks in 1453 (translator). Merezhkovsky [1865–1941] describes two visits he has made to the Hagia Sophia. He felt the Hagia Sophia to be the outer symbol, as it were, of something he did not know in his feelings but was expecting, and he called it the Christianity that is to come for the Russians. He would have seen it rightly if he had realized that it is a Christian faith that has gone through the Faust nature which will have to take hold of the Russian people. But that is something he does not yet know. He believes it is the Hagia Sophia which represents it. What is his attitude to the Christian faith? If we consider what Soloviev has to say on this, then I am able to say that he shows a certain understanding of it. For when problems were once again created for him by St Petersburg and the Holy Synod, he said: ‘Ah, that is how you fare when you have problems in getting them to understand what you want to say. The one side calls me a liberal Western European atheist, the other an orthodox believer, and others again even consider me a Jesuit.’ He concluded by saying: ‘Amazing what you can turn into when seen through the eyes of the Petersburg blackguards.’ These are not my words but those of a good Russian citizen, a Russian who shows us that it is not easy to rid oneself of feelings of sympathy or antipathy. But let us assume the Russian intellectual is left to himself. As I said, it is a world of expectancy, a natural mood of looking for what is to come, something not to be achieved with the sword and with cannon. That is why the Pan-Slavonic movement is such a lie. Left to himself, Merezhkovsky gave himself up to his feelings when face to face with the Hagia Sophia. He did however confuse it with the Christian faith of the Western European which has gone through the strivings of Faust. And how does he speak of it?
I have tried to find a succinct formulation for the feelings different nations may be seen to have towards war, saying that a Russian believes he is going to war for the sake of religion, an Englishman for competition, a Frenchman for the glory, an Italian or Spaniard for his homeland and a German to fight for existence. And we are therefore able to say that Italy wants to preserve the homeland; France conceives of its own idea of [glory] as the national ideal; the Englishman takes action and does business 11The German verb handeln means both ‘to act, to take action’ and ‘to trade’ (Translator). the German aspires; the Russian prays — and that comes naturally. I am not speaking of external prayer, for it is a matter of the heart. What was it then Merezhkovsky said at the end of his book, which I mentioned the day before yesterday? 12Dmitri Merezhkovsky, Der Antnarsch des Pöbels (Tr. H. Horschelmann) Munich & Leipzig 1907.
The Hagia Sophia — brilliant, sad and flooded with the amber-coloured light of ultimate mystery — lifted up my soul which had fallen and was frightened. I looked up into the dome that is like the vault of heaven, and I thought: There it stands, made by the hand of man, and in it men are coming close to the triune god on earth. This close approach has been made and more still of this shall come in time to be. Surely those who believe in the Son must come to the Father who is the world. And surely those must come to the Son who love the world, which the Father also loved so much that he gave his Son for it. For they offer their souls for him and for their friends; they have the Son because they have Love, only they do not know the name.
They do not have it as a whole. And he concluded:
And I felt impelled to pray for them all, in the temple that at this hour belongs to the heathen but is the only temple for the future, to pray that my people be given that true, conquering strength: pray for conscious belief in the triune god.
So there you have the prayer. There you have the anomaly of a fight that goes from East to West.
In making this attempt to gain inner understanding of what meets us here, in attempting to escape from Maya and enter into the truth, we can indeed say to ourselves that were are not pursuing an abstract anthroposophy that is afraid to see. For it would be fear of seeing the truth if we were to shrink from seeing national characters in their true foundations, because of our ‘First Principle.’ 13First Principle: When he established the Anthroposophical Society in 1912/1913, Rudolf Steiner formulated the First Principle as follows: ‘The Society provides for all people to work together in brotherhood who consider the basis of their work together in love to be a common spiritual element that is in all human souls, irrespective of differences of creed, nationality, class, sex, etc.’ We are exactly following that Principle if we approach man as he is and endeavour really to look into his soul. Then we are most of all addressing the immortal aspect of man and we shall then also find the part of him that goes beyond the national, that goes towards the eternal, and the fine feelings that turn to the eternal in man. And then we shall find a way of bringing about what after all has to be brought about. For do you think progress and the good of mankind will not suffer if the temper now prevailing among nations is to persist? Tempers which in any case are merely born out of Maya? From the point of view of the necessity which demands that men get to understand one another again, that there shall be a continuation of what in a certain sense had already been started, arising from Central Europe, it is essential that this atmosphere we live in — a spiritual atmosphere that is one of such dreadful tumult today— receives also other elements into it and not only those of tumult. We cannot help but sense, if we have entered into spiritual life, the tumult that exists in the spiritual atmosphere today. The more deeply one has entered, the more one will be sensitive to this. Profoundly disturbing things may arise out of the spiritual life. The occultist has been able to learn much, but never has so much been experienced that was so deeply disturbing and has such impact as in the last three months.
Many is the time I have stressed the occult truth that things presenting themselves one way in the physical world are the opposite by nature in the spiritual world. Some of our friends will also be able to recall how often I have said that war was hanging in the spiritual air and was really only being held off by something which is a spiritual impulse also in physical life — by fear. Force of fear held it back for as long as it was astral by nature. Fear stopped it from breaking out earlier. Externally speaking, the war started of course with the assassination in Sarajevo. That, too, has its significance. That is what is so disturbing in this affair. We are among ourselves here, and so it must also be possible to say these things. The individual personality who was murdered on that clay [Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria, assassinated on 28 June 1914] and went through the gate of death afterwards presented an appearance I had never before seen myself nor heard described by others. I have on several occasions described the appearance of souls as they pass through the gate of death. This soul however showed a peculiar feature. It was like a centre of crystallisation, with everything by nature of fear elements crystallizing around it, as it were, until war broke out. Afterwards it showed itself to be something quite different. Where before it had been a great cosmic force attracting all fear, it had then become something that was the opposite. The fear which had prevailed here on the physical plane had held everybody back. But once this soul had ascended to the spiritual plane it acted in the opposite way, bringing war.
It profoundly disturbs the soul to experience such things. And there are many such things that now exist within the heaving swell of the astral impulses that rise up into the spiritual world from the hearts and minds of men. And among ourselves I am able to say that I have never experienced anything like the things I experienced in these last months, something that stirred up the waves in human souls to such a dreadful extent. From this it is of course apparent what is going on in the spiritual atmosphere. And if that which has to be in the spiritual atmosphere is indeed to come about, thoughts must enter into that atmosphere that can only arise from souls that have grasped the spiritual world. Pleading with utmost passion, therefore, your souls are asked to conceive ideas, ideas we try to stimulate with reflections like those of today or of the last occasion. These are ideas arising from spiritual insight and only souls that have gone through spiritual science are able to send such thoughts up into the spiritual world. The souls will need such thoughts now whilst war is in progress, and even more so afterwards. For thoughts are reality!
The great wish is to send the most fervent prayer into the spiritual world that whatever arises out of this war and after it may originate not from human Maya but from the truth and from spiritual reality. The more you send such thoughts up into the spiritual world the more you are doing for what shall be the fruit of these worldwide struggles, and the more you are doing for what is needed for the whole evolution of mankind.
This prayer, then, shall be the culmination of all I intended to present to your souls with these thoughts. If the questions we have considered have truly entered into our souls, if our souls, as souls that have now lived in spiritual science, allow to stream up into the spiritual world that which brings peace to man. then our spiritual science has stood the test in these fateful times. It will have stood the test to the effect that our fighters out there have not in vain given full rein to their courage; that the blood of battle has not flowed in vain. Then the suffering of those who mourn, the sacrifices which have been made, will not have been in vain in the world. Then spirit fruit will grow out of these fateful days, all the more so to the extent human beings are able to send thoughts like those I have indicated up into the spiritual world.
I want to make it clear that the words I am about to speak form a sevenfold structure, making a kind of mantram. Please note that in the last but one line the words ‘Lenken Seelen’ should be taken to mean ‘wenn Seelen lenken’ (if souls turn).
This is what I wanted to put before you: that these events, which speak so much of reality, appear in the right light to us if we rise above Maya and to the true reality. Oh, the souls will be found that are able to see our present time in that way. Souls will be found if they are found also in the sense Krishna was teaching 14In the Bhagavad Gita. See also lecture of 1 September 1914. with regard to warrior-souls. And if it should truly prove possible for souls that have gone through spiritual science to send thoughts to fructify the spirit up into the spiritual world in these difficult, fateful days, then the right fruit will develop out of all that is happening in those hard struggles and cruel sacrifices. And so I am able to let the things I wanted to put before your souls today culminate in what I would so much like to see as the state of consciousness, the innermost consciousness, of souls that have gone through spiritual science:
Out of courage shown in battle,
Out of the blood shed in war,
Out of the grief of those who are left,
Out of the people's deeds of sacrifice
Spirit fruits will come to grow
If souls with knowledge of the spirit
Turn their mind to spirit realms.