Austrian-born Rudolf Steiner was a noted Goethe see Vol. Blavatsky In he broke with the Theosophists because of what he regarded as their oriental bias and established a system of his own, which he called Anthroposophy anthro meaning "man"; sophia sophia meaning "wisdom" , a "spiritual science" he hoped would restore humanism to a materialistic world. Trans: M. As a highly developed clairvoyant and spiritual initiate, he spoke from his direct cognition of the spiritual world. However, he did not see his work as religious or sectarian, but rather sought to found a universal 'science of the spirit'.
His many published works written books and lectures - which include his research into the spiritual nature of the human being, the evolution of the world and humanity, and methods of personal development - invite readers to develop their own spiritual faculties. He also provided indications for the renewal of many human activities, including education - both general and special - agriculture, medicine, economics, architecture, science, philosophy, religion and the arts. He wrote some 30 books and delivered over lectures across Europe, and in founded the General Anthroposophical Society which today has branches throughout the world.
We often find among the ancient philosophers echoes of the principles taught in these Mysteries. Aristotle makes a statement, when, speaking of virtue, which we cannot understand unless we know that what has just been said was an old principle in the Mysteries which had been received by Aristotle as tradition and embodied in his philosophy. He says: Virtue is a human capacity or skill guided by reason and insight, which, as regards man, holds the balance between the too much and the too-little. Aristotle here gives a definition of virtue, such as no subsequent philosophy has attained.
But as Aristotle had little tradition from the Mysteries, it was possible for him to give the precise truth. That is, then, the mean, which must be found and followed if a man is really to be virtuous, if moral power is to pulsate through the world.
We can now answer the question as to why morals should exist at all. For what happens when there is no morality, when evil is done, and when the too-much or the too-little takes place, when man is lost to the world by being crushed, or when the world loses him? In each of these cases something is always destroyed.
Every evil or unmoral act is a process of destruction, and the moment man sees that when he has done wrong he cannot do otherwise than destroy something, take something from the world, in that moment a mighty influence for good has awakened within him. It is especially the task of Spiritual Science — which is really only just beginning its work in the world — to show that all evil brings about a destructive process, that it takes away from the world something which is necessary.
When in accordance with our anthroposophical standpoint, we hold this principle, then what we know about the nature of man leads us to a particular interpretation of good and evil.
We know that the sentient-soul was chiefly developed in the old Chaldean or Egyptian epoch the third post-Atlantean age. The people of the present day have but little notion what this epoch of development was like at that time, for in external history one can reach little further back than to the Egyptian age. We know that the intellectual, or mind-soul, developed in the fourth or Graeco-Latin age, and that now in our age we are developing the consciousness-or spiritual-soul.
The spirit-self will only come into prominence in the sixth age of post-Atlantean development. Let us now ask: How can the sentient-soul turn to one side or the other, away from what is right?
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The sentient-soul is that quality in man which enables him to perceive the objective world, to take it into himself, to take part in it, not to pass through the world ignorant of all the diversified objects it contains, but to go through the world in such a way that he forms a relationship with them. All this is brought about by the sentient-soul. We find one side to which man can deviate with the sentient-soul when we enquire: What makes it possible for man to enter into relationship with the objective world?
It is much more important that one should bear in mind the moral significance of interest, than that one should devote oneself to thousands of beautiful moral axioms which may be only paltry and hypocritical. Let it be clearly understood, that our moral impulses are in fact never better guided than when we take a proper interest in objects and beings.
Let us suppose that we have a child before us. What is the condition primary to our devotion to this child? What is the first condition to our educating the child? It is that we take an interest in it. There is something unhealthy or abnormal in the human soul if a person withdraws himself from something in which he takes an interest. It will more and more be recognised that the impulse of interest is a quite specially golden impulse in the moral sense the further we advance to the actual foundations of morality and do not stop at the mere preaching of morals.
Our inner powers are also called forth as regards mankind when we extend our interests, when we are able to transpose ourselves with understanding into beings and objects. Even sympathy is awakened in the right manner if we take an interest in a being; and if, as anthroposophists, we set ourselves the task of extending our interests more and more and of widening our mental horizon, this will promote the universal brotherhood of mankind. Progress is not gained by the mere preaching of universal love, but by the extension of our interests further and further, so that we come to interest ourselves increasingly in souls with widely different characters, racial and national peculiarities, with widely different temperaments, and holding widely differing religious and philosophical views, and approach them with understanding.
Right interest, right understanding, calls forth from the soul the right moral action. Here also we must hold the balance between two extremes.
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One extreme is apathy which passes everything by and occasions immense moral mischief in the world. An apathetic person only lives in himself; obstinately, insisting on his own principles, and saying: This is my standpoint. In a moral sense this insistence upon a standpoint is always bad. The essential thing is for us to have an open mind for all that surrounds us. Apathy separates us from the world, while interest unites us with it.
The world loses us through our apathy: in this direction we become unmoral. Thus we see that apathy and lack of interest in the world are morally evil in the highest degree. Anthroposophy is something which makes the mind ever more active, helps us to think with greater readiness of what is spiritual and to take it into ourselves. Just as it is true that warmth comes from the fire when we light a stove so it is true that interest in humanity and the world comes when we study spiritual science.
Wisdom is the fuel for interest and we may say, although this may perhaps not be evident without further explanation, that Anthroposophy arouses this interest in us when we study those more remote subjects, the teachings concerning the evolutionary stages through Saturn, Sun and Moon, and the meaning of Karma and so on. It really comes about that interest is produced as the result of anthroposophical knowledge while from materialistic knowledge comes something which in a radical manner must be described as apathy and which, if it alone were to hold sway in the world, would, of necessity, do untold harm.
See how many people go through the world and meet this or that person, but really do not get to know him, for they are quite shut up in themselves. How often do we find that two people have been friends for a long time and then suddenly there comes a rupture. This is because the friendship had a materialistic foundation and only after the lapse of time did they discover that they were mutually unsympathetic.
We also avoid the other extreme by distinguishing between true and false interests, and thus observe the happy mean. Immediately to throw oneself, as it were, into the arms of each person we meet is to lose oneself passionately in the person; that is not true interest. If we do this, we lose ourselves to the world. Through apathy the world loses us; through uncontrolled passion we lose ourselves to the world. But through healthy, devoted interest we stand morally firm in the centre, in the state of balance. In the third post-Atlantean age of civilisation, that is, in the Chaldaic-Egyptian age, there still existed in a large part of humanity on earth a certain power to hold the balance between apathy and the passionate intoxicating devotion to the world; and it is this, which in ancient times, and also by Plato and Aristotle, was called wisdom.
But people looked upon this wisdom as the gift of superhuman beings, for up to that time the ancient impulses of wisdom were active. Therefore, from this point of view, especially relating to moral impulses, we may call the third post-Atlantean age, the age of instinctive wisdom. You will perceive the truth of what was said last year, though with a different intention, in the Copenhagen lectures on The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind. In those lectures we showed how, in the third post-Atlantean age, mankind still stood nearer to the divine spiritual powers.
And that which drew mankind closer to the divine spiritual powers, was instinctive wisdom. Thus, it was a gift of the gods to find at that time the happy mean in action, between apathy and sensuous passionate devotion. This balance, this equilibrium was at that time still maintained through external institutions. The complete intermingling of humanity which came about in the fourth age of post-Atlantean development through the migrations of various peoples, did not yet exist. Mankind was still divided into smaller peoples and tribes.
Their interests were wisely regulated by nature, and were so far active that the right moral impulses could penetrate; and on the other hand, through the existence of blood kinsmanship in the tribe, an obstacle was placed in the way of passion. Even to-day one cannot fail to observe that it is easiest to show interest within blood-relationship and common descent, but in this there is not what is called sensuous passion. As people were gathered together in relatively small tracts of country in the Egypto-Chaldaic age, the wise and happy mean was easily found.
But the idea of the progressive development of humanity is that that, which originally was instinctive, which was only spiritual, shall gradually disappear and that man shall become independent of the divine spiritual powers. Hence we see that even in the fourth post-Atlantean age, the Graeco-Latin age, not only the philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, but also public opinion in Greece, considered wisdom as something which must be gained as something which is no longer the gift of the gods, but after which man must strive.
According to Plato, the first virtue is wisdom, and according to him, he who does not strive after wisdom is unmoral. We are now in the fifth post-Atlantean age. We are still far from the time when the wisdom instinctively implanted in humanity as a divine impulse, will be raised into consciousness. Hence in our age people are specially liable to err in both the directions we have mentioned, and it is therefore particularly necessary that the great dangers to be found at this point should be counteracted by a spiritual conception of the World, so that what man once possessed as instinctive wisdom may now become conscious wisdom.
The Spiritual Foundation of Morality
The Anthroposophical Movement is to contribute to this end. The gods once gave wisdom to the unconscious human soul, so that it possessed this wisdom instinctively, whereas now we have first to learn the truths about the cosmos and about human evolution. The ancient customs were also fashioned after the thoughts of the gods.
We have the right view of Anthroposophy when we look upon it as the investigations of the thoughts of the gods. In former times these flowed instinctively into man, but now we have to investigate them, to make the knowledge of them our own. In this sense Anthroposophy must be sacred to us; we must be able to consider reverently that the ideas imparted to us are really something divine, and something which we human beings are allowed to think and reflect upon as the divine thoughts according to which the world has been ordered.
When Anthroposophy stands in this aspect to us, we can then consider the knowledge it imparts in such a way that we understand that it has been given us so as to enable us to fulfil our mission. Mighty truths are made known to us, when we study what has been imparted concerning the evolutions of Saturn, Sun and Moon, concerning reincarnation, and the development of the various races, etc. But we only assume the right attitude towards it when we say: The thoughts we seek are the thoughts wherewith the gods have guided evolution.
We think the evolution of the gods. If we understand this correctly we are overwhelmed by something that is deeply moral. This is inevitable. Then we say: In ancient times man had instinctive wisdom from the gods, who gave him the wisdom according to which they fashioned the world, and morality thus became possible. But through Anthroposophy we now acquire this wisdom consciously. Therefore we may also trust that in us it shall be transformed into moral impulses, so that we do not merely receive anthroposophical wisdom, but a moral stimulus as well.
Now into what sort of moral impulses will the wisdom acquired through Anthroposophy be transformed?
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