Saturday, March 25, 2017

Freedom of Thought

Already, unconsciously or subconsciously, we all carry Christ within us. But through ourselves alone we must find the way to understand Him anew. This will not come from the imposing of fixed dogmas, only from doing all we can to further what will make Christ universally comprehensible, to further the spread of universal religious knowledge in general, and to search out everything which can work to this end.

Hence in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch the need for more and more tolerance, particularly where thought in connection with religious experience is concerned. And whereas in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch those who worked to spread religious truths did so by imposing certain dogmas and fixed principles, in the fifth period this must all completely change. It is a question of something entirely different.

Because men are becoming more and more individual an attempt should be made for anyone to describe his inner experiences completely freed from dogma to another, in such a way that the latter might also be able to develop his own free life of religious thought as an individual.

It is a fact that dogmatic religion, the fixed dogmas of the religious confessions, will kill the religious life of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. So that a fresh start from this age must consist in making it clear that in the first centuries of the Christian era this or that may have been adapted to man's development at the time, and that in the following centuries something different is needed. Also that there are different religions. We must try to make the essential nature of the different religions intelligible, to make clear different aspects of the Christ-conception. In this way we bring to every soul what it requires for its particular deepening. But we do not ourselves intervene in the moulding of the soul; we leave the soul, especially in the sphere of religion, its own liberty of thinking and scope to unfold this liberty.

Just as social understanding is necessary for the fifth post-Atlantean period at the point I have described, so is liberty of thought on religious grounds a fundamental condition for the development of the consciousness soul.


In this very age of the Consciousness Soul, the ahrimanic powers are most fiercely renewing their attack upon liberty of thought — the nerve and sinew in the stream of the spiritual scientific conception of life

And in the age which prompted by modern life feels the first stirrings of a need to think freely, we find the opposing power at work in the so-called Jesuitism of the different religions — although much comes under this heading which would have to be described in detail. It is actually brought to life in order that the strongest possible resistance may be offered to liberty of thought, so vital a necessity for the fifth post-Atlantean period.

It will become more and more necessary to exterminate Jesuitism, the enemy in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch of free thinking, because from religion outwards liberty of thought must spread over every sphere of life. But as it must be striven for independently, mankind is put, as it were, to the proof, and difficulties spring up everywhere. These difficulties will increase as men of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch advance towards clear consciousness, yet feeling this at first to be a disadvantage, and in many respects stupefying themselves.

So we find the clash of sharp conflict between germinating liberty of thought and the principle of authority which works into our times like a hang-over from the past. And there is a passion for dulling the consciousness and for self-deception where belief in authority is concerned. In our time putting faith in authority has become so great and so intensified that under its influence people are losing their power of judgment. In the fourth post-Atlantean epoch they were endowed by nature with sound understanding; now they must acquire it, develop it, and their belief in authority holds them back from doing so.

We are becoming bound hand and foot to our belief in authority. Only think how helpless human beings appear when compared to the unreasoning animal creation! How completely the animal is guided by instincts which lead it in a sound way even from sickness back to health; whereas modern man fights against sound judgment in this respect and submits himself entirely to authority. He has very little wish to acquire discernment for healthy conditions of living, although it is true that praiseworthy efforts are made in this direction by various societies and institutions. But these efforts need to be very much intensified; above all we must realize that we have increasingly to contend with our own trust in authority, and that whole theories are being built up which in their turn will become the basis of convictions only serving to uphold belief in authority.

But under the pressure of authority we shall become more and more helpless. And systematically to build up this force of authority, this habit of authority, is actually the principle of Jesuitism. And Jesuitism in the Catholic religion is only a special instance of other less noticeable performances in other directions. It begins in the sphere of ecclesiastical dogma with the tendency to uphold papal authority projected over from the fourth post-Atlantean period into the fifth where it can do no good. But the same Jesuitical principle will gradually transfer itself to other spheres of life.

In a form hardly differing from the Jesuitism of dogmatic religion, we already find it in medical circles where a certain dogmatism strives after more power for the medical profession. This is typical of Jesuitical aspiration everywhere; and it will grow stronger and stronger. People will find themselves more and more tied down by what authority imposes upon them. And in face of this ahrimanic opposition — for such it is — salvation for the Fifth Post-Atlantean Epoch will be found in asserting the rights of the Consciousness Soul which is wishing to develop. But as the gift of reason is no longer bestowed upon us like our two arms by Nature, as was still to some extent the case in the Fourth Post-Atlantean Epoch, this can only come about through our good will to develop the faculties of understanding and sound judgment. The development of the Consciousness Soul demands liberty of thought; and this can flourish only in a particular aura, in a certain atmosphere.

It stands to reason that to what has been said the following objections would be justified: “Yes, indeed — but we are not qualified to pronounce an opinion upon what experts nowadays officially give out. Only consider” — it might be objected — “what the medical student has to learn! That he should learn it is right and proper, but we could not; and then add to this what the lawyer must know, and the art student, and so on.” — It is certainly out of the question that we should learn these things; but we are not called upon to be creative, we need only be capable of judging. We must allow the expert to create, but we must be able to criticise the expert. And this faculty of judgment we shall not acquire by specialising, but only by cultivating in an all-round way our powers of understanding and our faculty of judgment. This, however, can never come about through expert knowledge in some particular branch of science, but only through the all-embracing knowledge of the Spirit.

Emphasis must be laid upon the fact that spiritual science not only teaches us but in this connection develops our faculty of judgment — that is to say, it makes possible and fosters the freedom and independence of our thinking. 

It is not merely the things we learn, the knowledge we acquire, it is the beings of the higher Hierarchies themselves who help us when we know about them. And if in future, as the Fifth  Post-Atlantean Epoch proceeds, we face the authority of the expert, it will be good to have behind us not only our own human understanding but also what the spiritual beings are able to weave into it through our knowing about them. They qualify us to confront authority with sound judgment. The spiritual world helps us. We have need of it, we must know about it, and unite ourselves with it through conscious understanding. This is the third thing which must come to pass in the fifth post-Atlantean period.

The first is:

The second:

The third:

These three things must be the great true ideals of the Fifth Post-Atlantean Epoch. We must have reciprocal understanding in the social sphere, liberty of thought in religion and in the other branches of community life; and in the sphere of knowledge we must have knowledge of the spiritual worlds.

-Rudolf Steiner, How Can the Destitution of Soul in Modern Times Be Overcome?, October 10, 1916

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