Rudolph Steiner on the Unity of Consciousness
Rudolph Steiner on the Unity of Consciousness is excerpted from
“Spiritual Aspects in History,” a lecture given by Rudolph Steiner
at Dornach, Switzerland on the 23rd of July, 1922
Writing about the consciousness of medieval European man in the first four centuries A.D., Steiner’s point is that the people of this time and place lived in a unity that has been since lost in the West – the unity of the spiritual and physical worlds.
“For merely intellectual human beings, there is a radical difference between the spiritual and the intellectual worlds. There is an abyss between them. This difference did not exist in the first medieval centuries – for the people of the so-called Dark Ages. The dead remained among the living. Outstanding, revered personalities, during the first time after their death – during the period when they were born for the spiritual world – were undergoing, as it were, their novitiate in sainthood.
For the people of that time it was not at all strange to speak of the living dead as of real persons. A certain number of the living dead, especially elect ones, having been born for the spiritual world, were appointed as “Guardians of the Holy Graal.” We cannot fully understand the legend of the Graal unless we know who were the real Guardians of the Graal. If you reply: “Then after all, they were no real human beings!” it would have seemed highly absurd to the people of that time. They would have said: “Do you, shadow-like figures wandering on the earth, suppose that you are more than those who are dead, and who are now gathered about the Graal?” It would have seemed ridiculous for the people of those times for the puppets and players on Earth to think themselves more real than then living dead. We must feel our way into the souls of that time, for it was really so for them, and it implied much for the world.Inasmuch as they were conscious of this connection with the spiritual world, all this really took place in their souls.
Therefore they said to themselves: the human beings who are on Earth are undoubtedly formed, such as they actually are; but the human being of the present only becomes something real and proper if he receives into himself what a living dead can give him. In a sense, physical human beings on the Earth were regarded as though they were only the vehicles for living dead ones in their outer working. It was a peculiar feature of those centuries. They said to themselves: if the living dead want to do something here on Earth, for which hands are needed, they go into a physically living man and do it through him.
Not only so; there were many in those times who said to themselves-one can do no better than to prove a vehicle for human beings who were revered while living on the Earth, and who have now become – in the realm of the living dead – beings of such importance that it is granted to them to guard the Holy Graal.
But they (medieval men of the first few centuries A.D.) had knights of many kinds who only regarded themselves as the outer vehicle of those who from beyond, from the other side of death, were still fighting in the armies. They wanted to be united with the dead. They knew themselves to be united with them. Today the legend has become quite abstract. We can only estimate what it meant for then living in reality, if we live our way into the mood-soul of that time.
This conception-looking, to begin with, simply and solely upon the physical world, and beholding how the spiritual man, who afterwards belongs to the living dead, arises out of the physical man-this conception dominated the hearts and minds of that time. It was the chief thing living in their souls…”