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  • Writer's pictureby Essence Diaries

Rudolph Steiner: The Need to Understand our Times


More than a hundred years ago Rudolph Steiner was sharing with those who would listen a knowledge that is perhaps even more useful to us in these times than it was then.

What follows is an excerpt of a transcript from Lecture 11, given in Berlin in April of 1918 (Dying Earth and Living Cosmos), at the end of the 1st World War. Steiner here gives a beautiful overview of the interdependence between world dominion, the intended devaluation of linguistic meaning, and the systematic impoverishment of human imagination. He calls for renewal in our understanding and modes of expression. This is our reality too, and our challenge.


It is today the 11th day of the 11th month of 2021, and it is fitting to share this now, as an early morning storm rages outside the window and heavy rainfall crashes upon these deep and mysterious Scorpio times.



“there are those who stand guard over certain concealed esoteric truths, and enjoy the power of sole possession of such truths. This has extremely important ramifications. However little inclined people are to believe this, there are some who seek to further their plans for world dominion by studying, in the centres of occultism, how world evolution develops, and how they can best exert power over humanity over the next 30, 40 or 50 years.
Nations where such figures work, studying the course of human evolution and how to influence it, and then establishing political life to further their interests accordingly, will of course have an advantage over others where this is not done. These things play a major role in global reality. We are living at a time when it would be necessary for people to be aware of such things...
Current events are of catastrophic proportions and, in purely outward terms, to a superficial view they exceed anything previously played out in humanity's history. And yet they are only part of a larger, more encompassing context which we can only properly understand if we bring the necessary reverence and seriousness to bear upon it. In certain places a good deal is already known about humanity's evolution, but this knowledge is carefully guarded with the aim of giving power to its possessors.... Today, in the English-speaking world certain impulses...are striving for world dominion on a global scale...they might very well deny it to make absolutely sure that it does not come to public attention...

During the course of human evolution... as materialism emerged and took shape, former truths became devalued, really lost their currency and value. In old traditions you can discover the deepest truths in the guise of pictures. Myth, images and pictures are something that modern people can only accept as poetic fancy... Mythic and pictorial expression has been devalued, and people no longer feel that the imagination offers deeper underlying truth. In the course of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch (ours) this process will increasingly extend to language itself amongst the English-speaking people. Besides devaluing images as a mode of expression, the word itself will be devalued. In the same way that materialistic outlooks oppose the image today, so in the future they will join battle with the word. People will come to say that words are not a fitting means of expressing truth. English-speaking occultists... have a suitable material in the English language. In its developmental impulse of devaluing meaningful content, this language is increasingly left with the mere elaborations of words... Here we can see how language is a very important factor in the way English-speaking occultists approach the problem of language, and this lies in the very nature of modern impulses. Drawing on occult foundations, such people dream up ways and means of exerting world dominion without resorting to language. And this represents a great contrast between Orient and Occident – the Orient with its acutely alive intensity of language, and the Occident with its dismissal of language's inner meaning. The Central European... occupies a position midway between these two extremes. What is at work here, and is being shouted as loudly as possible from the rooftops to further the interests of various nations, is actually very deceitful. It seeks...to conceal the truth, which is that efforts to secure power are being undertaken in a realm where, through its own process of development, language is losing its dominance. The great, incisive, catastrophic events of our times are symptoms of this wide-ranging, all-encompassing battle which will inevitably find diverse expression in the near future in conflicts across the globe. This will not be like other previous wars, which concluded with peace; things will no longer be as they used to be. There will instead be perpetual conflicts, and the only way to view the incisive events of our time is in this larger context. It is no longer adequate today to think superficially about events and circumstances. We need to plumb the depths, for otherwise nothing much will result from all that we undertake. But society today finds it very difficult to get used to the insights arising in this realm from a science of the spirit...
...if people never allowed themselves to coin new formulations, there would be no progress – in the spiritual domain or any other. Even the very words that spiritual science employs meet with dismissal wherever we turn. Old views of the world are very worn out now, like an old coat, and the words in which they are formulated are no use even to these views themselves... But people do not notice the redundancy of a world-view, founded on tired formulations, in their inner life. We need to develop a sense for this, and this is part of what people have to find today if they are to understand the age we live in. We must understand these times!”

Rudolph Steiner


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