Inclination to Evil

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The inclination to evil is present in every human being in the current consciousness soul age. According to Rudolf Steiner, it is part of the essence of our cultural epoch that everyone absorbs the inclination to evil - in order to ultimately create good. If man did not absorb this inclination to evil, he would not be able to receive with full consciousness the spiritual impulses that are necessary to fertilise our culture in a positive sense! Only in this way can he very concretely solve the riddle of evil, which is the most important task of our age. Through the overthrow of the spirits of darkness, with which the Michael Age began in 1879 and will last until towards the year 2400, the necessary preconditions for this have been created (Lit.:GA 266a, p. 258ff). Then more and more people will be able to behold the etheric Christ, as is already possible today for energetically spiritually striving people (Lit.:GA 152, p. 47).

„If one wants to look for evil in man, one must look for it not in the evil actions which are carried out within human society, but one must look for it in the evil inclinations, in the inclinations to evil. First of all, one must completely abstract, completely disregard the consequences of these inclinations which more or less occur in one person, one must direct one's gaze to the evil inclinations. And then we can ask: In which people do the evil inclinations work within the fifth post-Atlantean period in which we are standing, those inclinations which, when they are expressed in their side-effects, live out so vividly in the evil actions, in which people do the evil inclinations work?

Yes, you get the answer to this when you try to go beyond the so-called threshold of the guardian and really get to know the human being. That is where the answer to this question arises. And the answer is: In all human beings, since the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean period, there have been in the subconscious the evil inclinations, the inclinations to evil. - Yes, it is precisely in this that man enters the fifth post-Atlantean period, the modern cultural period, that he absorbs the inclinations to evil. Radically, but very correctly, the following can be expressed: He who crosses the threshold into the spiritual world makes the following experience: there is no crime in the world to which every man does not have the inclination in his subconscious, in so far as he is a member of the fifth post-Atlantean period. The inclination has; whether in the one or in the other case the inclination to evil leads outwardly to an evil action, that depends on quite different conditions from this inclination.“ (Lit.:GA 185, p. 110)

„The question then arises all the more: Yes, what do these forces, which bring about the evil inclinations in man, actually want in the universe, by first trickling into the human being, by flowing into the human being? What do these forces want? - They are truly not there in the universe to bring about evil actions in human society. They are brought about by those forces for reasons which we shall discuss later. Just as the forces of death are not there merely to make man die, these forces of evil are not present in the universe to lead man to criminal acts, but they are present in the universe in order, when man is called to the soul of consciousness, to call forth in him the inclination to receive the spiritual life in the way we characterised it yesterday, for example, and already last time.

These forces of evil are at work throughout the world. Man must receive them. By absorbing them, he plants in himself the seed for experiencing spiritual life with the consciousness soul. So these forces, which are perverted by the human social order, are truly not there to cause evil actions, but they are there precisely so that man can break through to spiritual life on the level of the consciousness soul. If man were not to take up those inclinations to evil of which I have just spoken, man would not come to have out of his consciousness soul the impulse to receive the spirit, which from now on must fertilise all the rest of culture, if it does not want to be dead, the spirit from the universe.“ (Lit.:GA 185, p. 111)

„Now we know that since the year 1879 the Spirits of Darkness, who are nearest to man and belong to the kingdom of the Angeloi, walk in the human kingdom itself, because they have been thrust down from the spiritual world into the human kingdom and are now present within the human impulses and work through the human impulses. I have said that it is precisely because of this, that beings so close to man work among men in an invisible way, and that man is prevented by the forces of evil coming in from recognising the spiritual with reason - for that again is the related task of the fifth post-Atlantean period - that this fifth post-Atlantean period is given many opportunities to indulge in dark errors and the like. In this fifth post-Atlantean period, man must, as it were, make himself comfortable to grasp the spiritual through his reason. It is already being revealed; through the fact that the Spirits of Darkness were conquered in 1879, more and more spiritual wisdom will be able to flow down from the spiritual worlds. Only if the Spirits of Darkness had remained above in the spiritual realms would they be able to be an obstacle to this flowing down. Henceforth they cannot prevent the downward flow of spiritual wisdom; but henceforth they can cause confusion, they can darken souls. And we have already partly described what opportunities are taken for darkening. We have already mentioned the precautions that are taken to prevent people from receiving the spiritual life.

All this cannot, of course, give rise to lamentation or anything of the kind, but to a strengthening of the strength and energy of the human soul towards the spiritual. For if in this fifth post-Atlantean period men achieve that which can be achieved by the assimilation of the forces of evil in a good sense, then at the same time something tremendous will be achieved: then this fifth post-Atlantean period will know something for the development of humanity from greater ideas than any post-Atlantean period, indeed than any earlier period of earthly development. The Christ, for example, appeared through the Mystery of Golgotha to the fourth post-Atlantean period; it is only the fifth post-Atlantean period that can appropriate him for human reason. In the fourth post-Atlantean period men were able to understand that in the Christ-impulse they have something that leads them beyond death as souls; this has become sufficiently clear through Pauline Christianity. But something even more significant will occur in the development of the fifth post-Atlantean period, in which human souls will recognise that in the Christ they have a helper to transform the forces of evil into good. But there is one thing connected with this peculiarity of the fifth post-Atlantean period, one thing that should be written in the soul anew every day, that should not be forgotten, although man is especially designed for forgetting this thing: man must be a fighter for the spiritual in this fifth post-Atlantean period; he must experience that his powers slacken if he does not keep them constantly in check for the conquest of the spiritual world. In this fifth post-Atlantean period, man is put to the utmost test of his freedom! He must go through this. And, to a certain extent, the idea of human freedom must be the test of all that befalls man in this fifth post-Atlantean period. For if man's powers were to slacken, everything could, so to speak, turn out badly. Man is not in a position to be led like a child in this fifth post-Atlantean period. If certain brotherhoods hold up to themselves the ideal of leading men like children, as they were led in the third post-Atlantean period and in the fourth, then these brotherhoods are not doing the right thing at all; they are not doing what should actually be done for the development of humanity. To point men to the spiritual world in such a way that acceptance or rejection of the spiritual world is placed in the freedom of men, is something that those who speak of this spiritual world in this fifth post-Atlantean period must remind themselves of again and again. Therefore, certain things can only be said in this fifth post-Atlantean time; but saying is as important now as anything else was important in other periods.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 204ff)

See also


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.