Mechanistic occultism

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Model of the Strader apparatus, made by Hans Kühn according to the original model that had been made for the performance of the mystery drama "The Guardian of the Threshold", Munich 1913, according to Rudolf Steiner's specifications.
One half of a late version of Keely's spherical ether-power machine in a corner of his workshop in Phialdelphia (1896).

Mechanistic occultism or material occultism is what Rudolf Steiner called an ability that will awaken very soon, especially in Western humanity, to set machines in motion through spiritual or psychic forces alone. But this will only be possible if people have undergone a corresponding moral development. This can lead to a moral technology of the future, as Rudolf Steiner already saw realised to some extent in the machines of John Ernst Worrell Keely (1837-1898). This ability will develop in the West, namely in English-speaking areas, and will save nine-tenths of human labour. In addition, a eugenic occultism will emerge in the East and a hygienic occultism in the European centre. But there will also be efforts to abuse these occult forces in a group-egoist sense. (Lit.:GA 186, p. 71f)

„Today we have come down to the physical plane with all our institutions. If a moral culture does not go along with the culture on the physical plane, the physical achievements will have a destructive effect. Through the development of morality, man will be able to generate quite different forces from those which now exist on the physical plane. Keely set his motor in motion by vibrations which he excited in his own organism. Such vibrations depend on the moral nature of man. This is a first ray of dawn for what will emerge as the technology of the future. In the future we will have machines that will only start moving when the forces come from people who are moral. Immoral people will not be able to set such machines in motion. Purely mechanical mechanism must be transformed into moral mechanism.“ (Lit.:GA 97, p. 40f)

This moral technology is based on a further development of mechanics, in which great mechanical force effects are generated solely by the focussing and harmonious harmony of vibrations, which receive their initial impetus from the periodic life processes in our rhythmic system, i.e. namely from our heartbeat and breathing rhythm, and are transmitted to the machine by fine, highly sensitive vibrational elements. The machine thereby adapts itself completely to the human being, his mental experience and his moral qualities, leaving his full spiritual freedom untouched. The use of the destructive forces of sub-nature (electricity, magnetism, nuclear forces), through which man very easily falls under the bondage of the ahrimanic double and which are physiologically connected in particular with our nervous-sensory system, is thereby dispensed with. Steiner saw an early precursor of this development in John Worrell Keely, who had developed the famous Keely motor, which Steiner used as a model for the Strader apparatus in his Mystery Dramas.

„Perhaps you know that Keely constructed an engine that only worked when he was there himself. He didn't fool people with it, because he had in himself that driving force which comes out of the soul and can set mechanical things in motion. A driving force that can only be moral, that is the idea of the future; the most important force that must be implanted in culture if it is not to overturn itself. The mechanical and the moral will interpenetrate, because then the mechanical is nothing without the moral. We are standing on the brink of this today. In the future, machines will be driven not only with water and steam, but with spiritual power, with spiritual morality. This power is symbolised by the sign of the Tau and has already been poetically indicated by the image of the Holy Grail. Just as man is no longer dependent only on using what nature freely gives him, but just as he shapes and reshapes nature, just as he has become the master builder of the non-living, so he will become the master builder of the living.“ (Lit.:GA 93, p. 286)

„What has mainly occurred in the course of the fourth post-Atlantean period is that man has first been detached from the outer inorganic world which he embodies in his tools. He will in turn be brought together with that which he embodies in his tools. Today machines are constructed. Of course, machines today are objective, the human is still little in them. But it will not always be like this. The course of the world is such that a connection is developing between what man is and what man produces, what man brings forth. This connection will become more and more intimate. It will first emerge in those fields which establish a closer relationship between man and man, for example, in the treatment of chemical substances which are processed into medicines. Today we still believe that if something consists of sulphur and oxygen and some other substance, hydrogen, or something else, then that which has been created as a product contains only those effects which come from the individual substances. To a great extent this is still true today, but the course of the world's evolution is different. The subtle pulsations of the human life of will and attitude will weave themselves more and more into that which man produces, and it will not be indifferent whether one receives a prepared substance from one man or from another.

Even the most extreme, coldest technical development tends towards a quite definite goal. Those who today can form a foreboding idea of the future of technical development know that in the future whole factories will work individually, depending on the person who manages the factory. The attitude will enter the factory and be transferred to the way the machines work. Man will grow together with objectivity. Everything we touch will gradually bear the imprint of human nature. And times will come, as foolish as it may seem to clever people today - but St. Paul already said that what people think is clever is sometimes foolishness in the sight of God - when a mechanism will stand there, at rest; A man will step in who will know that he has to make one hand movement in this way, another in a certain way, a third in this way, and through that which arises as air vibrations and which is the consequence of a certain sign, the motor will be set in motion which will be attuned to this sign.

And the national economic development will take on such a face that external patents and the like will be completely excluded, for what lies in such things will be replaced by what I have just explained. In return, however, everything that has no relation to human nature will be eliminated. This will bring about something quite definite. For just think of a really good man in the future, a man who is really on a special level of human feeling, what will he be able to do? He will be able to construct machines and set signs for them that can only be carried out by people who are as well-meaning as he is, who are therefore also well-meaning. And all the evil-minded will excite quite a different vibration with the sign, and the machine will not go!“ (Lit.:GA 172, p. 91f)

In the East, on the other hand, a "eugenic occultism" of mental birth control will develop, and in the centre a "hygienic occultism" through which one will learn to prevent diseases prophylactically by psychological means.

„First, it is the capacity for so-called material occultism. Through this ability - and this is precisely the ideal of the British secret societies - certain social forms, which today underlie industrialisation, are to be placed on an entirely different basis. Every knowing member of these secret circles knows that simply by means of certain faculties, which are still latent in man today, but which are developing, it is possible to set machines and mechanical devices and other things in motion on a large scale by means of the law of harmonious vibrations. You will find a small hint of this in what I have linked to the person of Strader in my Mystery Dramas.

These things are in the making today. These things are kept as a secret within those secret circles in the field of material occultism. There are motors which can be set in motion by a very slight human influence if the relevant oscillation curve is known. In this way it will be possible to replace many things for which human power is needed today by purely mechanical power. Today there are already fourteen hundred million human beings on earth; but not only is work done by these fourteen hundred million - I have explained this here once - but so much work is done in a purely mechanical way that one can say that the earth today is actually populated by two thousand million human beings; the others are simply machines; that is to say, if the work done by machines had to be done by human beings without machines, six hundred million more human beings would have to live on earth. But when what I now call mechanical occultism enters the field of practical effectiveness, which is an ideal of those secret centres, one will not only be able to do work for five or six hundred million people, but one will be able to do work for a thousand and more million people. This will make it possible that within the area of the English-speaking population nine-tenths of the human labour will become unnecessary. But mechanical occultism not only makes it possible to dispense with nine-tenths of the work which is still done by human hands, but it also makes it possible to paralyse every insurrectionary movement of the then unsatisfied mass of men. The ability to set motors in motion according to the law of interlocking oscillations, this ability will just develop in abundance among the British-speaking population. This is known in those secret circles. They reckon on this as that which will give them superiority over the rest of the earth's population in the course of the fifth post-Atlantean period.“ (Lit.:GA 186, p. 71f)

„The one great question of life can be designated by saying: An attempt shall be made to place the spiritual-etheric in the service of outer practical life. - I have drawn your attention to the fact that the fifth post-Atlantean period will have to solve the problem of how human moods, the movement of human moods, can be transferred in wave motion to machines, how man must be brought into connection with that which must become ever more mechanical and mechanical. That is why eight days ago today I drew your attention to the outward way in which this mechanisation is being taken from a certain part of our earth's surface. I gave you an example of how American thinking is trying to extend mechanisation over human life itself. I have given this example of the breaks that are to be exploited so that, instead of far fewer tons, up to fifty tons can be loaded by a number of workers: one need only really introduce the Darwinian principle of selection into life.

In such places there is a will to harness human power together with machine power. These things must not be treated as if they had to be fought. That is quite a wrong view. These things will not be absent, they will come. It is only a question of whether, in the course of world history, they will be staged by men who are selflessly familiar with the great aims of the earth's becoming and who shape these things for the salvation of men, or whether they will be staged by those groups of men who exploit these things only in an egoistic or group-egoistic sense. That is what it is all about. It is not the what that matters in this case, the what certainly comes; it is the how that matters, how things are tackled. For the what is simply in the sense of the development of the earth. The forging together of the human being with the machine being will be a great and important problem for the rest of the evolution of the earth.

I have often pointed out, even in public lectures, that the consciousness of man is connected with degrading forces. Twice in public lectures in Basel I have said that we are dying into our nervous system. - These forces, these dying forces, will become more and more powerful. And the connection will be established between the forces dying in man, which are related to electrical and magnetic forces and the external machine forces. Man will, so to speak, be able to conduct his intentions, his thoughts, into the machine forces. As yet undiscovered forces in human nature will be discovered, such forces as act upon the external electric and magnetic forces.

That is one problem: the merging of man with mechanism, which must spread more and more in the future.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 218f)

„And now humanity is faced with having to solve very specific things. Above all, something to which I have already drawn attention and which is connected with the admired modern technology, which is a result of natural science, which is also admired by spiritual science. This admired modern technology will reach an end in the not too distant future, where it will in a certain way cancel itself out. On the other hand, something will happen - I have already indicated this here - which will enable man to make use of those fine vibrations, fine oscillations which are in his etheric body, for the imputation of mechanisms. Machines will be found which will be bound to man, but man will transmit his own vibrations to the machine, and only he will be able, under the influence of certain vibrations excited by him, to set certain machines in motion. People who now consider themselves practitioners will in the not too distant future find themselves confronted with a complete change in what is called practice, when man will be switched on with his will into the objective feeling of the world.“ (Lit.:GA 173, p. 214f)

One will only work for the salvation of humanity in this sense if one makes use of the right cosmic forces. The morning and evening forces, which lie on the axis of Pisces and Virgo in the zodiac, are beneficial. In the group-egoistic sense, however, Western brotherhoods will abuse the midday forces from the region of Gemini for this purpose. These forces, which are related to magnetism, can be put in the service of the double.

„The spiritual secrets which on earth - with the help of the twofold forces of magnetism, the positive and the negative - can allow spiritual things to flow through from the cosmic, come from the Twins in the universe; these are noon forces. Even in ancient times it was known that cosmic forces were involved, and it is also known to the exoteric scientists of today that behind the Gemini in the zodiac there is in some way positive and negative magnetism. It will then be a question of paralysing that which is to be gained from the cosmos through the revelation of duality, of paralysing it in a materialistic, egoistic way through the forces which flow to humanity especially from Gemini and can be placed entirely at the service of the double.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 229f)

Then even the dead will be involved in these endeavours in an unjust way.

„It is also a question of bringing the problem of immortality into materialistic waters from this side. This problem of immortality can be brought into materialistic waters in just such a way, by exploiting the cosmic constellation. Then one does not achieve what is often speculated under immortality, but one achieves a different immortality: one has some brotherly lodge - one prepares, as long as it is not yet possible, to influence the physical body in order to prolong life artificially -, one prepares to go through such things with one's soul that enable one to be inside the brotherly lodge even after death, to help there with the powers that are then at one's disposal. Immortality is therefore simply called life prolongation in these circles.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 225f)

„To a great extent, the dead will participate for the rest of the earth's existence. It will be a question of how they participate. Above all, the great difference will emerge that through the conduct of men on earth the co-operation of the dead on the one hand, the good side, will be directed in such a direction that these dead will then be able to work where the impulse to work comes from themselves, where it is taken from the spiritual world which the dead experience post mortem.

On the other hand, there will be many efforts which artificially bring the dead into human existence. And on the diversions through Gemini, the dead will be introduced into human life, whereby in a quite definite way the human vibrations will continue to sound, to vibrate in the mechanical operations of the machine. The cosmos will move the machines in the roundabout way I have just indicated.

The important thing is not to use anything unseemly when these problems arise, but to use only those elementary forces which belong to nature anyway; to refrain from introducing unseemly forces into machine life. One will have to refrain in the occult field from harnessing man himself into the mechanical engine in such a way that the Darwinian theory of selection is exploited for the determination of man's working power in such a way as I gave you last time in an example.“ (Lit.:GA 178, p. 231f)

Ehrenfried Pfeiffer asked Rudolf Steiner more about this subject:

„Materialistic natural science is based entirely on the method of analysis, of splitting apart (today the splitting of the atom and the nuclear fission), of disintegration and separation, of cutting up and all those methods of procedure which must destroy and take apart in order to work on the corpse, instead of letting it grow, develop, put together. That the human spirit had been captured by these methods of dismemberment: therein I saw the cause of our present situation. My question was therefore: Can another force or energy be found in nature which does not carry the tendency to atomise and analyse, but which builds up and synthesises? Would we be able to discover those constructive forces that make things live and grow? Would we be able to find corresponding constructive methods of research and possibly use this force for a different kind of technology, to drive machines? Then, because of the inner nature of such a force or energy, we could create a different technology, a different social structure, and instead of destructive human thinking, constructive thinking. This force must carry within it the impulse of life, of the organic, just as the so-called physical energies carry within them the tendency to division and separation. My question to R. St. in October 1920 and spring 1921 was therefore: "Does such a force or source of energy exist? Can it be demonstrated? Could a selfless technique be built upon it?"

As these questions took shape in my mind, I found in Guenther Wachsmuth a lifelong friend who was thinking about exactly the same questions.

Some conversations were held with R. St. individually; but often we were with him in pairs.

My question was answered as follows: "Yes, such a force really exists, but it is still undiscovered. It is what is generally called the ether (not the physical ether), the force that makes things grow and lives, for example, as the seed force in the seed. Before you can work with this force, you have to prove its presence. Just as we have reagents in chemistry, you have to find a reagent for this etheric force. It is also called etheric image power, because it creates the form, the shape, the structure of a living, growing thing. You could try crystallisation processes to which an organic substrate is added.

It will then be possible to develop machines that respond to and are driven by this force." R. St. then outlined the principles of applying this force as a new source of energy. At another time, in the presence of Guenther Wachsmuth, he outlined the principle of the four etheric image forces, the light ether, the chemical ether, the life ether and the heat ether (somewhat different from the so-called heat and light course before the Waldorf teachers), and he pointed to a book by [Pandit] Rama Prasad entitled Nature's Finer Forces, which described some of this.

Wachsmuth then wrote his book on the etheric image forces. It fell to me to begin the experiments. The collaboration that took place laid the seed for the Research Institute at the Goetheanum. I had to carry out certain experiments which I must not describe in detail. The result of these experiments was communicated to R. St., who remarked with the greatest seriousness: "The result of the experiment points to another force, not to the etheric, but to an astral force" (i.e. to forces that live in sentient matter, in the nerve, in the brain). The fact that the experiment led to this result was the answer of the spiritual world for him, and it meant that the time was not yet ripe to make use of the etheric force. I asked when the time would be ripe. Answer: "When the social conditions are such that this power cannot be misused for egoistic purposes. This would only be the case when the threefold structure of the social organism had been realised on at least a few areas of the earth. Until then, attempts to use etheric forces would remain unsuccessful or should not be undertaken at all.

Since we live today in a world which is further away than ever from the solution of social problems, in which egoism and personal advantage, profit and the nationality conflicts which result from it have the upper hand; and especially since the Anthroposophical Society has never placed the solution of the social question at the head of all its objectives and has thus contributed nothing to what R. St. demanded [in this respect], so I have no choice but to lock the instructions concerning the use of etheric energy deep in my breast, presumably to take this secret with me to the grave, in the hope of other times, other circumstances and other lives - where the time will then be ripe. My conscience is deeply moved - but I must obey a higher law - for this means that for the time being the world must continue with the use of energies which carry in their essence powers of death and destruction. We can only hope that the world will now learn the hard way, through endless suffering, that it will one day wake up and accept the mission of life, of peaceful social coexistence, of mutual recognition and cooperation.

Everything that we developed experimentally in anthroposophical natural science has had to remain the first step - the proof of the actual existence of [etheric] formative forces. Only in the application of the biodynamic method of soil improvement could we go a step further. How this developed has been described [by me] elsewhere (in Wir erlebten Rudolf Steiner, [Stuttgart 1954 also p. 131]).

But I must regard all this as piecemeal compared with the one great task: the discovery and application of etheric energy. Thus my life's work, however interesting and productive it may have been, must remain a torso, unfinished.“ (Lit.: Pfeiffer, p. 119ff)


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