“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These famous lines are from ‘The New Colossus’, a sonnet that American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level. The poem has inspired generations of Americans with a sense of their moral and ethical virtues and their land as a beacon of freedom in the world.
In 2018, it’s clear that President Donald Trump, another new colossus of a very different type, has given up on any idea of America as a place that welcomes the huddled masses of immigrants yearning to breathe free. Many of us know Americans to be a generous, welcoming and hospitable people but Trump decided that the best strategy for winning the mid-term elections was to appeal to the lowest instincts of US voters by attacking would-be migrants from Honduras.
According to President Trump, the “caravan” of migrants trudging north towards the United States represented “an assault on our country”. He added that among the thousands of Central American pedestrians were criminals, gangsters and Middle Eastern terrorists. He hinted that the entire spectacle was funded by Democrats or George Soros. When he sent 15,000 troops to the border to keep the migrants out, his supporters cheered.
The migrants in the caravan are mostly ordinary Hondurans who, unsurprisingly, would rather live somewhere peaceful and rich than poor and violent. There is no evidence of Middle Easterners among them, or an unusual number of criminals. It’s just that life is much better in the United States than in Honduras. And the journey, overland through Guatemala and Mexico, is dangerous. Migrants have often been robbed or beaten up along the way. Travelling in a large group makes that less likely. Small wonder that so many Hondurans, on hearing that the caravan was passing, decided to join it.
Needless to say, there is not a shred of evidence that Democrats had anything to do with organising the exodus, or that George Soros has been funding it. Trump is a prodigious liar, of course, and he lies routinely, without shame. According to the Fact Checker in the Washington Post, by the 601st day of his presidency, Trump had told more than 5000 bare-faced lies – an average of over eight lies per day.
How have things come to such a pass that the President of the United States tells lies as a matter of routine and with these lies deliberately seeks to stir up the lowest impulses of the American people for his electoral advantage? Rudolf Steiner has some fascinating things to say about the only way in which human motivations can be truly moral:
“There exists only one true source of the moral-spiritual in mankind, and this is what we may call human understanding, mutual human understanding, and, based upon this human understanding, human love. Wheresoever we may look for the arising of moral-spiritual impulses in mankind, in so far as these play a role in social life, it will invariably prove to be the case that, whenever such impulses spring forth with elemental power, they arise from human understanding based upon human love.”
Steiner then asks a very interesting question:
“If human understanding and human love are the real impulses upon which communal life depends, how does it come about that the very reverse of human understanding and human love appears in our social order?”
Now this is where what Steiner has to say starts to become very surprising and unexpected:
“When one crosses the threshold into the spiritual world, the first thing one becomes aware of is something terrible, something which at first it is by no means easy to sustain. Most people wish to be pleasantly affected by what seems to them worthy of attainment. But the fact remains that only by passing through the experience of horror can one learn to know spiritual reality, that is to say true reality. For in regard to the human form, as this is placed before us by anatomy and physiology, one can only perceive that it is built up out of two elements from the spiritual world: moral coldness and hatred.
In our souls we actually possess the predisposition to human love, and to that warmth which understands the other man. In the solid components of our organism, however, we bear moral cold. This is the force which, from the spiritual worlds, welds, as it were, our physical organism together. Thus we bear in ourselves the impulse of hatred. This it is which, from the spiritual world, brings about the circulation of the blood. And whereas we may perhaps go through the world with a very loving soul, with a soul which thirsts for human understanding, we must nevertheless be aware that below in the unconsciousness, there where the soul streams down, sends its impulses down into the bodily nature, for the very purpose that we may be clothed in a body — coldness has its seat. Though I shall always speak just of coldness, what I mean is moral coldness, though this can certainly pass over into physical coldness, traversing the warmth-ether on its way. There below, in the unconsciousness within us, moral coldness and hatred are entrenched, and it is easy for man to bring into his soul what is present in his body, so that his soul can, as it were, be infected with the lack of human understanding. This is, however, the result of moral coldness and human hatred. Because this is so, man must gradually cultivate in himself moral warmth, that is to say human understanding and love, for these must vanquish what comes from the bodily nature.
(…) In the way things are put forward today — I mean in the whole manner and form of people’s speech — there lies very little understanding of the other man. People bellow out their ideas about what man should be like, but this usually means: Everyone should be like me. If someone different comes along, then, even if this is not consciously realised, he is immediately regarded as an enemy, an object for antipathy. This is lack of human moral understanding, lack of love. And to the degree in which these qualities are lacking, moral coldness and human hatred go with man through the gate of death, obstructing his path.”
According to Steiner, in the first period after we die, the angels, archangels and archai take from us and reserve for later use the coldness that comes from lack of human understanding. The remains of human hatred have to stay with us until we reach the region of the Exusiai, Kyriotetes and Dynamis, where they remove all that we bring with us of human hatred. Then we arrive about midway in the region between death and a new birth, which Steiner calls the midnight hour of existence, where we meet the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones:
“Man would be quite unable to pass through this region of the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones without being inwardly annihilated, utterly destroyed, had not the beings of the second and third hierarchies already taken from him in their mercy human misunderstanding, that is to say moral coldness, and human hatred. And so we see how man, in order that he may find access to those impulses which can contribute to his further development, must at first burden the beings of the higher hierarchies with what he carries up into the spiritual world from his physical and etheric bodies, where it really belongs.”
It is at this midnight hour of existence where we take the first steps towards returning to the earth for our next incarnation. Steiner tells us:
“Thus, when one follows man between death and a new birth, one at first still sees him hovering, as it were, while he gradually loses his form from above downwards. But while the last vestige of him is vanishing away below, something else has taken shape, a wonderful spirit-form, which is in itself an image of the whole world-sphere and at the same time a model of the future head which man will bear on his shoulders. Here the human being is woven into an activity wherein not only the beings of the lower hierarchies participate, but also the beings of the highest hierarchy, the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones.
What actually takes place? It is the most wonderful thing which, as man, one can possibly conceive. For all that was lower man here in life now passes over into the formation of the future head. As we go about here on earth we only make use of our poverty-stricken head as the organ of our mental images and our thoughts. But thoughts also accompany our breast, thoughts also accompany our limb-system. And in the moment that we cease to think only with the head, but begin to think with our limb-system, in that moment the whole reality of Karma is opened up to us…” (…)
Steiner then tells us how the angelic forces prepare the form of our next physical body through creating a new spirit-form or etheric body:
“This spirit-form first connects itself with physical life when it meets the given embryo. But in the spiritual world feet and legs are transformed into the jaw bones, while arms and hands are transformed into the cheek-bones. There the whole lower man is transformed into the spiritual prototype of what will later become the head. The way in which this metamorphosis is accomplished is, I do assure you, of everything that the world offers to conscious experience the most wonderful. We see at first how an image of the whole cosmos is created, and how this is then differentiated into the structure which is the seat of the whole moral element — but only after all that I have mentioned has been taken from it. We see how what was, transforms itself into what will be. Now one sees the human being as spirit-form journeying back once more to the region of the second hierarchy and then to that of the third hierarchy. Here this reversed spirit-form — it is in fact only the basis for the future head — must, as it were, be welded to what will become the future breast-organism, to what will become the future limb-organization and the metabolic system. These must be added. Whence come the spiritual impulses to add them?
It is by grace of the beings of the second and third hierarchies, who gathered these impulses together when the man was on the first half of his journey. These beings took them from his moral nature; now they bring them back again and form from them the basis of the rhythmic system and metabolic-limb-system. In this later period between death and a new birth man receives the ingredients, the spiritual ingredients, for his physical organism. This spiritual form finds its way into the embryonic life and bears within it what will now become physical forces and etheric forces. These are, however, only the physical image of what we bear in us from our previous life as lack of human understanding and human hatred, from which our limb-organization is spiritually formed.” (…)
The whole process seems to be a wonderful transformation of some of the lowest elements we take over with us at death into the spiritual world, into something with new potential:
“When man’s life between death and a new birth — his life in the spiritual world — is beheld in this way, one can describe his experiences in that world in just as much detail as his biography here on earth. So we may live in the hope that when we pass through the gate of death, everything of misunderstanding and hatred between man and man will be carried up into the spiritual world, so that it may be given anew to us, and that from its ennobled state human forms may be created.”
It’s an extraordinary thought that the moral coldness and human hatred we take with us after death are transformed by the angelic hierarchies into what becomes our physical form in our next lifetime. The whole of this lecture is very well worth reading. It is the last lecture in a series that Steiner gave in Dornach in November 1923 and subsequently published in the book known as ‘Man as Symphony of the Creative Word’.
The result of the 2018 mid-term elections in the US – the House of Representatives now with a Democrat majority, the Senate with a strengthened Republican majority – has done nothing to heal the widening divisions in American society. Moral coldness and human hatred still hold sway in the USA and across much of the rest of the world and will await their transformation by the angelic hierarchies after our deaths.