THE LAST GREAT INCISION into the historical evolution of mankind is the one that took place — we have often spoken of it — in the first third of the 15th century, and that marks the transition from the evolution more particularly of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul to that of the Consciousness or Spiritual Soul. For we live in an age when the evolution of the Spiritual Soul is taking place, and it is an age that is entirely bereft of true insight into the connections of the human being with the deeper impulses and forces of Nature, or rather of the Spirit that is in Nature. To-day, when we speak of man and his constitution as physical man, we speak, for instance, of the chemical substances, enumerating them under the heading of what the chemist calls the elements. But it is of about as much value for a man to know that something he eats contains carbon and nitrogen as it is for a watchmechanic to know that the watch he has in his hand consists of glass and, shall we say, silver and some other substances. All this kind of knowledge that traces back the real substance of man’s nature to these material abstractions — hydrogen, oxygen and the like — affords no true knowledge of the human being. The mechanism of the watch has to be understood by seeing in it a connected system of forces; and similarly, if we would understand the nature and being of man, we must recognise how the various impulses that are to be found working in all the kingdoms of Nature work in the human being; — for there they work differently than in the other kingdoms of Nature. In modern times however there is no longer any true vision of the connection of man with the Universe. Until the 14th or 15th century this vision and knowledge persisted; though degenerate, it was still present in greater or less degree, and instinctively gifted natures were able still to make use of it. But later on, save for a few men like Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme and others, the true insight into man’s connection with the Universe, little by little, died completely away. (Steiner 2012:29)
STEINER, Rudolf. 2012. World History in the light of Anthroposophy. (Trans.: George Adams; Mary Adams; Dorothy Osmond) London: Rudolf Steiner Press.