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Fall of the Spirits of Darkness
by Rudolf Steiner. From Behind the Scenes of External Happenings, 1917

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Many years ago, when I was working in Berlin, the news filtered into a theatre during the performance that the Empress of Austria had been assassinated at Geneva by one of the “Propagandists by Action” — so they were being called at that time.1 During one of the intervals I happened to be standing near a man who was then a literary critic in Berlin and has since written philosophical books which have gained a certain reputation. This man voiced his astonishment at the news in a way that still lingers in my memory. He said: “One can understand many things that happen in the world without in the least justifying or approving of them ... one can understand many things that happen ... but that a revolutionary movement should instigate the murder of a sick woman whose continued existence could have made no real difference, whose death anyhow can have no clear connection with any political idea, this” — said the man — “is incomprehensible; it just doesn't make sense.”

1Note by Translator: The date of the assassination was 10th September, 1898. “Propagandisten der Tat” seems to have been a phrase in current use at that time. In modern books of reference, this assassination and that of Carnot, of which mention is made later, are attributed to revolutionary anarchists.

I am sure this man was expressing what must be the opinion of every right-minded, educated person in the modern world. We are reminded that in the life of men and the course of history, things do happen which seem senseless and purposeless not only when judged by the normal standards but even when they are attributed to some form of aberration.

But events of this very nature — and many, many others might be cited — show that what appears outwardly incomprehensible must inevitably do so because behind the scenes of world affairs — if I may use this expression — spiritual forces and spiritual deeds are playing to and fro both in the good and in the bad sense. These spiritual deeds and happenings are only to be understood when the light of Spiritual Science can be shed into those regions that lie behind the scenes of life in the ordinary world of the senses. Things happen which become intelligible only when they can be illumined by ideas derived from the spiritual world and which, if viewed merely in their connection with the world of the senses, inevitably seem devoid of meaning and purpose — either good or bad. And if by what may be called chance but may also possibly have been a matter of karma in symbolic garb, one has an experience