There is lacking in human society nowadays a quality that, in the sixth epoch, will be a characteristic of those men who reach the goal of that epoch, and have not fallen short of it. It is a quality that will not, of course, be found among those who in the sixth epoch have still remained at the stage of savages or barbarians. One of the most significant characteristics of men living on the earth at the peak of culture in the sixth epoch, will be a certain moral quality. Little of this quality is perceptible in modern humanity. A man today must be delicately organized for his soul to feel pain when he sees other human beings in the world in less happy circumstances than his own. It is true that more delicately organized natures feel pain at the suffering that is so widespread in the world, but this can only be said of the people who are particularly sensitive. In the sixth epoch, the most highly cultured will not only feel pain such as is caused today by the sight of poverty, suffering and misery in the world, but such individuals will experience the suffering of another human being as their own suffering. If they see a hungry man they will feel the hunger right down into the physical, so acutely indeed that the hunger of the other man will be unendurable to them. The moral characteristic indicated here is that, unlike conditions in the fifth epoch, in the sixth epoch the well-being of the individual will depend entirely upon the well-being of the whole. Just as nowadays the well-being of a single human limb depends upon the health of the whole body, and when the whole body is not healthy the single limb is not up to doing its work, so in the sixth epoch a common consciousness will lay hold of the then civilized humanity and in a far higher degree than a limb feels the health of the whole body, the individual will feel the suffering, the need, the poverty or the wealth of the whole. This is the first preeminently moral trait that will characterize the cultured humanity of the sixth epoch.
A second fundamental characteristic will be that everything we call the fruits of belief today will depend to a far, far higher degree than is the case today, upon the single individuality. Spiritual science expresses this by saying that in every sphere of religion in the sixth epoch, complete freedom of thought and a longing for it will so lay hold of men that what a man likes to believe, what religious convictions he holds, will rest wholly within the power of his own individuality. Collective beliefs that exist in so many forms today among the various communities will no longer influence those who constitute the civilized portion of humanity in the sixth epoch of culture. Everyone will feel that complete freedom of thought in the domain of religion is a fundamental right of the human being.
The third characteristic will be that men in the sixth epoch will only be considered to have real knowledge when they recognize the spiritual, when they know that the spiritual pervades the world and that human souls must unite with the spiritual. What is known as science today with its materialistic trend will certainly not be honored by the name of science in the sixth post-Atlantean epoch. It will be regarded as antiquated superstition, able to pass muster only among those who have remained behind at the stage of the superseded fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Today we regard it as superstition when, let us say, a savage holds the view that no limb ought to be separated from his body at death because this would make it impossible for him to enter the spiritual world as a whole man. Such a man still connects the idea of immortality with pure materialism, with the belief that an impress of his whole form must pass into the spiritual world. He thinks materialistically but believes in immortality. We, today, knowing from spiritual science that the spiritual has to be separated from the body and that only the spiritual passes into the super-sensible world, regard such materialistic beliefs in immortality as superstition. Similarly, in the sixth epoch all materialistic beliefs including science, too, will be regarded as antiquated superstition. Men as a matter of course will accept as science only such forms of knowledge as are based upon the spiritual, upon pneumatology.
The whole purpose of spiritual science is to prepare in this sense for the sixth epoch of culture. We try to cultivate spiritual science in order to overcome materialism, to prepare the kind of science that must exist in that epoch. We found communities of human beings within which there must be no dogmatic beliefs or any tendency to accept teaching simply because it emanates from one person or another. We found communities of human beings in which everything, without exception, must be built upon the soul’s free assent to the teachings. Herein we prepare what spiritual science calls freedom of thought. By coming together in friendly associations for the purpose of cultivating spiritual science, we prepare the culture, the civilization of the sixth post-Atlantean epoch.
There seems to be a radical change in humanity from today’s BEING.