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Thoughts during the Time of War

On-line since: 30th June, 2014


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Part 3

In the Russian spiritual life of the Nineteenth Century, there come to light directions of thought that bear the same countenance as the will to war that has unloaded at present from the East against Middle Europe. To what extent those persons are right who assert that the reference to this kind of directions of thought is inappropriate, can be known by him too who sees in such a reference the right way to the understanding of the relevant events. What one calls the “causes” of these events in the ordinary sense can quite certainly not be sought in such directions of thought of Particular people — who today aren't even alive anymore. As regards  t h e s e  causes, there will certainly eventually be some agreement for those who will show that these causes lie with a number of per sons, whom they will then point to. Against this way of looking at the issue, no objection shall be made, its full justification shall not be contested. Yet some thing else, something no less justified, is the recognition of the powers and driving forces operative in the historical process. The directions of thought pointed to here are not these driving forces; but these driving forces show themselves  u p o n  and  i n  the directions of thought. Whoever recognizes the directions of thought, holds fast in his recognition the beings in the folk forces. It can also not be objected that it is asserted by many with a certain rightness that the directions of thought that come into question are no longer alive at present. What is alive in the East flickered up in souls of thinkers, formed itself back then to thoughts, and lives at present — in another form — in the will to war.

What flickered up is the idea of the special mission of the Russian people. What comes into consideration is the manner of h o w this idea is brought to bear. In it lives the belief that the Western European life of the spirit has entered the state of wizened old age, of decline, and that the Russian Folk Spirit is called to effect a total renewal, rejuvenation of this life of the spirit. This idea of rejuvenation grows to the opinion that all historical progress of the future coincides with the mission of the Russian People. In the first half of the Nineteenth Century Khomiakov already builds out this idea to a comprehensive edifice of doc trine. This edifice of doctrine is to be found in a work published only after his death. It is carried by the belief that the Western European development of the spirit was basically never set up to find the way to proper humanness. And that the Russian folk element must first find this way. Khomiakov looks in his fashion at this Western European development of the spirit. Into this development has flowed, according to his kind of view, to begin with, the Roman essential being. That this has never been able to manifest inner humanity in the deeds of the world. That on the contrary, it forced upon the human inward being the forms of external laws of men, and thought in a rational, materialistic way of what ought to be taken hold of in the inner weaving of the soul. This external way of grasping life continued, Khomiakov opines, in the Christendom of the Western European peoples. That their Christianity lives in the head, not in the soul's in most. Now according to Khomiakov's belief, what Western Europe has as life of the spirit, has been made by modern “barbarians” — again externalizing after their fashion what ought to live inwardly — out of the Roman element and Christendom. That the turning inward will have to be brought by the Russian people, in keeping with the higher mission embodied in it by the spiritual world. — In such an edifice of doctrine, there rumble sensations whose complete interpretation would necessitate a detailed characterizing of the Russian folk soul. Such a characterization would have to point to forces inherent in this folk soul that will one day occasion it to adapt in a corresponding way  f o r   i t s e l f ,  out of its inner power, what holds sway in the Western European life of the spirit and will only then give the Russian people what it can ripen to in the course of history. What of the result of this ripening of the Russian people the other peoples will make fruitful for themselves, the Russian people should leave up to these peoples. Otherwise, it could fall prey to the sad misunderstanding of taking a task it has to fulfill  f o r   i t s e l f  to be a task for the world, and thereby taking away its very most essential point. — Since it is a matter of the rumbling of sensations of such a misunderstood task, the idea in question did connect it self, in the heads it appeared in, only all too frequently with political directions of thought that demonstrate that in these heads this idea is the expression of the same driving powers that from the East laid in other people the germ to the pre sent will to war. Even if on the one hand one will be able to say of the lovable, poetically high-minded Khomiakov that he expected the fulfillment of the Russian mission by a peaceful current of spirit, yet the reminder is also permissible that in his soul this expectation associated with what Russia would like to attain as military opponent of Europe. For one will certainly do him no wrong when one says that in 1829 he took part in the Turkish War as a volunteer hussar be cause he sensed, in what Russia was then doing, a first flashing up of its world-historical mission. — What rumbled in the lovable Khomiakov often in poetic transfiguration; it rumbled on; and in a book by Danilevsky Russia and Europe, which toward the end of the Nineteenth Century was regarded by a number of personalities as a gospel on the task of Russia, the driving powers are brought to expression which thought of the “spiritual task of the Russian people” as fused to complete unity with a far-reaching will to conquest. One need but look at the expression this fusion of spiritual willing with intentions of attack has found be fore all the world, and one will find clear symptoms of what mattered  t o   b e g i n   w i t h  to many of those, also, who wanted to derive the mission of Russia from the essential being of the spiritual world. This mission is brought together with the conquest of Constantinople, and it is demanded of the will which is thereby assigned its direction that without sensing “love and hate,” it dull itself against all feeling toward “Reds or Whites, toward demagogues or despots, to ward the legitimate or revolutionaries, toward Germans, French, English, or Italians,” that it regard as “true allies” only those who support Russia in its striving. It is said that “in Europe the balance of political driving powers” is especially pernicious to what Russia must will, and that one must further “any violation of this balance,” “whatever side it may come from.” “It is incumbent upon us to reject forever any cooperation with European interests.”

Especially characteristic is the position the fine-minded Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovieff has taken toward these directions of thought and sensation. Solovieff can be regarded as one of the most significant embodiments of Russian essential being of spirit. In his works there lives beautiful philosophical power, noble upward spiritual vision, mystical depth. Yet he too was long imbued with the idea rumbling in the heads of his fellow countrymen of the lofty mission of the Russian element. With him too this idea associated with the other one about the exhausted-ness of the Western European element. For him, the reason Western Europe was not able to help the world to the revealing of full inmost humanity was that this Western Europe had expected salvation from the development of the individual powers inherent in man. Yet in such striving out of man's own powers, Solovieff could see only an unspiritual false path, from which mankind had to be redeemed by this: that without human doing, by a miracle, spiritual power would pour itself from other worlds onto the earth, and that that folk element which was chosen to receive this power would become the savior of a mankind that had lost its way. In the essential being of the Russian people he saw what was prepared to receive such an extra-human power, and hence to be the savior of true humanity. Solovieff's growing together with the

Russian essential being got to the point where in his soul the rumbling of the Russian ideal was pleased to look benevolently for a time upon others who were likewise possessed by this rumbling. Yet this was only able to be so until his soul, which was filled with genuine idealism, awakened to the feeling sense that this rumbling was based on the misconception of a future ideal for the Russian people's own development. He made the discovery that many others do not speak at all about which ideal the Russian people strives after for its own salvation, but rather that they make the Russian people, as it presently is, itself to an idol. And through this discovery, Solovieff became the harshest critic of those who, under the flag of a mission of the Russian people, were introducing into the will of the nation, as wholesome driving powers of further spirit development, the attacker instincts directed against Western Europe. Out of the doctrine of Danilevsky's book Russia and Europe, the question was staring at Solovieff: why must Europe look with concern at what is coming about within the borders of Russia? And in the soul of the Russian this question takes on the form: “Why does Europe not love us?” And Solovieff, who saw the Russian attacker instincts in the garb of the ideas of the world-historical mission of Russia especially spoken out in Danilevsky's book, found in his way the answer to this question in a critique of this book (1888). Danilevsky had opined, “Europe fears us as the newer and higher cultural Type, called to replace the wizened old age of the Romanic-Germanic civilization.” Solovieff quotes this as Danilevsky's belief. And to it he replies: “Nevertheless, both the content of Danilevsky's book and his later admissions and those of his like-minded friend — meaning Strakhov, who advocated Danilevsky's ideas after his death — lead to a different answer: Europe looks upon us as an opponent and with worry because in the Russian people there live dark and unclear elemental forces, because its spiritual and cultural powers are meager and insufficient, whereas its demands make their appearance blatantly, and sharply defined. Mightily the calls resound out to Europe of what the Russian people wills as a nation, that it wants to annihilate Turkey and Austria, defeat Germany, wants to seize Constantinople, and if possible, India too. And when they ask us, in place of what we seize and destroy, what favors we want to bestow on mankind, what spiritual and cultural rejuvenation we want to bring into world evolution, we must either be silent or babble meaningless clichés. And if Danilevsky's bitter confession that Russia is beginning to fall ill is just, then instead of the question: why does Europe not love us? we would have to occupy ourselves rather with a different one, a question closer to us and more important to us: why and wherefore are we ill? Physically, Russia is still fairly strong, as shown in the latest Russian war; so our malady is a moral one. There weigh upon us, according to the words of an old author, the sins hidden in the folk character and not coming to our awareness — and so it is needful above all to bring these up into the light of bright consciousness. As long as we are spiritually bound and paralyzed, all our elemental instincts must cause us only harm. The essential, indeed the only essential question for true patriot ism is not the question about the power of Russia and about its calling, but about its sins.”

One will have to point to these directions of will coming to light in the East of Europe if one wants to speak of  o p e r a t i v e  forces in the attacker will of this East; what came to expression through Tolstoy represents  i n o p e r a t i v e  forces.

This doctrine of the “mission of Russia” can receive an illumination by this: that side by side with it, one contemplates an example of how such a mission of a people is sensed within that life of spirit which the speakers of this mission look down upon as upon a life of spirit condemned to wizened old age. Schiller stood especially close to Fichte in his life of thought when in his Letters Concerning the Aesthetic Education of Man he sought for a prospect that lets man behold in himself the “higher,” the “true man.” If one enters into the soul mood that holds sway in these aesthetic letters of Schiller's, one will be able to find in them a high point of German perceptive feeling. Schiller is of the opinion that man can become unfree toward two sides in his life. He is unfree when he faces the world in such a way that he lets the things affect him only through the necessity of the senses; then the sense world governs him, and his spirituality subordinates itself to it. But also when man obeys only the necessity holding sway in his Reason he is unfree. Reason has its own demands, and if he submits to these demands, man cannot experience the free holding sway of his will in the rigid necessity of reason. Through the reason-necessity, he does live on a spiritual level, but the spirituality subjugates the sense life. Man becomes free when he can experience in such a way what affects the senses that in the sense-perceptible something spiritual manifests, and when he experiences the spiritual itself in such a way that it can be pleasing to him like what affects the senses. That is the case when man stands before the work of art, when the sense impression becomes spiritual pleasure, when what is experienced spiritually, transfiguring the sense impression, is felt. On this path, man becomes “completely man.” Many prospects that result from this way of mind shall be disregarded here. Only one thing that is striven for with this Schiller view shall be pointed out. One of the paths is sought on which man, through his relationship to the world, finds in himself the “higher man.” This path is sought out of the contemplation of the human entity. Just really place beside this way of mind, which wants to speak humanly in man with man himself, the other, which supposes that the Russian folk quality is the one that in contrast to other folk qualities must lead the world to true humanity.

Fichte seeks to characterize this way of mind inherent in the essential being of the German attitude in his Speeches to the German Nation with the words: “There are peoples who, while themselves retaining their peculiarities and wanting them honored, also let the other peoples have theirs, and do not begrudge them, and grant them; without doubt the Germans belong to these, and this trait is so deeply founded in their entire past and present life in the world that very often, in order to be just both towards the contemporary world abroad and towards antiquity, they are unjust towards themselves. Again there are other peoples whose narrowly ingrown self never allows them the freeness of separating off for a cool and calm contemplation of what is foreign, and who are therefore compelled to believe there is only one way of qualifying as an educated person, and that every time this way is the one that some chance has cast precisely upon them at this point in time; that all other people in the world have no other calling than to become as they are, and that they ought to pay them the greatest thanks if they are willing to take upon themselves the pains of thus forming them. Between peoples of the first kind, an interplay of mutual formation and education most beneficial to the development of man in general takes place, and an interpenetration in which nevertheless each one, with the good will of the other, remains himself. Peoples of the second kind are able to educate nothing, for they are unable to take hold of anything in its existent state; they only want to annihilate everything that stands existent, and outside of them selves everywhere produce an empty place, in which they can only keep repeating their own shape; even their initial apparent entry into foreign customs is only the good-natured condescension of the educator toward the apprentice who is now still feeble but gives good hope; even the figures of the perfection of the ancient world they do not like, until they have wrapped them in their garment, and if they could, they would wake them up from the tombs to educate them after their fashion.” That is how Fichte passes verdict concerning some national peculiarities; only, after this judgment there follows straightway a sentence in tended to take away from this judgment any tinge of a national arrogance of his own: “To be sure, far be the audacity from me to accuse any existent nation as a whole and without exception of that narrow-mindedness. Let us rather assume that here too those who do not express themselves are the better ones.”


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