[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib



Highlight Words

The Riddles of the World and Anthroposophy

Schmidt Number: S-1183

On-line since: 15th August, 2016

Fraternity and the Struggle for Existence

Berlin, 23rd November 1905

It is our task today to speak about two soul contents one of which fraternity, represents a great ideal penetrating humanity, and the other represents something that we meet in life at every turn wherever we go, the struggle for existence: fraternity and struggle for existence. Those of you who have occupied themselves only a little with the aims of the spiritual-scientific movement know our first principle to establish the core of a fraternity founded on general altruism, without difference of race, gender, profession, confession et cetera. With it, the theosophical society itself ranked this principle of a general fraternity first and made it its most important ideal. It has indicated that way that this great moral pursuit of fraternity — a pursuit that is necessary besides other cultural aspirations — is intimately connected with the main destination of humanity.

The spiritual-scientific striving human being is convinced, and not only convinced, he is quite clear in his mind that the deep knowledge of the spiritual world must lead to fraternity if it seizes the human being really, that fraternity is just the noblest fruit of deep, innermost knowledge. However, with it the spiritual-scientific worldview seems to contradict something that approached humanity lately. One pointed in certain circles to the progressively working strength of the struggle. How often we can hear even today that the human forces grow with resistance that the human being gets strong will and intellectual initiative because he must measure his strength with the adversary. A worldview which has arisen from bases full of mind, the worldview of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900, German philosopher), has among other enthusiastic pugnacious sentences also this: I love the critic, I love the great critic more than the little one. — We can find this over and over again most variously just with Nietzsche as something that completely belongs to his approaches to life.

It depends on certain economic views, which prevailed for a long time that one regards the general competition in the struggle of all against all as a powerful lever of progress. How often one has said that thereby, humanity can progress best of all that the single human being benefits himself, as well as possible, and establishes his position. The word individualism has become almost a catchword, admittedly, more in the external material life, but also to some extent in the inner spiritual life.

The human being benefits his fellow men the best if he obtains as much as possible economically from life, because he becomes economically strong, he can also be more useful to the public: this is the creed of many economists and sociologists. On the other side, we hear repeatedly emphasised that the human being should not become stereotyped that he should develop the forces lying in him universally that he should enjoy life wholeheartedly that he should develop what lies in his inside and that he can thereby benefit his fellow men mostly.

There are many among our fellow men who are virtually eager for the pursuit of this principle who enjoy life as intensely as possible. The spiritual-scientific worldview does not misjudge the necessity of the struggle for existence, just not in our time, but at the same time this worldview realises also that today — where this struggle for existence peaks — the deep significance of the principle of fraternity must be brought near to an understanding again.

The most important question is: is it right what so many people believe that the human forces grow in particular with the resistance that it is the struggle above all which the human being has to fight that has made him great and strong? In my talk on the idea of peace, which I held before you, I pointed already to this principle of the struggle for existence in the human life that receives strong support by the fact that the natural sciences have made it a general natural world principle. They, in particular in the west, believed for a while that those beings in the world are formed most suitably, which have out-competed their adversaries and have been left in this struggle for existence.

The naturalist Huxley (Thomas Henry H., 1825-1895) says: if we look at life outdoors, it appears to us like a gladiator fight, the strongest remains as the victor, the others perish. — If one believed the naturalists, one would have to suppose that all beings, which populate the world today, have been able to out-compete the others, which were there earlier. There is also a school of sociologists, which wanted to make this principle of the struggle for existence almost a doctrine of human development. In a book, entitled From Darwin to Nietzsche (1895), Alexander Tille (1866-1912, German philosopher, economic functionary, and lobbyist) tried to show that the future happiness of humanity depends on the fact that one accepts this struggle for existence wholeheartedly in the development of humanity. One should arrange it in such a way that the incapable perishes, however, that one must care for the strong ones and encourage them in the struggle for existence. The weak ones should perish. One said that we need such a social order that suppresses the weak ones because they are injurious. — I ask you, who is the strong one, who has an ideal mental power but a feeble body, or the other one who owns a less high mental power in a robust body? — One achieves nothing with general rules as you see. It is hard to decide who should be left, actually, in the struggle for existence. If it concerned practical measures, this question would have to be decided first. Now we ask ourselves, what becomes apparent to us if we look at the human life? Has the principle of fraternity or the principle of the struggle for existence achieved great things in the evolution of humanity, or have both contributed something to it?

Only with brief words, I would like again to draw your attention to what I already said in the talk on the idea of peace that even the modern natural sciences do no longer stand on the ground on which they still stood one decade ago. I have already pointed to the basic talk of the Russian researcher Kessler (Karl Fedorovich K., 1815-1881, German-Russian zoologist) in 1880 where he showed that the actual progressive animal species capable of development are not those which struggle the most, but which help each other. With it, it should not be asserted that struggle and war do not exist in the animal realm. Indeed, they exist, but it is another question what promotes development more, the war, or the mutual aid? One put an additional question: do those species survive whose individuals fight perpetually with each other, or those, which help each other? Here the above-mentioned research has already proved that not the struggle, but the mutual aid actually supports the progress. I have already pointed to the book of Prince Pyotr Kropotkin (1842-1921, Russian geographer, anarchist) Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. In this book, you find some nice contributions to the questions, which occupy us here.

What did fraternity achieve in the human evolution? We only need to look at our ancestors on the same land on which we live today. You can easily get the idea that hunting and war were the actually supporting and caused the character of those human beings primarily. However, who defers deeper to history, finds that this is not right that those, also among the Germanic tribes, prospered best of all, on the contrary, those who had developed the principle of fraternity extraordinarily. We find this principle of fraternity above all how in the times before and after the migration of the people's property was regulated. In a great measure, there was a common property of land. A village in which the human beings lived together had a common property, and with the exception of a few things that belonged directly to the domestic use, with the exception of the tools, maybe of a garden, everything was common property. Every now and then, the land was divided again among the inhabitants, and it became apparent that these tribes had become strong because they had extraordinarily maintained fraternity concerning material goods.

If we go on some centuries, we find that this principle faces us in an exceptionally fertile way. The principle of fraternity, as it is distinct in the old villages, in the old conditions where the human beings found their freedom in the brotherly living together, expressed itself typically in the fact that one went so far to burn everything that a dead person had possessed. For one did not want to possess anything that the dead had possessed. When the principle was broken because of different conditions, in particular because single human beings had acquired a large estate and the persons in the surrounding area were thereby forced to serfdom and corvée, the principle of fraternity asserted in another, luminous way. Those who were depressed by their lords, the owners, wanted to free themselves from this oppression. Thus, we see in the middle of the Middle Ages a big liberation movement going through entire Europe. This liberation movement was characterised by general fraternity from which a general culture blossomed. We are in the so-called urban civilisation in the middle of the Middle Ages. Those human beings who could not stand the labour work on the manors escaped from their lords and sought for freedom in the enlarged cities.

People came from Scotland, France, and Russia, from everywhere and brought about the free cities. The principle of fraternity thereby developed, and it promoted culture in the extreme. Those who had common activities of the same kind united to associations which one called confraternities and which grew up to the guilds later. These associations were far more than mere unions of artisans or merchants. They developed from the practical life to a moral height. The mutual aid was highly developed with these associations, and many matters, which almost nobody cares about today, were objects of such assistance. Thus, for example, the members of such a confraternity provided assistance supporting each other in cases of illness. Two brothers were determined from day to day who had to keep vigil at the bedside of an ill brother. Sick people were supported with food.

Even beyond the grave, one thought brotherly, while one regarded it as something particularly honourable to bury a brother suitably. Finally, it also belonged to the honour of the association to supply the widows and orphans. Thus, you see how an understanding of morality arose in the common life how this morality formed on the ground of a consciousness an idea of which the modern human being can hardly conceive. Do not believe that here the present conditions should be rebuked in any way. They have become necessary, as well as it was necessary that the medieval conditions were expressed in their way. We have only to understand that there were also other phases of development than the modern ones.

Everywhere in the free cities of the Middle Ages, the trade in the market places and the prices were controlled. What did this mean? I want to illustrate it with a concrete example. If products were brought from the surrounding farmland to a market place of a city, one was only allowed to sell them in retail in the first days. Nobody was allowed to buy wholesale or to be an intermediary. At that time, one never thought to regulate the prices by supply and demand. At that time, one was able to adjust both. The authorities of the cities or the guilds had to fix the prices of the goods after one had determined everything that was necessary to their production. Nobody was allowed to exceed the prices. If we look at the labour conditions, we see that a thorough understanding existed of that which a person needed. If we look at the wages of the past taking into account the completely different conditions, we must say to ourselves that we cannot compare the remuneration of a worker of that time with that of a worker of today. The researchers have often interpreted this fact quite wrong.

According to practical points of view, these associations were formed and, hence, they formed gradually according to such practical points of view. Then they spread from one city to the other, because it was a matter of course that those who had a common craft and common interests combined in the various cities and supported each other. Thus, the associations extended from town to town.

At that time, humanity was not yet united by police rules, but by practical points of view. Who bothers to study the conditions, which were visible steadily in the towns of Europe at that time, notices very soon that we deal here with a particular phase of the deepening of the fraternity principle. This becomes apparent in particular, if we see which fruit developed from it. We could point to the highest summits, to the enormous artistic achievements of the 12th and 13th centuries. They would not have been possible without this deepening of the fraternity principle. Dante's tremendous work, The Divine Comedy, we understand cultural-historically only if we understand the development of the fraternity principle. Have a look further at that which originated in the cities under the influence of this principle, for example, how art of printing, copperplate engraving, paper preparation, horology, and the later appearing inventions prepared under the free principle of fraternity. What we are used to call bourgeoisie arises from the maintenance of the fraternity principle in the medieval cities. Many things that were produced by the scientific and artistic deepening would not have been possible without maintenance of this fraternity principle. If a cathedral should be built, for example the Cologne Cathedral or any other cathedral, then we see that at first an association, a so-called construction guild formed. A determined cooperation of the members of such a guild came into being that way. One can see — if one has an intuitive look — this fraternity principle expressed even in the architectural style, one can see it expressed everywhere almost in every medieval city, and you find it going northwards to Scotland or to Venice, looking at Russian or Polish cities.

However, we have to emphasise one thing, namely that the fraternity principle originated under the influence of a decidedly material culture and, therefore, everywhere we see the material, the physical in this developing higher culture and in that which remains as a fruit of that time. It had to be maintained once, and to maintain and to organise it properly this fraternity principle was necessary in those days.

From an abstraction, this fraternity principle arose at that time and our life was split by this abstraction, by this rational thinking, so that one does no longer know and understand exactly today how the struggle for existence and the fraternity principle mutually co-operate. On one side, the spiritual life became more and more abstract. Morality and justice, views concerning the political system and the other social conditions were considered under more and more abstract principles, and an abyss separated the struggle for existence more and more from that which the human being feels, actually, as his ideal. In those days, in the middle of the Middle Ages, a harmony existed between that which one felt as his ideal and which one really did. If ever it was shown once that one can be an idealist and practitioner at the same time, it might have been good so in the Middle Ages. In addition, the relation of the Roman law to life was still a harmonious one. However, look at this matter today, and then you see our legal relationships hovering over the moral life. Many people say: we know what is good, right, and proper, but it is not practical. — This comes from the fact that the thinking about the highest principles is separated from life.

From the 16th century on, we see the spiritual life developing more under rational principles. A member of a guild who sat with other twelve lay judges in judgement of any offence that another member of the guild had committed was the brother of that who should be judged. Life combined with life. Everybody knew what the other worked and tried to understand why he deviated from the right way. One looked, as it were, into the brother and wanted to look into him.

Now a kind of jurisprudence developed that the judge and the lawyer are only interested in the code that both only see a “case” to which they have to apply the law. Consider only how everything that is intended morally is detached from jurisprudence. We saw this condition more and more developing in the last century, while in the Middle Ages under the principle of fraternity something had developed that is inevitable and important to any prosperous progress: expertise and trust which disappear as principles more and more.

The judgment of the expert has almost completely withdrawn compared with the abstract jurisprudence, compared with the abstract parliamentarism. Today the ordinary intellect, the majority should be authoritative, not the expertise. The preference of the majority had to come. But just as little as one can vote in mathematics to get a right result — for 3 times 3 is always 9 and 3 times 9 is always 27, it is there also. It would be impossible to carry out the principle of the expert without the principle of fraternity, of brotherly love.

The struggle for existence is justified in life. Because the human being is a special being and must go his way through life as a single, he depends on this struggle for existence. In certain respects, the saying by Rückert (Friedrich R., 1788-1866, German poet and translator) also applies here: if the rose adorns itself, it also adorns the garden. — Unless we make ourselves able to help our fellow men, we are only able to help them badly. Unless we see to it that all our dispositions are trained, we are only less successful to help our brothers. A certain egoism must exist to develop these dispositions, because the initiative is connected with egoism.

Who knows not to be led who knows not to let any picture of the surroundings work on himself, but knows how to descend in his inside, where the springs of the forces are, becomes a strong and capable human being who is more capable to serve others than someone who complies with all possible influence of his surroundings. It is obvious that this principle, which is necessary for the human being, can be radically elaborated. However, this principle only bears the right fruit if it is paired with the principle of brotherly love.

Just for this reason, I have instanced the free city guilds of the Middle Ages to show how the practice became so strong just under the principle of the mutual personal, individual aid. Where from did they get their strength? From the fact that they lived fraternally together with their fellow men. It is right to become as strong as possible. However, the question is whether we are generally able to become strong without brotherly love. Someone who soars a real soul knowledge has to deny this question categorically.

We see models of cooperation of single beings in a whole in the whole nature. Take only the human body. It exists of independent beings, of millions and millions of single independent living beings or cells. If you look at a part of this human body under the microscope, you find that it is composed of such independent beings. How do they co-operate? How has that become unselfish which should establish a whole in nature? None of our cells asserts its selfhood egotistically. The marvellous tool of thinking, the brain, is likewise formed from millions subtle cells, but they all work on their place harmoniously with the others. What does the cooperation of these little cells cause, what does it cause that a higher being is expressed within these little living beings? It is the human soul, which produces this effect. However, never could the human soul work here on earth unless these millions little beings gave up their selfhood and serve the big, common being which we call the soul. The soul sees with the cells of the eye, thinks with the cells of the brain, and lives with the cells of the blood. There we see what union means. Union means the possibility that a higher being expresses itself by the united constituents. This is a general principle of life.

Five human beings who are together and think and feel harmoniously, are more than 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1, they are not only the sum of five, just as little as our body is the sum of five senses. However, the living together and living in each other of the human beings signifies something quite similar as the living in each other of the cells of the human body. A new, higher being is among the five, already among two or three ones. “For where two or three meet together in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:29). It is not the one, the other and the third, but something quite new originates from the union. However, it originates only if the single human being lives in the other, if the single human being not only gets his strength from himself only, but also from the other. However, this can happen only if he lives unselfishly in the other. Thus, the human unions are the mysterious sites, in which higher spiritual beings delve themselves to work using the single human being, as the soul works using the parts of the body.

In our materialistic age, one hardly believes that, but in the spiritual-scientific worldview, it is not only something pictorial, but also something real to the highest degree. Hence, the spiritual scientist does not only speak of abstract things speaking of the folk soul or of the folk spirit, of the family spirit or of the spirit of another community. One cannot see this spirit that works in a union, but it exists because of the brotherly love of the human beings working in this union. As the body has a soul, a guild, a fraternity also has a soul, and I repeat once again, I do not speak of anything figurative but of anything real.

The human beings who co-operate in a brotherhood are magicians because they draw higher beings into their circle. One does no longer need to refer to the machinations of spiritism if one co-operates with brotherly love in a community. Higher beings manifest themselves there. If we are merged in the fraternity, we harden and strengthen our organs. If we act or speak then as a member of such a community, the single soul does not act or speak in us, but the spirit of the community. This is the secret of the future human progress to work out of communities. As an epoch replaces the other and any epoch has its own task, it is also with the medieval epoch in relation to ours, with our epoch in relation to the future one.

The medieval guilds worked in the immediate practical life, in the basic useful skills. They showed a materialistic life only, after they had received their fruits, after the basis of their consciousness, namely brotherliness, had dwindled more or less, after the abstract state principle, the abstract, spiritual life had replaced real empathy. It is the future task to found brotherhoods again, namely out of the spiritual, out of the highest ideals of the soul. Human life produced the manifold unions up to now; it has caused a terrible struggle for existence, which has almost arrived at its peak today. The spiritual-scientific worldview wants to train the highest goods of humanity in the sense of the fraternity principle, and then you see that the spiritual-scientific world movement replaces the struggle for existence with this fraternity principle in all fields. We have to learn to lead a common life. We are not allowed to believe that the one or the other is able to carry out this or that.

Probably everybody would like to know how to combine the struggle for existence and brotherly love. This is very easy. We have to learn to substitute struggle by positive work, to substitute the struggle, the war by the ideal. Today one does not sufficiently understand what that is. One does not know of which struggle one speaks, because one speaks in life generally only of struggles. There we have the social struggle, the struggle for peace, the struggle for the emancipation of the woman, the struggle for land, et cetera, where we look, we see the struggle.

The spiritual-scientific worldview strives for replacing this struggle by positive work. Someone who has settled down in this worldview knows that the struggles lead to a real result in any field of life. Try to apply that which proves to be the right thing in your experience and knowledge to implement in life, to assert it without fighting against the opponent. Of course, it can be only an ideal, but such an ideal must exist, which is to be implemented today as a spiritual-scientific principle in life. Human beings who join human beings and who use their strength for everything are those who deliver the basis of a prosperous development in future. The theosophical society wants to be exemplary even in this respect; therefore, it is no propaganda society like others, but a society of brothers. One works in it by the work of every single member. One has to understand this correctly once. Someone works best who wants to push through not his opinion, but that which he guesses by looking at his co-brothers; who does research in the thoughts and feelings of the fellow men and serves them. Somebody works best of all within this circle who is able not to spare his own opinion in the practical life. If we try to understand this way that our best forces arise from the union and that the union is not only considered as an abstract principle, but also is to be operated above all theosophically with every handle, at every moment of life, then we advance. We must be patient advancing this way.

What does spiritual science show to us? It shows a higher reality, and it is this consciousness of a higher reality that furthers us in the activity of the fraternity principle.

One still calls the theosophists impractical idealists. It will not last long, and they will prove to be the most practical people because they envisage the forces of life. Nobody doubts that one injures a person if one throws a stone at his head. However, one does not consider that it is much worse to send a hatred feeling to the human being that injures his soul even more than the stone injures the body. It completely depends on it with which attitude we face the fellow men. However, our strength of a prosperous work in future also depends on it. If we try to live fraternally that way, then we carry out the principle of fraternity practically.

Being tolerant means, something else in a spiritual-scientific sense than what one normally understands by it. It means to pay attention also to the freedom of thought of other people. It is boorishness to push another away from his place; it is boorishness if one does the same, however, in thoughts, because nobody regards that as wrong. Indeed, we speak a lot of the appreciation of the other opinion; however, we are not inclined to apply this to ourselves.

A word almost does not have any significance to us; we hear it and have not heard it, nevertheless. However, we must learn to listen with the soul, we must know how to grasp the most intimate matters with the soul. That always exists in spirit at first, which originates later in the physical life. We must suppress our opinion to hear the other completely, not only the word, but even the emotion, also if in us the emotion should stir that it is wrong which the other says.

One is much more strengthened if one is able to listen, as long as the other speaks, than to interrupt him. This gives a completely different mutual understanding. Then you feel, as if the soul of the fellow man warms and illuminates you, if you consider it with absolute tolerance. We should not only grant freedom of the human being, but we should also esteem complete freedom, even the freedom of the other opinion. This is only one example of many. Someone who interrupts the other does — considered from a spiritual worldview — something similar as someone who gives him a kick. If one is able to understand that it is much stronger influencing to interrupt another than to give him a kick, then only one gets around to understanding the fraternity at heart, then it becomes a fact. This is the great thing of the spiritual-scientific movement that it brings us a new confidence, a new conviction of the spiritual forces flowing out from human being to human being. This is the higher principle of spiritual fraternity. Everybody may imagine how remote humanity is from such a principle of spiritual fraternity. Everybody may educate himself — if he finds time — to send thoughts of love and friendship to his dear. The human being regards this normally as something meaningless. But if you are once able to see that the thought is as well a force as the electric wave which goes out from an apparatus and streams to the receiving apparatus, then you also understand the principle of fraternity better, then the common consciousness becomes more distinct bit by bit, then it becomes practical.

From this point of view, we can realise how the spiritual-scientific worldview understands the struggle for existence and the fraternal relationship. We know for sure that quite a few people who are put to this or that place in life simply would perish if they did not do in Rome as the Romans do, if they did not fight this struggle for existence as cruelly as many others. For somebody who thinks materialistically there is almost no escape from this struggle for existence. Indeed, we should do our duty at the place where karma has put us. However, we do the right thing if we understand that we would perform much more if we refrained to see the results, which we want to get, in the immediate present. If you are in the struggle for existence with bleeding soul, have the heart to let flow your thoughts affectionately from soul to soul to anybody whom you hurt in the struggle for existence. As a materialist, you maybe think that you have done nothing. After these discussions, however, you see that this must have its effect later; for we know that nothing is lost which takes action in the spiritual.

Thus, we may wage the struggle for existence with hesitating soul sometimes, with melancholy in the heart and transform it with our cooperation. Working in this struggle for existence in such a way means transforming it in practical respect. This is not possible overnight, but no doubt, we can do it. If we work on our soul in the sense of brotherly love, we benefit humanity mostly because we benefit ourselves. For it is true that our abilities are uprooted as a plant is eradicated from the ground if we remain in selfhood. As little as an eye is still an eye if it is torn out of the head, as little a human soul is still a human soul if it separates from the human society. You will see that we develop our talents, best of all, if we live in brotherly community that we live most intensely if we are rooted in the whole. Of course, we have to wait holding communion with ourselves until that which takes roots in the whole becomes fruit.

We must not get lost neither in the outside world, nor in ourselves, for that is true in the highest spiritual sense, which the poet said that we have to be quiet with ourselves if our talents should appear. Nevertheless, these talents are rooted in the world. We can strengthen them and improve our character only if we live in the community. Therefore, it is true in the sense of the principle of real fraternity that brotherliness makes the human being the strongest just in the struggle for existence, and he will find most of his forces in the silence of his heart if he develops his whole personality, his whole individuality together with the other human brothers. It is true: a talent forms in the silence —, however, it is also true: a character and with it the whole human being and the whole humanity form in the perpetual current of the world.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]