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The Fundamental Social Demand of Our Times

Fundamental Social: Lecture 2: The Logic of Thought and the Logic of Reality

LECTURE 2

Dornach, December 14, 1918

The Logic of Thought and the Logic of Reality

My dear friends,

Today I would like to bring before you a few important considerations connected with the matters that we have now for a long time regarded as our task. When we reflect on the way in which spiritual science, as here intended, is able to consider and to give answers to the questions of life, we must above all take careful heed to the fact that this spiritual science, and indeed for that matter the whole present and the future time, makes new and different demands on man's powers of comprehension and of thought. He has to think in a different way from what he is accustomed to, in accordance with the habits of thoughts of the immediate past and of the present — especially the habits of thought arising from science and its popularization. You are well aware that all that spiritual science has to say concerning any sphere of life and hence too what it has to say on the social question, indeed especially what it has to say on the social question, is the expression of the results of research — results that have not been obtained on any merely rationalistic or abstract path, but that have been sought and found in the realm of spiritual reality. They can be understood, as we know, with the help of a sound and healthy human intelligence — they can, however, only be discovered when one rises above the ordinary consciousness, such as is comprised within rational thinking, abstract thinking, natural scientific research and so forth — rises above this ordinary consciousness to the Imaginative, Inspired, and Intuitive consciousness. What comes to light on the path of Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition — this it is, formulated in concepts and ideas that are capable of expression, that fills the content of the science which Anthroposophical research has to give.

We have to accustom ourselves — and this is what makes it so hard for many of our contemporaries to tread the necessary path from the usual thinking of today to the Spiritual Science of Anthroposophy — we have to accustom ourselves to quite a new and different conception of wherein the finding of truth consists. Today men ask so lightly: can this or that be proven? The question is justified of course. But, my dear friends, we have also to look at the question from the standpoint of reality. If we mean: can what the spiritual researcher brings forward be proved in accordance with the conceptions and ideas that we have already acquired, in accordance with the customary ideas which we have imbibed through our education, through our everyday life? — If we mean this, we are making a great mistake; for the results of spiritual research are drawn from reality.

Let me make clear to you by a quite trivial, simple comparison, how the ordinary thinking that runs on purely abstract lines may fall into error. One thought is supposed to follow from another. The error is that if people see: As a thought it does not follow — they concluded that it must be false, while all the time from the point of view of reality it still may be perfectly true. The consequences in reality are not always the same as the consequences in mere thought; the Logic of Reality is a different thing from the Logic of Thought.

In our time, the metaphysical legalistic way of thinking has taken such hold upon men that they are wont to think that everything must be comprehended with the Logic of Thought. But that is not the case. Listen to this, for example. Take a cube measuring — let us say — 30 centimeters each way. Now if someone were to say to you: “This cube, measuring 30 centimeters each way, is raised up a meter and a half above the floor”— if you were not yourself in the room where the cube is, you would be able with your pure thought-logic to say one thing: you would be able to conclude from what was said to you: The cube must be standing on something. There must be a table there of the corresponding height, for the cube can certainly not hover in the air. This, then, you can conclude even when you are not present there, even when you have no experience of it.

But now let us suppose: A ball is lying on the cube; something is lying upon it. That you cannot conclude by thinking, that you must see. You must behold it. And yet the ball, too, corresponds to reality. The reality is thus filled with things and entities that have of course a logic in themselves, a logic, however, that does not coincide with the pure thought-logic; the logic of sight is a different thinking from the logic of mere thought.

This necessitates, however, my dear friends, that we should at length learn that we cannot only call proof the so-called logical sequences to which modern thinking has grown accustomed. Unless we learn this, we shall never arrive at a true understanding of things. In the domain in which I have been speaking to you now for some weeks — in the domain of social life, of the structure of human society, many new demands result simply from the fundamental premises that I have set before you concerning the three-fold division of society which will be necessary for the future. One such result is, for example, a quite definite system of taxation. But this system of taxation, once more, can only be found by calling to our help the logic of things seen. The mere logic of thought is insufficient. It is this that makes it necessary that men should listen to those who know something of these things, for when the thing has once been said, then the healthy human intelligence, my dear friends, will always suffice; it can always corroborate and “control” what the spiritual researcher says. The healthy human understanding, however, is something very different from the logic of thought, which is developed especially through the way of thinking that is prevalent today, soaked and steeped as it is in the natural-scientific point of view. From all this you will understand that spiritual science is not intended merely to make us receive a certain collection of ideas and then think that we can handle these ideas much as we would handle information we acquire through natural science or the like. That is absolutely impossible and is not to be imagined for a moment. If we think that we are making a great mistake. Spiritual Science makes a man think in an altogether new way. It makes him comprehend the world in an altogether different way than he has done before, it makes him learn not merely to perceive other things than before, but to perceive in a new way. When you enter into spiritual science you must always bear this in mind, you must be able to ask yourself again and again: Am I learning to look at the world in a new way through my receiving of Spiritual Science — not clairvoyance but Spiritual Science — am I learning to look at the world in another way from what I have done hitherto? For indeed, my dear friends, one who regards Spiritual Science as a collection of facts, a compendium of knowledge, may well know a great deal, but if he still only thinks in the same way as he thought before, then he has not received Spiritual Science. He has only taken up Spiritual Science if the manner, the form, the structure of his thinking has changed, if in a certain respect he has become another man than he was before. And this can only come about through the might and the power of the ideas which we receive through Spiritual Science.

Now if we are to think about the social question, it is absolutely essential that this change, which can only come about through Spiritual Science, should enter our thinking, for only in this light can that be understood to which I directed your attention yesterday. Yesterday I spoke to you of the economists of the schools, the present-day exponents of the theories of economists. I pointed out to you how utterly helpless they are in the face of realities. Why are they so helpless? Because they are bent on understanding with the Natural-Scientific type of thinking something that cannot thus be understood. We shall have to make up our minds to conceive the social life, not with the kind of thinking that is brought up on Natural Science but in an altogether different way. Only then shall we be able to find fruitful social ideas — fruitful in life, capable of realization.

I have already once drawn your attention to a thing that may well have astonished one or another among you; yet it needs to be deeply thought over. I said: The logical conclusion which one will tend to draw from such and such ideas, maybe from a whole “world-conception” are by no means always identical with that which follows from such a world-conception in real life. I mean the following: A man may hold a certain number of ideas or even an entire world-conception. You may envisage this world-conception clearly according to the ideas it contains and you may then perhaps draw further conclusions from it — conclusions which you will quite rightly presume to be logical, you may imagine that such conclusions, which you can logically draw from a world-conception, must necessarily follow from it. But that is by no means the case. Life itself may draw altogether different conclusions. And you may be highly astonished to see how life draws its different conclusions. What do I mean by this? Let us assume a world-conception which appears to you highly idealistic, and — we may assume — rightly so. It contains wonderfully idealistic ideas. You yourself will probably admit only the logical conclusions of your world-conception but if you sink this into another mind, if you take into account the reality of life even where it leads you across the chasms that separate one human being from another — the following may happen: and only Spiritual Science can explain the necessity of such a sequence. You instruct your son or daughter or your pupil in your idealistic world-conception, and they afterwards become thorough scamps and rascals. It may well happen in the reality of life that rascality will follow as the consequence from your idealistic philosophy!

That of course is an extreme case, though one that might well happen in real life. I only wish to bring it home to you that other conclusions are drawn in real life than in mere thought. Hence it is that the men of today are so far removed from reality, because they do not see through such things as these; they are not really willing to bring to consciousness what was formerly done instinctively. The instincts of past ages felt clearly enough that this or that would arise from one thing or another in real life. They were by no means inclined only to presume the consequences that follow by the logical thought. The instincts themselves worked with a logic of their own. But today men have come into a kind of uncertainty, and this uncertainty will naturally grow ever greater in the age of the evolution of the Spiritual Soul unless we make the counterbalance, which is: consciously to receive into ourselves the Logic of Reality. And we do receive it the moment we earnestly consider in its own essence and process the Spiritual that lives and moves behind the realities of sense.

I will tell you a practical case to illustrate what I have just explained in a more theoretic way. It will serve at the same time to illustrate another thing, namely how far we can go wrong, if we merely look at the external symptoms. In my lecture this week, I spoke of the symptomatic method in the study of history. Altogether, the symptomatic method is a thing that we must make our own, if we would pass from the outer phenomena to the underlying Reality.

A Russian author and philosopher of the name of Berdiayeff recently wrote an interesting article on the philosophical evolution in the Russian people in the second half of the nineteenth century and until the present day. There are two remarkable things in this essay of Berdiayeff's. One is that the author takes his start from a peculiar prejudice, proving that he has no insight into those truths, with which you must by now be thoroughly familiar — I mean the truth that in the Russian East, preparing for the Sixth Post-Atlantean Age (the age of the evolution of the Spiritual Life), altogether new elements are on the point of emerging, though today they are only there in embryo. Berdiayeff being ignorant of this fact, his judgment on one point is quite incorrect. He says to himself (and as a Russian philosopher he must surely know the facts), he says: It is strange that in Russia as against the Western European civilizations we have no real sense (especially in philosophy) for what in the West they call the Truth. Russians have been much interested in the philosophy of the West, yet they have no real feeling for it inasmuch as it strives towards “The Truth.” They only take up the truths of philosophy inasmuch as they are serviceable for life, inasmuch as they are directly useful to some conception of life. The Socialist, e.g., is interested in philosophy because he imagines that this or that philosophy will provide him with a justification for his socialism. Similarly the orthodox Believer will interest himself in some philosophy, not, like a Western man because it is the Truth, but because it gives him a justification or a basis for his Orthodox Belief. And so on. Berdiayeff regards this as a great failing in the Folk-Soul of modern Russia. He says: In the West they are far in advance of us. They do not imagine that Truth must follow life; they really believe that Truth is Truth; the Truth is there, and life must take its direction from it. And Berdiayeff actually adds the extraordinary statement (albeit not extraordinary for the men of the present day, who will take it quite as a matter of course, but extraordinary for the Spiritual Scientists) he adds the statement: The Russian socialist has no right to use the expression “bourgeois science,” for bourgeois science contains the truth; it has at last established the concept of Truth, and that is a thing that cannot be refitted. It is therefore a failing on the part of the Russian Folk-Soul to believe that this Truth too can be transcended!

Berdiayeff shares this curious opinion, not only with the whole world of professors, but with all their faithful followers, to wit, the whole bourgeois of Western and Middle Europe, the aristocracy especially so, and the rest. Berdiayeff simply does not know what is now germinating in the Russian Folk Soul, which comes to expression for this very reason in a frequently tumultuous and distorted form. He does not know that in this conception of Truth from the standpoint of life, crooked as it may be today, there lies a real seed for the conception of the future. In the future it will right itself, of that we may be sure. When once what is preparing today as a germinating seed will have unfolded, I mean the directing of all human evolution towards the spiritual life, then indeed will that which men call the “Truth” today have an altogether different form. Today I have drawn your attention to some peculiar facts in this respect. This Truth, my dear friends, will among other things bring to man's consciousness what the men of today cannot realize, that the logic of facts, the logic of reality, the logic of things seen is a very different thing from the mere logic of concepts. And this transformed conception of the Truth will have some other interesting qualities. That is the one thing which you see emerging in Berdiayeff's essay. It is remarkable enough, for it shows how little such a learned author lives in the real trend and meaning of the evolution of our time, which he might well perceive in his own nation above all, but cannot recognize, laboring as he does under this prejudice.

The other thing must be considered in quite a different direction. Berdiayeff, as the whole spirit of his essay shows, witnesses the rise of Bolshevism with great discomfort. Well, in that respect, the one man or the other, according as he is a Bolshevist or the reverse, will say that Berdiayeff is right or wrong. I do not propose to dilate just now upon this question. I will describe the facts, I will not criticize. But this is the important thing: In the sixties, so says Berdiayeff, there was already the tendency to regard Truth and Philosophy as dependent on life, and at that time materialism found entry into Russia. Men believed in Materialism, because they found it useful and profitable for life. Then, in the seventies, Positivism, such as is held by Auguste Comte for example, came into vogue. And after that, other points of view, for example that of Nietzsche, found entry into Russia among the people known as the Intelligentsia. And now Berdiayeff asks the question: What kind of philosophy do we find among the Intelligentsia of the Bolsheviks? For, indeed, a certain philosophy is prevalent among them. But how this particular philosophy can go with Bolshevism, that Berdiayeff is quite at a loss to explain. He simply cannot understand how Bolshevism can regard as its own philosophy — curiously enough — the doctrine of Avenarius and Mach.

And, truth to tell, my dear friends, if you had told Avenarius and Mach that their philosophy was to be accepted by such people as the Bolsheviks, they themselves would have been still more astonished and angry than Berdiayeff. They would have been most indignant (both of them, as you know, are now dead) if they had lived to see themselves as the official philosophers of Bolshevism. Imagine Avenarius, the worthy bourgeois, who of course had always assumed that he could only be understood by people who — well, who wore at any rate decent clothes, people who would never do violence to anyone in the Bolshevist manner, in short, good “respectable” people, in the sense in which one used the expression in the sixties, seventies and eighties. And it is true, if we consider only the content of the philosophy of Avenarius, we are still more at a loss to understand how it happened. For what does Avenarius think? Avenarius says: Men labor under a prejudice. They think: within, in my head, or in my soul or wherever it is, are the ideas, the perceptions, they are there subjectively; outside are the objects. But, says Avenarius, this is not correct. If I were all alone in the world, I should never arrive at the distinction between subject and object. I am led to make the distinction only through the fact that other people are there too. I alone beheld a table, I should never come to the idea that the table is out there in space and a picture of it here in my brain. I would simply have the table, and would not distinguish between subject and object. I only distinguish between them because, when I look at the table with another man, I say to myself: He sees the table, and I too perceive it. The perception is in my head too. I reflect that what he senses I am also sensing. Such are partly theoretical considerations (I will not go into them more fully, you would say: All these things do not interest us) within which Avenarius' thought lives and moves. In 1876 he wrote his book Conception of the World According to the Principle of Least Action. For on such premises as I have here explained to you, he shows how the concepts we have as human beings have no real value, but that we only create them for the sake of mental economy. According to Avenarius, the concept “Lion,” for example, or the concept that finds expression in a “Natural Law” is nothing real, nor does it refer to anything real. It is only uneconomical if in the course of my life I have seen five or six or even thirty lions and am now to conceive them each and severally. I therefore proceed in a more economical way, and make myself a single concept “Lion,” embracing all the thirty. Thus all our forming of concepts is a mere matter of subjective mental economy.

Mach holds a similar view. It was Mach of whom I told you how he once got into an omnibus where there was a mirror. As he got in, he saw a man coming in from the other side. Now the appearance of this man was highly antipathetic to him, and he said to himself: “What a weedy-looking schoolmaster.”— only then did he perceive that there was a mirror hanging there and that he had simply seen himself. Mach tells the story to indicate how little one knows oneself, even in one's external human form how little self-knowledge man has. He even tells of another occasion when he passed a shop window which acted as a mirror and thus again met himself and was quite annoyed to come across such an ugly-looking pedant.

Mach proceeded in a rather more popular fashion, but his idea is the same as that of Avenarius. He says: there are not subjective ideas on the one hand, and objective things on the other. All that exists in reality is the content of our sensations. I, to myself, am only a content of sensation, the table outside me is a content of sensation, my brain is a content of sensation. Everything is a content of sensation, and the concepts men make for themselves only exist for the purpose of economy. It was about the year 1881; I was present at a meeting of the Academy of Sciences in Vienna where Mach gave his lecture on the Economy of Thought, entitled: “Thought as a Principle of the Least Action.” I must say, it made quite a terrible impression upon me, who was then a mere boy, at the very beginning of the twenties. It made a terrible impression on me when I saw that there were men so radical in their ideas, without an inkling of the fact that on the paths of thought there enters into the human soul the first beginning of a manifestation of the super-sensible, the spiritual. Here was a man who denied the reality of concepts to such an extent as to see in them the mere results of a mental activity bent upon economy.

But in Mach and Avenarius — you will not misunderstand my words — all this takes place entirely within the limit of thoroughly “respectable” thinking. We should naturally assume that these two men and all their followers are worthy folk of sound middle-class opinion, utterly removed from any even moderately radical, let alone revolutionary ideas, in practice. And now all of a sudden they have become the official Philosophers of the Bolsheviks! No one could have dreamt of such a thing. Perhaps you may read Avenarius' booklet on the “Principle of Least Action.” It may interest you, it is quite well written. But if you were to tackle his “Philosophy of Experience,” I fancy you would not get very far, you would find it appallingly dull. Written as it is in an absolutely professorial style, there is not the slightest possibility of your drawing even the least vestige of Bolshevism as a conclusion from it. You would not even derive from it a practical world-conception of the most gentle radicalism.

I am well aware, my dear friends, of the objection which those who take symptoms for realities might now bring forward against me. An easy-going, hard-and-fast Positivist, for instance, would say: The explanation is as simple as can be! The Bolshevists took their Intellectuals from Zurich. Avenarius was a professor in Zurich, and those who are now working as intellectual leaders among the Bolsheviks were his pupils. Moreover there was a University lecturer there, a pupil of Mach's Adler, the man who afterwards shot the Austrian statesman Count Stügh. Many followers of Lenin, perhaps even Lenin himself, were well-acquainted with Adler. They absorbed these ideas and carried them to Russia. It is therefore a pure coincidence.

Needless to say I am well aware that a cock-sure hard-and-fast Positivist can explain the whole thing in this way. But did I not tell you the other day how the whole poetic character of Robert Hamerling can be shown to have arisen from the unreliability of the worthy Rector Kaltenbrunner, who forgot to forward Hamerling's application for a post in Budapest, as a result of which someone else got the post instead. If only Kaltenbrunner had not been so slack, Hamerling would certainly have gone as a schoolmaster to Budapest in the 1860's instead of to Trieste. Now if you consider all that Hamerling became through spending ten years of his life on the shores of the Adriatic at Trieste, you will see that his whole poetic life was a result. This was the external fact. The worthy Rector Kaltenbrunner, headmaster of the Grammar School at Graz, forgot to forward his application and was therefore the occasion of Hamerling's going to Trieste. You see, these things must not be taken as realities but as symptomatic of inner things which come to expression through them.

Thus what Berdiayeff conceives in this way — that the Bolsheviks chose as their idols the worthy middle-class philosophers Avenarius and Mach — does indeed take us back to what I said at the beginning of the present lecture: The reality of life, the reality of things seen is very different from the merely logical reality. Of course you cannot deduce from Avenarius and Mach that they could have become the official philosophers of the Bolsheviks. But, my dear friends, even what you can deduce by logic is only of importance as an external symptom. In effect, we only get at Reality by a research which goes straight for it. And in the Reality the Spiritual Beings work.

I might tell you many things which would indeed enable you to perceive it as a necessity, in reality of life, that such philosophies as that of Avenarius and Mach lead to the conclusion of the most revolutionary socialism of our time. For behind the scenes of existence it is the very same spirits who instill into men's consciousness philosophies after the style of Avenarius or Mach, and who instill once more into men's consciousness that which leads on to Bolshevism for example. Only in Logic you cannot derive the one thing from the other. But the Reality of Life performs this derivation. I beg you inscribe this deep into your hearts, for here too you will have something of what I am constantly emphasizing. It is needful to us to find the transition from the mere tangle of logical ideas, within which the people of today in their illusions imagine the realities of life to be imbued, to the true reality. If we look at the symptoms, and know how to value them, the thing does indeed become far more earnest. Here I will draw your attention to something to which another who is not a Spiritual Scientist will not pay so much attention; for he will take it more as a phrase, as something more or less indifferent. Mach, you see, who is a Positivist, and a radical one at that, comes to the idea that all things are really sensations. This doctrine, which young Adler also expounded in his lectures at Zurich, whereby he will undoubtedly have gained many adherents for himself, and for Mach and for Avenarius — this doctrine declares that everything is sensation, and that we are quite unjustified in distinguishing the physical from the psychical. The table outside us is physical and psychical in precisely the same sense as my ideas are physical and psychical: and we only have concepts for the sake of mental economy.

Now the peculiar thing in Mach was that instinctively, every now and then, he withdrew from his own world-conception — from his radical, positivist world-conception. He withdrew a little, saying to himself: These then are the results of truly modern thought. It is meaningless to say that anything exists beyond my sensation or that I should distinguish the physical and the psychical. And yet I am impelled again and again whenever I have the table before me, to speak not merely of the sensation, but to believe that there is something out there, quite physically. And again when I have an idea, a sensation or a feeling, I have not merely the perception of the phenomenon which takes place, but though by my scientific insight I realize that it is quite unjustified — still I believe that here within me is the soul, and out there is the object. I feel myself impelled again and again to make this distinction how does it come about? Mach said to himself: however does it come about that I am suddenly impelled to assume; in here is something of the soul, and out there is something external to the soul. I know that it is no true distinction, yet am I continually compelled to think something different from what my scientific insight tells me.

This is what Mach says to himself, every now and then when he withdraws a little from these things and considers them again. You will find it in his books. And he then makes a peculiar remark; he says: sometimes one has a feeling that makes one ask: — Can it be that we human beings are just being led round and round in a circle by some evil spirit? And he answers: Sometimes I really think so.

I know, my dear friends, how many people will read just such a passage, taking it as an empty phrase. Yet it is truly symptomatic. For here, every now and then, there peers over the shoulder of the human soul something that is real fact. It is indeed the Ahrimanic spirit who leads men round and round in a circle, making them think in the way of Avenarius and Mach. And at such moments Mach suddenly becomes aware of it. And it is the same Ahrimanic spirit who is working now, in the Bolshevist way of thought. Hence it is no wonder, my dear friends, that the logic of realities has produced this result. You see, however, that if we would understand the things of life, we must look into them more deeply. Truly this is of no small importance, especially for the domain of social life, today and in the near future. For the conclusions that must be drawn are not such as were drawn by Schmoller or Brentano, Wagner, Spencer, John Stuart Mill or whoever it may be. No, in the domain of social life, real conclusions must be drawn, i.e., conclusions according to the logic of realities. This is the bad thing, that in the social agitations and movements of today, and in all that they have produced, merely logical deductions — i.e., illusions — are living. Illusions have become external reality. I will give you two examples. The one is already well-known to you, you will only need to see it in the light in which I shall now place it.

The Marxian Socialists (and as I have often told you, this includes almost the whole of the proletariat today), the Marxian Socialists declare, under the influence of Marx: Economic life, economic oppositions, and the class oppositions that arise from them — these things are the true reality. Everything else is an ideological superstructure. What man thinks, what he creates in poetry and art, what he thinks about the State or about life in general, all this is a mere result of his economic mode of life. And for this reason the proletariat of today declares: — We need no National Assemblies to bring about a new social order. For in the National Assemblies there will be the bourgeois folk once more and they will have their say out of their economically-determined bourgeois minds. We have no use for that. We can only do with those who will voice the thoughts of Proletarian minds. It is they who must re-mold the world today. To this end we do not first need to summon National Assemblies. Let the few Proletarians who happen to be on top exercise a dictatorship. They have proletarian ideas, they will think the right thoughts. Not only Lenin and Trotsky in Russia, Karl Liebknecht in Berlin repudiates the National Assembly. He says: After all, it will be no more than a reassembly of the talk-shop — meaning the Reichstag, the Houses of Parliament.

What is the underlying reason, my dear friends? It is the same reason on account of which, in the main, I was driven out of the Socialist Working Men's College in Berlin sixteen years ago, as I told you recently when giving you the history of my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. In that College I had to lecture among other things on scientific matters; I conducted practical lessons in public speaking. But I also had to teach History. And I taught it in the way in which I assumed, objectively, that it should be taught. This was certainly satisfying to those who were my pupils, and if it could have been continued — if it had not been brought to an artificial end — I know it would have borne good fruit. But the Social-Democratic leaders discovered that I was not teaching Marxism or the Marxian conception of history. Nay more, they discovered that I even did such curious wild things as I will now relate (which incidentally were very well-received by the workers who were my pupils). I said, for instance, on one occasion: The ordinary historian cannot make anything of the story of the seven Roman kings, they even regard it as a myth. For the succession of the seven kings, as described by Livy, shows a kind of rise and decline. Up to Marcius, the fourth, it rises to a kind of climax. Then it declines to decadence in the seventh, Tarquinius Superbus. And I explained to my pupils that we were here going back to the most ancient period in Roman evolution, the period before the Republic, and that the change to the Republic had in fact consisted in this: that the ancient atavistic spiritual regularities had passed into a kind of popular chaos; whereas, in the more ancient period, as we can see quite tangible in the history of the Egyptian Pharaohs, the social institutions contained a certain wisdom, discoverable by Spiritual Science. It is not for nothing that we are told how Numa Pompilius received influences from the Nymph Egeria, to order the social life. Then I explained how men did indeed receive Inspirations for the social institutions which they were to make; and how in truth it was not merely the one monarch following the other as in later times, but these things were determined according to the laws received from the Spiritual World. Hence the regularity in the succession of the Egyptian Pharaohs and even of the Roman kings, Romulus, Numa Pompilius, and so on down to Tarquinius Superbus.

Now you may take the seven principles of man which I summed up in my Theosophy and regard them one after another from a certain point of view. You will find these seven principles in the succession of the Roman kings. Here, at this present moment, I am only hinting at the fact, and among you I need do no more. Nevertheless it is a thing which, rightly expressed, can well be described as an objective truth, throwing real light on the peculiar circumstances which the ordinary materialistic historian cannot understand. Today indeed, the “genuinely scientific” historians simply regard the seven kings as non-existent, and describe them as a myth.

So you see, I really went so far as this. And in other matters, too, I spoke to them in this way. If it is done rightly, it gives the impression of answering to the realities. Still it is not the “Materialistic Conception of History.” For that would mean that we should have to investigate what were the economic conditions in ancient Roman times, what was the relation of the tillage of the soil to the breeding of cattle and to trade and the life; and how the cities were founded, and what was the economic life of the Etruscans, and how the Etruscans traded with the young Roman people; and how under the influence of these economic elements, conditions took shape under Romulus, Numa Pompilius, Tullus Hostilius, and so on, in succession.

You see, even this would not have been effected quite so simply. But here again the true Reality came to my assistance. Of course, such an audience did not consist merely of young people. There were many among them who had already absorbed the Proletarian thought to a considerable extent and who were well-equipped, well-armed with all these prejudices. Such people are by no means easy to convince, even when one is speaking of things remote from their domain of knowledge. On one occasion I was speaking about Art. I had described what Art is, and its influence, and suddenly from the back of the hall a lady cried out, interrupting: “Well, and Verism, isn't that Art?”

So you see, these people were not prone to take things simply on authority. It was a question of finding a way to them; not of finding the way to them by all manner of sly devices, but out of a sense of Reality and Truthfulness. And so it came about that one had to say — not only could, but had to say — “You folk are primed with ideas of the ‘Materialist Conception of History,’ which believes that all things depend on the economic conditions, and that the spiritual life is but an ideology, spreading itself out on the basis of the economic conditions, and indeed, Marx expounded these things with clear and sharp insight. But why did all this come about? Why did he describe and believe all this? Because Marx only saw the immediate and present age in which he lived. He did not go back to former ages. Marx only based himself on the historic evolution of man since the sixteenth century, and here in deed and truth there came into the evolution of mankind an epoch during which over a large part of the world the spiritual life became an expression of the economic conditions, though not exactly as Marx describes it. True, Goetheanism is not to be derived from the economic life; but Goethe was regarded even by these people as a man remote from the economic life.

Thus we might say that this was the mistake, that which held true only for a certain space of time, notably for the most recent time of all, was generalized. Indeed, only the last four centuries could be truly understood by describing them in the sense of the Materialist Conception of History.

Now this is the important thing: We must not proceed by the mere logic of concepts; for by the logic of concepts very little can be said against the carefully and strictly guarded propositions of Karl Marx. We must proceed by the logic of life, the logic of realities, the logic of things seen. If we do so, the following will be revealed. Beneath this evolution which has taken place since the 16th century in a way that can well be interpreted through the materialist conception of history — beneath this Evolution there is a deeply significant Involution. That is to say, there is something that takes its course invisibly, supersensibly, beneath what is visible to the outer senses. This is seeking to come forth to the surface, to work its way forth out of the souls of men; and it is the very opposite of Materialism. Materialism only becomes so great and works so in order that man may rear himself up against it, in order that he may find the possibility to seek the Spiritual out of the depths of his own Being during this age of the Spiritual Soul, and thus attain Self-consciousness in the Spirit. Thus the task is not, as Karl Marx believes, simply to look at the outer reality and read from it the proposition that economic life is the real basis of ideology; but the task is rather this: We must say to ourselves, the outer reality since the 16th century does not reveal the true reality. The true reality must be sought for in the spirit; we must find, above all, that social order which will counter-balance and overcome what appears outwardly or is outwardly observable since the 16th century. The age itself compels us, not merely to observe the outer processes but to discover something that can work into them as a corrective. What Marxism has turned upside down must be set right again.

It is extraordinarily important for us to know this. In this instance the logic of realities actually reverses the mere sharp-witted dialectics of Karl Marx. Alas, much water will have yet to flow down the Rhine before a sufficient number of people will realize this necessity, to find the logic of reality, the logic of things seen. Yet it is necessary — necessary above all on account of the burning social questions.

That is the one example. For the other, we may take our start from some of the things I told you yesterday. I said: It is characteristic how men have observed, ever since Ricardo, Adam Smith and the rest, that the economic order entails this consequence: That in the social life of man together, human labor-power is used like a commodity, brought on to the market like a commodity, treated like a commodity after the laws of supply and demand. As I explained yesterday, this is the very thing that excites and acts as motive impulses in the proletarian world-conception. Now one who merely thinks in the logic of concepts, observing that this is so, will say to himself: we must therefore find an economic science, a social science, a conception of social life, which reckons with this fact. We must find the best possible answer to the question: “Seeing that labor power is a commodity, how can we protect this commodity, labor power, from exploitation?” But the question is wrongly put, wrongly put not only out of theory, but out of life itself. The putting of questions wrongly is having a destructive, devastating effect in real life today. And it will continue to do so if we do not find the way to reverse it. For here once more the thing is standing on its head and must be set upright again, we must not ask: How shall we make the social structure so that man cannot be exploited, in spite of the fact that his labor power is brought on to the market like any other commodity, according to supply and demand.

For there is an inner impulse in human evolution which works in the logic of realities, although people may not express it in these words. It corresponds to reality and we can state it thus: Even the Grecian Age, the Grecian civilization which has come to mean so much for us, is only thinkable through the fact that a large proportion of the population of Greece were slaves. Slavery, therefore, was the premise of that ancient civilization which signifies so very much to us. So much that the most excellent philosopher, Plato, considered slavery altogether as a justified and necessary thing in human civilization. But the evolution of mankind goes forward. Slavery existed in antiquity and as you know, mankind began to rebel against it, quite instinctively to rebel against men being bought and sold. Today we may say it is an axiom: The whole human being can no longer be bought and sold; and where slavery still exists, we regard it as a relic of barbarism. For Plato, it was not barbarism; it went without saying that there were slaves, just as it did for every Greek who had the Platonic mind, nay every Greek who thought in terms of the state. The slave himself thought just the same, it went without saying that men could be sold, could be put on the market according to the laws of supply and demand, though of course not like mere cattle. Then, in a masked and veiled form, the thing passed over into the milder form of slavery which we call serfdom. Serfdom lasted very long, but here again mankind revolted.

And to our own time this relic has remained. The whole human being can no longer be sold, but only part of him, namely his labor-power. And today man is revolting against this too. It is only a continuation of the repudiation of slavery, if in our time it is demanded that the buying and selling of labor-power be repudiated. Hence it lies in the natural course of human evolution for this opposition to arise against labor-power being treated as a commodity, functioning as a commodity in the social structure. The question, therefore, cannot be put in this way: How shall man be protected from exploitation? — assuming as an axiomatic premise that labor-power is a commodity. This way of thinking has become habitual since Ricardo, Adam Smith and others, and is in reality included in Karl Marx and in the proletarian conception. Today it is taken as an axiom that labor-power is a commodity. All they want to do is, in spite of its being a commodity, to protect it from exploitation, or rather to protect the worker from the exploitation of his labor-power. Their whole thought moves along these lines. More or less instinctively or — as in Marx himself— not instinctively, they take it as an axiom. Notably the ordinary run of Political Economists who occupy the professional chairs assume it is an axiom from the very outset, that labor-power is to be treated, economically speaking, on the same basis as a commodity.

In these matters countless prejudices are dominating our life today: and prejudices are disastrous above all in this sphere of life. I am well aware how many there may be, even among you, who will regard it as a strange expectation, that you should spend your time in going into all these things. But we cannot possibly study the fullness of life if we are unable to think about these things. For if we cannot do so, we become the victims of all manner of absurd suggestions. How many an illustration the last four years have provided; what have they not brought forth? One could witness the most extraordinary things: I will only give you one example. Returning again and again to Germany — and in other places it was no different — every time, one found there was some new watchword, some new piece of instruction for the true patriot. Thus, the last time we went back to Germany, once more there was a new patriotic slogan: Do not pay in cash! Deal in checks as much as possible! i.e., do not let money circulate, but use checks. People were told that this was especially patriotic, for, as they thought, this was necessary in order to help win the war. No one saw through this most obvious piece of nonsense. But it was not merely said, it was propagated with a vengeance, and the most unbelievable people acted up to it — people of whom you might have supposed that they would understand the rudiments of economics — directors of factories and industrial undertakings. They too declared: pay in check and not in ready money, that is patriotic!

That fact is, it would be patriotic, but only under one assumption, namely this: you would have to calculate on each occasion how much time you saved in dealing in checks instead of ready money. True, most people cannot perform such a reckoning, but there are those who can. Then you would have to add up all the time that was saved, and come up and say: I have been paying my accounts in checks and have saved so much time, I want to spend it usefully; please give me a job! Only if you did so would it be a real saving. But of course they did not do so, nor did it ever occur to them that the thing would only have a patriotic importance on economic grounds on this assumption. Such nonsense was talked during the last four and a half years to an appalling extent. The most unbelievably dilettante propositions were realized. Impossibilities became realities, because of the utter ignorance of people — even of those who gave out such instructions — as to the real connections in this domain of life.

Now with respect to the questions I have just raised, the point is this: It must be the very aim of our investigations to find out — How shall we shape the social structure, the social life of man together, so as to loosen and free the objective commodity, the goods, the product, from the labor-power? This must be the point, my dear friends, in all our economic endeavors. The product should be brought onto the market and circulated in such a way that the labor-power is loosed and freed from it. This is the problem in economics that we must solve. If we start with the axiom that the labor-power is crystallized into the commodity and inseparable from it, we begin by eclipsing the essential problem and then we put things upside-down. We fail to notice the most important question — the question on which, in the realm of political economy, the fortunes and misfortunes of the civilized world will depend. How shall the objective commodity, the goods, the product, be loosed and severed from the labor-power, so that the latter may no longer be a commodity? For this can be done if we believe in that three-folding of the social order which I have explained to you, if we make our institutions accordingly. This is the way to separate from the labor-power of man the objective commodities, the goods, which are, after all, loosed and separated from the human being.

It must be admitted, my dear friends, that we find little understanding as yet for these things, derived as they are from the realities. In 1905 I published my essay on “Theosophy and the Social Question,” in the periodical Lucifer-Gnosis. I then drew attention to the first and foremost principle which must be maintained in order to sever the product from the labor. Here alone, I said, could we find salvation in the social question, and I emphasized that this question depends on our thinking rightly about production and consumption. Today men are thinking altogether on the lines of Production. We must change the direction of our thought. The whole question must be diverted from Production to Consumption. In detail, one had occasion to give many a piece of advice: but through the inadequate conditions and other insufficiencies, such advice could not really take effect, as one experienced — unhappily — in many cases. And it is so indeed; the men of today, through their faith in certain logical conclusions, which they mistake for real conclusions, have no sense for the need of looking at the Realities. But in the social domain above all it is only the Reality which can teach us the right way to put our questions. Of course people will say to you: Do you not see that it is necessary for labor to be done if commodities are to be produced? That is so indeed. Logically, commodities are the result of labor. But Reality is a very different thing from Logic.

I have explained this to our friends again and again from another aspect. Look at the thought of the Darwinian Materialists. I remember vividly the first occasion — it was in the Munich group — when I tried to make this clear to our friends. Imagine a real, thorough-going follower of Haeckel. He thinks that man has arisen from an apelike beast. Well, let him as a scientist form the concept of an ape-like animal and then let him form the concept of Man. If as yet no man existed and he only had the concept of the ape-like animal, he would certainly never be able to “catch,” out of this concept of the animal, the concept Man. He only believes what [in?] the ape-like creature, because the one proceeded out of the other in reality. Thus in real life men do after all distinguish between the logic of pure concepts and ideas and the logic of things seen. But this distinction must be applied through and through; otherwise we shall never gain an answer to the social and political questions, such as is necessary for the present and the immediate future. If we will not turn to that realistic thinking which I have explained to you once more today, we shall never come to the Goetheanic principle in public life. And that the Goetheanic principle shall enter into the world, this we desired to signalize by erecting, upon this hill, a “Goetheanum.”

In humorous vein, I would advise you to read the huge advertisement that appeared on the last page of today Basler Nachrichten, calling on everyone to do all in his power for the greatest day in world-history which is now about to dawn, by founding a “Wilsoneanum.” True, as yet, it is only an advertisement, and I only mention it in a jocular spirit. Nevertheless, in the souls of men, to say the least of it, the “Wilsoneanum” is being founded pretty intensely at the present moment.

As I said a short while ago, it has indeed a certain meaning that there is now a Goetheanum standing here. I called it a piece of “negative cowardice.” The opposite of cowardice was to come to expression in this action. And it is indeed the case, my dear friends, events are coming in the future — though this advertisement is only an amusing prelude — events are coming which will seem to justify this prophetic action which is being made out of the spirit of a certain world-conception. Though we need not take the half-page advertisement for a “Wilsoneanum” seriously, it is well for us to know that Wilsoniana will indeed be founded. Therefore a Goetheanum was to stand here as a kind of protest in advance.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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