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Cosmogony, Freedom, Altruism

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Three Lectures on
THE THREEFOLD SOCIAL ORDER
by
Dr. Rudolf Steiner

Lecture 2

The Religious, Economic and Political Impulses

Dornach, October 11th, 1919.

The hour is so late, that I shall make this lecture a short one, and leave over till to-morrow the main substance of what I have to say in these three lectures. To-morrow the Eurhythmies are put earlier, so that it will be possible to have a longer lecture.

I pointed out yesterday that in order to master the conditions of our present declining civilisation, one needs to differentiate, — so to differentiate between the various groups of peoples massed together over the face of the earth, that one's attention is actually directed to what is living and working in each of the separate groups, in particular among the Anglo-American peoples, among the peoples of what is properly Europe, and among the peoples of the East. And we have seen that the aptitude for founding a cosmogony suited to the new age is to be found pre-eminently among the Anglo- American peoples, — the faculty for developing the idea of freedom, amongst the peoples of Europe, whilst that for developing the impulse of altruism, the religious impulse with all that it connotes by way of human brotherhood, is to be found amongst the population of the East. There is no other way in which a new civilisation can be founded than by making it possible hereafter for man, all the world over, to work together in real co-operation. But, my dear friends, in order that this may be possible, in order that any such real co-operation may be possible, several things are necessary. It Is necessary to recognise, dispassionately and as a matter of fact, how much our present civilisation lacks, and how strong the forces of decline in this present civilisation are. When one considers the forces present in our civilisation, one cannot say: “It is altogether bad;” that is not the way to look at it; in the first place, it would be an unhistoric point of view; in the second place, it could lead to nothing positive. The impulses that reside in our civilisation were, in some age, and in some place, justified. But everything that in the historic course of mankind's evolution leads to ruin, leads to ruin for the very reason that something which has a rightful title in one age and one place has been passed on to another age and another place, and because men, from various Ahrimanic and Luciferic motives, cling to whatever they have grown accustomed to, and are not ready to join in with that actual forward movement which the whole cosmic order requires.

Our age prides itself on being a scientific one. And, at bottom, it is from this, its scientific character, that the great social errors and perversions of the age proceed. That is why it is so imperative that the light should shine in upon our whole life of thought and action, inasmuch as the activities of modern times are entirely dependent on the modern system of thought. We noticed yesterday, in the general survey into which we were led, how the collective civilisation of the earth was made up of a scientific civilisation, a political civilisation tending towards freedom, and of an altruistic economic civilisation that really is derived from the altruistic religious element.

People nowadays, — as I said before, yesterday, — when they consider the forces actually at work in our social structure, remain on the surface of things; they are not willing to penetrate deeper. The lectures in our class-rooms teach what professes to pass for economic wisdom, drawn from the natural science methods of the present day; but what lives in men, and what stirs the minds and the being of men, — that is regarded as a sort of unappetising stew. No attention is paid to what are really its true features.

Let us turn first to the civilisation of Europe. What is the pre-eminent trait of this European civilisation? If one follows up this trait of European civilisation, one finds that one has to go a long way back in order to understand it. One has to form a clear idea of how, out of the ancient primal impulses of the original Celtic population, which still really lies at the base of our European life and being, there gradually grew up, by admixture with the various later strata of peoples, our present European population, with all its religious, political, economic and scientific tendencies. In Europe, in contradistinction to America on the West and Asia on the East, — in Europe a certain intellectual strain was always predominant. Romanism — all that I Indicated yesterday as the specifically Roman element — could never have so got the upper hand, unless intellectualism had been a radical feature of European civilisation. Now there are two things peculiar to intellectualism. In the first place, it never can rouse Itself to make a clean sweep of the religious impulses within it. Religious impulses always acquire an abstract character under the influence of intellectualism. Nor can intellectualism ever really find the energy for grappling with questions of practical economics. The experiments now being carried out in Russia will hereafter show how incapable European intellectualism is of introducing order into the world of economics, of industry. What Leninism is shaping is nothing hut unadulterated intellectualism. It is all reasoned out; an order of society built up by thought alone. And they are attempting the experiment of propping up this brain spun communal system upon the actual conditions prevailing amongst men. Time will show — and very terribly — how impossible it is to prop up a piece of intellectual reasoning upon a human social edifice.

But these things are what people to-day refuse as yet to recognise in all their full force. There is unquestionably among the population of Europe this alarming trait, this sleepiness, this inability to throw the whole man into the stream so needed to permeate the social life of Europe. But the thing that above all others must be recognised is the source from which our European civilisation is fed, — whence this European civilisation is, at bottom, derived. Of itself, of its own proper nature, European civilisation has only produced a form of culture that is intellectual, a thought-culture. Prosaicness and aridity of thought dominate our science and our social institutions.

For many, many years, we have suffered from this intellectualism in the parliaments of Europe. If people could but feel how the parliaments of Europe have been pervaded by the intellectualist, utilitarian attitude, by this element that can never soar above the ground, that lacks the energy for any religious impulse, that lacks the energy for any sort of economic impulse! As for our religious life, just think how we came by it. The whole history of the introduction and spread of this religious life in Europe goes to show that Europe, within herself, had no religious impulses. Just think, how flat and dull the world was, how interminably flat and dull — prosaic to the excess at the time of the expansion of the Roman Empire. Yet that was only the beginning of it. Just conceive what Europe would have become if Roman civilisation in all its flat prosaicness had gone on without the impulse that came over from the Asiatic East, and which was religious, Christian, — what it would have been without the Christian impulse, which sprang from the p lap of the East, which could only spring from the lap of the East, never from that of Europe. The religious impulse was taken over as a wave of culture, of civilisation, from the East. The first and the only thing Europe did was to cram this religious impulse, that came over from the East, with the concepts of Roman law, thread this Eastern impulse through and through with bald, abstract, intellectualist, legal forms.

But this religious impulse from the East was, at bottom, alien to the life of Europe, and remained alien to it. It never completely amalgamated with the being of Europe. And Protestantism acted in a most remarkable way as what I might call a test-tube, in which they separated out. It is «just like watching two substances separating out from one another in a test-tube, to watch how European civilisation reacted with respect to its religious element. In the seventh, in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth centuries a kind of experiment was being made to combine religious feeling and sentiment with scientific and economic thought into one homogeneous substance; and then, actually, just as two substances react in a test-tube and separate out, so these two separated out, — the cold intellectualist thought and the religious impulse fell apart and deposited Protestantism, Lutheranism. Science on the one side, one truth; on the other side the rival truth, Faith. And the two shall mix no further. If anyone tries to saturate the substance of Faith with the substance of Thought, or to warm the substance of Thought with the substance of Faith, the experiment is regarded as downright sacrilege. And then, as the climax of all that was cold and dreary, came the Konigsberg-Kant-school with its Critique of Pure Reason alongside its Critique of Applied Reason — Ethics alongside Science, — making a most terrible gulf between what in man's nature must be felt and lived as a single whole. These are the conditions under which European civilisation still exists. And these are the conditions under which European civilisation will be brought ever nearer and nearer to its downfall. It was as an alien element from the East that Europe adopted the religious impulse, and it has never combined organically with the rest of her spiritual and physical life. So much with regard to the spiritual life of Europe.

You see, my dear friends, the progress of modern civilisation has had Its praises sung long enough. They have gone on singing its praises until millions of human beings in this civilised world have been done to death, and three times as many maimed for life. It has been blessed in unctuous phrases from the pulpits of the churches, till untold blood has been shed. Every lecturer's desk has sounded the praises of this progress, until this progress has ended in its own annihilation. There can be no cure before we look these things straight in the face. And to-day, people of the Lenin type and others come and beat their brains over socialist systems and economic systems, and fancy that with these concepts which have long since proved inadequate to direct European civilisation, they can now, without any new concepts, without any revolution of thought, effect a reform in our economic system, in our system of society.

I think I have here, once before, spoken of the beautiful concepts that our learned professors arrive at when they are dealing with these subjects. But it is so beautiful that I must really come back to it once more. There is a well-known political economist called Brentano, Lujo Brentano. Not long ago an article appeared by him, entitled: “The Business Director (Der Unternehmer).” In it Brentano tries to construct the concept of the Business Director the Capitalist Director. He enumerates the various distinctive marks of the capitalist director. The third of these distinctive marks, as given by Lujo Brentano, is this: That he expends the means of production at his private venture, at his own risk, in the service of mankind. Mark of the capitalist director! Then that excellent Brentano goes on to examine the function of the Worker, of the ordinary Labourer, in social life; and now, see what he says: That the labour-power, the physical labour-power of the labourer is the labourer's means of production; he expends it at his own venture and risk in the service of the community. Therefore, the labourer is a Business Director (Untemahmer); there is absolutely no difference between a labourer and a business director; they are both one and the same thing! You see, what they nowadays call scientific thought has by now got into such a muddle that when people are constructing concepts, they are no longer able to distinguish between two opposite poles. It is not quite so obvious here, perhaps, as in another case of a Professor of Philosophy at Berne, one of whose specialities was that he wrote such an awful lot of books, and had to write them so awfully fast, that he had not time to consider exactly what it was he was writing. However, he lectured on philosophy at the Berne University. And in one of the books by this Professor of Philosophy at Berne, this statement occurs: — A civilisation can only he evolved in the temperate zone; for at the North Pole it cannot be evolved, there it would be frozen up; nor could it be evolved at the South Pole, for there the opposite would occur, it would be burnt up! That is actually the fact. A regular Professor of Philosophy did once write in a book that it is cold at the North Pole and hot at the South Pole, because he was writing so fast that he had no time to consider what he was writing.

Well, that excellent Brentano's blunders in political economy are not quite so readily perceived; but at bottom they proceed from just the same surface view of things, from which so much in Europe has proceeded. People take for granted what already exists, and starting from this, proceed to build up their whole system of concepts just on what exists already. That is what they learn from natural science, from the natural science methods. This is how the science institutes do it; and in our day, — the age when people set no store by authority and take nothing on faith, (of course not!) — that is what they obediently copy. For nowadays, if a man is an Authority, that is sufficient reason for what he says being true, — not a reason for turning to his truth because one sees it to be true, but because he is an Authority. And people regard economic facts, too, in this way. They regard economic facts as being all exactly on a par with one another. Whereas, as a matter of fact, they are made up of mixed elements, each of which requires individual consideration.

Diagram 1 The current of religious impulse had come from the East into European civilisation; and for the economic structure of Europe something again different was needed. The approach of the Fifth post-Atlantean age was also the time for the irruption of those events which set their stamp upon the whole civilisation of the new age and gave to it its special physiognomy. The discovery of America, the finding of a sea-route round the Cape of Good Hope to India, to the East-Indies, — this set its stamp on the civilisation of the new age. It is impossible to study the whole economic evolution of Europe by Itself alone. It is absurd to believe that from the study of existing economic facts one can thereby arrive at the economic laws that sway the common life of Europe. In order to arrive at these laws, one must bear constantly in mind that Europe was able to shift any amount off on to America. The whole social structure of Europe has only grown up owing to the fact that there was an unfailing supply of virgin soil in America, and that everything flung off from Europe passed Westwards into this virgin soil. Just as she had drawn her religions impulse from the East, so she sent forth an economic impulse towards the West. And the whole system of industrial economy peculiar to Europe was conditioned by this Westward outflowing, just as her spiritual life was developed under the inflow of the religious impulse from the East. European life, the whole course of the rise of European civilisation, has gone on through the centuries until now, under the Influence of these two currents. Here, in the middle, was European civilisation; here from the East came the religious impulse pouring in; here, in a westward stream, the economic impulse, pouring out. — Inflow of the religious impulse from the East, outflow of the economic impulse towards the West. Now this, you see, towards the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries reached a sold, of crisis. There came a gradual stoppage. Things no longer went on the same as they had been going for four centuries. And to-day we are still lining in this stoppage and are affected by it. The religious impulse came in as an alien and brought forth our spiritual life. And our economic life came about under a process of being continually drawn off and weakened. If America had not been there, and if our industrial economy had been obliged to grow up solely according to its own principles, — had it not been able continually to fling off what it could not assimilate, — then it could never have developed at all in Europe. Now there is a stoppage; and accordingly, an outlet must be found within. It Is from within that the way must be found to lead off into the right channel what no longer can go on externally in space. It must be done by bringing about the threefold social order. What has been mixed together in inorganic confusion must be combined into an actual organism. There is not one reason, there is every conceivable reason for the adoption of the threefold social order, — scientific reasons, economic reasons, historic reasons. And only he can fully appreciate the claims of the threefold social order, who is in a position to survey all these various grounds on which it rests.

That is a thing that one would so like to tell the people of the present day; for people of the present day suffer under a poverty of concepts that has grown positively alarming. This poverty of concepts is really such that anyone who has got any feeling for ideas finds to-day that quite a small number of ideas dominate our spiritual life, and they meet him at every turn. If anyone is hunting for ideas, this is what he finds; he takes up a work on Physics; it contains a certain limited number of ideas. Next, he studies, say, a work on Geology; there he finds fresh facts, but precisely the same ideas. Then he studies a biological work; there he finds fresh facts, but the same ideas. He reads a book on Psychology, dealing with the life of the soul. There he finds more facts, which really only consist of words, for they only know the soul really as a collection of words. When they talk of the will, there is a word there; but of the actual will itself they know nothing. When they talk of Thought they know nothing of real thinking; for people still only think in words. Nor do they know anything of feeling. The whole field of Psychology is to-day just a game of words, in which words are shaken up together in every conceivable kind of way. Just as the bits in a kaleidoscope combine into all sorts of different patterns, so it is with our concepts. They are jumbled up together into various sciences; but the total number of ideas is quite a small one, and keeps meeting one again and again. These ideas are forcibly fitted on to the facts. And people have no desire to find the concepts that fit the facts, to examine into the ideas that fit the facts. People simply do not notice things.

In a certain town in Central Europe, not long ago, there was a conference of Radical Socialists. These Radical Socialists were engaged in planning out a form of society suitable for adoption in Europe. The form of society as there planned by them was almost identical with what you can read in a collection of articles that appeared in the “Basler Vorwärts” of this week, — a series of articles in the Basel “Vorwärts,” putting forward in outline a scheme of society almost identical with what was thought out some time back in a Mid-European town. And what is the special feature of this scheme of society as planned out there? People think it very clever, of course. They think that it cannot be improved on.

But it is what it is, solely for the reason that it was drawn up by men who, as a matter of fact, had never really had anything to do with industrial and economic life, who had never acquired any practical acquaintance with the real sources and mainsprings of industrial and economic life. It was a scheme invented by men who have taken an active part in the political life of recent years. Well, you know what taking an active part in the political life of recent years means, — one was either elector or elected; one was elected either -in the first ballot, or in the second ballot. Say that one did not succeed in getting elected in the first ballot. Well, one had raised those huge sums of money, of course, subscriptions had been collected, and the huge sum raised, in order that one might have enough voters to get elected. The money was all spent; one had vented a terrible lot of abuse on the rival candidate the fellow was a fool, a knave and a cheat, If nothing worse. And came the second ballot. So far, no one had got an absolute majority, and now it was a question of electing one of those who had had proportional majorities. Now there was a change in the proceedings. Now, one-third of the election money was returned by one's opponent, — the same who was a fool, knave, cheat, etc. One accepted the returned money, and all of a sudden one's speeches took a different tone; there is nothing for it, one said, but to elect the man (the man who before was a knave, fool, cheat, etc), — he will have to be elected. After all, one had got back a third of the election money, and, inspired by this return of a third of the election money, one was gradually converted into his active supporter. For, after all, one of the two must be elected; the other man had no chance; all that could be done was to save a third of the election expenses.

So they had taken an active part in political life. So, too, no doubt, they had had a voice in the political administrations, but they had no notion, not the remotest, vaguest notion, of industrial and economic life. They simply took the political ideas they had acquired, — ideas that had, of course, become much corrupted, but still they were political ideas of a sort, — and they tried now • to fit them on to industrial and economic life. And accordingly, if these ideas were put into effect, one would get an industrial and economic life organised on purely political lines. Industrial economic organisation has already become confounded with political organisation, — so impossible has it become for people to keep apart things that have become so welded, so wedged together. But the time has come when it is urgently necessary to carry into many, many places an insight into what really exists. And that is a thing for which people to-day show no zeal.

There is nothing to be expected from the influence of a civilisation which never contemplates external reality, — which wants to bind external reality to a couple of hard and fast concepts; nor need one hope with this little set of concepts to draw near to that true reality which is the business of anthroposophical science to discover. For it is this true reality that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy has to seek and find. Therefore, the spiritual science of Anthroposophy must not be taken after the pattern of what people were often pleased to call “religious persuasions.”

That, you see was what one suffered from so terribly in the course of the old Theosophic movement. What more was the old Theosophic movement than just that people wanted a sort of select religion? It consisted in no new impulse proceeding from the civilisation of Europe itself. It consisted merely in emotions, which were to be had out of the old religious element just as well. Only people had grown tired of these old religious concepts and ideas and feelings, and so had taken up something else. But the same atmosphere pervaded it as pervaded the old persuasion. They wanted to feel good, with an evangelical sort of goodness 4f they had been evangelicals, or with a catholic kind of goodness if they had been Catholics; but they did not at bottom want the thing really needed, namely, an actual new religious impulse along with other impulses, because the life of the European peoples has grown up habituated to an alien religious impulse, that of Asia. That is the point. And until those things are organically interwoven that were inorganically intermixed, — till then, European civilisation will not rise again. It cannot be taken too seriously; it must pervade everything that is going to live in science, in economic, in religion, in political life.

We will speak more of this, then, to-morrow. To-morrow the eurhythmic performance takes place here at 5 o'clock. Then, after the necessary interval, that is, I take It, about half past seven to-morrow, there will be the lecture.




Last Modified: 12-Apr-2018
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