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Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms

Social Forms: Lecture IX

Lecture IX

Dornach, August 27, 1920

A hundred-fifty years ago today Hegel was born in Stuttgart, and when we recall this fact today, we should be spontaneously filled with a feeling for the tremendous change and transformation the times have undergone since the birth of this individual whose spirit was so extraordinarily characteristic of the whole of modern civilization. In a sense, Hegel does embody the essence of the Central European cultural life, which, subsequent to his influence, has changed so considerably. Having played a certain role in Central Europe, this cultural life is just about beginning to disappear from this region.

Hegel was born in Stuttgart, in Swabia; he spent his maturing years of development of his particular spiritual character in middle Germany. In the last period of his life, he was a personality of great consequence in northern Germany, where he was particularly influential in public education, but also in a number of other cultural concerns of that region. Born on August 27, 1770, having developed slowly because of a certain sluggish mentality, Hegel attended the University of Tuebingen where he studied theology. Above all else, he made the acquaintance of the much more mentally mobile and quick, young Schelling. Note 70 ] He also became acquainted with Hoelderlin, Note 71 ] who, one might say, transposed the melancholic sentiments of ancient Greece into modern times. In close relationship with these two, Hegel spent his years of study in Tuebingen. Then, like Schelling, he turned to middle Germany, to the University of Jena in Thuringia, where, again like Schelling, attracted to the personality of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, he made his first attempts at working out his own ideas of a world view. He taught at the University until 1806. In that year, while Napoleon's cannons thundered around Jena, he concluded his first sizable independent work, his Phenomenology of the Spirit. This work contains the attempt to re-experience in thoughts all that human consciousness can experience — from the dimmest impressions of the world to that mental clarity in which the human being experiences the world of ideas with such intensity that this ideal world itself appears to him as the very substance of spirit. One could say that this Phenomenology of the Spirit is something like a world tour of the spirit.

The difficult conditions in Germany at that time brought an end to Hegel's position at the University of Jena. Yet he continued to remain in middle Germany, and for the next year or so edited a political newspaper in Bamberg. Then he was principal of a secondary school in Nuremberg, until he took a position as professor at the University of Heidelberg for a few years. During his years in Nuremberg, Hegel completed his most important work, Science of Logic. In Heidelberg, he wrote his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. Then he was called to the University of Berlin, which had been founded on the spirit of Fichte and Humboldt. There, his activity expanded in influence and authority to cover the entire educational system then being administered from Berlin, as well as other matters of cultural importance.

Hegel was a strange personality even in outward appearance when he lectured. Before him were the written pages of his manuscript, which, so it seems, were always in disarray so that he was constantly turning and searching among his pages. He was somewhat awkward in his presentation and laborious in his delivery. While he was lecturing, the thought within him worked out of deep substrata of the soul, forming itself only with great difficulty into a word, which then issued forth as if in a stuttering, disjointed manner. Yet, his lecture, which reached its audience in this way as if constantly interrupting itself, is supposed to have made an extraordinarily grand impression on those who were capable of appreciating such a personality. In other ways, too, Hegel had remarkable personal qualities. He truly entered into and familiarized himself with the whole structure of the environment in which he happened to find himself. Thus, one can observe how he actually outgrew the Swabian milieu. One can see that he retained within himself the Swabian spirit with all its special characteristic features until he went to Switzerland and Frankfurt/Main — he spent some time as a private tutor in both Switzerland and Frankfurt after graduating from the university — where he again merged relatively quickly with the life of his new surroundings.

Then he moved to Jena, where Fichte's fiery spirit operated, where, above all else, there existed something like a concentrated summation of the entire cultural essence of Central Europe — a time of which people today can scarcely form a picture. It was indeed so that when Fichte presented his expositions in the university auditorium, which, in his characteristic manner, were on a high spiritual, yet nevertheless abstract level, these discourses were continued and carried on in debates right out into the streets and squares of Jena. In very truth, a lecture by Fichte was not merely a discussion pertaining to questions of one or another kind, but an event. It was an event also in this respect, that at that time, from all around Jena, individuals in need of a world outlook came to hear Fichte speak. One who reads the correspondence, of which there is a great deal, in which people tell of hearing Fichte in Jena, will again and again come across passages testifying to Fichte's tremendous spiritual influence. Indeed, long after Fichte had died, decades later, people who had heard him in Jena still spoke of the great influence he had upon their soul life. The philosophical fire-spirit, Schelling, was stimulated by what flowed as the power of spirit into the world; the more ponderous Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel was motivated as well, and joined forces with Schelling to develop Fichte's philosophy further. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Schelling and Hegel published the Critical Journal of Philosophy in Jena. Its articles certainly stood on the highest levels of abstract philosophical thinking, but in such a manner that one sees how these utterances, couched in thin abstractions, concern themselves — as though welling up straight from the human heart — with those affairs of human life and the world that have always been the high points of all striving for a world concept. Following this, Hegel worked his way to a certain independence, and in 1806 wrote his Phenomenology of the Spirit, which, however, is actually a phenomenology of consciousness.

As I said, Hegel always stood completely within his milieu. The riddles of his surroundings worked deep within him. Just as the Swabian spirit with its depth, as found in a few select Swabians, was so strongly revealed in Hegel's youth, so was this whole spirit of philosophy, comprising in concentrated form the whole new cultural striving, that took hold of him in Jena at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was out of this philosophical spirit that he wrote and taught, a spirit which was always nourished, and increasingly maintained, however, by an overview of the general world condition.

Out of this spirit, too, arose Hegel's Logic — no ordinary logic, but something entirely different. It was written in the second decade of the nineteenth century. One is moved to say that the most singular of all kinds of human striving on the highest level manifests itself in this Hegelian logic.

To Hegel, logic was something akin to a summation of what Hellenism, in a manner somewhat different from Hegel's, understood as logos or universal reason. During the profound inner experience that Hegel underwent while working out his Phenomenology of the Spirit, he began to feel strongly that if man works himself up to the intensive experience of the “idea,” hence the ideas of the world, then this experiencing of the “idea” is no longer a mere thought experience but one of the divine cosmic element in all its truth, purity, and light-filled clarity. Something that had pulsed for centuries in the minds and souls of Central Europe came into inner soul existence at that time in Hegel. One need only recall the deep mysticism of Meister Eckhart, of Johannes Tauler. Recently, we have become acquainted with this mysticism from another side; yet it nevertheless remains profound — for the experience remains the same, after all, even if one is familiar with the deeper occult foundations of which I spoke here a few days ago. Note 72 ] One need only think of this mystical experience that became an inner revelation, as in Valentin Weigel, even in Paracelsus or in Jacob Boehme. One need only transform for oneself into the bright, light-filled clarity of universal ideas what minds such as Meister Eckhart or Johannes Tauler experienced more out of intense feeling than something abstract, what Jacob Boehme set out in images through inner experience, hence replacing the mysticism of feeling and imagery with the mysticism of ideas; then one has the experience that was Hegel's when he wrote his Logic. It was the soul's surrender to pure ideas, but in the conviction that these ideas are the very substance of the universe. It was a dwelling in something that Nietzsche later called the cold, icy realm of ideas. To Hegel, on the other hand, this was accompanied by the awareness that such an experience of the ideas was a dialogue with the cosmic spirit itself.

What Hegel experienced, not in a vaguely defined unity of the world, not in such vague concepts as those produced by the Pantheists, but in concrete ideas that were followed through from simple “existence” all the way to the fully saturated “idea of the organism” and the “spirit,” what can be experienced to the full extent of the developed world of ideas, this Hegel summed up in his Logic. Thus, it is the intent in his Logic to present a structure of those ideas attainable for the human being, ideas which, as man experiences them, simultaneously demonstrate the certainty that they are of the same element by which the universal spirit allows reality to come into being. This is why Hegel called the contents of his Logic the divinity prior to the creation of the world. Yet, icy is the region in which a person finds himself who studies Hegel's Logic; this is because Hegel moves entirely in what the ordinary person calls the uttermost abstraction. He begins by presenting “being” as the simplest idea; then he passes over to “nothingness”; proceeds dialectically from “being” through “nothingness” to “becoming,” to “existence,” and on to “causality.” One does not gain from this what the ordinary person wants when he wishes to be filled inwardly in his soul with divine cosmic warmth. Instead, one receives what in ordinary life would be called a sum of abstract ideas.

What is this Logic? When it is really contemplated, this Logic becomes an experience; it even turns into an experience that can give a person much information about many a secret of humanity and the world in general. One is induced to say that what is experienced through Hegel's Logic can really only be characterized by means of spiritual science. It is only through spiritual science that one finds words to characterize this experience. This is a remarkable discovery. Hegel's pupil, Rosenkranz, Note 73 ] who was devoted to his master, has presented us with a biography of Hegel, written not only in a kindly but also a spirited manner. In it, he uses words that are, I might say, in a certain respect significant for the events of that time. It was around the mid-forties of the nineteenth century that he said, “We are actually the grave diggers of the great philosophers.” Rosenkranz then lists the great philosophers who rose from European civilization during the period near the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century, and how they actually died within that same period. One experiences a melancholy feeling when reading this passage in Rosenkranz's biography of Hegel, for something very true has been expressed. As this nineteenth century advanced step by step, it became the grave digger not only of the philosophers but of philosophy itself, indeed, of the profound questions dealing with world concepts. The decay of European civilization, now approaching us with giant strides, first announced itself in the lofty regions of philosophy. The presumptuous philosophical systems of the second half of the nineteenth century are at bottom expressions of decline.

On the basis of spiritual science, on the other hand, one cannot speak as did Rosenkranz; based on spiritual science, I would say that even what is outwardly, physically dead must also come to life. For what is eternal in the human being works on eternally, on one side in super-sensible worlds, but on the other side also in the earthly realm itself; and if it falls to the impulses of decline to have grave diggers, it is up to spiritual science to seek out what is eternally alive soul essence in what is dead and to place it before the world in its ever continuing life. Therefore, I would like to speak today not of the dead but of the living Hegel.

To be sure, however, living personalities of Hegel's kind also become, in a certain sense, sharp critics of what — partly from indolence of soul, partly from sheer bad will — presently forms an alliance with the powers of decadence. Therefore, from the spiritual-scientific standpoint, I must say: Yes, it is true that Hegel's logical dialectic runs its course in the cold, icy realm of what at first seem to be abstract concepts. To experience Hegel's Logic actually means finding oneself dwelling in a multitude of concepts, which a thoughtless person does not care for, about which the thoughtless man would say, “That does not interest me.” But this conceptual world of Hegel's, this sum of apparent abstractions, these icy, cold concepts, what exactly are they? One can investigate what these concepts are, particularly through what spiritual science offers us. There is no doubt that they cannot be eternal universal reason itself, for universal reason could never have created from this sum of pure abstractions the entire multiform and, above all, warmth-pervaded world of ours. These logical concepts, these logical ideas, seem like transparent conceptual veils; indeed, Hegel himself calls his logical ideas shadow images.

Therefore, what Hegel initially experienced in this logic is, of course, something that it cannot be. It is a sum of ideas that begin with “being,” pass from “nothingness” to “becoming,” and so on through many such concepts, ending with the “idea bearing its own purpose within itself ” — therefore, concluding with what ordinary consciousness would also still call an abstraction. It is certain then that the world could not have been created out of such ideas; nor is this logic to be viewed as the living spirit, that is, what must be grasped in supersensory perception as living spirit. Indeed, I would say, it is out of an admittedly subjective feeling that Hegel declares that the contents of this logic are the thoughts of God prior to the world's creation. Out of these thoughts, one could never in any way comprehend the rich abundance of the created world. And yet, if one allows oneself to go into these thoughts, the experience is a strong and powerful one. What exactly is it then that is contained in this logic?

Look at our building here. Note 74 ] It is intended to have as the central group in the middle of the eastern end a kind of Christ figure, with Lucifer rising above it, and below Ahriman, as though being thrust into the earth by the Representative of Humanity, who inwardly preserves complete balance of soul. The intention is to represent the full human condition in this group. In reality, man is, after all, that being who must seek the balance between what tries to rise above the human being and what draws him down into the ground — the balance between the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic nature. Physiologically, physically speaking, the Luciferic force is that element in us which brings about fever, pleurisy, which brings man into conditions of warmth that tend to dissolve him, cause him to be dissipated in the world; the Ahrimanic force brings about ossification, calcification. Speaking of the soul level, man is the entity who must seek the equilibrium, on the one hand, between rapturous mysticism — between theory, between all that strives to the insubstantial but nevertheless light-irradiated realm — and what pulls him down, on the other hand, to the pedantic, philistine, materialistic and intellectualistic sphere. Spiritually speaking, man must hold the balance between the Luciferic force always wishing to lull him to sleep, always tempting him to yield himself up to the universal all, and the Ahrimanic force that shocks him awake again and again, striking through him with a violence that does not let him sleep. One does not comprehend the nature of the human being if one cannot place it in the middle between the Luciferic and the Ahrimanic force.

Yet, the experience of the human soul at this middle point is a complicated one; the soul can only fully experience this complexity in its development in the course of time, and one must understand each of the successive stages of this development. One can say that whoever understands Hegel and the way he elaborated his Logic can see how, at that time, in the second decade of the nineteenth century, mankind began to calcify, to become materialistic, to densify inwardly, to become entangled in matter. In the realm of knowledge and perception, this age gives the impression of sinking down into matter. As in a picture, humanity appears to be sinking into the material element, with Hegel standing in the center, working himself out of it with all his might and snatching away from Ahriman what he has that is good, namely, the abstract logic that we need for our inner liberation, without which we will not achieve pure thinking. Hegel wrests this logic from the powers of gravity, from the terrestrial powers, presenting it in all its cold abstractness, so that it may not live in the Ahrimanic element dwelling in man, but can rise into human thinking. Yes, this Hegelian logic is wrested from the Ahrimanic powers, torn free from them and bestowed on humanity. This is what mankind needs and without which it cannot progress — which, however, had first to be rescued from Ahriman.

Thus, Hegelian logic actually remains something eternal; thus it must continue to be effective. It must ever and again be sought for. We cannot do without it. If we try to manage without it, we either fall back into the nebulous softness of “Schleiermacherei,” Translator's Note A ] or we founder in what people immediately became enmeshed in when they have approached Hegel without being able to grasp him. For there appears on the one side the image of Hegel, who Lifts himself out of Ahriman's realm, who rescues from Ahriman what, as pure logic, has to be saved for mankind, actually has to be saved for human thinking. On the other side, there arises the image of Karl Marx, who also orients himself on Hegel, taking up Hegel's thinking, but is gripped by Ahriman's claws and dragged into the lowest depths of the material bog — who by Hegel's method arrives at historical materialism. Here, we cannot help but see, side by side, the upward striving spirit, snatching the logic away from Ahriman, because, with this logic, one must truly keep oneself upright by means of all one's inner human soul forces, and the one who, with this logic, sinks into the Ahrimanic morass.

Hegel actually appears as a spirit that can be understood only if one tries to comprehend him with the concepts which only spiritual science can supply. This is what Hegel became through the influence brought to bear on him by Fichte's fiery words in Jena, the essence of which he then formulated in his way, during his subsequent sojourns in Bamberg, Nuremberg and Heidelberg.

Subsequently, he was transferred to northern Germany. He always experienced fully what his surroundings contained. In a humanly personal manner, his inner life awakened to what was around him. Thus he became the influential genius of the University of Berlin. Now the world experienced through him that work which he had to create out of the very middle of the modern civilized world if he was truly a spirit fully belonging to this middle. In the last few weeks, we have, after all, been characterizing the East, the Middle, and the West. We have found that it is the economic thinking that flourishes particularly in the West; in the East, spiritual thinking flourished; in the Middle, the legal, political element has chiefly raised itself to a special flowering. Fichte has written a work dealing with natural law. The most enlightened minds occupied themselves with ideas concerning human rights. It was just at the time of his move to northern Germany that Hegel gave the world his Basic Principles of the Philosophy of Rights or Natural Rights and Science of the State in Outline. Everything that could be termed a defamation of Hegel was due chiefly to this book, which contains the remarkable sentence: “Everything reasonable is real, and everything real is reasonable.” Note 75 ]

Whoever can appreciate that it was Hegel who wrested human reason from the clutches of the Ahrimanic powers will also recognize his right to search it out, and to make it effectual throughout the world. Thus, because his field of action was the Ahrimanic which cannot lead a person upward to what lies before birth or into what is active after death, Hegel became an interpreter of spirituality, but only of the physical, earthly one; he turned into a philosopher of natural science and history. Yet he depicted what dwells in the external world in the relation of man to man and which then develops systematically as organized human life. This he summed up in his concept of “objective spirit.” In the expression of rights, in morality, in the implementation of treaties and so forth, he beheld the spirit active in the social organization itself. Regarding these matters, he stood completely within not only the spatial, but also the temporal milieu. It was not yet the trend of that time, particularly in the area where Hegel lived, to worship the state as much as was the case later on. Therefore, it is incorrect to view the concept of the state appearing in Hegel's writing in the same light as must be done in regard to later times. Within his structure of the state, for example, Hegel still acknowledged free corporations, a corporate life. All the antihuman elements that made their appearance later in the Prussian realm were not yet in evidence when Hegel, one might say, deified the idea of the state in Prussia of all places; but this grew out of his attempt to see at work in the world that reason which he had wrested from Ahriman through his logic.

Thus, we cannot help but say that this is basically the tragedy that has since been enacted historically in such a shocking way. The element living in Middle Europe is indeed something we must not regard in the same way as do Western eyes, particularly since the mendacities of recent years. It is something best characterized by the fact that, even now, it gives the impression to a mind such as Oswald Spengler's that the only social salvation for the impending age of decline must come through Central Europe, not in order to counteract the decline — Spengler does not believe in such counteraction — but merely to make the decline that will take place tolerable, until, in the beginning of the next millennium, total barbarism supposedly will come into being.

One can say that in the twenties of the nineteenth century Hegel appears as the ruling spirit governing the whole realm of Prussian education; he stands there with the kind of reasonableness I have just characterized for you. It is a reasonableness that is born, as it were, out of the ice of Ahriman, but it also possesses in its spirit structure something of an inner firmness, having nothing mathematical about it, yet containing a tremendous force, an element of fine spirituality.

Now, one has to understand that what was present as the special element of Central Europe has to be characterized also from this aspect: that right into the ninth century its lack of culture still included the practice of blood sacrifice. This showed characteristics that have a certain value when taken up by such a spirit as Hegel's. Such a spirituality, however, is rare, it does not repeat itself. Hegel's students were basically all small minds, and the one who, in a certain respect, was a great mind, Karl Marx, quickly succumbed to the Ahrimanic powers. The element which then gained ground was the very one that precipitated the plunge into the Ahrimanic abyss.

Hegel salvaged something from what plunged into this abyss — something that must be eternal, something he could only salvage because it was saved from just this element. It was necessary that this be done by a person whose soul essence was of the very being of Middle Europe. This was the case with Hegel. He was Swabian by birth and by virtue of the region of his youth: middle German, Franconian and Thuringian in respect to his maturation; and he was so pronouncedly Prussian in the final period of his life that he experienced Prussia as the center of the world, with Berlin as the very center of this world center.

There is a certain inherent force in Hegelianism, truly not a physical force but a different one, namely a spiritual force; Hegelianism contains something that must be taken up by every spiritual world view. For any spiritual science would have to become rachitic if it could not be permeated by the skeletal system of ideas which Hegel wrested from the ossifying grip of Ahriman. We need this system to become inwardly strong in a certain manner. We have need of this sober thoughtfulness if, in our spiritual endeavors, we wish to avoid the degeneracy of nebulous, cozy mysticism. We also need the force that lived in Hegel; we require the force of his creed of reason, if we do not wish to sink into what Karl Marx directly succumbed to when he tried independently to work himself into Hegel's mentality.

It would really be necessary at this point in time — which is perhaps one of the most important moments, more important even than 1914 — that as many people as possible recall this significant element in Hegel. For a true recognition, especially of Hegel, could bring about a certain awakening of soul. And an awakening is needed! No one believes, no one wishes to believe, what dangers are actually at work in European civilization and its American appendage; one does not wish to believe what forces of decline prevail. In public life today, only the forces of decline are taken into account. No one wishes to perceive, to feel the uplifting forces. Let us focus on single characteristic things that just recently may have caught our attention. What thoughts are harbored, for instance, in the attitude becoming prevalent now in the civilized world in regard to the traditional spiritual life? I am not referring to our spiritual life, for we intend to bring a new spirit into humanity's civilization. What are the thoughts in the attitude of mind now growing and spreading in relation to the life of the spirit? You can find such thoughts in a recent article Note 76 ] written by the rector of the University of Halle for the Hallischen Nachrichten under the title, “Gradual Abolition of the Universities.” He states:

At least this much appears certain, namely, that a government agency has actually put forward the suggestion to close down a part of the German universities. Other educational tasks are held to be more important, and it is believed that greater financial resources have to be freed for them. Since these resources are unavailable, it is thought that a number of universities should be abolished in order to found a type of civil service school where persons who have not attended a university would be educated so that they could administer the official posts allotted to them.

So, civil service training begins! In Russia it is going at full speed. And the Western world pays no attention! They will have to pay bitter attention to it, however, if an awakening of souls does not take place, if even the best minds continually turn a deaf ear to all that refers to the spirit; and, for their own amusement, certainly not for the good of this world, they continue to entertain the world with the timeworn slogans of liberalism, conservatism, pacificism, and so on.

And particularly morality among our intellectuals is fast going downhill. Here is a small indication of it. But first, I must mention that when Ernst Haeckel retired from his professorship at Jena, he himself chose as his successor his pupil Plate, Note 77 ] who had recently arrived from Berlin. He installed him, so to speak, for Haeckel's voice really carried weight at the University of Jena at the time of his retirement. He installed Plate in all the responsible posts he had held: His professorship, his administration of the Zoological Institute and the Phyletic Museum, established for Haeckel himself on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday Note 78 ] by the Haeckel Foundation that had come into existence. It was from all this that Haeckel withdrew, installing in his place his pupil Plate. Now I would like to read you a news item Note 79 ] of a few days ago:

One year ago, eight days after Haeckel's death, an obituary notice in the Berliner Tageblatt by Dr. Adolf Heilborn made the first mention of the martyrdom inflicted on Haeckel during the last ten years of his life, as a result of the conduct of Professor Ludwig Plate. On April 1, 1909, Haeckel had relinquished the chair of zoology at Jena, which he had occupied for forty-eight years, and the directorship of the Zoological Institute and Phyletic Museum to his former pupil Ludwig Plate, for which the latter expressed his heartiest thanks to “his highly honored Excellency.” Upon settling down in his new positions, one of Plate's first official acts was to demand that Haeckel clear out his workroom in the Zoological Institute without delay. When Haeckel protested, Note 80 ] Plate's explanation was: “Since April 1, I have been sole director of the Phyletic Museum, and you are to comply without question to all my directions.” This prelude and the further developments of the conflict were related in simple words by Heilborn who was Haeckel's pupil and friend, with the result that Professor Ludwig Plate brought an action of libel against him at the District Court in Jena. Following this, Dr. Heilborn made public all the relevant facts in a small brochure, The Lear-Tragedy of Ernst Haeckel (Hoffman & Campe, Hamburg/Berlin 1920), based on Haeckel's unpublished letters and notes, and on official documents. Heilborn could make use of a turn of phrase that a witty advocate once used before the court: “I move for the condemnation of my respected Opponent on the same grounds which he himself has brought forward.” Nothing weighed more against Plate than his own remarks. From Haeckel, who had made endowments to the University of over a million marks, who had donated his large library and collections representing fifty-five years of work to it, Plate demanded the return of a-number of allegedly missing books, and at another time the return of a considerable number of cardboard boxes. Furthermore, Plate stated the following: “This grave injustice which has been done to me can never be erased; however, in recognition of his great services to science and because he is my former teacher, I shall forgive him.” — and “No one will hold it against me that after all these experiences I have broken off all personal contact with Haeckel.”

So much for Plate versus Haeckel. I am reminded of a lecture once given by Ottokar Lorenz, Note 81 ] one of the better historians of earlier times. I did not agree with its content, but one expression appealed to me that he used right at the beginning. At a Schiller jubilee, Ottokar Lorenz had to lecture on “Schiller as a Historian.” As I said, I did not agree with the content, but he said:

Indeed, from the standpoint of present-day science, there is actually nothing more to be said about Schiller as a historian. If I nevertheless do say something more, it will be on behalf of the High Senate and my honored colleagues.

The High Senate and the colleagues were all sitting there. Now follows what we could call a special declaration by the High Senate and the colleagues. For he says:

“ In the academic world of Jena, Plate stood quite alone.”

—I question whether he stood by himself when he came into the lecture hall!?

The anatomist Schwalbe once wrote: “It is unbelievable ... how Plate behaved. I am amazed that the students in Jena did not react. It would be a really good deed if they could make it too hot for him in Jena.”

Thus write the professors, the "honored colleagues," who thoroughly deplore that the students did not manage to torment Plate enough to make him leave Jena. These honored colleagues who write like this — in private letters, of course have, however, carefully avoided being unfriendly to Professor Plate when he enters the lecture hall.

Heinrich Heine once said that Lessing's opponents, due to their association with him, were preserved, like an insect in amber, from vanishing without a trace. Now it would be discourteous to apply this comparison to living persons, however well it would fit in a scientific context. We will therefore content ourselves with Heilborn's remark to the effect that nothing will remain of Plate's name and work except the sinister remembrance of the martyrdom that he inflicted on Haeckel.

One could cite a great many similar examples of academic morality, of the morality of the present-day intelligentsia. What comes to light thereby is that today we have to do not merely with the struggle of this or that world-view versus another; we are dealing today with the struggle of truth against the lie, and in this conflict it is the lie that directs its weapons against the truth. Today, truth's struggle against falsehood, which is extending its grip further and further on mankind, is more important than any dispute over other concepts.

It was perhaps thought to be exaggerated when, in a recent lecture, I said that the people of Europe are asleep. They will have to experience bitterly — I mentioned this in a different context — how the most extreme effect of the Western world concept is spreading in Bolshevism across all of Asia, and will be taken up by the people of Asia with the same fervor with which they received their sacred Brahman at one time. This will indeed happen, and modern civilization will have to face up to it. And one feels the deepest pain on seeing the sleeping souls in Europe, who fall so completely to evoke in their minds that real earnestness which is what matters today.

A few days after I had expressed this here, I came across the following news item:

Some days ago, I had the opportunity to take a look at a 10,000 ruble note in possession of a representative of the Soviet Republic. What astonished me was not so much its high denomination; rather, what struck me was that in the center the bank note bore a finely and clearly drawn swastika.

This symbol, which a Hindu or an ancient Egyptian once looked upon when he spoke of his sacred Brahman, is seen today on a 10,000 ruble note! In the strongholds of politics, people know how to influence human souls. One knows what the victorious advance of the swastika signifies, the sign which a great number of people in Central Europe are already wearing today — again based on other underlying reasons — one knows what it means. Yet one is unwilling to listen to something that seeks to interpret the secrets of today's historical developments out of the most important symptoms.

This interpretation, however, can proceed only out of what can come to light through spiritual science. One must take a good look at what is presently going on. One must focus on the tendency to devastation in regard to the established cultural life, the tendency that is seeking to transform even the vestiges of this old cultural life into schools for civil servants and bureaucratic machinery, and that has morally sunk down to a low point such as I described to you in regard to Herr Plate, who is Haeckel's closest pupil, the favorite pupil of that inwardly decent, good man, Haeckel! Haeckel did not do things like that; the Ahrimanic, materialistic culture does.

In this age — in which one knows how to proceed if one goes about it consciously — one should recall great minds such as Hegel, born 150 years ago in Stuttgart, who in an inner struggle of soul and spirit wrested from the Ahrimanic powers those concepts and ideas which are needed to acquire sufficient inner spiritual steadfastness for ascending the ladder into the spiritual world; but who also offers much else of inner spiritual discipline. Truly, through the way in which his ideas can be alive now, Hegel should be treasured on the part of spiritual science; and because of what can live of him today, let us commemorate him today, on this, his 150th birthday.

He died of cholera on November 14, 1831, in Berlin, on the anniversary of the death of Leibnitz, the great European philosopher. What he has left behind, has, to begin with, either been misunderstood in the outer world, or been misrepresented by his students, or else has been dragged down directly into the Ahrimanic sphere, as in Marxism. With the help of spiritual science, the soil must be found in which the eternally enduring force that was born 150 years ago in Stuttgart in Georg Friedrich Hegel — a force containing the best extract of European spiritual life, which exerted its influence throughout sixty years in Middle Europe — can grow. It must not be buried; it must be awakened to life in spiritual science, a life such as we now truly need in this intellectual, moral and economic decline.


Translator's Notes:

A.  “Schleiermacherei” — an apt play on words around the name of Hegel's contemporary, F.D.E. Schleiermacher (lit. = veil maker). Steiner described his world view as ardently devotional and sincere, but introspective. See Riddles of Philosophy, pp. 165–168.




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