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Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms

Social Forms: Address: On the Occasion of the General Meeting of the Berlin Branch

On the Occasion of the General Meeting
of the Berlin Branch

Berlin, September 17, 1920

After a relatively long period of time, I am able to speak to you again today. It came about because of the importance of the General Meeting convening today, and the opportunity of my current brief presence in Germany. It has certainly already occurred to you that there must be a connection between my long absence and the nature of the time in which we find ourselves. The relationship between the events of the times and the very slight activity — if it is even possible to speak of such — that I can afford, particularly for the Berlin Branch, must be obvious to you.

Before entering into the order of business for today's session, I would like to make a few preliminary remarks. First, I wish to remind you of certain words I spoke in the early spring of 1914 in a lecture cycle in Vienna, which were intended to point to what then ensued. It was then that I spoke words which have since been printed. The words I uttered at the time indicated that civilized humanity lives in a kind of social sickness, in a sort of social carcinoma or cancer; that the' whole way in which cultural, political, and economic matters are handled is such that it will undoubtedly lead to an outbreak of this creeping cancer, and that it will be bound to change from a chronic condition into an acute one. Of course, many clever people at that time took this statement, which I made out of a grief-stricken heart with regard to the immediate future, to be mere fantasy, an empty paraphrase of a pessimistic mood. At that time, the majority of people the world over naturally preferred listening to the sound of voices like the one, for example, of an official personage in the German Reichstag a short time after, who said that the relationships of the Central European governments to those of the other European countries were absolutely satisfactory, and that one could count on general lessening of tension in the near future. You may remember another remark made here in Berlin at a public session of the Reichstag — that the friendly, neighborly relations with the court at Petersburg were becoming more and more favorable, and that good relations with London existed as well, and so on. These were the words of “practical men,” while those who spoke of the spiritual world had to speak of a sickness, of a slowly growing carcinoma. Actually those who Claim to be practical men still speak the same way today, in absolutely the same way, although the results of their practicality have brought about the events of the most recent years. Such speaking continues, while what is brought forth from spiritual research and from social insight is either thrown to the winds or, as is the case in Germany, attacked. Furthermore, the worst is that what comes from spiritual research is being secretly persecuted and defamed, defamed in the worst way possible. Thus, anthroposophical spiritual science and everything connected with it today belongs among the most defamed matters in the world. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that today there already are a great number of souls who, out of the totality of the principles of spiritual science, have gained a feeling that only out of this science can arise what can save us from general disaster. One must say this today, even if foolish or malevolent people accuse one of vanity or ambition for saying such things.

I can say — and I wish to keep these introductory words brief — that the whole attitude, the whole manner of discussions that I had to take part in during the actual wartime has not been understood. With the year 1914, a time came when considerations in the ordinary sense had to cease and what was supposed to occur through words had to turn into actions. Humanity, however, is used to taking words in the sense of the journalistic style, not in the style that should enter into mankind particularly through spiritual science. Thus, many things have been misunderstood during the so called war years. Something that was of eminent importance to me was overlooked. It was probably known to most of you that before the first year of the war was over, I had a small book published, Gedanken waehrend der Zeit des Krieges (Thoughts During the Time of War). Translator's Note A ] It sold out rather quickly. If one would have considered the matter from the viewpoint from which, unfortunately, things are still considered today, despite the fact that the distress has become so great, it would have been a matter of course to publish a new edition. I opposed the printing of a new edition for the simple reason that the pamphlet had not fulfilled its task. This pamphlet — you can get hold of it again insofar as it is still available — was a question addressed to the German nation. It was not intended to be received in such a way as to lead one to assume the same tone which a great many members of the Central European countries had adopted during the war, and which is common today where surreptitious, poisonous defamations are leveled against anthroposophy. Nothing at all materialized of the expectation that I had concerning this pamphlet, the understanding that I had expected. A new edition would have been meaningful only if my expectation had been realized. So, it did not appear, but disappeared from public life, and in my opinion had to disappear. The proof of the lack of understanding given by this fact had to be taken very, very seriously. This was misunderstood in the same way many other utterances have been thoroughly misunderstood, utterances that were meant to elevate and ignite people's spirit in order to bring about what should have been made to prevail directly in Central Europe, namely, a re-enlivening of the spiritual life that had been manifest around the turn of the eighteenth century. Spiritual science is basically the revitalization of this spiritual life in the form it must take in modern humanity.

Take everything that is written in the different kinds of newspapers today, in popular literature and even scientific popular writings; take what is written in Koenigsberg or in Berlin, Vienna or in Graz, in Munich or in Stuttgart, and compare it with what is written today in Paris, Rome, London, Chicago or New York — you will find a great similarity. You will find the same keynote in it, the same spirit that must be overcome. On the other hand, if we seek another similarity and compare what is written today in Berlin, Vienna, Dresden, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg, or Bremen with what such great minds as Herder, Goethe, Fichte and Schiller once proclaimed, then we must say that it is fundamentally different. All the declamations using quotations of sentences by Fichte or even Goethe that have taken effect, all that has been produced in this manner, resembles more what has been written in Chicago, New York, London, Paris and Rome than the spirit of Herder, Fichte, Schiller and Goethe. The tidal wave that has flooded Central European life from the West has also swept away what should have lived an in us. Nothing of the old spirit could be detected in what was prevalent in the last decades. This had to be shown to the world when the catastrophe fell upon Central Europe, and wrenched itself from my soul in the form of my “Appeal to the German Nation and the Civilized World” which I wrote then. What was connected with this could not simply be continued, as it was in the earlier form familiar to you, up till 1914.

At that time I could not appeal on the basis of something which one had to believe one could appeal to after 1918. One could not appeal to what is the proof of the decline of the general civilization — distress. Since 1918, one had to believe that the distress which had come over Central Europe would awaken the souls and make them receptive to the language intended in my “Appeal to the German People and the Civilized World.” Certainly, the fostering of the Anthroposophical Movement could not go on as before. Earlier, one had to render the service which, naturally, always has to be rendered in the Anthroposophical Movement, and which has to be rendered today as well as in all future time: to foster the eternal in the human soul, the eternal which goes beyond birth and death and points beyond the merely sensory world into the supersensory world. Now one had to wait and see whether, from among the sleeping souls of the new civilization, souls would emerge here and there who really would have some understanding of what is meant by spiritual science. One could not yet appeal on the basis of circumstances brought about by the distress. Now, however, after 1918, the time had come when a quite different prerequisite had to be placed before the spiritual eye. Mankind could have realized where it had been led by the prevalence of materialism. For what we have experienced, what we continue to experience and will experience with more impact in the future, is the external karma of materialism in the cultural, political, and economic field. It is the consequence of neglect, because people do not wish to discover in themselves the active strength to foster the spiritual life in their souls. After the publication of the Appeal to the German People, the time came when it was, above all, important to work in a positive manner towards something factual. This arose purely out of the possibilities of life. I had to grasp the first hands reaching out to me, for each moment was precious. The first to reach out to me were from Stuttgart. It was a question of protecting and nurturing what could be fostered based on the initiative of some friends there. If mankind had understood at that time what was at stake, had it not failed even under the lesson taught by distress, it would have been enough to do something like this from one center, for it could have had an exemplary effect. But what happened?

In order that you can see how these matters must be understood, I would like to touch upon something else. Before I traveled in the spring of 1919 from Switzerland to Stuttgart for the first lecture tour, a well known pacifist came to me. Although he was willing to sign my Appeal to the German People, he hesitated and asked for more information about it. He asked me, “What are you counting on in Germany?” I believe he put it like this, “You are counting on the second revolution.” This was in the spring of 1919 and people in many quarters in Germany reckoned with a second revolution after the first one in the autumn of 1918. He believed that what was supposed to come into being in the world through the Threefold Social Organism was only a kind of vehicle, a stepping stone, for the impulses of the second revolution. I said, “No! This is not at all my opinion. First, because I do not believe that those people who might bring about a second revolution in Germany will be able to develop the slightest understanding for the true meaning of the Threefold Social Organism, as long as the old leaders are still active. Secondly, because I do not at all believe in a second revolution. Rather, I believe that this second revolution will consist of a kind of chronic infirmity and will not reach an acute outbreak. What I am simply and solely counting upon is that as many souls as possible will associate themselves with what is born out of spiritual depths, souls who will accept it impartially out of the necessity of the times, quite part from the intentions of the old leaders.” So, I did not reckon with those things that many people thought I was counting on. When I then arrived in Stuttgart, it stood to reason in a certain sense that the broad masses of people were addressed first. The broad masses of the people, though also partly paralyzed by the events of the war, were those who initially wished to hear something. In my innermost soul I knew how matters stood. For I knew that as long as the leaders who remain from the old days have the party leadership and the people firmly in hand — be they leaders of the parties to the right or the left, even those of the extreme left — nothing can be done with the people. But imagine what would have happened if I would have said that I was not in favor of addressing the masses. Nobody had to believe me, but if I had not addressed them, one would have said afterwards, “If only Steiner would have turned to the broad masses, everything would have turned out differently!” When one is dealing with realities, one must also give proof by means of realities. It had first to be proven by realities that out of all the left-wing parties, defamers and phrase-mongers would rise up against what was just beginning by means of the concept of three-foldness to be comprehended by the masses of the people. We were well on the way. One could say that within a few days we had won thousands of people. But it was just this comprehension of three-foldness by the great masses of people that drove the old leaders to their defamations and phrase-mongering. So it came about that from this side, seemingly at first, the ground was pulled from under our feet.

What could be hoped for from the other side? Well, it serves no purpose in regard to these matters to cling to illusions; the one and only thing that can help us in the present is to speak the truth. A leading personality who had come up in the party that called itself, by a strange interpretation of the words, "German Democratic Party," a person who had appeared at one of the meetings held at that time, said to me, “You know, if we were in a Position to let more people capable of explaining matters in this manner speak to the broad masses, then well and good — one could go along with it. But one pair of hands is not enough and we therefore rely temporarily more on firearms, on force. For the next fifteen to twenty years, it will still be necessary to keep the masses down.” This was essentially the predominant attitude of the Bourgeoisie; the other was the activity of the proletariat.

So there really remains nothing else but to take what can be drawn out of the spiritual foundations and to represent it in such a way that more and more people can be found who will receive it into their minds. Back of this, we must have something that was born out of this insight and should have been fostered. Before the war, this building was set up on the border of Switzerland, France and Germany in order to look out from Central Europe into the wide world, in particular towards the West, and received the name it must rightfully have, the name Goetheanum. For, in regard to spiritual matters, we are facing worldwide tasks! Today, we cannot face spiritual matters as we would merely personal matters. To do that would lead us into ruin. This is the reason I had to limit my activity during recent times to southern Germany and Switzerland. Truly, I am longing for times when the horizon of my activity can widen again, but this does not depend on myself alone. It depends, above all, on the understanding that people will show toward this activity. I may perhaps find the opportunity in the next few days to point to a number of things which pretend to be “understanding” and which proceed from certain quarters, which work more in an underground manner by means of counterfeiting of letters, falsifying interviews, by defamations and lies.

For the moment, what I have said was merely mentioned in order to point out the reasons why it was necessary for us to abandon our activity in Berlin temporarily; to indicate the circumstances that made it necessary to appeal also in regard to Berlin to what must be appealed to in this age. Have we not been active anthroposophically for almost two decades over a large territory? Were we not justified in hoping that people would be found that could carry on the work independently? Well, they were found. They were found here in Berlin, too. And with the help of these friends the attempt must be made, first of all, to continue the work in Berlin. For this purpose we have gathered together here. In the General Meeting, we shall have to decide how to continue the work here in Berlin.

Translator's Notes:

A.  Contained in Aufsaetze ueber die Dreigliederung des Sozialen Organismus und zur Zeitlage; GA #24, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach.

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