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The Younger Generation

Schmidt Number: S-5033

On-line since: 15th January, 2005


IN THE ways you want to be active during your stay here, many of you are thinking above all about the question of education. Not so much, perhaps, about education in the sense of ordinary school pedagogy but because we are living in an age when many new impulses must come into the evolution of mankind. There is a tendency to think that the attitude of the older towards the younger generation must assume a different character, and thence comes the thought of education. The fundamental character of the age is considered as having to do with education.

In saying this I want to describe an impression which, I believe, may be noticed in many of you. It seems to me important that when anyone looks at his epoch, he should not only bear in mind the generation now young, entering the century in full youth, and its relation to the older generation that has, in the way I have described, carried over something from the last third of the nineteenth century, but one must also consider: What will be the attitude of this young generation towards the coming generation, to the generation which cannot, as the first, after the last third of the nineteenth century, maintain the same attitude to Nothingness that I have described? For the coming generation will not have what the present age has given to the younger generation through opposition towards their elders, namely enthusiasm — more or less indefinite, but nevertheless enthusiasm. What will further evolve will have much more the character of a longing, of an undefined yearning, than was the case among those who derived their enthusiasm from a mood of opposition against the traditional.

And here we must look still more deeply into the human soul than I have done up to now.

I have already shown that in the evolution in the West, consciousness of the pre-earthly existence of the soul has been lost. If we take the religious conceptions which are closest to the development of the human heart in the West during the past centuries, we can but say: For a long time existence before the descent into a physical earthly body has been lost to man's sight. Form an idea of how utterly different it is when one is permeated with the consciousness that something has come down from divine-spiritual worlds into the physical human body, has united itself with the physical human body. If nothing of this consciousness exists there is quite a different feeling, especially about the growing child.

The growing child, when looked at with this consciousness, reveals from its very first breath, or even before, what is being manifested by the spiritual world. Something is revealed from day to day, from week to week, from year to year. Observed in this way, the child becomes a riddle which one approaches in quite a different way from what is possible when one thinks one is confronting a being whose existence begins with birth or conception, and who, as is said nowadays, develops from this starting point, from this point of germination.

We shall understand one another still better if I call to your attention how with this there is connected the keynote of the riddle of the whole world. You know that in former days this fundamental feeling about the world-riddle was expressed in the paradigm: “Man, know thyself!” This saying, “Man, know thyself “is about the only saying which can hold its own against the objections always arising when a solution of the world-riddle is broached. Now I will say something rather paradoxical. Suppose somebody found what he might call the solution of the world-riddle. What would there remain to do after the moment when this world-riddle was solved? Man would lose all freshness of spontaneous striving; all livingness in striving would cease. It would indeed be comfortless to have to admit that the world-riddle has been solved by means of a cognitional method. All that is necessary is to look in some book or other; there the solution is given.

A great many people think thus about the solution of the world-riddle. They consider the world-riddle a system of questions that must be answered by explanations or something of the kind. One feels benumbed at the thought that a solution of the world-riddle could somewhere be given in this way, that the solution could actually be studied! It is a terrible, a horrible thought; all life is frozen by it.

But what lies in the words “Man, know thyself!” expresses something quite different. It really says: Man! look around you at the world; the world is full of riddles, full of mystery, and man's slightest movement points in the widest sense to cosmic mysteries. — Now one can indicate precisely where all these riddles are solved. There is quite a short formula for the indication. We can say: All the riddles of the world are solved in man — again in the very widest sense. Man himself, moving as a living being through the world — he is the solution of the world-riddle! Let him gaze at the sun and experience one of the cosmic mysteries. Let him look into his own being and know: Within thyself lies the solution of this cosmic mystery. “Man, know thyself and thou knowest the world I.”

But this way of expressing the formula is an intimation that no answer is final. Man is the solution of the world-riddle but to know the human being, we have what is infinite before us and so imbued with life that we never reach an end. We know that we bear the solution of the world-riddle within ourselves. But we know too that we shall never come to an end of what there is to search for in ourselves. From such a formula we only know that we are not given out of the universe abstract questions to be answered in an abstract way, but that the whole universe is a question and the human being an answer. We know that the question of the nature of the universe has resounded from times primeval until today, that the answer to these world-questions has resounded from human hearts, but that the questioning will go on resounding endlessly, that human beings must continue on into the distant future to learn to live their answer. We are not directed in a pedantic way to what might be found in a book but to the human being himself. Yet in the sentence, “Man, know thyself!” there sounds over to us from ancient times when school, church and centers of art were all united in the Mysteries, something which points to what has not been learnt from formulae, but from that book about the world which can be deciphered, but deciphered only through endless activity. And the name of this book about the world is “Man.”

If the full import of what I put before you yesterday is grasped, through such a change in the experiencing of knowledge, through the attitude we have to knowledge, the spark of life will strike into the whole nature of man. And that is what is needed.

If we picture the moral evolution of man up to the time when it became problematic, up to the first third of the fifteenth century, we find that the most diverse impulses were necessary to follow what I characterized yesterday as God-given commandments. When we imagine the driving forces prevalent among various peoples in different epochs, we find a great range of inner impulses arising like instincts, depending on particular conditions of life. One could make an interesting study of how these impulses to obey the old moral intuitions originate, how they grow out of the family, out of the racial stock, out of man's inclination towards the other sex, out of the necessity to live together in communities, out of man's pursuit of his own advantage.

But in the same way as we were obliged to call attention yesterday to how old moral intuitions have lived themselves out in historical evolution, so the impulses mentioned no longer contain an impelling force for the human being They cannot contain it if the self-acquired moral intuitions, of which I spoke yesterday, have to appear in man; if single individuals are challenged in the world-evolution of humanity, on the one hand, to find for themselves moral intuitions by dint of the labor of their own souls, and, on the other to acquire the inner strength to live according to these moral intuitions. And then it dawns upon us that the old moral impulses will increasingly take a different course.

We see emerging in the depths of the soul, although misjudged and misunderstood today by the majority of civilized humanity, two moral impulses of supreme importance. If attempts are made to interpret them, confused ideas usually result. If people want to put them into practice, they do not know as a rule what to do with them. Nonetheless they are arising: in the inner life of man the impulse of moral love, and outwardly, in the intercourse between human beings, the moral impulse of confidence.

Now the degree of strength in which moral love will be needed in the immediate future for all moral life, was not necessary in the past — not just in this form. Certainly, of former times too one could say that the words, “Joy and love are the pinions which bear man to great deeds,” are true. But if we speak truly and not in mere phrases, we must say: That joy and that love which fired human beings to do this or that were only a metamorphosis of the impulses described before. Great and pure love, working from within outwards, will have in future to give man wings to fulfil his moral intuitions. Those human beings will feel themselves weak and lacking in will, in face of moral intuitions, who do not experience the fire of love for what is moral springing from the depths of their souls, when through their moral intuitions they confront the deed to be accomplished.

There you see how in our times we have a parting of the ways! It becomes evident by contrasting the atavistic elements of the older age which play over in many ways into the present with what is living within us like the early flush of dawn. You will often have heard those fine words Kant wrote about duty: “Duty! Sublime and mighty Name, you embrace nothing that charms and require only submission” — and so forth. The sternest terms in which to characterize duty! Here the content of duty stands as a moral intuition imparted from outside, and the human being confronts this moral intuition in such a way that he has to submit to it. The moral experience when he thus submits himself is that no inner satisfaction is gained from obedience to duty; only the cold statement: “I must perform my duty” remains.

You know Schiller's answer to Kant's definition of duty:

“Gerne dien' ich den Freunden, doch tu' ich es leider mit Neigung,
Und so wurmt es mich oft, dass ich nicht tugendhaft bin.”

(I serve my friend gladly, but unfortunately I do it with inclination, and so it often worries me that I am not virtuous.)

Thus Schiller retorts ironically to this categorical imperative.

You see, over against the so-called categorical imperative, as it comes down from former times out of old moral impulses, there stands the summons to mankind, out of the depths of his soul, evermore to unfold love for what is to become action and deed. For however often in future there may resound: “Submit to duty, to what brings you nothing that will please” — it will be of no avail. Just as little as a man of sixty can behave like a baby can we live at a later age in a way suitable to an earlier epoch. Perhaps that would please people better. But that is of no account. The important thing is what is necessary and possible for the evolution of humanity. We can simply not discuss whether what Kant, as a descendant of very ancient times, has said should be carried on into the future. It cannot be carried on, because humanity has developed beyond it, developed in such a way that action out of love must give mankind the impulse for the future.

On the one hand we are led to the conception of ethical individualism, on the other, to the necessity of knowing that this ethical individualism must be borne on the love arising from perception of the deed to be accomplished. Thus it is, from man's subjective viewpoint.

From the aspect of the social life, the matter presents itself differently. There are people today in whom there no longer echoes the voice of progressive evolution; because they accept all kinds of outside opinions they say: “Yes, but if you try to found morality on the individual, you will upset the social life.” But such a statement is meaningless. It is just as sensible as if someone were to say: if in Stuttgart it rains a certain number of times in three months, Nature will ruin some particular crop on the land. — If one is conscious of a certain responsibility towards knowledge one cannot imagine anything more empty. As humanity is developing in the direction of individualism, there is no sense in saying that ethical individualism upsets the community. It is rather a question of seeking those forces by which man's evolution can progress; this is necessary if man is to develop ethical individualism, which holds the community together and fills it with real life.

Such a force is confidence — confidence between one human being and another. Just as in our inner being we must call upon love for an ethical future, so we must call upon confidence in relation to men's intercourse with each other. We must meet the human being so that we feel him to be a world-riddle, a walking world-riddle. Then we shall learn in the presence of every human being to unfold feelings which draw forth confidence from the depths of our soul. Confidence in an absolutely real sense, individual, unique confidence, is hardest to wring from the human soul. But without a system of education, a cultural pedagogics, which is directed towards confidence, civilization can progress no further. In future mankind will have to realize this necessity to build up confidence in social life; they will also have to experience the tragedy when this confidence cannot develop in the proper way in the human soul.

Oh my dear friends, what men have ever felt in the depths of their souls when they have been disappointed by a human being on whom they had relied, all such feelings will in future be as nothing compared with the tragedy when, with an infinitely deepened feeling of trust, human beings will tragically experience disillusionment in their fellow men. It will be the bitterest thing, not because men have never been disappointed, but because the feeling of confidence and disillusionment will be infinitely deepened in future; because one will build to such a degree in the soul upon the joy of confidence and the pain of the inevitable mistrust. Ethical impulses will penetrate to depths of the soul where they spring directly from the confidence between man and man.

Just as love will fire the human hand, the human arm, so that from within it draws the strength to do a deed, so from without there will flow the mood of confidence in order that the deed may find its way from the one human being to the other. The morality of the future will have to be grounded on the free moral love arising from the depths of the human soul; future social action will have to be steeped in confidence. For if one individuality is to meet another in a moral way, above all an atmosphere of confidence will be necessary.

So we anticipate an ethics, a conception of morality that will speak little of the ethical intuitions of old but will emphasize how a human being must develop from childhood so that there may be awakened in him the power of moral love. Much will have to be given in the pedagogics of the future to the growing generation by teachers and educators through what educates effectively without words. In education and teaching there will have to be imparted much of that knowledge which is not an abstract indication of how man consists of this or that, but which leads us over to the other human being in such a way that we can have the proper confidence in him.

Knowledge of man, but not a knowledge that makes us cold towards our fellow-men but which fills us with confidence — this must become the very fibre of future education. For we have to give weight again, but in a new way, to what once was taken seriously but is so no longer in the age of intellectualism.

If you go back to Greece, you will find that the doctor in his medical art, for example, felt extraordinarily akin to the priest, and priests felt themselves akin to the doctor. Such an attitude can be seen dimly, confusedly in the personality of Paracelsus who has been, and still is, so little understood. Today we relegate to the sphere of religion the abstract instruction which leads away from real life. For in religious instruction we are told what man is without his body, and so on — in a way that is singularly foreign to life. Over against this stands the opposite pole in civilization, where everything brought forth by our own time is kept far from the realm of religion.

Who today sees any trace of a religious act in healing, for instance, an act in which permeation by the spirit plays a part? Paracelsus still had a feeling for this. For him, the religious life was such that it entered into the science of healing. It was a branch of the religious life. This was so in olden times. The human being was a totality: what he had to perform in the service of mankind was permeated by religious impulses. In quite another way, for we must strive to gain moral intuitions that are not God-given but born by our own efforts, — life must again be permeated by a religious quality. But first and foremost it must be made evident in the sphere of education. Confidence between one human being and another — the great demand of the future — must permeate social life.

If we ask ourselves — What is the most essential quality to be a moral human being in the future? — We can only answer: “You must have confidence in the human being.” But when a child comes into the world, that is to say, when the human being comes out of pre-earthly existence and unites with his physical body in order to use it as an instrument on earth between birth and death — when the human being confronts us as a child and reveals his soul to us, what must we bring to him in the way of confidence? Just as surely as the child, from its first movement on earth, is a human being, yet the confidence we bring him is different from the confidence we bring to an adult. When we meet the child as teacher or as a member of the older generation, this confidence is transformed in a certain respect. The child comes into earthly existence from a pre-earthly world of soul and spirit. We observe, revealing itself in a wonderful way from day to day permeating the physical out of the world of soul and spirit, what may be called in the modern sense of the word — the divine.

We need again the divine which leads the human being out of pre-earthly into the present, as through his bodily nature he is led onwards in earthly existence. When we speak of confidence between men in the moral sphere, and apply it to education, we must specialize and say: — “We confront the child who has been sent down to us by the divine-spiritual Powers — and for whom we should be the solvers of all riddles — we confront the child with confidence in God.” Yes, in face of the child, confidence in man becomes confidence in God. And a future will have to come in the evolution of humanity in which what weaves even in a more neutralized form from man to man, will assume a religious coloring in relation to the child or to young people generally who have to be guided into life.

There we see how through actual life, morality is transformed back into religiousness, into a religiousness that expresses itself directly in everyday life. In olden times all moral life was a special part of the religious life, for in the commandments of religion moral commandments were given at the same time.

Humanity has passed through the epoch of abstraction; now, however, we must again enter the epoch of the concrete. We must feel once again how the moral becomes the religious. And in future the moral deeds of education and instruction will have to shape themselves in a modern sense into what is religious. For pedagogy, my dear friends, is not merely a technical art. Pedagogics is essentially a special chapter in the moral sphere of man. Only he who finds education within the realm of morality, within the sphere of ethics, discovers it in the right way. What I have described here as a specifically religious shade of morality, receives its right coloring if we say: — “The riddle of life stands before us as an enigma. The solution of the riddle lies in Man.” — And there indeed it does lie. But anyone who teaches has to work unceasingly, in a living way, at the solution of this riddle. When we learn to feel how in education we are working unceasingly at the solution of the world-riddle, we take our place in the world quite differently from what would have been the case had we sought for solutions merely by means of head knowledge.

In regard to the feeling about Education with which you may have come here, the important thing is to carry away with you into the world this special aspect of pedagogics. This feeling will enable you to stand in the world and not only lead you to asking: — How profound is the tragedy of the young who had to follow the old? — You will also ask, looking into the future: “What living forces must I release in myself to look rightly upon those who are coming after me?” For they in turn will look back to those who were once there. A youth movement in whatever form, if it considers life in a fully responsible way, must have a Janus head; it must not only look at the demands the young make on the old, but also be able to look at the still undefined demands raging around us with tremendous power — demands which the coming youth will make upon us.

Not only opposition against the old, but a creative looking forward, is the right guiding thought for a true youth movement. Opposition may, to begin with, have acted as a stimulus to enthusiasm. The power of deed will only be bestowed by the will to create, the will to do creative work within the present evolution of humanity.

Last Modified: 12-Apr-2018
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