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Awakening to Community - I

Awakening to Community - I

By Rudolf Steiner

GA 257

A lecture delivered at Stuttgart, on February 13th, 1922. Authorized translation from the German of Notes unrevised by the lecturer. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

This is lecture 4 of 10 from the lecture series: Anthroposophical Community Building Published in German as: Anthroposophische Gemeinschaftbildung. GA# 257.

Copyright © 1974
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“Awakening to Community”
Lecture IV of X
Rudolf Steiner
trans. Marjorie Spock
Stuttgart, February 13, 1923

See Lecture 4 of Awakening to Community for another version of this lecture.

The development of conditions in the Anthroposophical Society makes it seem desirable to touch on at least a few of them again tonight. It was never really my intention to use lecture time to go into such matters as organizational and developmental aspects of the Society, for I see it as my task to work for pure anthroposophy, and I gladly leave everything related to the life and development of the Society to others who have assumed responsibility for it at the various places. But I hope to be able, at the delegates' meeting that will soon be held, to discuss at greater length the subject originally intended for presentation today. In view of the need evidenced by the way the Society's current concerns are going, you will perhaps allow me to make a few comments complementing what I said a week ago about the three phases of anthroposophical development.

Today, I want to bring out those aspects of the three phases that all three share in common; last week I concentrated, even though sketchily, on their differences.

I would like to start by discussing how a society like ours comes into being. I believe that what I am about to say could serve many a listener as a means to self-knowledge and thus prove a good preparation for the delegates' meeting.

It is certainly clear to anybody who keeps up with the way civilization and culture are presently developing that the times themselves demand the deepening of knowledge, the ethical practice, the inner religious life that anthroposophy has to offer. On the other hand, however, a society such as ours has to act as a vanguard in an ever wider disseminating of those elements that are so needed under the conditions that prevail today.

How is such a vanguard created? Everybody who has sought out the Anthroposophical Society from honest motives will probably recognize a piece of his own destiny in what I am about to describe.

If we look back over the twenty-one or twenty-two years of the Society's development, we will certainly discover that by far the greater number of those who approach the Society do so out of a sense of dissatisfaction with the spiritual, psychological and practical conditions they find surrounding them in life today. In the early days of the Society, which, when considered factually and not critically, might even be called its better days, something was taking place that almost amounted to flight from the life of the present into a different kind of life built on human community, a community where people could live in a way they felt in their souls to be in keeping with their dignity as human beings. This alienation from the spiritual, psychic and practical situation prevailing in the life around them must be taken into account as a factor in the founding of the Anthroposophical Society. For those who became anthroposophists were the first people to feel what millions and millions of others will be feeling keenly indeed in a not too distant future, that older forms have come down into the present from by-gone days in which they were not only fully justified but the product of historical necessity, but that they no longer provide what modern man's inner life requires and the dignity of full humanness demands.

Anyone who has a really open mind about these things and has come to anthroposophy in honest seeking will find, if he practices self-observation, that this drive to satisfy his soul needs in a special community rather than in just any other present day group of human beings is something that springs from the innermost core of his humanity, something he feels to be a special phenomenon of the present moment working its way to the surface of his soul from the eternal sources of all humanness. Those who have come honestly to anthroposophy therefore feel the need to belong to an anthroposophical community to be a real and deep concern of their hearts, something they cannot really do without if they are honest. But we must admit, too, that the very clarity (clarity of feeling, not of thought) with which people seek belonging in the anthroposophical community shows how little able the outer world presently is to satisfy a longing for full humanness. People would not feel so urgently impelled to seek anthroposophy if the soul's feeling of alienation from conditions existing in the world today had not become so particularly intense.

But let us go on and consider something else. What I have been describing thus far might be called a reversing of human will impulses. A person is born into a certain period and educated to be a man of his time. The result is that his will impulses simply coincide with those of all the rest of the human world around him. He grows up, and as he does so he grows without any great inner stirrings into the will tendencies of the surrounding population. It takes a deeply experienced inner revulsion against these habitual will impulses that he has adopted from the outside world to turn this erstwhile external will inward. When he does so, this reversing of the direction of his will causes him to notice the longing, experienced so keenly in our time, that wells up as though from eternal wellsprings, impelling him to seek a different belonging to the community of men than lay in the previous direction of his will.

Now everything that has to do with the will is intrinsically ethical and moral. The impulse that drives a person into the Anthroposophical Society is thus, in its will and feeling aspects at least, an ethical-moral impulse. Since this ethical impulse that has brought him into the Anthroposophical Society stirs him in his innermost holy of holies as it carries him to the eternal wellsprings of his soul life, it goes on to develop into a religious impulse. What otherwise lives itself out simply as a matter of response to externally imposed laws and traditional mores and as habits more or less thoughtlessly adopted from the life around one, in other words, everything of an ethical, moral, religious nature that had developed in the course of one's growing up, now turns inward and becomes a striving to make one's ethical-moral and religious being a full inner reality. But it is not consistent with full human stature for a person to couple his life of will and — to some extent at least — his life of feeling with the acceptance of just any haphazard type of knowledge.

The kind of knowledge that we may not, perhaps, absorb with our mother's milk, but are certainly receiving as inner soul training by the time we are six, and go on receiving — all these things that our minds in their learning capacity take in, confront the ethical, moral and religious elements in us as their polar opposite, though one perfectly harmonious and consistent with them. But they are by no means an inconsiderable item for a person who seeks to bring a religious deepening into his anthroposophical striving. The kind of life and practice that civilized man has developed in recent centuries is just exactly the kind from which an anthroposophist longs to free his moral, ethical and religious nature. Even if he makes compromises with the life about him, as indeed he must, his real desire is to escape from what the civilization of recent centuries has produced, leading as it has directly to the catastrophic present. It may be that this desire exists only as an instinct in many of those who seek out the Anthroposophical Movement, but it is definitely present.

Now let us recognize the fact that the factors accounting for the development of the religious and will impulses of recent centuries are the very same ones responsible for the direction and whole nuance of the modern life of learning. Only a victim of prejudice could believe and say that the modern way of knowledge has produced objective physics, objective mathematics, objective chemistry, that it is working toward an objective science of biology, and so on. That is pure prejudice. The real truth is that what we have had drummed into us from about our sixth year onward is the product of externally influenced will and religious impulses that have evolved during recent centuries. But when a person seeking anthroposophy wants to escape from these will impulses and from the religious forms in which man's moral life finds its highest expression, he cannot help asking at the same time for a way of knowledge in keeping not with the world he wants to leave behind but with the new world of his seeking. Since he has turned his will impulses inward, he must, in other words, strive for the kind of knowledge that corresponds to his in-turned will, that takes him ever further away from the externalized science that has been an outgrowth of the externalizing of all life in the civilized world in the past few centuries. An anthroposophist feels that he would have to be inconsequential and reverse the direction of his will again if he were not to change the direction of his knowledge. He would have to be a quite unthinking person to say, “I feel my humanity alien to the kind of life and practice that past centuries have brought us, but I feel quite at home with the knowledge they produced.” The kind of learning that the world he wants to escape from has acquired can never satisfy a person with an in-turned will. Many an individual may come to realize purely instinctively that the life and practice he longs to flee received their present form from the fact that man believes only in what his eyes see and what his mind makes of his physical observations. Seekers therefore turn to the invisible super-sensible realm as the basis of knowledge. Externalized forms of life and practice are outgrowths of a materialistic science, and a person impelled to regard these forms as subhuman rather than as fully human cannot feel suited by a science based on an exclusive belief in the external and material and what the mind concludes about them.

After the first act in the soul drama of the anthroposophist, the moral-religious act, there comes a second, one already contained in seed form in the first. It consists in a compulsion to seek super-sensible knowledge. That the Anthroposophical Society builds its content on knowledge received from super-sensible worlds is something that comes about quite of itself. Everything that the will thus experiences as its destiny, everything that the striving for insight recognizes as its seeking, is fused into one indivisible whole in the heart and soul of an anthroposophist; it is the very core of his life and his humanity. As such it shapes and colors his whole attitude, the state of soul in which he takes his place in the Society.

But now let us weigh the consequences this implies for an anthroposophically oriented person. He cannot just cut himself loose from external life and practice. He has taken flight into the Anthroposophical Society, but life's outer needs continue on, and he cannot get away from them in a single step or with one stroke. So his soul is caught and divided between his continuing outer life and the ideal life and knowledge that he has embraced in concept as a member of the Anthroposophical Society. A cleavage of this sort can be a painful and even tragic experience, and it becomes such to a degree determined by the depth or superficiality of the individual. But this very pain, this tragedy, contains the most precious seeds of the new, constructive life that has to be built up in the midst of our decaying culture. For the truth is that everything in life that flowers and bears fruit is an outgrowth of pain and suffering. It is perhaps just those individuals with the deepest sense of the Society's mission who have to have the most personal experience of pain and suffering as they take on that mission, though it is also true that real human strength can only be developed by rising above suffering and making it a living force, the source of one's power to overcome.

The path that leads into the Society consists firstly, then, in changing the direction of one's will; secondly, in experiencing super-sensible knowledge; lastly, in participating in the destiny of one's time to a point where it becomes one's personal destiny. One feels oneself sharing mankind's evolution in the act of reversing one's will and experiencing the super-sensible nature of all truth. Sharing the experience of the time's true significance is what gives us our first real feeling for the fact of our humanness. The term “Anthroposophy” should really be understood as synonymous with “Sophia,” meaning the content of consciousness, the soul attitude and experience that make a man a full-fledged human being. The right interpretation of “Anthroposophy” is not “the wisdom of man,” but rather “the consciousness of one's humanity.” In other words, the reversing of the will, the experiencing of knowledge, and one's participation in the time's destiny, should all aim at giving the soul a certain direction of consciousness, a “Sophia.”

What I have been describing here are the factors that brought the Anthroposophical Society into being. The Society wasn't really founded; it just came about. You cannot carry on a pre-conceived campaign to found a thing that is developing out of some genuine inner reality. An Anthroposophical Society could come into being only because there were people predisposed to the reversal of their wills, to the living knowledge, to the participation in the time's destiny that I have just characterized, and because something then made its appearance from some quarter that was able to meet what lived as those needs in those specific hearts. But such a coming together of human beings could take place only in our age, the age of the consciousness soul, and those who do not as yet rightly conceive the nature of the consciousness soul cannot understand this development. An example was provided by a university don who made the curious statement that three people once joined forces and formed the executive committee of the Anthroposophical Society. This donnish brain (it is better to be specific about what part of him was involved, since there can be no question in his case of fully developed humanness), this brain ferreted out the necessity of asking who selected them and authorized them to do such a thing. Well, what freer way could there possibly be for a thing to start than for three people to turn up and announce that they have such and such a purpose, and anyone who wants to join them in pursuing it is welcome, and if someone doesn't, why, that's all right too? Everyone was certainly left perfectly free. Nothing could have shown more respect for freedom than the way the Anthroposophical Society came into being. It corresponds exactly to the developmental level of the consciousness soul period. But one can perfectly well be a university don without having entered the consciousness soul age, and in that case will have no understanding for matters intimately allied to freedom.

I know how uncomfortable it makes some people when things of this kind have to be dealt with for the simple reason that they are there confronting us. They throw light, however, on the question of what must be done to provide the Society with what it needs to go on living. But since anthroposophists have to keep on being part of the world around them and can escape from it on the soul level only, they become prone to the special nuance of soul experience that I have been describing and that can run the gamut of inner suffering to the point of actual tragedy. Soul experience of this kind played a particularly weighty role in the coming into being of the Anthroposophical Society. Not only this: it is constantly being re-lived in the case of everyone who has since sought out the society. The Society naturally has to reckon with this common element, which is so deeply rooted in its social life, as with one of the lasting conditions of its existence.

It is natural, too, that in an evolution that has gone through three phases, newcomers to the Movement should find themselves in the first phase with their feeling life. Many a difficulty stems from the fact that the Society's leaders have the duty of reconciling the three co-existing phases with one another. For they go on side by side even though they developed in succession. Furthermore, in their aspect as past stages in a sequence, they belong to the past, and are hence memories, whereas in their simultaneous aspect they are presently still being lived. A theoretical or doctrinaire approach is therefore out of place in this situation. What those who want to help foster anthroposophical life need instead is loving hearts and eyes opened to the totality of that life. Just as growing old can mean developing a crochety disposition, becoming inwardly as well as outwardly wrinkled and bald-headed, losing all feeling for recalling one's young days vividly enough to make them seem immediate experience, so too is it possible to enter the Society as late as, say, 1919 and fail to sense the fresh, new, burgeoning, sprouting life of the Movement's first phase. This is a capacity one must work to develop. Otherwise, the right heart and feeling are missing in one's relation to anthroposophy, with the result that though one may scorn and look down upon doctrines and theories in other spheres of life, one's efforts to foster anthroposophical life cannot help becoming doctrinaire. This does serious damage to a thing as alive as an Anthroposophical Society ought to be.

Now, a curious kind of conflict arose during the third phase of the Movement. It began in 1919. I am not going to judge it from an ethical standpoint at the moment, although thoughtlessness is indeed a will impulse of sorts, and hence a question of ethics. When something is left undone, due to thoughtlessness, and that same thoughtlessness leads to a lot of fiddling around where a firm will is what is really needed, one can surely see that an ethical-moral element is involved. But I am not as much interested in going into that aspect of the subject today as I am in discussing the conflict into which it plunged the Society, a long-latent conflict. It must be brought out into the open and frankly discussed.

In the first phases of anthroposophical development, there was a tendency for the anthroposophist to split into two people. One part was, say, an office manager, who did what he had to do in that capacity. He poured his will into channels formed by the way things have developed in modern external life and practice during the past few centuries, channels from which his innermost soul longed to escape. But he was caught in them, caught with his will.

Now let us be perfectly clear about the will's intense involvement in all such pursuits. From one end of the day to the other, the will is involved in every single thing one does as an office manager or whatever. If one happens to be a schoolmaster or a professor instead of an office manager and is therefore more involved in thinking, that thinking also flows into one's will impulses, insofar as it has bearing on external life. In other words, one's will really remains connected with things outside oneself. It is just because the soul wants to escape from the direction the will is taking that it enters the Anthroposophical Society with its thought and feeling. So the man of will ends up in one place, the man of thought and feeling in another. Of course, this made some people happy indeed, for many a little sectarian group thought it a most praiseworthy undertaking to meet and “send out good thoughts” at the end of a day spent exerting its members' wills in the most ordinary channels. People formed groups of this sort and sent out good thoughts, escaping from their outer lives into a life that, while I cannot call it unreal, consisted exclusively of thoughts and feelings. Each individual split himself in two, one part going to an office or a classroom, the other attending an anthroposophical meeting where he led an entirely different kind of life. But when a number of anthroposophically thinking and feeling people were moved to apply their wills to the establishing of anthroposophical enterprises capable of full and vigorous life, they had to include those wills in the total human equipment needed for the job. That was the origin of the conflicts that broke out. It is comparatively easy to train oneself to send out good thoughts intended to keep a friend on a mountain climb from breaking his legs. It is much harder to pour good thoughts so strongly into a will engaged in some external, material activity that matter itself becomes imbued with spirit as a result of one's having thus exerted one's humanness. Many an undertaking has suffered shipwreck because of an inability to do that, during the Society's third phase of development. There was no shortage of fine intelligences and geniuses — I say this very sincerely — but the intelligence and genius available were not sufficiently applied to stiffening and strengthening the wills involved.

If you look at the matter from the standpoint of the heart, what a difference you see! Think how dissatisfied the heart is with one's external life! One feels dissatisfied not only because other people are so mean and everything falls so short of perfection, but because life itself doesn't always make things easy for us. You'll agree that it isn't invariably a featherbed. Living means work. Here one has this hard life on the one hand, and on the other the Anthroposophical Society. One enters the Society laden with all one's dissatisfaction. As a thinking and feeling person one finds satisfaction there because one is receiving something that is not available in the outer life one is justifiably so dissatisfied with. One finds satisfaction in the Anthroposophical Society. There is even the advantage there that one's thoughts, which in other situations are so circumscribed by will's impotence, take wing quite easily when one sits in a circle sending out good thoughts to keep the legs of friends on mountain climbs from getting broken. Thoughts fly easily to every part of the world, and are thus very satisfying. They make up for one's external life, which is always causing one such justifiable dissatisfaction.

Now along comes the Anthroposophical Society and itself starts projects that call for the inclusion of the will. So now one not only has to be an office manager in the outer world, though with an Anthroposophical Society to flee to and to look back from at one's unsatisfactory life outside — a life one may, on occasion, complain about there; one now faces both kinds of life within the Society, and is expected to live them there in a satisfied rather than dissatisfied state of mind!

But this was inevitable if the Society wanted to go farther and engage in actual deeds. Beginning in 1919 it did want to do that.

Then something strange happened, something that could probably happen only in the Anthroposophical Society, namely, that people no longer knew what to do with their share of dissatisfaction, which everyone naturally wants to go on having. For one can hardly accuse the Society of making one dissatisfied. But that attitude doesn't last. In the long run people do ascribe their dissatisfaction to it. What they ought to do instead is to achieve the stage of inner development that progresses from thoughts and feelings to will, and one does achieve just that on a rightly travelled anthroposophical path. If you look in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, you will see that nowhere is there a recommendation for developing thought that does not include aspects that bear on will development.

But modern humanity suffers from two evils, both of which must be overcome in the Society. One is fear of the super-sensible. This unadmitted fear accounts for every enemy the Anthroposophical Movement has. Our enemies really suffer from something that resembles a fear of water. You know, of course, that a fear of water can express itself in another, violently compulsive form, and so we need not be surprised if the kind I am referring to sometimes vents itself in a sort of phobia. Sometimes, of course, it can be comparatively harmless. Some people find anthroposophy a rewarding subject to write about; these books bring in money and appear on book lists. There must be themes to write about, and not everybody has one inside him, so it has to be borrowed from the world outside. The motives in such cases are sometimes more harmless than one might suppose. But their effects are not equally harmless.

Fear of super-sensible knowledge, then, is one characteristic of the human race. But that fear is made to wear the mask of the scientific approach, and the scientific approach, with the limits to knowledge it accepts, is in direct line of inheritance from man's ancient Fall into error. The only difference is that the ancients conceived the Fall as something man ought to overcome. The post-scholastic period is still haunted by a belief in the Fall. But whereas an earlier, moralistic view of it held that man was born evil and must overcome his nature, the intellectualistic view holds that man cannot gain access to the super-sensible with his mind or change his nature. Man's willingness to accept limits to knowledge is actually an inheritance from the Fall he suffered. In better days he at least tried to overcome error. But conceited modern man not only wants to retain his fallen status; he is actually intent on staying fallen and loving the devil, or at least trying to love him.

That is the first of the two evils. The second is the weakness, the inner paralysis that afflicts modern human wills, despite their seeming activity, which is often nothing more than pretense. I must add that both these ominous characteristics of modern civilization and culture are qualities that anthroposophical life must overcome. If this anthroposophical life is to develop in a practical direction, everything it undertakes must be born of fearless knowledge and a really strong will. This presupposes learning to live with the world in a truly anthroposophical way. People used to learn to live anthroposophically by fleeing the world. But they will have to learn to live anthroposophically with the world and to carry the anthroposophical impulse into everyday life and practice. That means making one single whole again of the person hitherto split into an anthroposophist and a practical man. But this cannot be done so long as a life lived shut away from the world as though by towering fortress walls that one cannot see over is mistaken for an anthroposophical life. This sort of thing cannot go on in the Society. We should keep our eyes wide open to everything that is happening in the world around us, that will imbue us with the right will impulses. But as I said the last time, the Society has not kept pace with anthroposophical life during the third phase of anthroposophy, and the will element is what has failed to do so. We have had to call away individuals who formerly guided activities in the various branches and assign them tasks in connection with this or that new enterprise, with the frequent result that a person who made an able Waldorf School teacher became a poor anthroposophist. (This is not meant as a criticism of any of our institutions. The Waldorf School is highly regarded by the world at large, not just by circles close to it, and it can be stated in all modesty that no reason exists to complain about any of the various institutions, or if there is, it is on an entirely different score than that of ability.) It is possible to be both a first-rate Waldorf teacher and a poor anthroposophist, and the same thing is true of able workers in the other enterprises. The point is, though, that all the various enterprises are outgrowths of anthroposophy. This must be kept firmly in mind. Being a real anthroposophist is the all-important thing. Waldorf teachers, workers at Der Kommende Tag, scientists, medical men and other such specialists simply must not turn their backs on the anthroposophical source or take the attitude that there is no time left from their work for anthroposophical concerns of a general nature. Otherwise, though these enterprises may continue to flourish for a while, due to the fact that anthroposophy itself is full of life and passes it on to its offspring, that life cannot be maintained indefinitely, and the offspring movements too would eventually die for lack of it.

We are dealing with enemies who will not meet us on objective ground. It is characteristic of them that they avoid coming to grips with what anthroposophy itself is, and instead ask questions like, “How are anthroposophical facts discovered?” or “What is this clairvoyance?” or “Does so and so drink coffee or milk?” and other such matters that have no bearing on the subject, though they are what is most talked about. But enemies intent on destroying anthroposophy resort to slander, and samples of it have been turning up of late in phenomena that would have been quite unthinkable just a short while ago, before civilization reached its lowest ebb. Now, however, they have become possible. I don't want to go into the specifics; that can be left to others who presumably also feel real heart's concern for the fate of anthroposophy. But since I was able to be with you here today I wanted to bring up these problems. From the standpoint of the work in Dornach it was not an opportune moment for me to leave, however happily opportune it was to be here; there are always two sides to everything. I was needed in Dornach, but since I could have the deep satisfaction of talking with you here again today, let me just add this. What is most needed now is to learn to feel anthroposophically, to feel anthroposophy living in our very hearts. That can happen only in a state of fullest clarity, not of mystical becloudedness. Anthroposophy can stand exposure to the light. Other movements that claim they are similar cannot endure light; they feel at home in the darkness of sectarianism. But anthroposophy can stand light in all its fulness; far from shrinking from exposure to it, anthroposophy enters into the light with all its heart, with its innermost heart's warmth. Unfounded personal slander, which sometimes goes so far that the persons attacked are unrecognizable, can be branded for what it is. Where enmity is an honest thing, anthroposophy can always reply on an objective basis. Objective debate, however, requires going into the question of methods that lead to anthroposophical knowledge. No objective discussion is possible without satisfying that requirement. Anybody with a heart and a healthy mind can take in anthroposophy, but discussions about it have to be based on studying its methods and getting to understand how its knowledge is derived. Experimentation and deduction do not call for inner development; they merely require a training that can be given anybody. A person with no further background is in no position to carry on a debate about anthroposophy without undergoing training in its methods.

But the easy-going people of our time are not about to let themselves in for any such training. They cling to the dogma that man has reached perfection, and they don't want to hear a word about developing. But neither goodness nor truth are accessible to man unless he acts in the very core of his free being to open up the way to them. Those who realize what impulses are essential to sharing with one's heart in the life and guidance of the Anthroposophical Society and who know how to assess its enemies' motives will, if they have sufficient goodwill, also find the strength needed to bring through to a wholesome conclusion these concerns with which, it was stated before I began this talk, the Society itself is also eager to deal.




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