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Inner Aspect of the Social Question

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Inner Aspect of the Social Question

Schmidt Number: S-3672

On-line since: 23rd December, 2006

III

THERE is truly great significance in how certain men feel impelled to-day to speak about the present situation of mankind — men who at least try, with the aid of their feelings and perceptions, to see into the heart of social affairs. In this connection I would like to read you a few sentences from the address which Kurt Eisner gave to a gathering of students in Basle, shortly before his death. Perhaps some of you already know these sentences, but they are extraordinarily important for anyone who wants to grasp the symptomatic meaning of certain things to-day.

“Do I not hear and see clearly” (he says, referring to his earlier remarks), “that in our life this very longing strives to find expression — and yet accompanying it is the conviction that our life, as we are compelled to lead it to-day, is plainly the invention of an evil spirit! Imagine a great thinker, knowing nothing of our time and living perhaps two thousand years ago, who might dream of how the world would look after two thousand years — not with the most exuberant imagination would he be able to conceive such a world as that in which we are condemned to live. In truth, existing conditions are the one great mirage in the world, while the substance of our desires and the longings of our spirit are the deepest and final truth — and everything outside them is horrible. We have simply interchanged dreaming and waking. Our task is to shake off this ancient illusion about the reality of our present social existence. One glance at the war: can you imagine a human reason which could devise anything like it? If this war was not what men call reality, then perhaps we were dreaming, and now have woken up.”

Just think of it — in his efforts to understand the present time, this man was driven to make use of the concept of a dream, and to ask himself the question: Is not the reality which surrounds us to-day much better called a bad dream, than true reality?

So we have the remarkable case — and consider how typical it is — of a thoroughly modern man, a man who has felt himself to be a herald of a new epoch, who regards outwardly perceptible reality as nothing else than maya — rather as Indian philosophy does — as in fact a dream; and this man feels impelled by the singular events of the present to raise the question (no matter in what sense but still to raise it) whether this reality is not indeed a dream!

Yes, the whole tenor of Eisner's speech shows that he was using more than a mere phrase when he said that this present reality could be naught else than something inflicted on mankind by an evil spirit.

Now let us recall some of the many things that have passed through our souls in the course of our anthroposophical endeavours, and above all the fact that in general we try not to look on outwardly perceptible reality as the whole of reality, and that over against the perceptible we set the super-sensible, which alone prevents the perceptible from ranking as the true, complete reality. This outlook, however, is no more than a tiny spark in the currents of contemporary thought, for these are widely permeated by materialistic ideas — and yet we see that such a man as Kurt Eisner, who is certainly untouched by this spark (at any rate in his physical life), finds himself driven by the facts of the present day to make this surprising comparison: he compares outward reality, at least in its current manifestation, to a dream! Faced with present-day reality, he is driven to a confession which he can express only by calling to witness the general truth of the unreality, the maya-character, of the reality that is outwardly perceived.

Let us now go rather more deeply into many of the things which our consideration of the social problem has brought before our souls in the last few weeks. Let us observe how the trend of events in the past century has more and more brought men to the point of denying the reality of the spiritual or super-sensible world, so that this denial is, one might say, established in the widest circles. Certainly, in some quarters — you may object — a great deal is said about the spiritual world; churches are still numerous, if not always full, and words which purport to tell of the spirit echo through them. Moreover — to-day and also yesterday evening — you can listen almost all the time to bells, which again should be an expression of something recognised in the world as spiritual life. But in this connection we experience something else, too. If to-day an attempt is made to hear what the Christ is saying for our present age, then it is precisely from the adherents of the old religious communities that the most vehement attacks come. Real spiritual life, one that relies not merely on faith or on an old tradition, but on the immediate spiritual findings of the present — that is something which very, very few people want to-day.

On the other hand, is it not as though modern humanity were being impelled — not perhaps by an evil world-spirit, but by a good world-spirit — to think again of the spiritual side of existence — as witness the fact that people are surrounded by a sense-perceptible reality of such a kind that a man of modern outlook has to say: It is like a dream... even a great thinker of two thousand years ago could not have conceived the shape which outer reality would wear to-day?

In any case, here is a modern man led by such a recognition to form conceptions which are not customary to-day. I know that the conceptions of reality, which to-day I have pointed to as important, are found rather difficult by many of our anthroposophical friends. But, my dear friends, you cannot cope with life to-day unless you have the will to take account of these difficult conceptions. How do people usually form their thoughts in a certain realm to-day? They hold a crystal in their hands: that is a real object. They take a rose, plucked from its stem, and in just the same way they say: that is a real object. They call them both real objects in the same sense.

Natural scientists, in their chancelleries of learning and in every laboratory and clinic, talk about reality in such a way as to grant it only to things which have the same kind of reality as the crystal and the plucked rose. But is there not an obvious and important difference in the fact that for long ages the crystal retains, quite of itself, its existing form? The rose, plucked from its stem, loses its form in a very much shorter time; it dies. It has not the same degree of reality as the crystal. And the rose-stem itself, if we tear it from the earth, has no longer the same degree of reality that it had while it was planted in the earth. This leads us to look at objects in a way quite different from the superficial observation of the present day. We may not speak of a rose or a rose-stem as real objects; in order to speak of reality in the fullest sense we must take the whole earth into account — and then speak of the rose-stem, and its roses, as a kind of hair sprouting out of this reality!

So you see — sense-perceptible reality includes objects which cease to be real, in the true sense of the word, if they are separated from their foundation. It is here, in this great illusion, that we have to search among the appearances of outer reality for what truly is reality. Mistakes of the kind I have mentioned are common in looking at nature to-day. But anyone who makes them, and has got used to them as the result of centuries of habit, will find it extraordinarily hard to think about social questions in a way that corresponds to reality. For this is the great difference between human life and nature: anything in nature which no longer has full reality, such as the plucked rose, is allowed to die. Now something can have an appearance of reality which is not reality: the appearance is a lie. And we can quite well incorporate as a reality in social life something which is in fact not a reality. Only then it need not immediately fade away; it will turn into a source of pain and torment for mankind. Indeed, nothing can bring forth healing for mankind which is not first experienced and thought out in terms of complete reality, and then planted in the social organism. It is not merely a sin against the social order, but a sin against the truth, if — for example — daily work proceeds on the assumption that human labour-power (I have often said this here) is a commodity. It can be made to seem so, indeed: but this seeming results in pain and suffering for human society, and sets the stage for convulsions and revolutions in economic life.

In short, what needs to become a familiar thought for people to-day is this: not everything which is revealed in the outer appearance of reality — revealed within certain limits — is bound to be a true reality; it may be a living lie. And this distinction between living truths and living lies is something which should be deeply engraved in human minds to-day. For the more people there are in whom it is deeply engraved, in so many more will the feeling awake: we must seek for those things which are not lies, but living truths ... and the sooner will the social organism be restored to health. What must be added to this?

Something further is necessary for discerning the true or merely apparent reality of an external object. Imagine a being who comes from a planet with a different organisation from ours, so that this being has never encountered the distinction between a rose, growing on its stem, and a crystal — he might well believe, if a crystal and a rose were placed before him, that their reality was of the same kind. And he would no doubt be surprised to find the rose soon withering, while the crystal remained unchanged. Here on earth we know where we are in face of the realities, because we have followed the course of things through long periods.

But it is not always possible to distinguish true reality in the way one can with the rose. In life we encounter objects which require us to create a foundation for our judgment if we are to lay hold of the true reality in them. What sort of foundation is this — with respect particularly to social life?

Now, in the two preceding lectures I spoke about this foundation; to-day I will add something more. You know from my writings the descriptions I have given of the spiritual world — the world which man lives through between death and rebirth. You are aware that in referring to this life in the super-sensible, spiritual world one must be clear as to the relationships which prevail between soul and soul. For there the human being is free from his body: he is not subject to the physical laws of the world we live through between birth and death. So one speaks of the force or forces which play from soul to soul. You can read in my Theosophy how one must speak in this connection of the forces of sympathy and antipathy, playing between soul and soul in the soul-world. In a quite inward way these forces play from soul to soul. Antipathy sets soul against soul; through sympathy, souls are made gentler towards each other. Harmonies and disharmonies arise from the inmost experiences of souls. And this inward experience by one soul of the inmost experience of another is what determines the true relationship of the super-sensible to the sense-perceptible world. It is only a reflection — a sort of lingering remnant — of this super-sensible experience, the experience which establishes a true connection with the sense-world, that can be experienced here in the physical world during life.

This reflection, however, must be seen in its true significance. We can ask: How, from a social point of view, is our life here between birth and death related to our super-sensible life? From here we are at once led — as we often have been in studying the necessary threefolding of the social organism — to the middle member, frequently described: in fact to the political State. People who in our epoch have reflected on the political State, have always been concerned to understand exactly what it is. Moreover, the various class-interests of modern times have led to everything being jumbled up together in the State, so that without further knowledge it is pretty well impossible to tell whether the State is a reality, or a living lie.

It is a far remove from the outlook of the German philosopher, Hegel, to the very different outlook which Fritz Mauthner, the author of a philosophical dictionary, has lately proclaimed. Hegel regards the State more or less as the realisation of God on earth. Fritz Mauthner says: the State is a necessary evil. He regards the State as an evil, but one men cannot do without — as something required by social life. So are the findings of two modern spirits radically opposed.

Owing to the fact that a great deal which was formerly instinctive is now rising into the light of consciousness, the most variously-minded people have tried to form conceptions of how the State should be constituted and what sort of entity it ought to be. And these conceptions have taken the most manifold forms. On the one hand we have the pious sheep who refuse to grasp what the State really is, but want to portray it in such a way that there is not much to say about it, but a great deal to bewail. And there are the others, who want to change the State radically, so that men may derive from the State itself a satisfying form of existence. Hence the question arises: How can we gain a perception of what the State really is?

If one observes impartially what can be woven between man and man within the context of the State, and compares it with what can be woven between soul and soul in the life after death (as I described it just now), then and only then can one gain a perception of the reality of the State — of its potential reality. For, just as every relationship which arises from the fundamental forces of sympathy and antipathy in the human soul after death lives in the inmost depths of the soul, so everything built between man and man through political State-life is a pure externality, based on law, on the wholly external ways in which men confront one another.

And if you follow this thought right through, you come to see that the State represents the exact opposite of super-sensible life. And it is the more complete in its own way, this State, the more fully it fills this opposite role: the less it claims to incorporate in its own structure anything that belongs to super-sensible life, the more it merely embodies purely external relationships between man and man — those wherein all men are equal in the sight of the law. More and more deeply is one penetrated by this truth: that the fulfilment of the State consists precisely in it’s seeking to comprise only what belongs to our life between birth and death, only what belongs to our most external relationships.

But then we must ask: If the State reflects super-sensible life only by standing for its opposite, how does the super-sensible find its way into all the rest of our sense-life? In the last lecture I spoke of this from another point of view. To-day I must add that the antipathies which unfold in the super-sensible world between death and birth leave certain remnants, and we bring these with us into physical existence. Working against them in physical life is everything which lives in so-called spiritual life, in spiritual culture. This is what draws men together in religious communities, and in other spiritual societies, so that they may create a counterpart of the antipathies which have lingered on from the life before birth.

All our spiritual culture should be justified on its own ground, for it reflects our pre-earthly life and in a certain sense equips mankind for life in the sense-world, and at the same time it should be a kind of remedy for the antipathies which remain over from the super-sensible world. That is why it is so dreadful when people bring about schisms in spiritual life, instead of working for unity — in spiritual life above all. The remaining antipathies are surging in the depths of the human soul and prevent the achievement of what should be the essential aim: true spiritual harmony, true spiritual collaboration. Just where this should prevail, we find sects springing up. These schisms and sectarianisms are in fact the reflections on earth of the antipathies which are bound up with the origins of all spiritual life, and for which spiritual life should really come to serve as a remedy.

We must recognise this spiritual life as something which has an inner connection with our life before birth — indeed, a certain kinship with it. We should therefore never try to organise spiritual-cultural life except as a free life, outside the realm of politics, which in this sense is not a reflection but a counter-image of super-sensible life. And we shall gain a conception of what is real in the State, and in spiritual-cultural life, only if we take super-sensible life into account, as well as the life of the senses. Both together make up true reality, while the life of senses alone is nothing more than a dream.

Economic life has a quite different character. In economic life the single man works for others. He works for others because he, just as much as the others, finds it to his advantage to do so. Economic life springs from needs, and consists in all kinds of work which go to satisfy the ordinary natural needs of human beings on the physical plane — including the finer but more instinctive needs of the soul. And within economic life there is an unconscious unfolding of something whose influence continues on the far side of death.

Men work for one another out of the egoistic needs of economic life, and from the depths of this work come the seeds of certain sympathies which are destined to flower in our souls during the life after death. And so, just as spiritual-cultural life is a kind of remedy for the remains of antipathies which we bring into earthly existence from the life before birth, so are the depths of economic life a seed-ground for sympathies which will develop after death.

Here is a further aspect of the way in which we learn from the super-sensible world to recognise the necessity of a threefold ordering of the social organism. Most certainly, no one can reach this point of view unless he strives to become familiar with the spiritual-scientific foundation of world-knowledge. But for anyone who does this it will become more and more obvious that a healthy social organism must be membered into these three realms, for the three realms are related in quite distinctive ways to the super-sensible world, which — as I have said — is the complement of the sense-world and together with it makes up true reality.

But now observe — in recent centuries no one has spoken any longer of these interconnections of outward physical existence, as it manifests in cultural life, political life, and economic life. People have gone on spinning out the old traditions, but with no understanding for them. They have lost the practice of taking a direct way, through an active soul-life, into the world of the spirit, in order there to seek for the light that is able to illuminate physical reality, so that this reality comes then to be rightly known for the first time. The leading circles of mankind have set the tone of this unspiritual life. And in this way a deep gulf has arisen between the social classes — a gulf which lies at the root of our life to-day and is not to be drowsily ignored.

Perhaps I may again recall how, before the time of July and August, 1914, drew on, people who belonged to the leading classes — the former leading classes — were accustomed to praise the stage which our civilisation, as they called it, had at last reached. They spoke of how thought could be carried like an arrow over great distances by the telegraph and telephone, and of the other fabulous achievements of modern technique which culture and civilisation had carried to such an advanced stage. But this culture, this civilisation, was already rushing towards the abyss, out of which have come the frightful catastrophes of to-day. Before July and August, 1914, the statesmen of Europe, especially those of Central Europe — this can be established from the documents — declared times without number: Under present conditions, peace in Europe is assured for a long time. That is literally what was said, by the statesmen of Central Europe especially, in their party speeches. I could show you speeches made as late as May, 1914, when it was said: Through our diplomacy, the relationships between countries have been brought to a point which permits us to believe in enduring peace. That, in May, 1914! But anyone who at that time saw through those relationships, had to speak in a different vein. In lectures I gave then in Vienna, [See: The Inner Nature of Man and Life Between Death and Rebirth.] I repeated, before the war, what I have often said in the course of recent years: We are living in the midst of something which can be called only a cancerous social disease, a carcinoma of the social organism. This carcinoma, this ulcer, duly broke out, and became what people call the World War.

At that time, of course, the statement — we live in a carcinoma, a social ulcer — was for most people a mere way of talking, a phrase, for the World War was still in the future. People had no notion that they were dancing on a volcano! For many it is just the same to-day, if attention is now called to the other volcano — and it certainly is one — which lies in all that is now coming to expression out of the social question, as it has long been called. Because people are so fond of sleeping in face of reality, they fail to recognise in this reality the forces which alone turn it into true reality.

You see, that is why it is so hard to bring home to people to-day what is so necessary — to bring home the point of the threefold ordering of a healthy social organism, and the necessity of working towards this threefold ordering! What is it, then, that distinguishes this way of thinking, which comes to expression in the demand for a threefold social order, from other ways of thinking? You see, these other ways spring from trying to work out what would be the best social order for the world, and what must be done in order to reach it. Now observe how different is the way of thinking which is founded on a threefold ordering of the social organism! There is no question here of asking: What is the best way of arranging the social organism? We start from reality by asking: How must human beings themselves be interrelated, so that they will be free members of the social organism and be able to work together for what is right and just?

This way of thinking makes its appeal, not to theories or social dogmas, but to human beings. It says: Let people find themselves in the environment of a threefold social order, and they will themselves say how it should be organised. This way of thinking makes its appeal to actual human beings, not to abstract theories or social dogmas.

Anyone who lived entirely alone would never develop human speech — human speech arises only in a social community. In the same way, anyone who lives alone cannot arrive at a social way of thinking; he will have no social perceptions and no social instincts. Only in a rightly formed community is it possible to build up social life in face of the happenings of the present time.

But a great deal stands in contradiction to that. Because of the rise of materialism in recent centuries, men have moved away from the true reality. They have become estranged from it, and lonely in their inner lives. And most lonely of all are those who have been torn out of the context of their lives and are connected with nothing but the dreary machine — on the one hand, the factory; on the other, soulless capitalism. The human soul has indeed become a desert. But out of the desert there struggles up whatever can proceed from the single individual. And this consists of inner thoughts, inner visions of the super-sensible world, and also visions which throw light on external nature.

Now it is just when we are quite alone, when we are thrown back entirely on ourselves, that we are best disposed in soul for all the knowledge that can be gained by the single individual concerning his relationships with the worlds of nature and of spirit. In contradistinction to that, we have everything that should flow from social thinking. Only if we reflect on this can we form a right judgment of the momentous hour of history in which we are now living. It was necessary, once in the course of world evolution, that men should have this experience of loneliness, in order that out of their loneliness of soul they should develop a life of the spirit. And the loneliest of all were the great thinkers, who to all appearance lived in abstract heights, and sought from there the way to the super-sensible world.

But of course men must not seek only the way to the super-sensible world and to the world of nature; they must also find a way that unites their thinking with social life. Social life, however, cannot be developed in loneliness, but only through genuine living together with other men; and so the lonely individual who emerged in our modern epoch was not well fitted for social thinking. Just when he rightly wanted to make something worth while out of his inner life, the fruits of his inner life turned out to be anti-social, not social thinking at all! The present-day inclinations and cravings of mankind are the outcome of spiritual forces which are bound up with loneliness, and are given a false direction by the overwhelming influence of Ahrimanic materialism.

The importance of this fact comes out clearly if one asks about something which many people find terrible. Suppose one asks: What do you mean by “bolshevistic”? Most people will say: “Lenin, Trotsky.” Now, I can tell you of a Bolshevist who is no longer alive to-day, and he is none other than the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte. You will have heard and learnt a great deal about Fichte's idealistic, spiritual way of thinking. But you will not know much about the sort of man Fichte was unless you are familiar with the outlook he expressed in his Geschlossenen Handelstaat (A Closed National Economy), which can be bought very cheaply in the Reclam Library. Read how Fichte conceives the social ordering of the masses of mankind, and compare it with the writings of Lenin and Trotsky — you will find a remarkable agreement. Then you will become critical of merely external representations and judgments, and you will be impelled to ask: What really lies at the bottom of all this? And if you try to enter into it more closely and to get clear about its foundations, you will come to the following.

Suppose you try to make out the particular spiritual orientation of the most radical men of the present day, and endeavour perhaps to penetrate into the souls of the Trotsky’s and Lenin’s, their ways of thinking and forms of thought, and then you ask: How are we to think of such men? And you get this answer: One can imagine them first in a different social setting, and then again in our own social order, in this social order of ours which has developed in the light — or, more truly, in the darkness, the gloom — of the materialism of recent centuries. Now consider, if Lenin and Trotsky had lived in a different social order — what might they have become, with their spiritual forces unfolding in a quite different way? Deep mystics! For in a religious atmosphere the content of such souls might have developed into the deepest mysticism. In the atmosphere of modern materialism it has become what you know it to be.

Take Johann Gottlieb Fichte's Geschlossenen Handelstaat: we have here the social ideal of a man who in truth sought most earnestly to tread the highest path of knowledge who put forth a way of thinking which was constantly inclined towards the super-sensible world. When he conceived the wish to work out for himself a social ideal also, this was indeed a pure impulse of the heart, the human heart. But the very thing which fits us to pursue inwardly the highest ideals of knowledge is a handicap if we want to apply it to social life; it unfits us for developing a social way of thinking. Along the spiritual path taken by Fichte, a man has to make his way alone. Social thinking has to be developed in the community of other human beings. And then the social thinker's task is above all to consider how the social order must be laid out if men are to work together rightly at the task of founding social life on the direct experience of social fellowship. Therefore I never say to people: this is how you should organise private property as a means of production, or public property as a means of production. I am bound to say, rather: Try to work towards a threefold ordering of the social organism; then the operations of capital will be regulated from the spiritual realm, and infused with human rights from the political realm. Then spiritual life and the life of rights will flow together with economic life in an orderly way. And then will come in that socialisation which, in accordance with certain concepts of justice, will see to it that whatever a man acquires, beyond his own needs as a consumer, shall continually pass over into the spiritual realm. It returns once more to the spiritual realm.

At the present time this arrangement applies only to spiritual property, where it shocks nobody. A man cannot preserve his spiritual property for his descendants for more than a certain period — thirty years after his death at most. Then it becomes public property. We have only to take this as a possible model for the return flow of everything that is produced by individual effort, and indeed of everything embraced by the capitalist system — a model for the leading back of all this into the social organism. The question then is simply — how is it all to be divided up? In such parts as will do justice to the immediate spiritual and individual abilities, and also the former individual abilities, of the human beings concerned: it will be a question for the spiritual realm. Men will arrange it like that, if they are rightly situated within the social order. That is what this way of thinking assumes.

In every century, I daresay, these things would be done differently; in such matters no arrangements are valid for all time. But our epoch is accustomed to judging everything from a materialistic standpoint, and so nothing is seen any longer in the right light. I have often pointed out how in modern times labour-power has become a commodity. Ordinary wage contracts are based on that; they derive from the assumption that labour-power is a commodity, and they are determined by the amount of labour which the workman renders to the employer. A healthy relationship will arise only under the following conditions: the contract must by no means be settled in terms of so much labour; the labour must be treated as a rights-question, to be fixed by the political State; and the contract must be based on a division of the goods produced between the manual workers and the spiritual workers. Such a contract can be based only on the goods produced, not on the relationship between workmen and employer. That is the only way to put the thing on a healthy footing.

People ask: whence come the social evils which are associated with capitalism? They say, these evils come from the capitalist economic system. But no evils can arise from an economic system: they arise first of all because we have no real labour laws to protect labour; and further because we fail to notice that the way in which the worker is denied his due share amounts to a living lie. But what does this denial depend on? Not on the organisation of economic life, but on the fact that the social order permits the individual capacities of the employer to be unjustly rewarded, at the worker's expense. The division of proceeds ought to be made in terms of goods, for these are the joint products of the spiritual and the manual workers. But if you use your individual capacities to take from someone something which ought not to be taken, what are you doing? You are cheating him, taking advantage of him! One need only look these circumstances straight in the face to realise that the trouble does not he in capitalism, but in the misuse of spiritual capacities.

There you have the connection with the spiritual world. First make the realm of society healthy, so that spiritual capacities are no longer enabled to take advantage of the workers: then you will bring health into the social organism as a whole. It all turns on perceiving everywhere what is right and just.

In order to perceive this, one needs a principle of justice. To-day we have reached a stage when principles of justice can be derived only from the spiritual world. And again and again it must be pointed out that nowadays it is not enough to keep on and on declaring: People must recover belief in the spirit. Oh, there are plenty of prophets ready to speak of the necessity of belief in the spirit! But it gets nowhere for people merely to say: “In order to bring healing into the unhealthy conditions of our time, men must turn from materialism to the spirit.” ... No, mere belief in the spirit brings no healing to-day! Any number of celebrated prophets may go round the country saying over and over again: “People must turn inwardly” ... or, “The Christ used to be the concern of a man's personal life only; now He must be brought into social life”... with such phrases absolutely nothing is accomplished! For what matters to-day is not merely to believe in the spirit, but to be so filled with the spirit that through us the spirit is carried directly into material existence. It is useless to-day to say. Believe in the spirit ... what is necessary is to speak of a spirit which is in truth able to master external reality, and can truly declare how the membering of the social organism is to be accomplished. For the cause of the unspiritual character of the present day is not that men do not believe in the spirit, but that they cannot reach such a relationship with the spirit as would enable the spirit to seize hold of matter in real life.

How many men there are to-day who think it extraordinarily fine to say: “Oh, there is nothing spiritual in mere material existence — one ought to withdraw from it: our duty is to turn away from material existence to the set-apart life of the spirit.” Here is material reality: you clip your coupons ... and then you sit down in the room reserved for meditation, and off you go to the spiritual world. Two beautifully distinct ways of living, kept gracefully apart! That leads nowhere to-day. What is wanted to-day is that the spirit should wax so strong in human souls that it does not merely find expression in talk about how men are to be blessed or redeemed, but penetrates right into what we have to do in material existence — so that we enable the spirit to flow into and penetrate external reality. To talk habitually about the spirit comes very easily to human beings. And in this connection many people slip into strange contradictions. The character in Anzengruber's play, who denies God, illustrates this; it is specially emphasised that he denies God by saying: “As truly as there is a God in heaven, so am I an atheist.” This type of self-contradicting person, even though it may not take so crass a form as in Anzengruber's play, is far from rare to-day. For it is very common to talk in this style: As truly as there is a God in heaven, so am I an atheist!

All this gives us further warning not to think merely of belief in the spirit, but to try above all to make such an encounter with the spirit that it gives us strength to see through the reality of the material, external world. Then indeed people will stop using the word spirit, spirit, spirit... in every sentence. Then a man will prove by the way he looks at things, that he is seeing them in the light of the spirit. This is what matters to-day: that people should see things in the light of the spirit, and not merely keep on talking about the spirit.

This is what needs to be grasped, so that anthroposophical spiritual science may not be constantly confused with all the talking about the spirit which is so popular nowadays. Again and again, when some Sunday afternoon preacher of the worldly sort has merely spoken in a better style than usual, one hears that someone has said: “He speaks quite in the spirit of Anthroposophy!” Usually, in such cases, he is doing the very opposite! This is the point that needs attention; this is what counts.

Whoever recognises this is not far from perceiving that such a well-intentioned remark — I might say, a remark spoken from a presentiment of tragic death — as the one I quoted from Kurt Eisner, is particularly valuable, because it strikes one like the confession of a man who might say: “To be honest, I don't believe seriously in the super-sensible — at least I have no wish to give it any active attention. Those who speak about the super-sensible have certainly always said: the reality we perceive here with our senses is only a half-reality; it is like a dream! But I am bound to scrutinise the form which this sense-perceptible reality has assumed in the social life of the present — and then it does look to me very like a dream! The effect is that one is forced to say: this reality is clearly the invention of some kind of evil spirit ...”

Certainly a noteworthy confession! But might it not be otherwise? This tragic, terrible guise in which present-day reality presents itself to humanity, could it not be the educative work of a good spirit, urging us to seek in what looks like an evil nightmare for the true reality, which is compounded of the sense-perceptible and the super-sensible? We must not take an exclusively pessimistic view of the present; we can also draw from it the strength to achieve a kind of vindication of contemporary existence.

Then we shall never again allow ourselves to stop at the sense-perceptible: we shall feel impelled to find the way out of it to the super-sensible. Anyone who refuses to seek for this way will indeed be unable to think far without saying: this reality is the invention of an evil spirit! But whoever develops the resolve to rise from this reality to a spiritual reality, will be able to speak also of education by a good spirit. And in spite of everything we see around us to-day, we should remain convinced that humanity will find a way out of the tragic destiny of the present. But, of course, we must attend to the clear injunction that bids us work together for social healing.

This I wished to add to what I have said recently.




Last Modified: 17-Apr-2019
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