31 December 1918, Dornach
It relates to an elementary need of every human soul that on the last day of the year our thoughts should dwell on the transitory nature of time. For this need we may well look back in self-examination to find what has entered our external life and also our soul during the course of the year. We may well cast a glance back to the progress we have made in life, to the fruits of the experiences life has offered us. From such retrospect some degree of light may fall upon feelings that made our life seem more or less worthwhile, more or less difficult, or more or less satisfactory. We are indeed never able to observe our life as if it were the life of an isolated human being; we are obliged to consider it in its connection with the world as a whole and mankind as a whole. And if we are earnestly striving for an anthroposophical view of the world, we will feel the need with particular insistence to consider our relation to the world again and again at this constant turning-point of time, this ending of one year and beginning of another.
Since, however, our present review takes place at a time when there is so much turmoil in our souls, when all that mankind has suffered in these last four-and-a-half years is still burdening us, when as anthroposophists we observe our relation to the world and to humanity against the background of unprecedented world events, then our survey of the past year takes on quite a special character.
The thoughts I particularly wish to bring you this evening may perhaps be looked upon as an insertion, irrelevant to our previous context. At the moment we are holding before our mind's eye the transitory nature of time and of events in time, and how all this affects the human soul. But as students of spiritual science we cannot forget that when we look upon time flowing by and upon our experiences during its passing, we meet with many difficulties. Those especially whose hearts and minds are given over seriously to anthroposophical thought confront these difficulties in their observation of the world.
You all know the strange experience people have who have not travelled very much in trains. As they look out the window they receive the impression that the whole landscape is moving, hurrying past them. Of course it is they themselves who are moving with the train, but they ascribe the movement to the land the train is passing through. Gradually by accustoming themselves to their situation they get the better of this illusion and put in its place the correct idea of the sights they see through the window. Now, fundamentally but in a more complicated way, we ourselves—where the affairs of the world are concerned — are in a similar situation to those good people in the train. They are deceived about what is at rest in the landscape and what is moving. We sit within our physical and etheric bodily nature that was given to us as a kind of vehicle when we left the spiritual realms to come into physical existence between birth and death, and in this vehicle we hurry through the events of this world. We observe the world by means of this physical vehicle in which we rush along the course of earthly existence. And the world as we observe it in this way is in most cases an illusory experience. So that really we may venture on the following comparison: we see the world as falsely as the man in the train who imagines the landscape is rushing past him. But to correct the illusory view of the world to which we are prone is not so easy as correcting the illusion one has while looking out of the train window.
It is at this special moment of New Year's Eve, dear friends, when we are still within the year in which we have had to correct so many current conceptions of the world, that such a thought may enter your souls. You know what I have told you of the experiences we would have if we were to live consciously the life from childhood to a ripe age that now we live unconsciously. I have told you how the human being matures in definite life periods, so that at definite stages he is able to know certain things out of his own power. People have to give up all manner of illusions concerning the various conditions of maturity in human life — for the reasons I have just been mentioning.
There are two kinds of illusions to which we are most subject in life, illusions that impress themselves upon our minds at such a time as this, as we glance over the past year and toward the coming one. These illusions arise from our having no idea in ordinary consciousness of how we relate to certain conditions of the outer world. This outer world is not only an aggregate of things kept in order in space; it is also a succession of events in time. Through your senses you observe the outer events taking place around you, in so far as these are natural events. You observe in the same way natural events in the human kingdom. The world is engaged in the processes of becoming. This is not generally recognized, but it is so. The processes go on at a definite speed. There is always a certain speed in what is coming about. But then turn your gaze from these events to what goes on within yourself. You know how processes go on in you both consciously and unconsciously. You do not stand in the world as a finished, self-contained spatial being, but you stand within continual happening, continual becoming, within processes continually going on and continually proceeding at a definite speed.
Let us consider the speed at which we ourselves hurry through the world in relation to the speed belonging to natural events. Natural science pays no heed to the tremendous difference existing between the speed of our own Passage through the world and the speed of natural events. When we compare the part of our life that is bound up with sense observation of the outer world and the drawing of our life experiences from such observation, when we consider this part of our life in its processes of arising and passing away and compare it to the external natural events toward which our senses are directed, we find that our passage through the stream of time is far slower than that of natural events. This is important for us to bear in mind. Events in nature take place comparatively quickly; we go more slowly. Perhaps you will remember that I referred to this difference when I gave a lecture at one time not far away, at Liestal, on “Human Life from the Standpoint of Spiritual Science.” From birth to change of teeth takes seven years for us human beings, that is, for the development of the physical body. Then we need another seven years for the development of our etheric body. Comparing ourselves with the plant kingdom, for instance — which can be regarded for the moment as corresponding to our etheric body — we can say that it takes just one year for the plant kingdom, represented by an annual plant, to go through all the development that can be gone through in the etheric body. We human beings need seven years for what the annual plant goes through in a single year. In other words, external nature, as revealed in the plant world, hurries along seven times more quickly than ourselves. And where the etheric world is concerned, everything is subject to the laws revealed in the plant kingdom.
You will see the significance of this, dear friends, if you reflect, for instance, on how things appear when you are traveling in a slow train beside another, faster train going in the same direction. When you yourself are traveling along slowly, the speed of the other train will not seem to you as great as if you were standing still. Or if you are traveling in a train fairly fast, but one that is still going more slowly than an express train, the express will appear to you quite slow. But go just as fast as the express and you will stay beside it. Thus the picture you have of the other train changes according to the speed at which you yourself are moving.
Now, the speed about which we want to talk here, that is, the speed at which we let our etheric body flow along, has to do with much more than merely spatial relations. It has to do with our whole judgment and experience of, and our whole attitude toward, the outer world. The spiritual scientist able to investigate these matters will say: How would it be if human beings were differently organized? if, for instance, we were so organized that we needed only one year to pass from change-of-teeth to puberty? How would it be if we had exactly the same speed as everything in outer nature that is subject to the laws of etheric life? if we got our second teeth in our first year of life, and by the end of our second year were as advanced as we are now at puberty at the age of fourteen or fifteen? Well, dear friends, then in the course of our own life we would be entirely within the course of natural events in so far as they are subject to the etheric life. We would no longer be able to distinguish ourselves from nature. For in reality we are distinguished from nature through the fact of having a different speed in moving forward through the stream of time. Otherwise we would take it for granted that we belonged to nature. And one thing above all must be pointed out: if we human beings were to parallel the speed of events in external nature, we could never become ill from an inner cause. For an illness coming to man from within actually has its origin in the difference in speed of human beings from that of natural events subject to the etheric life. Thus our human life would be quite different if we were not distinguished from the outer world by living seven times more slowly.
So we look back over the year on this New Year's Eve unaware that in our experience during the year we have fallen out of the life of the world. We first come to realize this when after having lived a fairly good part of our life, we begin to carry out repeatedly and really earnestly these New Year reflections. People who can judge these things and who practice this retrospect regularly, will agree with me out of their quite ordinary life-experience that by the age, say, of fifty, after constant practice of this retrospect, we are obliged to admit that we have never actually drawn out of the year what it is possible to draw out. In many ways we leave unused the experiences that could have enriched us. We learn seven times less than we could learn from nature if we did not go through life seven times more slowly than nature herself. Upon arriving at our fiftieth year we have to say to ourselves: Had you actually been able to make full use of each year by absorbing everything that the year wanted to give you, then you would really only need to be seven or eight years old, at the most ten or twelve; for during that much time you would have sucked out everything that has in fact taken you five decades to absorb.
But there is something else. We would never be able to perceive that the world is a material world if we had the same speed of movement. Because we do have a different speed, the world outside, moving more quickly, appears to us as material while our own life appears to us as soul and spirit. If we were to move forward with the same speed as external nature, there would be no distinction between our soul-spiritual character and the course of outer nature. We would consider ourselves part of outer nature and experience everything as having the same soul-spiritual significance as ourselves. We would be fitted into the world quite differently. When we look back over the year on New Year's Eve we are deceived by reason of our own speed being so much slower than that of the world. For although we may look back carefully, much escapes us that would not if we were proceeding at the same pace as the world. This, my dear friends, is an undertone arising from the ground of anthroposophy, that should permeate the serious mood that befits such retrospect on the part of those dedicated to spiritual science. It should tell us that we human beings must look for other approaches to the world than those that can only be found on the external path of life, for that way only leads us to illusions.
This is one illusion. In confronting the world with our senses we move much more slowly through the world than does external nature.
But there is still another illusion. It confronts us when we reflect upon all that lights up our thinking, all that lends wings to our thinking, in so far as this arises from within us. It confronts us when we observe the kind of thinking that depends upon our will. The outer world of the senses does not indeed give us what it could give us in response to our will. We have first to go to meet the things, or events come to meet us. That is different from when we grasp our concepts and ideas as they throw their faint light out of our will. This again has another speed. When we consider our soul-life in so far as it is a life of thought, though connected with our will, our desires and wishes, we find that we have a different speed from the speed of the world we are passing through between birth and death. And if we investigate the matter anthroposophically we come upon the curious fact that in our thoughts, in so far as they depend upon our will, we move much more quickly than the external world.
Thus you see that in all that is connected with our senses we move more slowly, in all that depends upon our thinking we move more quickly, than the pace of life outside us. Actually, we move so quickly in our thoughts — to the extent that they are governed by our will, our longing, our wishes — that we have the feeling, even though unconsciously, (and this is true of everyone) that the year is really much too long. For our sense perception it is seven times too short. For our comprehension through thought, in so far as thoughts depend on our wishes and longings, we have the deep unconscious feeling that the year is much too long. We would like it to be much shorter, convinced that we would be able in a far shorter time to understand the thoughts grasped from our own wishes, our own will. In the depths of every human soul there is something that is never brought into consciousness but that is working in the whole soul experience, the whole soul-mood, and coloring all our subjective life. It is something that tells us that so far as our thoughts are concerned, it would suffice us to have a year of only Sundays and no weekdays at all. For in this kind of thinking a human being lives in such a way that actually he only wishes to experience the Sundays. Even if he is no longer conscious of it, he thinks of the weekdays as holding him up; their place in his life is only as something of which he has no need for his progress in thinking. When we are concerned with thoughts dependent on our will, on our longings and wishes, we are soon finished; in this sphere we move quickly. This is one of the reasons for our egotism. And it is one of the reasons for our obstinacy about what we ourselves think.
If you were not organized, dear friends, in the way I have just described, if with your thoughts you would really follow the course of the external world and not go forward so fast—seven times as fast as the outer world, if you did not only want to use Sundays, then your soul would be so attuned to the world that your own opinion would never seem more valuable to you than anyone else's. You would be able to adjust yourself easily to another's opinion. Just think how large a part it plays in us as human beings, this insistence of ours on the value of our own opinion! From a certain point of view we always think others are in the wrong, and they only become right when we feel disposed to consider them so.
Human beings are indeed curiously contradictory creatures! On the one hand, in so far as we have senses we move much more slowly than the outer world; on the other hand, in so far as we have will in our thinking, we move much more swiftly. So our view is blurred when we look out upon the world, because we are always given to illusion. We do not realize that we have fallen away from nature and are therefore able to become ill. Nor do we realize how we acquire materialistic ideas about the world. Such materialistic ideas are just as false as the idea that the landscape is rushing past us in the opposite direction to our train. We only have these false conceptions because we are moving seven times more slowly than the world. And then also, we cherish the secret thought: if only it were always Sunday! — because, comparatively speaking, the weekdays seem quite unnecessary for the external ideas we want to form about the world out of our wishes and out of our will. Everyone has this secret thought. The human soul-attitude is not always described so truthfully as Bismarck once described it. Bismarck made a curious remark about the last Hohenzollern emperor. While expressing his opinion about what would happen to Germany because of this emperor, he said, “This man wants to live as if every day were his birthday. Most of us are glad to get our birthday out of the way with all its good wishes and excitements, but he wants a birthday all the time!” That was Bismarck's careful characterization at the beginning of the nineties of the last century. Now, it is human egotism that makes our birthday different from all other days. No one really wants to have a birthday all the time, but from a certain point of view one would like it always to be Sunday — one could easily manage with that much knowledge! And although it wears a deceptive mask, much in our mood of soul rests upon this wish of ours to have only Sundays.
In former epochs of evolution the illusions arising from these things were corrected in manifold ways by atavistic clairvoyance. They are corrected least of all in our age. What will correct them, however, what must arise, what I ask you to take into your souls today as a kind of social impulse, is this, that we go deeply into spiritual science as it is intended here, that we do not take it as theory but in the living way I have often described. We then have the possibility within spiritual science of correcting inwardly, in our souls, the illusions originating in those two sources of error. Anthroposophical spiritual science — and let us be particularly clear about this at the turning-point of the year—is something that lets us experience the world outside us in accordance with reality, the world that otherwise one does not experience truly, due to one's going through the world too slowly. Everything depends, actually, on how we ourselves relate to things. Just think for a moment how everything does depend upon our own attitude toward the world! To become clear about these things we should sometimes hold ideas before our souls that as hypotheses are quite impossible. Think how the physicist tells you that certain notes — C - D - E, say, in a certain octave — have a certain number of vibrations, that is, the air vibrates a certain number of times. You perceive nothing of the vibrations; you just hear the notes. But imagine you were organized in such a way (this is of course an impossible idea but it helps us to make something else intelligible) — imagine that you could perceive each separate vibration in the air: then you would hear nothing of the notes. The speed of your own life depends entirely on how you perceive things. The world appears to us as it does according to the speed we ourselves have as compared to the world speed. But spiritual science makes us aware of existing reality, apart from our personal relation to the world.
We speak in anthroposophy, or spiritual science, of how our earth has gradually developed by first going through a Saturn period, then a Sun period, and a Moon period, finally arriving at this Earth period. But naturally everything continues to be present. In the period in which we now live, our Earth existence, other worlds are preparing their Saturn period, still others their Sun period. This may be observed by spiritual science. Even now our Saturn existence is still here. We know that our earth has gone beyond that stage; other worlds have just reached it. One can observe how the Saturn stage arises. The power to observe it, however, depends upon first changing the speed in which one will follow the events; otherwise they cannot be seen. Thus spiritual science in a certain connection enables us to live with what is true and real, with what actually takes place in the world. And if we take it up in a living way—this anthroposophical spiritual science which I have described as the new creative work of the Spirits of Personality—if we do not merely take it as a work of man for our time but as a revelation from heavenly heights, if we receive the impulses of spiritual science into ourselves livingly, then the Spirits of Personality will do what is so necessary for our time: that is, they will carry us out beyond the illusions caused by our speed being different from that of the world. They will unite us properly with the world so that, at least in our feelings about the world, we will be able to correct many things.
Then we can experience the results of our spiritual scientific striving. In the course of the past year I have mentioned many of them. Tonight in this New Year's Eve retrospect I want only to remind you of something I have spoken of before from another aspect: that spiritual science, when taken up earnestly, keeps us young in a certain way, does not let us grow old as we would without it. This is one of the results of spiritual science. And it is of quite special importance for the present time. It means that we are able, however old we may be, to learn something in the way we learnt as a child. Usually when someone arrives at his fiftieth year, he feels from the standpoint of ordinary consciousness that he has lived in the world a long time. Ask your contemporaries whether at fifty they still feel inclined to do much in the way of learning! Even if they say “yes,” notice whether they really do it. A lively acceptance of anthroposophical concepts and ideas can gradually confer on people of a ripe age the power still to learn as children learn — in other words, to become increasingly young in soul — not abstractedly as often happens, but in such a way that they are actually able to learn just as formerly they learnt when eight or nine years old. Thereby the effect of the difference between our speed and that of the world is in a certain way adjusted. Thereby, though we may be of mature age chronologically, our soul does not allow us to be old; our soul makes us a child in a certain sense, makes us behave toward the world as a child. When we are at the age of fifty we can say to ourselves: by living more slowly than the external world we have actually only received into ourselves what we would have received in seven or ten years if we had lived at the same pace as the world. But by remaining fresh we have kept the power to behave as we would have behaved at seven, eight, nine or ten years. That makes a balance. And — because things always do balance in the world—this brings about the other adjustment: the reducing, in a way, what has a greater speed, namely, arbitrary thinking, those Sunday wishes as I described them. This will make it possible not always to want it to be Sunday but to use the weekdays too for learning, making a school of the whole of life.
It is true that I am suggesting a kind of ideal to you, one that is strictly anthroposophical. But perhaps, dear friends, many of you will have had deeper experiences on the last four New Year's Eves than on former ones. Anyone, however, studying world events very seriously may well regard this present New Year's Eve, in comparison to the last four, the gravest of them all. It demands of us that we enter deeply into world events, uniting our thoughts with all the ideas we can grasp through our relation to spiritual science, concerning what is necessary for the world now and in the nearest future. With the help of spiritual science we should stop sleeping in regard to world events. We must become fully awake. A mere glance today will show you that people are fast asleep. Compare modern life with the life of former ages, and you will see how much it has changed for young and old alike. How does this materialistic age affect youth today in an overwhelming majority of cases? Truly, the ideals of our modern youth are no longer as fresh, as bright, as alive, as they were in earlier times. Youth has become a youth that makes demands. There is no great desire on the part of youth to direct their soul-mood to looking forward in life, to painting ideals so full of light for the future that they are able to ennoble life. Already in youth there is the wish to exploit what they find in life. But this results in the old being unable to receive what can only be suitably received during old age. Youth uses up its forces, and old age leaves the treasures of life strewn on its path. Youth is no longer sufficiently hopeful, and old age has a resignation that is not real. Today youth no longer turns to the old to ask: will the young dreams that flow out of my heart be realized? Age hardly finds it possible today to answer: Yes, they will be realized. Too frequently it says: I too have dreamt, and alas, my youthful dreams have not been fulfilled. — Life has a sobering effect upon us.
All these things are bound up with the misfortunes of our time. They are all connected with what has so profoundly shattered mankind. When you look at them carefully, however, you will feel the need for anthroposophical impulses to be deeply inscribed in your souls. For if we wish to be awake at this turning-point of the year, we must ask ourselves: What does this era really signify? What can the future bring? What can possibly evolve out of all that civilized mankind has undergone in the chaos of these last years? If we face these questions as wide-awake human beings, then another question arises, one that is deeply connected with all our possible hopes for the future of mankind. These hopes, I could also say these anxieties, have often faced us in recent years, especially when we were giving our attention to the human beings who are now four, five, six, seven or eight years old. We who are older have much behind us that can support our souls against what is coming. There was much in the past that gave us joy, a joy that will not be experienced by those who are now five or six or eight or nine.
But when we look back over the year, dear friends, on this New Year's Eve, we find nothing in the world is absolute. Everything appears to be an illusion to us, because on the one hand we go too slowly, on the other hand too quickly in relation to the world. Nothing is absolute; all is relative. And, as you will see at once, the question that arises for us is not merely theoretical, it is a very real question: When people wonder about the future of mankind, how does it look in their souls if they have no connection with the ideas of spiritual science? One can, of course, sleep; but even if one is unconscious, this implies a lack of responsibility toward human progress. One can also be awake, and we should be awake.Then that question can still be asked concerning people's attitude in general: How is mankind's future regarded by the human souls who are not able to approach spiritual science? People of this kind are only too numerous in the world. I am referring not only to the dried-up, self-satisfied materialists, but to those countless others who today would like to be idealists in their own fashion but have a certain fear of the real spiritual. They are the abstract idealists who talk of all kinds of beautiful things, of “Love your enemy,” and of splendid social reforms, but who never succeed in coming to grips concretely with the world. They are idealists from weakness, not from spiritual vision. They have no desire to see the spirit; they want to keep it at a distance.
Tonight at this turning-point of time, I should like to put the following question: When a man of this kind is sincere in the belief that he lives for the spirit, when he is convinced of the creative weaving of the spirit throughout the world, but does not have the courage to meet it in all its concrete reality as it wants to reveal itself today through spiritual science: if such a man is a true representative of the whole, or even part, of the modern world, what kind of picture do we have of him? I don't want to give you an abstract description; I would rather give you one taken from the newspapers of the world, of a man whom I have already mentioned in another connection. It is a man who for the reasons just described holds back from taking up spiritual science, believing that he can attain social ideals without it, believing that he can speak of human progress and the true being of man without taking up spiritual science, a man who from his own standpoint is honest. I have often mentioned his name — Walther Rathenau — and I have pointed out what is decidedly weak about him; you will remember, however, that I once referred favorably to his “Critique of the Times.” He is so eminently a type, indeed, one of the best examples of the people of our day who are idealists, people who hold the belief that a spiritual something pervades and permeates the world, but who are not able to find it in its concreteness, that spiritual reality which alone can bring healing for all that is now pulsing so destructively through the world. It would be helpful, therefore, to learn how such a man regards the present course of the world from his standpoint outside spiritual science, what such a man says to himself in all honesty. That is always instructive, my dear friends. I would like, therefore — because all of you may not have read it — to bring before our souls the message Walther Rathenau 20Walther Rathenau: 1867–1922. Zürcher Zeitung, Dec. 28, 1918. has just written to the world at large.
He writes the following: “A German calls to all the nations. With what right? With the right of one who foretold the war, who foresaw how the war would end, who recognized the catastrophe that was coming, who braved mockery, scorn, and doubt and for four long years exhorted those in power to seek reconciliation. With the right of one who for decades carried in his heart the premonition of complete collapse, who knows it is far more serious than either friends or enemies think it to be. Furthermore, with the right of one who has never been silent when his own people were in the wrong and who dares to stand up for the rights of his people.
“The German people are guiltless. In innocence they have done wrong. Out of the old, childlike dependence they have in all innocence placed themselves at the service of their lords and masters. They did not know that these lords and masters, though outwardly the same, had changed inwardly. They knew nothing of the independent responsibility a people can have. They never thought of revolution. They put up with militarism, they put up with feudalism, letting themselves be led and organized. They allowed themselves to kill and be killed as ordered, and believed what was said to them by their hereditary leader. The German people have innocently done wrong by believing. Our wrong will weigh heavily upon us. If the Powers will look into our hearts they will recognize our guiltlessness.”
You see here a man pointing to what Judaism and Christianity point, namely, a Providence — Who is grasped, however, in an abstract form.
“ Germany is like those artificially fertile lands that flourish as long as they are watered by a canal system. If a single sluice bursts, all life is destroyed and the land becomes a desert.
“We have food for half the population. The other half have to work for the wages of other nations, buying raw materials and selling manufactured goods. If either the work or the return on the work is withheld, they die or lose their house. By working to the extremity of their powers our people saved five or six milliards a year. This went into the building of plants and factories, railways and harbors, and the carrying on of research. This enabled us to maintain a profit and a normal growth. If we are to be deprived of our colonies, our empire, our metals, our ships, we will become a powerless, indigent country. If it comes to that — well, our forefathers were also poor and powerless, and they served the spirit of the earth better than we. If our imports and exports are restricted — and, contrary to the spirit of Wilson's Fourteen Points, we are threatened with having to pay three or four times the amount of the damage in Belgium and northern France, which probably runs to twenty milliards — well, what happens then? Our trade will be without profit. We will work to live miserably with nothing to spare. We will be unable to maintain things, renew things, develop things, and the country with its buildings, its streets, its organization, will go to rack and ruin. Technology will lose ground; research will come to an end. We have the choice of unproductive trade or emigration or profoundest misery.
“It means extermination. We will not complain but accept our destiny and silently go under. The best of us will neither emigrate nor commit suicide but share in this fate with our fellows. Most of the people have not yet realized their fate; they do not yet know that they and their children have been sacrificed. Even the other peoples of the earth do not yet realize that this is a question of the very life of an entire race of human beings. Perhaps this is not even realized by those with whom we have been fighting. Some of them say ‘Justice!’, others say ‘Reparation!’; there are even those who say ‘Vengeance!’ Do they realize that what they are calling ‘Justice,’ ‘Reparation,’ ‘Vengeance’ is murder?
“We who go forward mutely but not blindly to meet our destiny, now once more raise our voice and make our plaint for the whole world to hear. In our profound and solemn suffering, in the sadness of separation, in the heat of lament, we call to the souls of the peoples of the earth—those who were neutral, those who were friendly, those belonging to free countries beyond the seas, to the young builders of new states. We call to the souls of the nations who were our enemies, peoples of the present day and those who will come after us:
“We are being annihilated. The living body and spirit of Germany is being put to death. Millions of German human creatures are being driven to hunger and death, to homelessness, slavery and despair. One of the most spiritual peoples on the whole earth is perishing. Her mothers, her children, those still unborn, are being condemned to death.”
There is no passion, dear friends, in all this; it is shrewd forethought—dispassionately, intellectually calculated. The man is a genuine materialist able to assess the real conditions calmly and intellectually. He entertains no illusions, but from his own materialistic standpoint honestly faces the truth. He has thought it all out; it is not something that can be disproved by a few words or by feelings of sympathy or antipathy. It has been thought through by the dispassionate intellect of a man who for decades has been able to say “this will come,” who has also had the courage to say these things during the war.
It was to no avail. In Berlin and other places in Germany I always introduced into my lectures just what Rathenau was saying at the time.
“We, knowing, seeing, are being annihilated, exterminated, by those who also know and see. Not like the dull people of olden times who were led stupid and unsuspecting into banishment and slavery; and not by idolators who fancy they are doing honor to a Moloch. No, we are being annihilated by peoples who are our brothers, who have European blood, who acknowledge God and Christ upon Whom they have built their life and customs and moral foundations, peoples who lay claim to humanity, chivalry, and civilization, who deplore the shedding of human blood, who talk of ‘a just peace’ and ‘a League of Nations’ and take upon themselves the responsibility for the destiny of the entire world.
“Woe to those, and to the souls of those, who dare to give this blood-rule the name ‘justice’! Have courage, speak out, call it by its name — for its name is Vengeance!
“But I ask you, you spiritual men among all the peoples, priests of all the religions, and you who are scholars, statesmen, artists. I ask you, reverend Father, highest dignitary of the Catholic Church, I ask you in the name of God:
“Were it the last, most wretched of all nations, would it be right that for vengeance' sake one of the peoples of the earth should be exterminated by other peoples who are their brothers? Ought a living race of spiritual Europeans, with their children and those still unborn, ought they to be robbed of their spiritual and bodily existence, condemned to forced labor, cast out from the community of the living?
“If this monstrous thing comes to pass, in comparison with which this most terrible war was only a prelude, the world shall know what is happening, the world shall know what it is in the very act of perpetrating. It shall never dare to say: ‘We did not know this. We did not wish it.’ Before God, in the face of its own responsibility to eternity, it shall say openly, calmly, coldly: ‘We know it and we desire it.’
Rathenau also wishes mankind to awake and to see!
“Milliards! Fifty, a hundred, two hundred milliards — what is that? Is it a question of money?
“Money, the wealth or poverty of a man, these count for little. Every one of us will face poverty with joy and pride if it will save our country. Yet in the unfortunate language of economic thought we have no other way of expressing the living force of a people except in the wretched concept of millions and tens of millions. We do not measure a man's life-force according to the grams of blood he has, and yet we can measure the life-force of a nation according to the two or three hundred billion it possesses. Loss of fortune is then not only poverty and want but slavery, double slavery for a people having to buy half of what they need to sustain life. This is not the arbitrary, personal slavery of old that was either terrible or mild; this is the anonymous, systematic, scientific forced-labor between peoples. In the abstract concept of a hundred billion we find not money and well-being alone, but blood and freedom. The demand is not that of a merchant, ‘Pay me money!’ but Shylock's demand, ‘Give me the blood of your body!’ It is not a matter of the Stock Exchange; by the mutilation of the body of the state, by the withdrawal of land and power, it is life itself. Anyone coming to Germany in twenty years' time…”
What now follows is once more the result of cold intellectual foresight. This is not spoken in the way people speak who are asleep when they observe world events!
“In twenty years' time anyone coming to Germany who knew it as one of the most flourishing countries on the earth, will bow their heads in shame and grief. The great cities of antiquity, Babylon, Nineva, Thebes, were built of white clay. Nature let them fall into decay and leveled them to the ground, or rounded them off into hills. German cities will not survive as ruins but as half-destroyed stone blocks, still partly occupied by wretched people. A few quarters in a town will be alive, but everything bright, everything cheerful will have disappeared. A company of tired people move along the crumbling footpaths. Liquor joints are conspicuous by their lights. Country roads are in terrible condition, woods have been cut down, in the fields little grain is sprouting. Harbors, railways and canals have fallen into disrepair, and everywhere there stand as unhappy landmarks the high buildings of former greatness falling into ruin. And all around us are flourishing countries, old ones grown stronger and new ones in the brilliance and vigor of modern technique and power, nourished on the blood of this dying country, and served by its slave-driven sons. The German spirit that has sung and thought for the world becomes a thing of the past. A people God created to live, a people still young and vigorous, leads an existence of living death.
“There are Frenchmen who say, ‘Let this people die. No longer do we want a strong neighbor.’ There are Englishmen who say, ‘Let this people die. No longer do we want a rival on the continent.’ There are Americans who say, ‘Let this people die. No longer do we want an economic competitor.’ — Are these persons really representative of their nations? No, indeed. All strong nations forswear fear and envy. Are those who thirst for vengeance voicing the feelings of their nations? Emphatically, no. This ugly passion is of short duration in civilized men.
“Nevertheless, if those who are fearful or envious or revengeful prevail for a single hour, in the hour of decision, and if the three great statesmen of their nations violently contend with one another, then destiny is fulfilled.
“Then the cornerstone of Europe's arch, once the strongest stone, is crushed; the boundaries of Asia are pushed forward to the Rhine; the Balkans reach out to the North Sea. And a despairing horde, a spirit alien to European ways, encamp before the gates of Western civilization, threatening the entrenched nations not with weapons but with deadly infection.
“Right and prosperity can never arise out of wrong.
“In a way that no wrong has ever yet been expiated, Germany is expiating the sin of its innocent dependence and irresponsibility. If, however, after calm and cool reflection the Western nations put Germany slowly to death out of foresight, interest or revenge, and call this ‘justice’ while announcing a new life for the peoples, a Peace of Reconciliation to last forever, and a League of Nations, then justice will never again be what it was and, in spite of all their triumphs, mankind will never again find happiness. A leaden weight will lie upon our planet and the coming race will be born with a conscience no longer clear. The stain of guilt, which now might still be wiped out, will then become ineradicable and lasting on the body of the earth. In the future, dissension and strife will become more bitter and disintegrating than ever before, drenched in a feeling of common wrongs. Never has such power, such responsibility, weighed upon the brows of a triumvirate. If the history of mankind has willed that three men in a single hour should make their decision concerning the fate of centuries and of millions of men on the earth, then it has willed this: that a single great question of faith should be addressed to the victorious civilized and religious nations. The question is: Humanity or power? reconciliation or vengeance? freedom or oppression?
“Think! consider! you people of every land! This hour is not only decisive for us Germans, it is decisive for you and us — for us all.
“If the decision is made against us we will shoulder our destiny and go to our earthly extermination. You will not hear us complain. But our plaint will be heard where no human voice has ever cried in vain.”
My dear friends, this is the product of sober intellectual foresight, most assuredly not arising from chauvinism but from materialistic thinking. I have brought it to you because we live in a world in which people are most disinclined, even today, to consider the gravity of the present situation. Plenty of people will celebrate this New Year's Eve not only as it has been celebrated during the last four years but also as it was celebrated before this catastrophe. And countless people will take it as disturbing their peace, as upsetting their carefree souls, if one merely draws their attention to the situation.
“Oh, it won't be as bad as all that!” — though it may not be put into words, this is what is inwardly felt, otherwise people would be judging the times differently.
For how many individuals will acknowledge the truth of what we have had to repeat over and over again during these years? — years in which we have always been hearing the following: “When peace comes, everything will be just the same as it used to be, this way and that way and the other way.” How many individuals are awake to what has had to be repeated so constantly: the impossible prospect of finding conditions again as people are still allowing themselves to picture them?
We are dealing here with matters that have been thoughtfully estimated. And things appear quite differently according to whether they are estimated in a spirit of materialism or from the standpoint of anthroposophical impulses. From an external view the statements seem so right! But since there is no prospect of individuals responding consciously to what Walther Rathenau has brought forward as a last-moment expedient—namely, that the peoples should consult their conscience — alas, this talk of conscience! — what can one say? it will certainly not be consulted! Outwardly that is the way events will happen.
One can see only one hope as one looks back at how this was all prepared in the past, certainly not by any particular nation but by the whole of civilized mankind. There is just one hope: to look back on this New Year's Eve to a great universal picture, to what has previously been experienced by mankind; to realize that in a certain sense men have now become sufficiently mature to bring this to an end; and to accept what the new Spirits of Personality now wish to bring down to earth from the heavenly heights. But here, dear friends, insight and will must meet. What the Spirits of Personality as new Creators are wishing to reveal will only be able to come into the world when it finds a fruitful soil in human hearts, human souls, human minds, when mankind is ready to accept the impulses of spiritual science. And what this prosaic materialistic mind has been saying about the material impulses that are actively working, is indeed correct. People should pay attention to what comes from a sober mind like Walther Rathenau — that is, the people who are asserting from a more frivolous standpoint what our times are going to bring forth. When people were in a state of utter intoxication and dreaming, when, if one speaks truly, they were talking complete nonsense — if they could only have looked ahead a little! — but they have stopped now, at least some of them — at that time one might have heard: Out of this war will come a new idealism, a new sense of religion. How often I have heard this! And it was being written over and over again, especially by professors, even professors of theology. You don't even have to go very far; it doesn't even have to be Sunday for you to find in less than ten minutes a theological professor announcing wise prophecies of this kind. But people are already talking differently. Some who have come to the top are saying that now a time of healthy atheism may well be coming, and mankind will be cured of the religion-game instigated in recent times so particularly by the poets and writers. Such opinions are already forthcoming. And they come from persons who should be listening to some of the things a man is saying who is able to judge soberly how reality is taking shape.
In response to all this one can only say: World affairs would indeed develop as we have just heard if only materialistic impulses were working in the world, in human heads and human hearts! If this were actually the case, truly not only Germany, Middle Europe and Russia would be in chains of frightful slavery but the whole civilized world would gradually be similarly enchained, never to know happiness again. For it is what has come from the past that has now made the world come to an end! New impulses do not come from that source. New impulses come from the spiritual world. They do not come, however, unless human beings go to meet them, unless they receive them with a free will. Deliverance can only come when there are human souls ready to meet the spirit, the spirit that will reveal itself in a new way through the Spirits of Personality. There must be human souls who will become creative through these very Time Spirits. There is no other way out. There are only two ways to be honest: either to speak as Walther Rathenau has spoken, or to point to the necessity of turning toward the spiritual world.
The latter way will be the subject of our New Year's Day reflections tomorrow.
Our survey on this New Year's Eve is not meant to be a mere comfortable transition into the new year. It should not be — for anyone who is awake. It should be taken in all earnestness. It should make us aware of what is lying in the womb of time if the Spirit-Child is not to be given its place there. A true perspective of the new year can only be experienced in the light of the spirit. Let us try at this moment between now and tomorrow to tune our souls to this serious mood. Tonight I would conclude only with an earnest word of direction. I myself do not yet wish to show you the actual way; I would only draw your attention to how this New Year's Eve has been received in the soul of an honest man who finds as he observes the world only material powers holding sway. It must be so regarded by the heads, the hearts, the minds and souls — if sincere — of those who do not want to turn to the spirit. There are others, also materialists, who are not sincere; they are sleeping, because then they do not need to admit their insincerity.
This is the view presenting itself to our retrospective vision. This is the New Year's Eve mood! Tomorrow we want to see, from a consideration of the spiritual world, what impression is made upon us by the outlook into the future, by the mood of the New Year.