Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms
7 August 1920, Dornach
Yesterday, I indicated in a certain context what it is that party opinions here on the physical plane actually represent. Since life today is actually ruled by party programs of all different shadings, it is essential to become more aware of their nature. I also mentioned that in this abstract age certain people are inclined at least to profess the maxim: All the phenomena that can be perceived with the senses or comprehended with ordinary reasoning are Maya. Yet, when it becomes a matter of comprehensively applying to life such a general, abstract truth, which people claim to embrace, the vital link connecting most persons' souls to life's realities today tears apart, as it were. Party opinion, too, must be regarded as a reflection of something that is of supersensory nature, having its reality in the spiritual world. It only has its image here in the physical world, just as natural phenomena, for example, even the most complex ones, must be acknowledged as such in regard to physical man. I already explained yesterday that party opinions are formed because a group of people flock to a more or less clearly defined abstract party program. A number of demands are raised; they are supposed to be fulfilled by one or another means; people do one thing or another — mostly, they talk about this or that — to help such programs, such party views, to become reality. Groups of people gathering under the flag of an abstract idea which they hope can be realized, that is what constitutes a party.
One who examines all this more closely, particularly from the spiritual-scientific standpoint, is not so much concerned with the nature of the programs, because he first has to examine this aspect in its context with the world. His primary concern is with the external phenomenon of people forming into groups.
I said yesterday that when ascending from the physical plane into the higher worlds beyond the threshold, no abstractions exist, no abstract demands exist as posed in party programs. Instead, as soon as one has crossed the threshold, having passed the Guardian of the Threshold without lingering there as so many are inclined to do, one finds that only beings exist beyond the threshold. It is not possible to follow a program; one can only follow one or another being. One cannot group around an abstract idea, only around this or that being. While mankind is in great need of such knowledge, it is precisely this insight that men are vehemently rebelling against. At present, to gather under the umbrella of an abstract idea and to yearn for the realization of abstract programs is dear to people's hearts. To understand that abstract programs can only exist in the physical world and that something that can be grasped in abstract ideas can only be subject to the physical realm is something that people do not wish to comprehend, for it would be troublesome. I draw a line here, denoting the threshold (see drawing). Here are the party groups (blue circles) and here, their programs (X). This illustrates how people gather under party programs. Yet, since these programs correspond to certain beings in the supersensory world (orange), all those adhering to a party view link themselves with certain beings of the higher world. What is merely an image in the physical world corresponds to groupings around a being in the super-sensible world (red circles).
It must be emphasized that this knowledge is an absolute necessity for a prosperous development in the future, because instinct must be replaced increasingly by awareness, if humanity is to progress in its evolution. A remnant of an old instinctive group mentality causes men today to congregate under the umbrella of party programs. They believe that by what they do in such groupings, by massing together and professing to the corresponding program, by actions or mostly words done or spoken for the sake of realizing this, program, all possible avenues have been explored. People claim to belong to a certain party, a socialist, a liberal party, a women's movement, or a party of a spiritualistic nature, and so on. If I were to enumerate just a small segment of all the parties existing today, my lecture this evening would become much too drawn out. Because people nurture the belief that the nature of their activities here on the physical plane is fulfilled by what they do and say within a party, they unconsciously follow a being in the supersensory world whom they do not wish to know. Just because men do not know something does not make it any less real. Even if neither the liberal professing to liberal party views nor the one belonging to a women's rights group knows that he follows certain supersensory beings, this does not mean that he is not actually doing so. In reality, he is part of their entourage. Thereby, he counteracts the whole spirit of progressive evolution in our age, for that spirit demands the transformation of all instinctive, unconscious and subconscious elements into fully conscious intentions, into conscious action, word and thought.
Of course, we are also familiar with older groupings of people, groups with racial connections; and we know, too, of other groups, leading even today an ephemeral, shadowy, but nevertheless noisy and deluded existence — the groupings into nations. We know them well! If you recall the lecture cycle on the nature of folk souls which I gave in Kristiania in 1910, 8 Rudolf Steiner: The Mission of the Folk-Souls, GA 121 (London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1970). you will find that one cannot remain on the physical plane if one wishes to examine carefully these relationships of races and nations. It becomes necessary to ascend into the higher worlds. We outlined in those lectures how such groups of people are held together and guided by beings from the hierarchy of archangels. We saw also that in such groupings into nations, super-sensible entities are present among human beings.
If we now picture in our minds the difference between the relationship of racial and national groups of people to their super-sensible beings, and the relationship of parties to their super-sensible beings, we find that the former are able instinctively to manifest and transform into reality the impulses given them by the beings belonging to them in the higher world. In this case, it is fully justified that instinctive observance of the impulses of these super-sensible beings holds sway. Mankind had to struggle to rise above this instinctive obedience to super-sensible beings. It goes without saying that humanity could not consciously follow the folk spirits, the archangels, from the beginning, but instinctive forces instead had to permeate this allegiance. In a sense, human beings could only be educated gradually to a conscious state.
The farther back one traces mankind's evolutionary history, the more one discovers that ancient people had a clearly defined, albeit instinctive, awareness in following such super-sensible beings as a group, a nation or a race. Certainly, during the middle epoch preceding our present age, Such awareness was partially lost. More and more, men had to forgo their knowledge of the super-sensible worlds, but the farther we go into ancient history, the more we find that men instinctively interpreted their sense of belonging together as a race by the fact that they recognized a spiritual, super-sensible entity as their leader. In former times, even if a human leader was recognized by groups of men, the greatest part of his followers clearly sensed that the folk spirit was embodied in him. They felt that what they beheld as the external human form was in a sense possessed by their super-sensible leader. One may view this any way one likes, one may even consider it an old superstition. Those, however, who think differently about so-called superstitions need only wait and see whether, by the year 3000, our zoology, chemistry and botany may not also be viewed as a nineteenth- and twentieth-century superstition by those whose mentality is on par with those who speak of these other matters today as old superstitions.
Now, what is the difference between the way these groups stand in regard to their spiritual guidance, and the Position party opinions find themselves in with respect to their spiritual counterpart? The ancients did not have party programs that were derived by outlining abstract ideas. It would have ill behooved a Ghengis Khan or a Timur Khan, and others like them, to present their people with something like an abstract party program such as the present Ghengis Khan, who is called Lenin today, interposes between himself and his cohorts. There is a significant contrast. The great khans of the former Mongols were without programs, but those possessing insight perceived in them the living incarnations of super-sensible beings. The great khans of the present, Lenin and Trotsky, 9 Lenin: 1870–1924, founder and leader of Bolshevism; Trotski: 1879–1940, Lenin's closest associate. carry within their souls an abstract party program, not an awareness of being heralds of a higher being. This makes a considerable difference because it indicates that the yes-men below the leaders in the party affairs have only abstract ideas in their minds and consciously deny to themselves that they are part of the fellowship of a higher spiritual being.
Only a few groups of men do not function on that level. I introduced one of them, the Jesuits, to you yesterday. The Jesuits do not get involved in childish nonsense such as party programs. Read the series of lectures I delivered in Karlsruhe, From Jesus to Christ, 10Rudolf Steiner: From Jesus to Christ, GA 131 (London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1973). a series that has somehow come into the hands of the local clergy. There, you can read about the exercises a Jesuit must subject himself to before he can properly assume his post. The Jesuit is not charged with any party program, no demands are dressed up for him in abstract formulations. He is shown through exercises how to follow his spiritual leader; he is trained to know himself to be in the entourage of a super-sensible being. This is also the case in a few other more or less secret modern groups. It also holds true for those involved in the major political activities of the West, political activities which are literally, step by step, turning out just as these exponents of certain Western occult politics have envisioned them for a long time. What really matters, however, is that we pay heed to the spirit of progress in our age, that an awareness is regained of the link between man and the spiritual world and of the relationship between all that man does here on earth and events and living beings of that realm. We should seek out those beings in the spiritual world who participate in the constitution and guidance of our world so that we can know into whose following we enter through our various actions. Today one cannot do anything that benefits the actual progress of mankind if, apart from becoming aware of the connection to the spiritual world regarding egotistic inner soul needs, one does not become fully aware that through one's outward actions, expressed for example in party opinions and the like, a connection with the higher worlds is created as well. Spiritual science should not merely reassure our souls, so to speak, concerning the narrowly confined affairs of our individual personality; it is supposed to produce impulses for shaping all of life. This was the recurrent theme of my recent lectures. Humanity has arrived at abstraction and must find its way out of it. We are deeply enmeshed in abstraction, particularly in regard to the so-called practical sides of life, especially in party functions. We must shed this abstract nature if the recent European debacle is not to become a total catastrophe. In all areas, it is a matter of looking in the right direction.
We must above all consider something I mentioned before my trip to Stuttgart to a number of you sitting here. It is something that I would like to repeat today for the sake of the numerous foreign guests who are present, and also because every opportunity must be seized to lend a voice to those ideas that have to pervade human souls in our age. Yesterday I said that what is practiced as spiritual science must be a completely different form of knowledge from the one customarily called knowledge. It must be knowledge that is action. One must be conscious of the fact that in that one strives after spiritual knowledge, one has to do with realities, not mere logical schemes. I also said that people today are used to saying: This person is an advocate of materialism; materialism is wrong; hence, he must be refuted. One believes that something has been proven by refutation. I cited examples of how such concepts of right and wrong must yield to the much more real concepts of healthy and sick in the realm of anthroposophically oriented spiritual science. “Healthy” and “sick” indicate actual conditions in human life. We do not merely recognize right or wrong knowledge, we recognize healthy and sick knowledge. By shedding the proclivity for abstraction we enter deeply into the sphere of concrete reality.
We must consider all this from a still higher perspective. We know from the many books on anthroposophy that man is composed of a soul-spiritual part (blue) and a physical part (red), as illustrated in my sketch. We know that certain theoretical materialists of the nineteenth century felt that it was entirely unnecessary to speak of soul and spirit elements because they had nothing to do with human knowledge. They held that what dwells as thinking, feeling, and willing in the so-called human soul is merely the result of the physical nervous system and the brain. You know that we must differentiate between this theoretical materialism and the practical materialism which, to this day, still holds sway in a particularly crass form. It differs entirely from theoretical materialism which reached its peak in the nineteenth century. A person who is only used to the ideas prevalent today will disagree with the sort of materialism which maintains that human thoughts, feelings and impulses of will are merely the product of the nervous system and the brain. He feels that this opinion must be refuted. Once he has done so he believes that he has proven that man does not merely consist of a physical body with a nervous system and brain, but that he also has a soul and spirit. Spiritual science, however, cannot be content merely with this refutation, for it is not only a science bent on a logical course, but one dealing with realities. All that lives in the physical world is a replica of the world of soul and spirit, but not only in the sense of a picture one paints upon a wall. The physical world in all its activities and expressions of life is also a reflection of the higher world.
In the case of the human being, we observe that man descends from the soul-spiritual world through conception and birth into the physical realm. The configuration of forces that he brings along from the world of soul and spirit goes to work on the physical body which is taken over from the hereditary stream. This body with its entire configuration is developed by the descending soul and spirit forces. Not only is it developed in regard to its outer form but also in that of its inner functions. Consequently, everything surrounding you in the external sense world can be thought about very well simply with the brain. For, in regard to its faculties, this brain is also an image of soul and spirit. One who only confines himself to the absorption of what the outer sense world or modern science offers thinks only with the brain; he is merely matter that thinks. No objection can be made about this; he is just thinking-matter. Today, the time has come to transcend the state of being merely thinking-matter. One can accomplish this by thinking thoughts that have not been acquired from the sense world, such as anthroposophically oriented thoughts. Those who wish to adhere exclusively to the sense world consider these anthroposophical thoughts to be crazy, unreal and fantastic. This is because the moment they are called upon to think these thoughts they have to make a strenuous effort. They have to break free in their thinking, but they wish to think these thoughts with their brain. Yet, with the brain, one can only think the external physical thoughts, thoughts about the physical realm. One can think about atoms and molecules quite well with this brain in the feebleminded manner I outlined yesterday. By means of this brain, however, it is not possible to think the thoughts presented in such a book as Occult Science, an Outline. 11Rudolf Steiner, Occult Science, an Outline, GA 13 (Spring Valley, Anthroposophic Press, 1972). Thus, anthroposophy is regarded as sheer fantasy. A considerable effort of will must be made to free the soul-spiritual. Then, one can think those thoughts and no longer finds them absurd or fantastic, but in full harmony with life.
In the course of the last centuries, however, since the middle of the fifteenth century, mankind reached a point where, in a sense, it increasingly sank down into itself. It permitted the soul-spiritual aspects to fall asleep and allowed itself to become immersed in the substantiality of the corporeal element. People were content to think merely with the physical brain, to set the brain on an automatic course, just as the brain of the professor, sitting at his lectern, functions automatically. The brain automaton above is followed below by the brain automata of the students. Whole groupings of human beings switched over to this merely automatic materialistic functioning of the brain, namely, physical thinking. They sank deeper and deeper into the corporeality, and did not activate themselves from within to quicken the comprehension for what is derived from the super-sensible world. This has been the growing trend among the people of the so-called civilized world since the middle of the fifteenth century. And by the middle of the nineteenth century, just that particular segment of humanity which is called intellectual in the civilized parts of Europe and America had turned into physical thinkers.
Now, when Buechner, Moleschott or the weighty Vogt 12Ludwig Buechner: 1824–1899, doctor of medicine; Jacob Moleschott: 1822–1893, physiologist; Carl Vogt: 1817–1895, zoologist. appeared on the scene and began to think a little, unaware of the fact that behind their own thinking was something that should have given them a jolt, they observed their contemporaries and, interpreting them quite correctly, concluded: Individualism, spiritualism — wrong; it is the brain that thinks! Indeed, it was only brains that were thinking; materialism was quite correct. This is just the secret; the theoretical materialists of the nineteenth century stated nothing wrong; on the contrary, they were right. It would even have been an insult for colleague X to have claimed that colleague Y was endowed with soul and spirit, because in all truth X could only say concerning Y that a brain was thinking automatically. Nineteenth century materialism was therefore basically correct, for it referred to a certain stage of human evolution characterized by the fact that human beings have become body-bound and that their thinking, along with feeling and willing, arises out of materiality. Then even mystics came along who had steeped themselves in their inner being, but these mystics actually only observed the inner seething of substance within the skin until it became flames and flared up into consciousness.
Spiritual science would be in the wrong if it were now to take a merely logical standpoint. It may not say that materialism is incorrect and needs to be refuted. Such refutation is the favorite pastime of our age of abstraction. Spiritual science must do things by its knowledge. Hence, first of all, the mere refutation of materialism does not hold true for people who have become body-bound. Secondly, nothing is accomplished by merely disproving materialism. Instead, it is a matter of motivating people to shake themselves free of the Bonds of materiality and to nurture and cultivate thoughts that follow the course of super-sensible results of research. Materialism is not to be disproved, it is to be overcome! Human beings must once again become soul-spiritual by awakening their own soul-spiritual being. It must be through action that real materialism is overcome; not through some sort of erroneous refutation. The sad fact is not that materialism is a mistaken world-view, but that it has become right for the recent cultural development. It therefore cannot be a matter of contradicting a false world-view. Rather, it is a matter of giving human beings the means whereby they may perform soul deeds that overcome the body-bound condition of humanity so that they Break free of materiality. The knowledge referred to here must be action, not mere logic. This is the issue.
However, people have a hard time comprehending the difference between mere bantering in negations or affirmations while remaining in the sphere of abstract concepts, and the element of action that flows directly from the well-spring of the spirit. Just try to clarify to yourselves that it is one thing merely to refute materialism logically because you are of the opinion that it is wrong, and quite another to facilitate the healing process through spirituality by overcoming the quite real materialism which has gripped mankind as a disease. This difference must be recognized, for what matters today is that spiritual deeds are accomplished and carried into social life as well. There is a fundamental difference between self-satisfaction in a theoretical worldview and the active involvement in knowledge that turns into action.
Attention must be focused on this matter so that we become aware of the difference between anthroposophically oriented spiritual science and other similar endeavors; for this spiritual science must be comprehended as something that actually relates to the tangible forces of ascent and decline in social life.
If we turn our attention to Eastern Europe we can see how the Russian character, concerning which Western and Central Europeans hardly form any proper concepts, is being infiltrated by something that Europeans can very well understand even though they abhor the Leninism and Trotskyism that are spreading out over Russia. There are many people who believe that this Leninism and Trotskyism have something in common with what is to arise eventually in the East. Far from it! These movements only have something in common with the decline of the East and its further ruin. They are purely destructive forces and what is to arise in the East must develop in opposition to these forces of annihilation. Let me illustrate this. Here, in the East, we have something fundamental (see sketch, green) which is given little attention today. During the past few years, Bolshevism, Leninism and Trotskyism have spread over the East as destructive forces (white). What I have indicated here in green is trying to surface. Leninism and Trotskyism are merely the continuation of the old czarism and, as I have mentioned before, Lenin is the new czar, only in different attire, but basically the same thing. Czarism becomes Leninism, although as czarism it dies in Leninism. In the East, elements opposing czarism have for centuries tried to work their way to the surface. These elements only misunderstand their own existence if they make concessions, in any form, to Leninism and Trotskyism. This is happening all the way into Asia. People have yet to realize the magnitude of the coming upheavals; this is only a lull between the last catastrophe and the next one. The souls sleeping during this respite will have a rude awakening one day; they will rub their eyes and pull off their sleeping caps when the catastrophe continues on its course. Yet, what will work its way to the surface despite all this is the village community. Only a person who understands the nature of the individual village communities comprehends what is trying to emerge in the East as a social constitution. The village community is the only reality in the East. All the rest is but an institution that is perishing.
It will be the task of people in the West to understand the means by which this aggregate of the village community can be organized. Indeed, it is only by the threefold social organism that the crumbling web of Western opinions in single human individualities can also be organized. 13Rudolf Steiner: Towards Social Renewal, GA 23 (London, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1977). On the one hand, the threefold social organism must incorporate the individual members of the Eastern village communities. On the other hand, it must save from ruin the crumbling Western organisms that are becoming individualized and which, as aggregates, are Splitting up into their separate components.
In regard to the immediate future, the so-called civilized world faces only two options: Bolshevism on one side, and the threefold social order on the other. He who does not recognize that only these two alternatives exist in the near future understands nothing of the course of events on a grand scale. Yet a real comprehension of these matters can only be attained by trying to apply the inner training, acquired by man through spiritual science, to the observation and the management of public social conditions.
Nowadays, one is always truly sorry when one sees people squander their spiritual potential in antiquated party programs. It is sad to see that people are so unwilling to understand that something truly new is needed in order to overcome the last remnant of the old, the ultrareactionism and conservatism, namely, Bolshevism. It will certainly not be overcome through the programs devised by today's statesmen from Middle and Western Europe. For these programs contain nothing of the element that must indwell any impulse of the future; nothing of the new spirit lives in them. Yet, this new spirit is needed. And if this new spirit is not present in the great political and cultural endeavors, then these efforts only serve to let mankind slide into further catastrophes. Likewise, if this new spirit is not contained in the party views, humanity will slip down into more calamities.
It is this that must now be considered and thought over in all sorts of forms. One is asked the following question again and again, “Well, the threefold social order is fine, but how will this or that turn out when this order has actually been introduced into the social organism?” The grocer, for instance, wonders how he will sell his wares when the threefold order comes into being, and so on. Only a while back, here in this auditorium, the question was raised how ownership of a sewing machine would be affected by the threefold social organism. If one is incapable of tackling the questions on the grand scale and is unable to realize that if they enter generally into the social life, the details will arrange themselves accordingly and assume their proper shape; if one is not in a Position to handle the major questions on a grand scale, one will never reach the summit of this age, which is a time of hard trials for mankind. For this reason, it is necessary today to be able to envisage a spiritual metamorphosis of the old cherished notions. In this connection, it is probably still so that if one were to examine the essay books of Middle European students at the end of a school term to see what sort of essays they had written, one would find among a large number of them the following essay title: “Each one must choose his hero in whose footsteps he works his way up to Olympus.” 14Words by Pylades in Goethe's play, “Iphigenie auf Taurus.” Young ladies of private schools, middle and high school students write beautiful essays on this theme. In real life, however, people run after abstract party programs. But even something poetic like the above, which certainly has its justification in the context of the poetic work from which it was taken, must also be read here in a spiritual metamorphosis. We must discover the way of looking into the spiritual world that leads to the spiritual beings under whom we gather together.
What was introduced as a conservative or a liberal program in earlier years and is seen today as a social-democratic or an agrarian program is all so much chitchat. It is all abstract formulation, as are the programs of all women's clubs and vegetarian organizations, etc. The really important thing is that one knows how the world process pulsates through the world's course and that one has an answer for what holds sway in the super-sensible sphere above when, for example, a certain group of people gathers together under some program for women's rights and so forth. Today, everything must be raised with the necessary earnestness to the vantage point of the spiritual, super-sensible world, for only by viewing the higher world together with the sense world is it possible to find what it is that can truly bring about progress for us in our age of great affliction and bitter trials.