The Younger Generation
9 October 1922, Dornach
Yesterday I pointed out how the longing of the young today is permeated by something Janus-headed. Certainly, this appears to be permeated by enthusiasm which comes from opposition. But however strongly, at the beginning of the century, this feeling breathed of the present, whoever has now had experience of it no longer finds the opposition in its full measure. Many do not yet admit this impartially, particularly among the young themselves. Yet it indicates something very significant. The generation which at the beginning of the twentieth century confronted world-evolution in such a way that “facing Nothingness” was a most profound experience — this generation was quite new upon the scene in human evolution. But this feeling must reckon with many disappointments prepared out of its own depths.
The full spread of the sails as it was some twenty years ago is no longer there. Not only the terrible event of World War I has deflated these sails, but certain experiences working outward from within have arisen in young people and modified their original feeling. One such experience became evident, at the beginning of the twentieth century, in the feelings of those who had grown older in years but were not inwardly old. It was not clearly expressed in words, but in other than the literal words there was in the young something which pointed to a responsive tiredness.
Here I am placing before you an idea difficult to describe accurately, because what I really mean is only fully intelligible to those who have experienced the youth movement with a certain awakeness, whereas a great part of humanity has been asleep to this youth movement. When one speaks to people in the way I have during the past days, it is as if one were talking of something quite foreign to them, something they have slept through and towards which even today they adopt an extraordinarily sleepy attitude.
Responsive tiredness, I called it. In ordinary life organic existence requires not only activity but also after accomplished work the accompanying state of tiredness. We must not only be able to get tired, we must also from time to time be able to carry tiredness around within us. To pass our days in such a way that we go to sleep at night simply because it is customary to do so, is not healthy; it is certainly less healthy than to have the due amount of tiredness in the evening and for this to lead in the normal way into sleep. So too, the capacity to become tired-out by the phenomena meeting us in life is something that must be.
When education, for example, has been discussed, I have often heard it said that there must be an education which makes learning a game for children; school must be all joy for the child. Yes, those who speak like this should just try how they can make school all joy for the children, so that the children laugh all the time, so that learning is play and at the same time they are learning something. This is the very best possible educational principle for ensuring that nothing at all is learnt.
The right thing is for teachers to be able to handle what does not give the child joy, but perhaps a good deal of toil and woe, in such a way that the child as a matter of course submits to it. It is very easy to say what should be given to the child. But childhood can be injured through learning being made into a game. For it is essential that we should also in our life of soul be made tired by certain things — that is to say, things should create a responsive tiredness. One must express it thus, though it sounds pedantic. Tiredness existed among the young in earlier times, too, when they had to strive towards something living, a certain science, a certain kind of knowledge. I mean times when those possessing a certain amount of knowledge were still able to stand before the young, who wanted to acquire it, as an embodied ideal. Tiredness certainly existed even then.
My dear friends, there may be some here who take the above statement with mild scepticism. There are many people today who would take it with scepticism, for when it is claimed that those who knew something stood as a kind of ideal for those anxious to learn, this idea appears to many as unrealizable. For, at the present time, it is almost incredible that anybody should be regarded as a kind of embodied knowledge, embodied science, that is striven for as we strive for a personal ideal.
Yet, leaving out ancient times, this feeling was still present in a high degree even in the later Middle Ages. Those wonderful and inspiring feelings of reverence, permeating life with real recreative forces for the soul in the later Middle Ages, have to a great extent been lost. And because the urge that once existed was no longer there, the young could no longer get tired from what they were destined to experience. To give this concrete expression I should have to say: Science — I mean science as it was actually pursued, not what frequently goes by the name of science — could be stored up, something that is not in the heads of human beings but in the libraries. Science gradually was not really wanted any more. Hence it did not make people tired. There was no feeling of being overcome by an urge for it; it no longer made one tired. There was no longer any possibility of getting tired from a knowledge that was acquired with difficulty.
And from this, what permeated the young, at the turn of the nineteenth century, derived a quite special character — the character of the life-force in a human being who goes to bed at night before he is tired and keeps turning and twisting about without knowing why. I do not want to imply anything derogatory, for I am not of the opinion that these forces, which are there at night in the human being when he turns and twists about in bed because he is not tired, are unhealthy forces. I am not calling them unhealthy. They are quite healthy life-forces, but they are not in their proper place; and so it was, with those forces which worked in the young at the turn of the nineteenth century. They were thoroughly healthy forces, but there was nothing to give them direction. The young had no longer the urge to tire these forces by what was told them by their elders. But forces cannot be present in the world without being active, and so, at the time referred to, innumerable forces yearned for activity and had no guiding line.
And these forces appeared, for example, in the academic youth. And then one noticed things which I have indicated during these lectures, but which must receive more careful consideration if we want to understand ourselves.
Since the first third of the fifteenth century, all man's striving for knowledge has, out of intellectuality, taken on a character pre-eminently adapted to science, which hardly touches the human being at all. People no longer feel how the human element holds sway in writings of the twelfth or thirteenth century, for instance. This does not imply that we have to return to the twelfth or thirteenth century, to implicit belief in all we find there. We shall certainly not comply with the demands of certain churches in this direction.
But because of the indifference with which people study nowadays what is to be found in a chapter of modern biology — or of some other subject — it is impossible to understand what Albertus Magnus wrote. In that way we do not get to know what he wrote at all. We must take the book and sit down to it as if we were sitting down in front of another human being, because what he says cannot be taken with indifference, or objectively as one says; the inner being, the life of soul, is engaged, it rises and fails, and is quickened to movement. The life of soul is at work when we read even the driest chapter written at that time, by an Albertus Magnus, for instance. Quite apart from the fact that in these writings there is still the power of pictorial expression for what appear abstract things, there is always something in the general ideas which gives us a feeling of movement that we might be working with spade and shovel — from the point of view of our life of soul, that is — everything is brought into splendid human activity; through the pictures we are given we sense that the one who possesses this knowledge has full confidence in what he is imparting.
For such people it was not a matter of indifference if they discovered something of which they thought that in the eyes of God it could be either pleasing or displeasing. What a difference there is between the picture given, let us say, by Albertus Magnus, as the great scholar of the Middle Ages, and one of the eminent minds of the nineteenth century, as, for example, Herbart — one could name others but Herbart had a great influence on education up to the last third of the nineteenth century — whoever realizes what a difference there is must see it like this: Albertus Magnus seems to come before us as a kind of fiery luminous cloud. What he does when he devotes himself to knowledge is something that lights up in him or becomes dim. We feel him as it were in a fiery, luminous cloud, and gradually we enter this fire, because if one possesses the faculty of getting inside such a soul, even if for the modern soul it is antiquated, in steeping oneself in what is moral, writing about it, speaking about it, or only studying it, it is not a matter of indifference whether in the eyes of a divine-spiritual Being one is sympathetic or antipathetic. This feeling of sympathy or antipathy is always present.
On the other hand, if according to the objective scientific method, Herbart discusses the five moral ideas: good-will, perfection, equity, rights, retribution — well, here we have not a cloud which encircles us with warmth or cold but something that gradually freezes us to death, that is objective to the point of iciness. And that is the mood that has crept into the whole nature of knowledge and reached its climax at the end of the nineteenth century.
And so knowledge gradually became something to which people devoted themselves in a way that even outwardly was quite remarkable. It was only at the lecture-desk that one got to know those represented as men of knowledge. I do not know if others as old as myself have had similar experiences. But in the nineties of last century I was always having cause for annoyance. At that time I used to be mixing in all kinds of learned circles, and there I had much reason to rejoice, and was eager to discuss many questions. One could look forward to such conversations and say to oneself: Now we shall be able to discuss, let us say, “the difference between epigenesis and evolution” — and so on.
Yes, one might begin like that but very soon one heard: No, there is to be no “talking shop.” Anything that savored of talking shop was taboo. The man who knew his subject was only heard from the platform and when he left it he was no longer the same person. He took the line of speaking about everything under the sun except his own special subject. In short, life in science became so objective that those with a special subject treated this too very objectively, and wanted to be ordinary men when not obliged to deal with their subject.
Other experiences of a similar kind could be related. I have said this just for the sake of elucidation. But I will tell you the real point in another way. We may find that the teacher hands on to the young things he has only half learnt. We find here or there, for example, those who teach standing before their class with a note-book, or even a printed book by someone else — for all I know, the note-book too may contain things written by other people, but I will not assume that — and boldly setting to work to give his lesson out of this book. By such a procedure he is presupposing that there is no super-sensible world at all. How is it that people give their lessons from a note-book or some other book, thus presupposing that no super-sensible world exists?
Here too Nietzsche had one of his many interesting flashes of insight. He called attention to the fact that within every human being another is hidden. This is taken to be a poetic way of speaking, but it is no such thing. In every human being another is hidden! This hidden being is often much cleverer than the one to be seen. In the child, for example, this hidden being is infinitely wiser. He is a super-sensible reality. He is there within the human being, and if we sit in front of a class of say, thirty pupils, and teach with the help of a book or a notebook, we may perhaps be able to train these thirty pupils to regard this, in their visible selves, as something natural, but — of this we can be quite certain — all the thirty invisible human beings sitting there are judging differently. They say: “He is wanting to teach me something that he has first to read. I should like to know why I am expected to know what he is reading. There is no reason for me to know what he is only now reading for himself. He doesn't know it himself, otherwise he wouldn't be so uncertain. I am still very young and am expected to learn what he, who is so much older, doesn't know even yet and reads to me out of a book!”
These things must be taken concretely. To speak of a super-sensible world does not mean merely to lose oneself in phantastic mysticism and to talk of things which — I say this in inverted commas — are “hidden” from one; to speak of super-sensible worlds means in the face of life itself to speak about actual realities. We are speaking of actual realities when we speak as the thirty invisible children about the teacher of the thirty visible ones who perhaps on account of discipline were too timid to say this aloud. If we think it through, it does not seem so stupid; the statements of these thirty invisible, super-sensible beings are, in fact, quite reasonable.
Thus, we must realize that in the young individuality sitting at the feet of someone who is to teach or educate, much goes on that is entirely hidden from outer perception. And that was how there arose deep aversion to what came in this way. For naturally one could not have a great deal of confidence in a man who faced the hidden being in one in such a way that this job of his had become as objective as the approach to knowledge generally at the end of the nineteenth century. So a deep antipathy was felt; one simply did not try to take in hand what should have carried one through life, and consequently could not get tired from it. There was no desire to have what would have made one tired. And nobody knew what to do with the forces which could have led to the tiredness.
Now one could also meet on other ground those who were in the youth movement at the turn of the nineteenth century. Often they were not young physically — mostly very old. They were to be met in movements like the theosophical movement. Many were no longer young, yet had a feeling towards what contemporary knowledge gave them similar to the young. They did not want this knowledge, for it could no longer make them tired. Whereas the young, as the result of this incapacity to get tired, raged, — forgive the expression — many theosophists were looking in their theosophy for a kind of opiate. For what is contained in theosophical literature is to a great extent a sleeping draught for the soul. People were actually lulling themselves to sleep. They kept the spirit busy — but look at the way in which they did so. By inventing the maddest allegories! It was enough to drive a sensitive soul out of its body to listen to the explanations given to old myths and sagas. And oh! what allegories, what symbols! Looked at from the biology of the life of soul, it was sheer narcotics! It would really be quite good to draw a parallel between the turning and twisting in bed after spending a day that has not been tiring and the taking of a sleeping draught in order to cripple the real activity of the Spirit.
What I describe are not theories but moods of the age, and it is imperative to become familiar with these moods by looking from every angle at what was there. This incapacity to get tired at the turn of the nineteenth century is extraordinarily significant. Yes, but this led to the impossibility of finding anything right, for human evolution had arrived at a point where people said with great enthusiasm: “We shall allow nothing to come to us from outside; we want to develop everything from within our own being. We want to wander through the world and wait until there comes out of our own inner being what neither parents, nor teachers, nor even the old traditions can give us any longer. We want to wait for the New to approach us.”
My dear friends, ask those who have spoken in such a way whether this new thing has come to them, whether ready-prepared it has dropped into the laps of those who have had this great longing. Indeed the intoxication of those times is beginning in some degree to be followed by the “morning after” headache. My only aim is to characterize, not to criticize. The first thing that arose was a great rejection, a rejection of something which was there, which man could not use for his innermost being. And behind this great rejection there was hidden the positive — the genuine longing for something new.
But this genuine longing for what is new can be fulfilled in no other way than by man permeating himself with something not of this earth. Not of this earth in the sense that when man only lets soul and body function as they do, nothing can come with the power really to satisfy. The human being unwilling to take in anything is like a lung which finds no air to breathe. Certainly a lung which finds no air to breathe may first, before it dies, even if only for a moment, experience the greatest thirst for air. But the lung cannot out of itself quench this thirst for air; it has to allow for the air to come to it. In reality the young who honestly feel the thirst of which we have been speaking, cannot but long for something with which to be in harmony, that does not come only out of himself like the science that has grown old and is no longer wholesome for the soul to breathe in.
That was felt in the first place but far too little that a new young science must be there, a new spiritual life, able once again to unite with the soul.
Now what belongs to present and future ages must link itself with older phenomena of human evolution. The difference consists in these old phenomena of human evolution arising from a life of soul that was full of pictures and dream-like, whereas the life of soul we bear within us and towards which we are still striving, must become fully conscious. But we must in many respects go back to older contents of the soul.
Now I should like to turn your mind's eye to a constitution of the Spirit prevailing in old Brahmanism in the ancient East. The old Brahmin schools spoke of four means to knowledge on the path of life. And these four means for gaining knowledge are — well, it is difficult to give ancient thoughts in a suitable form considering we are living not only centuries but thousands of years later — but, in order to get somewhere near the mark, I will depict these four means to knowledge in the following way. First, there was that which hovered, as it were, midway between tradition and remembrance, something connected with the Sanscrit root smrti (s-mr-ti — Tradition, Remembrance.) which at present man only has as idea. But it can be described. Everyone knows what remembrance, personal remembrance is. These people did not connect certain concepts with personal remembrance in the rigid way we do, where the idea I have here in mind was concerned. What they remembered out of their own childhood became one with what their fathers and grandfathers had told them. They did not distinguish between what they themselves remembered and what they received through tradition. If you were to practise a more subtle psychology, you would notice that actually these things flow together in what lives in the soul of the child, because the child takes in a great deal that is based on tradition. The modern human being sees only that he acquired it as a child. The ancient Indian did not see this. He paid much more heed to its content, which did not lead him into his own childhood but to his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Thus tradition and personal remembrance flowed into each other indistinguishably. That was the first means of acquiring knowledge.
The second means for acquiring knowledge was what we might describe as “being represented”, (not a “representation” as the word is applied in ordinary intercourse today, but literally — an “appearing before the eyes”) — what we call “perception.”
The third means to knowledge was what we might call thinking that aims at synthesis.
Thus we could say: remembrance with tradition, observation, and the thinking that aims at synthesis.
But a fourth means for acquiring knowledge was also taught with all clarity in ancient Brahmanism. This can be described by saying: Having something communicated by other human beings.
So I ask you to notice that in ancient Brahmanism tradition was not identified with having something communicated by other human beings. This was a fourth means for the attainment of knowledge. Perhaps this will be clearer if we link it up with what is tradition and at the same time of the nature of remembrance. Where tradition is concerned, the human being did not become conscious of the way in which it came to him, he was conscious only of the content. But in man's remembrance he had in mind that it had been communicated to him by someone else. The fact of having received something from others was an awakening force in knowledge itself.
Today many of those who are true sons of the nineteenth century are shaking their heads, if we count this “what is told us by others” as one of the means of acquiring knowledge. A philosopher who dabbled in thinking that aimed at synthesis and regarded what he was told by others as a means to knowledge would never get through with his thesis nor be accepted as a university lecturer. At most he might become a theologian, for theology is judged in a different way. What is at the bottom of all this? In olden times men understood the experience of having something kindled within them in mutual intercourse with another human being. They counted somebody else telling them what they themselves did not know among the things needed for life. It was reckoned so emphatically as one of the factors necessary for life that it was considered equal to perception through eyes and ears.
Today people will naturally have a different feeling — that it is splendid for a human being to tell another what the other does not know, and the world calls for this. But it has nothing to do with the essence of things. What is essential is for observations and experiments to be made and for the results to be clearly expressed. The other has nothing to do with the essential nature of knowledge. Today it will be natural to feel this. But from the human standpoint it is not correct. It is part of life that man should be permeated in soul and spirit by what I described yesterday as a necessary factor of the social life, namely, by confidence. In this particular domain, confidence consists in what one human being tells another, thus becoming for the other a source of experience for soul and spirit.
Confidence must above all things be evoked in the young. Out of confidence there must be found that for which the young are thirsting. Our whole modern spiritual development has moved in the opposite direction. Even in theoretical pedagogics no value is attached any longer to the fact that a human being might have something he would like to tell another which the latter did not know. Theoretical pedagogics was thought out in such a way that as far as possible there was only presented to the young what could be proved in front of them. But that could not be a comprehensive proof. In this regard people have remained at a very infantile stage. Pedagogy envisaged: How can I give the children something under the assumption that they do not believe me? How can I introduce a method which perceptibly proves? No wonder that there came the corresponding echo and that it was henceforth demanded of teachers: Yes, now prove that for me! And now what I am going to say may sound antiquated, my dear friends. But I do not feel it at all antiquated; I feel it as something really young, even as part of the youth movement.
Today when someone stands there before a number of young people who are to be taught, it is as if there sounds towards him out of the young souls even before he is in their presence: “Prove that for me, prove that for me; you have no right to ask us to believe you!” I feel it as tragic — and this is no criticism — that the young should suffer from having been educated by the old so that they have no longer the ability to receive what is necessary for life. And so there arises a tremendous question, which we shall be considering in the next few days. I should like to give you a graphic description of it.
Let us imagine the youth movement progressing and taking hold of younger and younger human beings — finally mere infants. We should then get an infant youth movement, and just as the later youth movement rejects the knowledge that can be given to it, so will the infants who ought still to be at their mothers' breasts, say: “We refuse it, we refuse to receive anything from outside. We don't want our mothers' milk any longer; we want to get everything out of ourselves!”
What I have here presented as a picture is a burning question for the youth movement. For the young are really asking: “Where are we to obtain spiritual nourishment?” And the way in which they have asked hitherto has been very suggestive of this picture of the infants. And so in the coming days we shall consider the question of “the source of life”, after which Faust was striving. The question I have put before you as a picture is intended to stimulate us to contribute towards a Solution, but a solution which may mean something for your perception, for your feeling, even for your whole life.