Rudolf Steiner Archive 

LECTURE ONE

Dornach, 4 December 1916

An unbroken thread has run through all the discussions held here over many years: It is vitally important that those who are moved by the impulses of spiritual science should develop a sense, a feeling for the extent to which this spiritual science enters into everything that mankind has brought to the surface during the course of human evolution — I mean to the surface of spiritual life or, indeed, all life, for it is absurd to maintain that spiritual life can exist in isolation. In fact, everything that seemingly belongs to materialistic life is nothing other than an effect of spiritual life.

To begin with, the connections between material life and spiritual life are little understood because spiritual life is frequently seen today as nothing more than the sum of abstract philosophical, abstract scientific, and abstract religious ideas. From what has been said on other occasions you will have grasped that religious ideas are today often most strongly afflicted by abstraction, by ideas and feelings which can quite well be developed without any direct, real spiritual life. An abstract culture of this kind cannot enter into material life; only a truly spiritual culture can do this, a culture whose source lies in the life of the spirit. If man's future evolution is to avoid being swept into total degeneracy, a true spiritual culture will have to enter ever more strongly into external life. Very few people realize this today because very few have any feeling for what spiritual life really is. I have stressed frequently that just now it is extremely difficult to speak about the position spiritual science holds in the many painful events of our time.

A number of years ago we chose as our motto these words by Goethe: ‘Wisdom lies solely in truth’. Note 1 ] Our choice was not dictated by the superficial whims that often govern such decisions these days. We chose this motto bearing in mind that the human being needs to be prepared in his entire soul, in his whole nature, if he intends to absorb spiritual science into his soul in the right way, making it the real driving force of his life. The wide preparation he needs if he wants to penetrate in the proper way into spiritual science today is encapsulated in this motto: ‘Wisdom lies solely in truth’. Of course the word ‘truth’ must be seen as something serious and dignified in every connection. Even superficially we find that the level of culture we have reached today — highly praised though it is — both in Europe and the world at large, shows how little souls are moved by what is expressed in this motto.

Please do not assume that I mean our anthroposophical circles in particular! This would be a total misunderstanding. Spiritual science, certainly to begin with, must, in an ideal sense, recognize its relationship to modern culture as a whole. Inevitably I have to mention many things belonging to today's culture which make it well-nigh impossible to relate in a proper way to spiritual science. But in this I refer least of all to our anthroposophical circle which seeks to penetrate consciously into the spiritual needs of our time, and endeavours to find whatever might bring healing to it without disparaging anything that it has brought into being.

There are, of course, fundamental inner necessities which were not unforeseen. But leaving these aside, we have outwardly entered upon a time in which, within that spiritual life which rises to the surface to the extent that anyone can see it in his soul, people are not in the least inclined to take truth in its truest sense, in its most fundamental meaning. In no way, not even for the sake of the inmost impulses of their soul, not even in those joyful moments of inner sensitivity, do people illuminate with the full light of truth what interests them most of all. Instead they illuminate it — especially at the present time — with the light that derives from their membership of a particular national or other community. Consciously and unconsciously people today form judgements in accordance with this type of viewpoint. The quicker the judgement, that is, the fewer the true insights that go to make up this judgement, the more comfortable it is for the souls of today. That is why there are so many utterly impossible judgements today pertaining both to the wider issues and to individual events. These judgements are not based on any kind of intimate knowledge; indeed there is no wish to base them on any such knowledge. People strive to distract attention from what is really at issue and look instead at some other matter which is not at all the point.

In this vein people speak today about the differences between nations; judgements are made about nations. Amongst ourselves this obviously ought not to take place, but in order to gain a proper yardstick we sometimes have to be clear about what is going on around us. So, judgements are made about nations, and yet there is no understanding for someone who does not make such judgements but, instead, judges what is real. Those judgements about nations never touch on what is real. Yet when someone judges those things that are realities and in the course of doing so has to say one thing or another about some government or other, or about a particular person, or about something that has taken place in politics, — whether about everyday happenings or more far-reaching matters — then he himself is judged as though his intentions were quite other than is in fact the case. How easy it is for someone to pass a judgement about some statesman who is involved in what is going on today. If this comes to the ears of a person who belongs to the same nation as the statesman in question, then this person immediately feels himself affronted. This is because he takes something that is said about a reality and relates it, not to this reality but to something that is quite indefinable if it is not viewed in the light of spiritual-scientific reality; he relates it to his nation, as he says, or to some other nation.

Thus the oddest judgements buzz about in the world today. People belonging to a particular nation form judgements about other nations without realizing that such judgements carry no content whatever; they consist of no more than the words that express them and contain nothing that has been in any way experienced. Just consider what is entailed in forming a judgement about a whole nation — and are not judgements about whole nations scattered around in all directions these days! And not only that. People are fervently committed to their judgements without having the slightest inkling of even the most scanty evidence on which such a judgement should be based. Of course you cannot expect everybody to be in possession of such evidence. But you can expect of every single individual that he pronounce his judgements with a certain modicum of reserve, refraining from placing them in the world as absolute statements. Even if we do not go as far as this, we must be quite clear about the difference between a judgement that carries content, a sentence that carries content, and a sentence that is empty of all content. We could say: The great sin of our culture today lies in the fact that it lives in sentences that bear no content, without realizing how empty these sentences are. More than at any other time we can experience today: ‘Then words come in to save the situation. They'll fight your battles well if you enlist'em, or furnish you a universal system.’ Note 2 ]

Indeed, we are experiencing even more; we are experiencing how history is being made and politics carried on with words that have no content. What is depressing is that there is so little inclination to realize this very thing. Only rarely have I met a genuine sense for what is really going on in this field. But in the last few days I did come across some passages which do show a sense for this great deficiency in our time:

‘With astonishment we hear from the prophets of our time that the old words, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity were no more than “tradesmen's ideals” due to be replaced by something new. Professor Kjellén said this ...’ Note 3 ]

I must point out — this is necessary nowadays — that the professor is not a German but a Swede; he belongs to a neutral country.

‘in his paper on “The Ideas of 1914” in which he compared the old slogan of 1789 with the new one of 1914: Order, Duty, Justice! Looking more closely we find that these so-called new words are in fact quite old and pretty threadbare. Comparison between the two reveals the ancient conflict that characterizes human spiritual life, the conflict between an inner world of free personal activity and an outer world of rigid laws, coercive measures. Even as long ago as the time of Christ, justice as the fulfilment of the law was balanced by mercy, duty by love, and the legal order by voluntary imitation of Christ.

To give him his due, Professor Kjellén does not advocate the unconditional abolition of the words Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, even though they have become superfluous upon the demise of the "ancien regime". He suggests a synthesis beween them and those new ones of 1914: Order, Duty, Justice. But there is nothing new in this synthesis either. It was enough of a reality in the England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to allow for the imperfection of every human institution.

The fact that this synthesis has now become ineffecive only goes to prove that all values and counter-values, together with whatever temporary synthesis may be current, become empty phrases as soon as the divine spark that gave them life is extinguished. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity signify one formula that gains its power from a social conscience. Order, Duty and Justice, on the other hand, must presuppose the suggestive power of a higher authority if they are to become effective. Herein, and not in the predominance of one or another formula, is revealed the deficiency that is so decisive for the destiny of modern mankind: The force of a social conscience is lacking in too great a majority for the liberating values to dominate, and the force of authority is too much lacking for those values that bind from outside to dominate. Values which are not deeply rooted in evolution can rapidly turn to empty phrases and fall prey to misuse ...’ and so on.

Thus, occasionally a chord is struck that reveals a genuine sense of what is going on. I need not be surprised at these words which stand out for me like an oasis in today's desert of empty phrases. They were written, after all, by my old friend Rosa Mayreder. Note 4 ] They are to be found in the November 1916 issue of the Internationale Rundschau and they point to much about which we spoke together many years ago. So I need not have been surprised to find these words standing out for me; but in many ways I was delighted to hear how the thoughts of such a personality have developed over the years. Though she cannot bring herself to rise to a view of the world based on spiritual science and has ever taken a standpoint of unfruitful criticism, yet she has to say:

‘All the problems found in the external structure of the world can be traced back to one single source-the power problem.’

If only we could take heed of this, we should be far less inclined to live our lives in empty phrases!

‘At the centre of all the quarrels and disturbances that dominate the human condition stands the battle of groups and individuals for power. This battle for power between whole groups of nations or states is, beyond all empty phrases, the true cause of every war. War cannot be separated from power-seeking; those who desire to combat war must first devalue the principle of power — just as, quite logically, the early Christians did. The guise in which the power principle now appears is worse than any it may have donned in the past; for now it threatens the human soul in all its most beautiful and noble traits. It could be called the mechanization of life through the technical and economic mastery of nature. It is the tragic destiny of man forever to become the slave of his own creations because he is incapable of calculating their consequences in advance. Thus it has happened that even where he has used his ingenuity and inventiveness to coerce the elemental forces into his service, he has once again become the slave of the unforeseeable effects they assume through their combination with the power principle. Modern technology, which makes human life so much easier in so many ways, and modern economics, which so infinitely increases man's material wealth, having now become the tools of modern imperialism, turn against the essential being of the individual. Massed together in a soulless multitude, human beings are ground up by the machinery of party interests that drives today's civilization. The individual becomes a spare part, a cog; he can hold his own only to the extent to which he has the strength. But the values of soul quality established by past cultures perish in the process ... At present such cultural values survive only in countries which lie outside the realm of imperialistic competitiveness, or in rural areas and small towns where there is still a degree of leisure and repose, where the demands made on the individual do not exceed his capacity to fulfil them. These are the indispensable preconditions for a harmonious art of living; but they are sucked under by the murderous maelstrom of excesses prevailing at the centres of modern civilization ...’

Voices such as this prove that there are some — not very many — who understand what is lacking today. Yet these people recoil from grasping the living impulse of spiritual science. The very thing most able to grasp reality is kept at arm's length. The main reason for this is that there is a fundamental impulse lacking in their striving, and that is the fundamental impulse for truth. There is an urge to seek for the truth in empty phrases. But however enthusiastically they fill their being with these phrases, this urge will never lead them to the truth. To find the truth it is necessary to have a sense for the facts, regardless of whether these are to be found on the physical plane or in the spiritual world.

Let us look at life as it is today: Has the urge for truth kept pace with the sagacity and with the immensely admirable progress that are embodied in external culture? No. We can even say that in a certain sense people have lost the good will to look properly and see whether what is there in reality is rooted in any way in the truth. But it is essential to develop this feeling for truth in daily life, for otherwise it will be impossible to raise it up to an understanding of the spiritual worlds.

To show you what I mean, let me give you an example, not only of the lie of the empty phrase but also of how actual lies surge and billow on the waves of present-day civilization, influencing real life. There are many events we can now look back on which have shaken Europe to its foundations. It is necessary to go back many decades and to recognize over these decades the essential characteristics of these events if we want to form a judgement about what is today causing the whole world to quake; but we must have an eye for the realities.

I have told you before Note 5 ] that in certain secret brotherhoods in the West — I have proof of this — there was talk in the 1890s about the present war. The pupils of these brotherhoods were given instruction by means of maps Note 6 ] which showed how Europe was to be changed by this world war. The English brotherhoods in particular discussed a war that was to take place — indeed, that was to be guided into being and properly prepared. I am speaking of facts, but there are certain reasons why I have to refrain from drawing maps for you, though I could quite easily draw for you the maps which figured in the teachings of those western secret brotherhoods.

These secret brotherhoods, together with everything affiliated to them, were counting on tremendous revolutions which were to take place between the Danube and the Aegean Sea and between the Black Sea and the Adriatic in connection with the great European war they were discussing — every sentence I say here is quite deliberate. One of the sentences which figured in their discussions, and which I shall quote more or less literally, went: As soon as the dreams of Pan-Slavism have developed just a little further, a good deal will take place in the Balkans which is in accord with the developments in Europe. They meant in accord with the secret brotherhoods.

This is one great network that I want to bring to your awareness. The dreams of Pan-Slavism were discussed over and over again by these secret brotherhoods. They spoke of political dreams, of political revolutions, not of cultural dreams which would have been fully justified; have not we in our spiritual-scientific movement discussed more thoroughly than anyone else what lives in the soul of the East! Having seen what kind of role the dreams of Pan-Slavism played, let us now turn for a while to the realities of the physical plane. I will give one example. For many decades there existed, under the protection of the Russian government, a ‘Slav Welfare Committee’. Note 7 ] What could be nicer than a ‘Slav Welfare Committee’ under the protection of a mighty government? I will now read you a short letter that has to do with this Committee, dated 5 December 1887. It says the following:

‘The President of the Petersburg Committee of the Slav Welfare Society has approached the Foreign Minister with a request for weapons and ammunition for the Nabokov expedition.’

The request was not for warm underwear for little children, it was for ammunition for a certain expedition connected with stirring the revolution in the different Balkan countries! You may perhaps see from this how something that is a lie, a conscious lie, can float about in public life. A ‘welfare committee’, — how innocuous, indeed worthy! — carries on the business of the various revolutionary committees connected with the Russian government who have the task of stirring up the Balkan states.

I could easily quote you ten, even twenty, such little notes. Let me add one more: In the fateful year of 1914 a certain Mr Pasic Note 8 ] occupied a high position in the government of a certain Balkan country. No doubt you remember the name. While the Obrenovich dynasty were still the rulers of Serbia, this Mr Pasic was exiled to another Balkan country. You might ask what he was doing there. I do not want to criticize this gentleman but I would like to read you another short letter. It starts: ‘Secret communication from the President of the Committee of the Slav Welfare Committee in Petersburg to the Consular Administrator in Rustshuk, dated 3 December 1885, Nr. 4875.’ I quote the file number so that you don't think I am making this up or merely recounting an anecdote:

‘On the instruction Note 9 ] of the Director of the Asiatic Department I have pleasure in sending to Your Honour herewith 6000 roubles with the humble request that this sum be paid to the Serbian emigrant Nicola Pasic through the kind offices of the widow Natalya Karavelov who resides at Rustshuk. Please be so good as to confirm receipt and further disposal of this sum.’

You see how even those who worked for the innocuous ‘Slav Welfare Society’ played a certain part in the fateful events in Europe. Would it not be a good thing to develop an instinct for truth by not being so careless as to take things at their face value according to a name or a phrase and, instead, cultivating the will to examine them a little? Unless this is done, conclusions are reached entirely thoughtlessly, and thoughtlessness in forming judgements is what takes us further and further away from the truth. The fact that thoughtlessness in judgement takes us away from the truth can never be countered by the excuse that we did not know this or that. The judgements we carry in our soul are facts that work in the world; we should never forget that what we carry in our soul works in the world, though on the whole it is subject to what is at work governing the whole wide range of life.

To digress for a moment, the strangest judgements about the relationships between the various states can be heard these days. The words for this — an empty phrase in the place of the truth — are ‘international relations’. Judgements are reached by people who make not the slightest effort to consult the evidence, even though this would sometimes be quite easy to find. I do not refer, of course, to those who are united with us here in the Anthroposophical Society. Nevertheless, we do stand in the world and it does influence us via at least one fatal indirect route, for we always allow ourselves to be influenced by what some people have called a major power: the Press! The effect of the Press really is most disastrous, for it falsifies and blurs virtually everything. How little would be written if those who write were really called upon to write properly! Who does not write today about the relationship of Romania to Russia, or Romania to any of the other states? It does not even occur to them that a fundamental prerequisite for saying anything about these relationships is to read the memoirs of the late King Carol of Romania. Note 10 ] Those who write without having done this only write things which are not worth reading, even by the simplest people.

Times are grave; therefore only grave and earnest views of the world and of life can serve in these times. So it is important to sense something of a feeling that I have often described as essential: above all not to judge rashly but, instead, to look at things side by side and wait for them to speak. In the course of time they will say a good many things to us. To acquaint oneself with as many aspects as possible is the best preparation for penetrating thoroughly into the difficult and complicated conditions of life today.

Without wishing to express any judgement I should like to tell you something which will demonstrate the proper way to place the kind of thing I have to tell side by side with other things that happen. The important part played by the Romanian army in the Russo-Turkish war is well known. After the Russians had demanded permission to march through Romania, and after they had been refused, a moment arrived in this war when Grand Duke Nikolai, Note 11 ] who was already playing an important part at that time, wrote to Romania as follows: ‘Come to our assistance, cross over the Danube however you wish and under whatever conditions you wish. But come quickly, for the Turks are about to finish us off.’ As a result, as we know, the intervention of the Romanian army led to a favourable outcome for Russia.

After this, King Carol of Romania wanted to take part in the peace negotiations. He was not admitted. So he took up quite a vehement position vis-á-vis the Russian government, in consequence of which he underwent rather a peculiar experience. There were Russian troops stationed in Bucharest and it was quite easy to be convinced that the intention was to remove the King; the situation being as I have just hinted, you can easily understand that such intentions might indeed exist. So King Carol demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops, whereapon he received an exceedingly brusque, indeed quite atrocious reply from Gorchakov, Note 12 ] the then Foreign Minister. He thought for a while — such people do think from time to time — and comforted himself with the notion that at least Tsar Alexander would not agree and that it was only Gorchakov who was taking such liberties. So he wrote to the Tsar and received a reply from which I quote verbatim the main sentences:

‘The embarrassing situation brought about by your ministers has not in any way altered the cordial interest I feel for you; I regret having had to hint at the possible measures which the attitude of your government would force me to take.’

I am telling you these things only as an example of how to place the events of recent decades side by side, so that out of these events one judgement or another may present itself. Only the events themselves can help us to form judgements with real content. And the events of recent decades are such that they cannot be judged summarily because far too many threads lead to each one. Furthermore, it is necessary with every judgement to bear in mind the proper motivation, the proper perspective. In this connection the most painful experiences can be had. I must admit that in the face of the great accumulation of unkindness I am now meeting in just this connection I cannot but reach the painful conclusion that there is very little inclination in the world to give judgements their proper perspective and also very little will to understand someone who tries to judge things in this way, thus finding the right perspective for his judgements.

Without stating my own opinion one way or the other, I must admit that outside Germany I have hardly met a single judgement about Germany that is really understanding and friendly. Judgements have been pronounced with immense confidence, yes, but not with genuine understanding. On the other hand, there are innumerable extraordinarily benevolent judgements about everything in the periphery. Nobody need believe that this surprises me. It certainly does not. I am not in the least surprised, but I do try to understand why it is so. The reason is that there is absolutely no will to gain a proper perspective. People do not even suspect that a judgement about what lives today in Central Europe has to be made from a perspective that differs utterly from that needed to judge what lives in the periphery. They have no idea what it means that with everything contained in Central Europe each single individual is vulnerable and threatened, and therefore that the scale of affairs is at a human level, whereas in the periphery the scale is that of state and political affairs which require to be judged from an entirely different perspective. Each is judged on the same basis, but this is meaningless in this case.

As I have already said, I am not stating an opinion but speaking about the form in which judgement is passed. Nowhere in the world is account taken of the fact that something that is not meant to relate to a particular nation is, nevertheless, inappropriately seen in relation to that nation. Nobody takes into account that the British Empire covers one quarter of the earth's land surface, Russia one seventh, France and her colonies one thirteenth. Together this amounts to about half of the total land surface of the earth! I can well understand that the benevolence directed towards this side can be quite easily accounted for, simply mathematically. Obviously one is dependent on what dominates one half of the earth! I quite understand. But the terrible thought to be considered is that this is not admitted and, instead, all kinds of moral statements and empty phrases are used. If only people would say: We cannot help but go along with one half of the earth! At that moment everything would be almost alright. But people will do anything to avoid saying this. By the way, I might as well just mention that Germany, with all the colonies she has ever possessed, covers one thirty-third of the earth's land surface.

These things must definitely be taken into account, and I ask you: Is it not essential to include such things in one's judgement? What was meant by ‘imperialism’ in the essay quoted earlier was, of course, the spread of domination over the territories of the world. The British Empire is obviously the largest. This is indisputable. I am not speaking of opinions but of facts. Please do not think that my remarks are aimed at any particular person belonging to any particular nation.

Bearing in mind what has just been said, it is not surprising to learn that the British Empire had, and still has, the highest export figures. We have to know this and take it into account. However, a remarkable circumstance arose: Germany's exports started to catch up with the British. Not very many years ago a comparison showed that Germany's export figures Note 13 ] were very low and those of Britain very high. Now let me write on the blackboard the figures for January to June 1914. For this period Germany's export figure was £1,045,000,000 and that of Britain £1,075,000,000. If another year had passed without the coming of the World War, it is possible that the German export figure might have been larger than the British. This was not to be allowed to happen!

These things can be seen without any need to let feelings come into play in one direction or another. What individual people, who strive for objecivity, think about the events of the present day is far more important than any subjective sympathies or antipathies and, above all, far more important than what throbs through the daily press in such a disastrous way. I shall go into these things more deeply from a spiritual point of view quite soon. But I would be failing in my duty if I were to throw spiritual light on these matters without pointing to the realities of the physical plane. I cannot make everything comfortable for you and avoid hurting anyone's feelings by lifting the forming of judgements up into cloud-cuckoo-land. It is essential that I let the light of what can be said about the spiritual situation shine also on what one can and ought to know about the physical plane. So let me draw your attention to something which may interest you and which will not cause too much offence now, since I believe that all our friends here present are obviously entirely free of any prejudice. I have to carry out my duty conscientiously and this involves creating a proper basis.

There are some people today who strive to look at things clearly and see them for what they really are. Though it might seem that everyone is biased there are, in fact, varying degrees of prejudice and we should not lose sight of this. Without recommending or praising it in any way, I want to mention an article which, interestingly enough, has been published here in Switzerland: On the History of the Outbreak of the War Based on the Official Records of His Majesty's British Government by Dr Jakob Ruchti. Note 14 ] This article diverges considerably from what is heard everywhere across half the world these days about the so-called guilt of the Central Powers. The style of the article is formally scientific, even rather pedantic, after the manner of historical seminars. And the records quoted are chiefly those of the British Government. Out of consideration for people's feelings I shall not repeat the conclusion reached, since it diverges greatly from the judgement usually heard in the periphery about Central Europe. At the end of the article we read:

‘But history cannot be permanently falsified; the myth cannot stand up to the scrutiny of scientific research; the sinister web will be brought into the light and torn to pieces, however artfully it has been spun.’

This article, the fruit of a historical seminar at a Swiss university, was even awarded a prize by the University of Berne. So there exists today an article that has been awarded a prize by a Swiss university, an article which endeavours to reveal the facts in a light that differs from that found at the periphery very frequently nowadays. This is worth taking into consideration, for no one would dare to accuse the historical faculty of the University of Berne of having perhaps been bribed.

There is yet another fact I want to mention. For some time a discussion has been going on between Clemenceau, Note 15 ] Mr. Archer Note 16 ] and Georg Brandes. Note 17 ] Georg Brandes is a Dane, a Danish writer. Most of you will know of him, since he is one of the most celebrated European writers. Do not think that I am mentioning him today because I have any particular liking for him; indeed he is a writer I particularly dislike, for whom I have very little sympathy.

Without any further introduction, let me now read to you the article Brandes wrote recently, following an argument with Grey, Note 18 ] Mr. Archer and Clemenceau. I must repeat, though, that I am counting on my earlier statement about our present circle proving true: namely, that discrimination will be exercised and that no one will believe that it is my purpose to pick holes in any particular nation. I am not giving my opinion, I am merely reading to you an article by Georg Brandes. He writes:

‘Since I have met with personal insinuations both in foreign newspapers and in those anonymous letters through which the flower of the Danish gutter airs its perfumes, I must say the following once and for all: I have the honour of being a member of three distinguished London clubs, and was president of one, vice-president of another; I am an honorary member of three learned societies and an honorary doctor of a Scottish university. Thus, strong links attach me to Great Britain. I owe England's literary and artistic world a debt of deep gratitude and I have ever been strongly attracted to British life and letters. The German Reich and Austria-Hungary, in contrast, have never awarded me the slightest honour of any kind, not even the tiniest Little Red Bird Fourth Class; Note 19 ] I have never been a member of any German club or learned society and have never received even the smallest award from a German university.’

I, too, have never heard of any inclination on the part of a German society to award any honour to Georg Brandes, but they do heartily abuse him!

‘Because of my remarks about Northern Schleswig I have been regularly and violently slandered in the German press for the last twenty years. It cannot, therefore, truly be claimed that I have been bribed to take up cudgels for Germany.’

Very true! This, dear friends, by way of a brief introduction. I might add that Brandes was a most intimate friend of Clemenceau. I myself have seen in Austria on the estate of friends of theirs, a bench on which — so I was told — Clemenceau and Brandes once sat in the most beautiful and affectionate concord and on which the names ‘Clemenceau and Brandes’ had been carved. Since then this bench in that beautiful Silesian hermitage has been known as the Clemenceau-Brandes Seat. Note 20 ] Lecturing in Budapest, Georg Brandes once said:

‘Since I cannot speak Hungarian I shall not be able to speak to you in Hungarian, and since I dislike the German language every bit as much as you do, I shall not speak to you in German either. I shall give this lecture in French.’

As you see, there is not the slightest reason why any German should have a particular affection for Georg Brandes. His article continues:

‘It cannot, therefore, truly be claimed that I have been bribed to take up cudgels for Germany. If I have spoken without taking sides about what I see to be the truth, I have done so for reasons other than those so stupidly hinted at by Mr Clemenceau when he suggested that I was currying favour with the Kaiser.’

I do not know whether one or the other name has been eradicated from that seat since the appearance of these words! Brandes continues:

‘Mr Archer bases his argument on the premise that the Central Powers alone (namely, certain persons) are to blame for the war and made preparations for it. This same premise turns up repeatedly among the Allies: the assumption that incomplete preparation for the war proves one side to be the lamb and the other wolf.

In my opinion the unpreparedness for war of a certain country on the Continent in the summer of 1914 proves nothing more than a certain carelessness, negligence, sloppiness and lack of foresight among the appropriate authorities. A certain nation might therefore very well have hoped, by means of war, to regain possession of some confiscated provinces. It is quite easy to imagine that public opinion has all along considered such a war to be a holy duty but that, even so, negligence meant that the military forces were unprepared.

And what applies to a land force applies just as much to a sea force.

I.

On 27 November 1911 a question was asked in the English Parliament as to whether the April 1904 Anglo-French agreement about Morocco could be interpreted, either by the French or the English Government, to include military support by land or sea, and under what circumstances. The answer amounted to a statement that diplomatic support did not commit to either military or maritime support. On the same day Sir Edward Grey said: “Let me try to put an end to some of the suspicions with regard to secrecy ... We have laid before the House the secret Articles of the Agreement with France of 1904. There are no other secret engagements ... For ourselves we have not made a single secret article of any kind since we came into office.” On 3 August 1914 Sir Edward Grey read out in Parliament, among other things, the following passage from a document that he had sent to the French ambassador in London on 22 November 1912: “You have pointed out that if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, it might become essential to know whether it could in that event depend upon the armed assistance of the other. I agree that, if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, or something that threatened the general peace, (an exceedingly vague expression) it should immediately discuss with the other whether both Governments should act together to prevent aggression and to preserve peace, and, if so, what measures they would be prepared to take in common.” In the same speech, Grey says: “We are not parties to the Franco-Russian Alliance. We do not even know the terms of that Alliance.” ’

Brandes adds, in brackets: ‘A really extraordinary statement.’

‘On 10 March 1913 Lord Hugh Cecil said in the Debate on the Address: “There is a very general belief that this country is under an obligation, not a treaty obligation, but an obligation arising out of an assurance given by the Ministry in the course of diplomatic negotiations, to send a very large armed force out of this country to operate in Europe ...” Here Mr Asquith interrupted the speaker with the words: “I ought to say that this is not true.”

On 24 March 1913 the Prime Minister was asked again whether under certain circumstances British troops could be mustered in order to land them on the continent. He replied: “As has been repeatedly stated, this country is not under any obligation not public and known to Parliament which compels it to take part in any war.” Does this reply conform to the truth? When rumours surfaced again in the following year, Sir Edward Grey answered on 28 April 1914: “The position now remains the same as stated by the Prime Minister in answer to a question in this House on 24 March 1913.” To yet another question on 11 June 1914 Sir Edward Grey replied: “There are no unpublished agreements which would restrict or hamper the freedom of the Government or of Parliament to decide whether or not Great Britain should participate in a war.” Without any exaggeration this can be called sophistry.
After all, there existed the letter of 22 November 1912 to Monsieur Cambon which, in the dreadful bureaucratic style of diplomatic language, unequivocally committed England to participation in any military recklessness into which Russia might lure France.’

The style is indeed excruciating.

‘Even more extraordinary was the conclusion of the speech by the Foreign Minister: “But if any agreement were to be concluded that made it necessary to withdraw or modify the Prime Minister's statement of last year, it ought, in my opinion, to be, and I suppose that it would be, laid before parliament.”

The whole world knows that this did not happen.

II.

These passages from parliamentary speeches prove that Great Britain was not unprepared for a war with Germany. Mr Archer regards it as quite definite that Germany passionately longed for a war with Great Britain.

It has been proved that England's declaration of war was so unexpected by the German government that it caused consternation. It is possible to call the German government naive in this connection, but there is absolutely no doubt that they were painfully surprised. As C. H. Norman conclusively proves, Kaiser Wilhelm had good reason to hope for England's neutrality. In the years 1900-1901 he had prevented a European coalition that would have forced England to grant favourable peace terms to the South African republics. He had shown his friendship for England by refusing to receive in Berlin a deputation of Boers who were being fêted throughout Europe. In the well-known interview in the Daily Telegraph Note 21 ] he expressly publicized the fact that he had refused the invitation of Russia and France to join them in taking steps to force England to bring the Boer War to an end. Neither France nor Russia have ever dared to deny this.’

I could add a good deal out of that letter in the Daily Telegraph which would speak far more clearly than Georg Brandes is doing; but I don't want to add anything myself!

‘So the Kaiser was not all that keen on a war with England at that time. And it will not be easy to convince any thoughtful person that six years after the publication of that interview he was all of a sudden eagerly planning to go to war with the whole globe. It is obvious, of course, that his Government made a false calculation. But they did not want war with England in 1914, and the uncontrollable hate of the German people against the English which burst out so repulsively was obviously the result of the surprise of discovering in Great Britain an unexpected and uncommonly powerful enemy.

To the last minute, Germany sought through her diplomats to win England's neutrality. They worked cautiously. The German Chancellor proposed to Sir Edward Goschen (the British Ambassador in Berlin) that he would stand for the inviolability of French territory if Germany should happen to conquer France and Russia. But Sir Edward Grey's attitude was negative because Germany would not extend this guarantee to include the French colonies.

Now Prince Lichnowsky, Note 22 ] the German Ambassador in London, asked whether England would agree to remain neutral if Germany refrained from violating Belgium's neutrality. Sir Edward Grey refused. He wanted to retain a free hand. (“I did not think we could give a promise of neutrality on that condition alone.”) Would he agree if Germany were to guarantee the integrity of both France and her colonies? No. (“The Ambassador pressed me as to whether I could formulate conditions on which we would remain neutral. He even suggested that the integrity of France and her Colonies might be guaranteed. I said that I felt obliged to refuse definitely any promise to remain neutral on similar terms, and I could only say that we must keep our hands free.”)

Sir Edward Grey afterwards maintained that Prince Lichnowsky had certainly over-stepped his authority in making these offers. Surely he could only say such a thing because he was, and still is, convinced that Germany had an invincible urge to do battle simultaneously with Russia, France, England and Belgium.’

Please forgive me for adding something here. From what I have just read to you we may see that a single sentence from Grey would have sufficed to prevent the violation of Belgium's neutrality. However, I do not blame Grey in any way, for he is the puppet of quite other forces about which I shall speak later. On the contrary, I regard him as a perfectly honest but exceptionally stupid individual; but I do not know how far it is permitted today to express such judgements! Anyway, one sentence from Grey would have sufficed to prevent the violation of Belgian neutrality, and it is possible to add: A single sentence and the war in the West would not have taken place. Some day the world will hear about these things.

I think that these things weigh quite heavily, for they are facts. Brandes continues:

‘As I said earlier, and this is obvious to common sense, Germany was prepared for a German-Russian war, should this arise from the invasion of Serbia by Austria. But Germany did not want to molest France (or Belgium) if she remained neutral. France, however, was determined to go to the aid of Russia. The wisdom of this policy will be judged by future generations, but meanwhile its consequence is that ten million people are spending seven days every week miserably murdering one another. Without the knowledge of Parliament, the English Foreign Ministry had committed Great Britain to assisting France in the event of a European war. Given the new and strong sympathy for France, public opinion in England might even have approved of this commitment had it been public knowledge. But if all the details had been known it would certainly not have approved of the constraint under which England was placed, for England was to be forced to go to war because of France's relationship with Russia, the only power with nothing to lose in the case of a war. Russia's population is so enormous that the loss of life occasioned by a war would hardly be worth considering, and if national passions were aroused and if the war were to lead to a victory, then this could only serve to strengthen the position of the conservative Government.

If the political position had been fully known, public opinion in Great Britain would have recognized that the consequences of a conflict could contain nothing good for the freedom or the well being of mankind. If the Allies were to win, this would only lead to an immense increase in the might of Russia, the victory of a governmental system opposed to that of Great Britain. For the Russian people, who as a people have won the heart of Europe, such a victory would bring no progress.

III.

I do not believe that my esteemed opponent, Mr Archer, can detest Prussian militarism more than I do. It is caused by the two long and threatened borders, that between Germany and Russia on the one side and that between Germany and France on the other.’

Note that this is said by a person who has never been awarded even the tiniest Little Red Bird, not even fourth class!

‘It is excusable vis-á-vis France by the fact that the French have occupied Berlin twenty times or so, whereas the Germans have only taken Paris twice. It is obnoxious because of its caste system and its arrogance. But it can hardly be said to be worse than the militarism of other countries.’

Says Georg Brandes, who does not possess even the tiniest Little Red Bird, not even fourth class!

‘Europe, including England, was worried to note during the Dreyfus Affair what forms French militarism was capable of taking.’

Of course I agree whole-heartedly with Georg Brandes!

‘As for Russian militarism, in the year 1900 our idyllic and amiable Russians, about whom my esteemed friend Wells is so enthusiastic, and who have captured the hearts of the rest of us too, cold-bloodedly slaughtered the total Chinese population of Blagoveshchensk and surroundings. The Cossacks tied the Chinese together by their pigtails and launched them on the river in boats which sank. When the women threw their children on the beach and begged that they at least might be spared they slaughtered them with their bayonets. “Even the Turks have never been guilty of anything worse than this mass murder in Blagoveshchensk,” wrote Mr F E Smith, the former English press censor, in 1907, the very year of the Anglo-Russian agreement which guaranteed and at the same time undermined the independence of Persia.

The same English writer confirmed the description of Japanese militarism by the correspondent of The Times. On 21 November 1894 the Japanese army stormed Port Arthur and for four days a rabble of soldiers slaughtered the civilian population, men, women and children, with the utmost barbarity: “From dawn till far into the night the days passed with murder, plunder and mutilation, with every imaginable kind of nameless cruelty, until the place presented such a picture of horror that any survivor will shudder at the memory to the day he dies.” ’

These things which Georg Brandes says, even though he does not possess even the tiniest Little Red Bird fourth class, were of course well known to someone who wrote: ‘War brings with it the horrors of war and it is not surprising if the most modern methods are used in war.’ Note 23 ] Yet I heard the other day that particularly this sentence in my pamphlet has been taken amiss. It can only be taken amiss by people who know nothing about history and have no idea of the cause of such a thing. Georg Brandes continues:

‘So we see that militarism, whatever its nationality, is much the same everywhere. I wish Mr Archer would read a lecture which Dr Vöhringer Note 24 ] gave about German Africa on 30 January 1915 in Hamburg. He would learn from this what the German inhabitants of the Cameroons, about fifty men and women, suffered when, surprised by the declaration of war, they were locked up by English officers and handed over to black guards who mistreated them. They suffered hunger and thirst. If they begged for water they were given slop buckets, and a British officer said, “It doesn't matter whether the German swine have anything to drink or not.” On the journey from Lagos to England they were not even given water for washing.’

I did not bore anyone reading my pamphlet by telling things like this; yet it has been taken amiss that I do not join in the tune that is being sung everywhere. It is not what the pamphlet says that has been criticized but the fact that it does not say what is being said everywhere. It has been taken amiss because it does not scold in the way everyone else is scolding. Georg Brandes continues:

‘This is what English militarism looks like. Is it any better than Prussian militarism when English nationalism, as with any other nation, is stoked up to the point of madness?

IV.

Let Mr Archer and other eminent gentlemen in and outside Great Britain bring to an end the eternal discussion, into which I too have been dragged, about who is guilty of having started the war and about who ought to bear the consequences of its outcome! Let them turn instead to the only important and crucial question, namely how to find the way out of this hell of which we can in truth say, as in Macbeth:

Oh horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart
Cannot conceive nor name thee ...

The appetite of those who wage war is insatiable. Has it not been decided in Paris to carry on the trade war even after the cessation of hostilities? Is there never to be an end to this madness?

In any case the war will have to end with an agreement; and since the war is of an economic nature, the agreement will have to be an economic one. As a free trade power, England has shown the way to the whole world. Tariff agreements will be unavoidable; governments will be forced to make mutual concessions and it will be necessary to strive for greater freedom of trade so that finally world free trade can be achieved.

A citizen of the country which has suffered the most from the war right from the start, a Belgian manufacturer from Charleroi, Monsieur Henri Lambert, Note 25 ] has spoken the redeeming word that can smooth the way for peace: The only intelligent and farseeing policy, in this case tariff policy, is a just policy which does not begrudge life to the other party. He has pointed out that a permanent improvement of the European situation can only be reached if the country seeking peace is obliged to abolish or at least reduce tariffs, of course only under an arrangement that is totally just to both sides. The abolition of tariffs seems to be the only sensible and effective means of preventing the economic tactic known by the English as “dumping”, of which they so passionately accuse the Germans.

Tariff agreements will also be unavoidable in the unlikely event that the war is fought to the point of a crushing victory for one side or the other. If this were to happen, millions and more millions of human beings would be sacrificed on the battlefields or would perish at home of wounds, sickness and deprivation. Supposing the victors were to decide (in accordance with the economic conference in Paris) to discriminate against the conquered to such an extent by means of tariffs that they were brought down to a lower economic level, this would be a relapse for mankind as a whole to the system of national slavery.

The underdog would, as a matter of course, make every effort to rise up again; he would utilize any dissension among the conquerors and be free again within half a century. Alliances never last as long as fifty years.

So, a peaceful future for Europe depends on free trade. As Cobden says, free trade is the best peacemaker. Indeed, it seems to be even more: it is the only peacemaker. In olden times, horses whose task it was to go round and round on a treadmill had their eyes put out. Similarly, blind to the reality around them, the unfortunate nations of Europe are going round and round on the treadmill of war, voluntarily and yet under compulsion.’

This is the judgement of a neutral citizen, but one who does not base his judgement on empty phrases; he includes a number of facts in his judgement, showing how it is possible to measure these facts against one another in the right way. My endeavour has been not to express an opinion but to indicate something that is needed in our time if we are to seek the truth. Why should it not be possible to suspend judgement, at least in one's own soul, if one has neither the time nor the will to bother about the facts in a suitable way? Spiritual science can show us that judgements made today, and so frequently clothed in such words as: ‘We are fighting for the freedom and the rights of the small nations’, are indeed the most irresponsible empty phrases. Someone who knows even the least part of the truth must realize that such talk is comparable to that of the shark Note 26 ] negotiating for a peace treaty with the little fishes who are going to be his prey. It will naturally not be understood immediately, perhaps not until some meditation has taken place, that much of today's talk resembles the suggestion: Why don't the sharks enter into an inter-fish agreement (international is a word much used today) with the little fishes they want to eat?

People who today speak about the coming of peace say that the murder will not cease until there is a prospect of eternal peace. It is virtually impossible to imagine anything more crazy than the notion that murder must continue until, through murder, a situation has been created in which there will be no more war. It is hardly necessary to have knowledge of spiritual matters today in order to know that once this war in Europe has come to an end only a few years will pass before a far more furious, far more devastating war will shake the earth outside Europe. But who bothers today about things that are a part of reality? People prefer to listen to statesmen who declame that this or that must be achieved in the interest of freedom and the rights of small nations. People even listen when lawyers, quite competent lawyers, who have become presidents Note 27 ] appear in the toga of a Moslem prince to conduct cases in Romania ... only this is not noticed because in this instance we speak of a ‘republic’. What more is there to be said if people are still willing to go to lectures given by such people about artistic and literary matters, about the relationships between the myths and sagas and literary materials of West and Central Europe, quite apart from other facts such as the one I mentioned to you the other day: that Maeterlinck was applauded loudly for calling Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and others ‘mediocre intellects’. But I do not wish to influence your judgement in any way; I merely draw your attention to the fact that for the forming of judgements perspectives have to be sought, as well as quite other things, if the judgement is to become truth.

We must realize that the population crowded together in Central Europe has to be judged from an entirely different viewpoint because, here, human values are under threat. For the peripheral countries, on the other hand, the viewpoint can be that of state and political values, at least for some time to come, until certain other conditions are brought about by the prolongation of the war for many years. In Central Europe we have to do with the treasure of the spirit, with the development of the soul and with everything that has been created over the centuries. It would be utter nonsense to believe that we have to be similarly concerned about the periphery; it would be thoughtless to express any such thing. Of course there is much everywhere with which fault can be found. But it is one thing — comparing greater with lesser matters — to find fault with things that take place inside a closed fortress and another to find fault with what occurs among the besieging army. I have as yet heard no judgement from the periphery that takes any kind of account of these things.

In order not to be onesided, I shall now, in conclusion, turn to something else. In order to be just, it is always thought to be a good thing to judge both sides by saying: Here it is like this and there it is like that, and so on. But the question is never asked: Is it really so? A Swiss newspaper recently published articles which, in order to be just to both sides, pointed out in quite an abstract way that lies were told in both camps. But supposing what is said there is not true? The article was about untruthfulness in the world war, but the article is, in itself, because of the way it is written, totally untruthful. Now I want to read to you — in fear and trembling, I might add — something out of a German magazine, selected at random, in order to show you the difference. What is written all around Germany is well enough known, and it is also well known that it is surely not written out of any benevolence towards the nations of Central Europe. Even in articles expressing judgements that are a little less vitriolic there are still plenty of very unkind statements against the nation who, after all, brought forth Goethe, Schiller, Lessing and others.

I came by chance across this article on human dignity by Alexander von Gleichen-Russwurm. Note 28 ] The article is motivated by the fact that the Germans have been called barbarians, and are indeed still called barbarians in the periphery. Gleichen-Russwurm — he is Schiller's grandson — is not particularly offended that the word ‘barbarian’ is used. On the contrary, he shows rather nicely what the ancient Greeks and Romans meant by ‘barbarian’, which was certainly nothing dreadful. I shall not go into this aspect. He then goes on to discuss the various nations. The article is like many others we may find today written by people in Central Europe who are equivalent, say, to Maeterlinck. Pardon me! Gleichen-Russwurm distinguishes between nations and governments and in some cases he does so in words — I am only passing them on to you, they are not my words — that may seem terrible if a reader or listener feels offended because he is a member of that nation. I am confident there is no one among us here who will feel thus; we are all anthroposophists and can understand such things. It is not because of the words used to describe governments that I want to read you this article, but to show you how Gleichen-Russwurm — not a very famous man but one who is roughly on a par with Maeterlinck as far as intelligence goes — in no way recoils from saying to his own people within the fortress what a courageous, thoughtful and honest man has to say if he does not intend to throw sand in their eyes. Obviously, though, what is said inside the fortress ought not to impinge on the periphery because basically it has nothing to do with that. Think tactfully and you will understand what I mean. Gleichen-Russwurm says:

‘The Russian people are good natured and gentle, whatever the Cossacks, who are not related to them, might do. The criminal Tsarist Government has brought about the war, yet the greatest poet of the nation, Tolstoi, who will ever retain our respect, has preached abhorrence of war in most moving words.

The atrocities committed by the French mob, the stupidity of their ministers and the uncultured remarks of Paris journalists and writers, cannot undo the fact that France is the country of that saint of charitable love, Vincent de Paul, who still has many followers, nor that the majority of French people are hardworking and peaceful by nature.

England remains the birthplace of Shakespeare and has given the world gentle poets, selfless philanthropists and philosophers of the highest worth. Yet the country is ruled by liars and tricksters and the English people, who are proudest of their own culture, have brought into being the worst kind of modern barbarism through their manner of conducting the war.

Italy's characterless bandit Government is despicable. Everything connected with Italy recently has been disagreeable and repulsive even to her friends. Yet since Goethe we have received such rich treasures of culture, artistic sense and natural beauty from her that we shall keep her in our hearts, unforgotten and still fruitful.

The hate our enemies bear towards us has perhaps preserved what is most valuable in our nature. The bitterness shown us nowadays, our recognition of the unprecedented antipathy facing us on all sides, is like the warning whispered by the slave to the victor: “Memento mori!”

Even if spoken by vile mouths it ensures that noble-mindedness does not become overbearing, that triumphal jubilation does not degenerate into arrogance or hubris — the presumptuousness the Greek poets warned their heroes to guard against.

Schiller, concerned for the dignity of man, considered that noble human beings pay not only by what they do but also by what they are.’

You see, it is possible to form very derogatory opinions about those who are participating in current events, without falling into the trap of scorning whole nations. Judgements of this kind may be found by the hundred and if, one day, statistics are drawn up from 1914 onwards showing the way other nations are judged by Central Europe and by the periphery, the result will be a revelation of a remarkable cultural and spiritual nature! But nothing is further from anybody's mind meanwhile. At present Mr Leadbeater Note 29 ] is compiling statistics comparing the criminal records of Germany and England, and recently announced in large print in the Theosophical Review how many more criminals Germany has than England. Then, in the next issue someone else pointed out that a certain figure had been inserted under the wrong heading and that a rectification would show the situation to be quite different. I seem to remember that he put down twenty-nine thousand criminals for England, forgetting a hundred and forty-six thousand; for Germany he included them all. But whereas the table showing Germany as the country with the greatest number of criminals is printed in large letters in the Theosophical Review, the refutation appears in minute print right at the end of the next issue.

Statistics like this will one day be superseded by others and then something of what is said in that article ‘On the History of the Outbreak of the War’, which was awarded a prize by the University of Berne, will be found to be true:

‘But history cannot be permanently falsified; the myth cannot stand up to the scrutiny of scientific research; the sinister web will be brought into the light and torn to pieces, however artfully it has been spun.’

It has been necessary to say these things in preparation for speaking next time on matters which a number of people are greatly looking forward to hearing about but which, I must repeat, may not be made as comfortable as some might imagine. I myself have no need to express one opinion or another. As a spiritual scientist I am used to looking at facts purely as they really are, without any falsification, and to speaking about them as such. I know very well what objections some people — though of course nobody from this circle — are likely to make with regard to certain atrocities and other things which are told and stirred up over and over again without any proper perspective. I know these objections, but I also know how shortsighted it is to make them and how small a notion someone who makes them can have about how matters really stand and how the blame is really distributed.

When we had our dispute — if I can call it that — with Mrs Besant, Note 30 ] she managed to load all the blame on to us. According to someone who until that time had been her devotee but who then withdrew his esteem, she acted according to the principle: If a person attacks another person, and if the one who is being attacked cries for help, then the attacker can tell the one who is crying for help that he is wrong not to let himself be slaughtered. Many judgements made today are of a similar nature. The strangest situations can be met in this respect. Kind-hearted, well-meaning people who would never form such a judgement in everyday life, nevertheless do so with regard to political matters about which they know nothing. These people lack clarity in their judgements. But clarity is the fundamental prerequisite for the formation of any judgement, though it is not a justification for the delivery of this or that judgement in one or another direction.


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ment in everyday life, nevertheless do so with regard to political matters about which they know nothing. These people lack clarity in their judgements. But clarity is the fundamental prerequisite for the formation of any judgement, though it is not a justification for the delivery of this or that judgement in one or another direction.


We need your support!

We are a small nonprofit with the expenses of a large website. Your generous financial gifts make this venture possible. If you can't contribute now, please visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support our work in the future. Thank you!

External Links