Karma of Untruthfulness II
30 December 1916, Dornach
Our recent considerations have, on the one hand, referred to human evolution as a whole, in so far as this has been affected by the Mystery of Golgotha. We have concerned ourselves to some degree with the loftiest, the most significant aspects of universal and human evolution. On the other hand, it is surely understandable that we have gone into the events of the moment. It was especially necessary to do this because a large proportion of our friends had expressed the wish to hear something about these current events. We have to admit that the gravity of the times encourages us to link the concrete experiences of the day with the nerve centre, the inmost impulse, of our spiritual-scientific striving. For after much investigation we can surely say that the reasons for the catastrophe we now see all around us in human evolution are buried very deeply indeed, and that it is superficial to look at current events solely by taking account of only the most external ramifications.
Looking only at these we would never reach a fruitful view of present events. A fruitful view would be one which would give us the possibility of finding thoughts on how to extricate ourselves from the catastrophe in which the world now finds itself. So let us look at some more details. I then intend tomorrow to show an important connection revealed by spiritual science, a connection which will touch our souls in a way which will enable us to gain an active and understanding grasp of these things. So let us now prepare for this with some more details.
First, let me stress once again that nothing is further from my intention than to put forward political considerations. This is most certainly not our task. It is our task to use our considerations to gain knowledge, knowledge of how things are linked together. For this we have to look at the details. And for this very reason our considerations are very far removed from any form of taking sides. Especially in this respect I beg you not to misunderstand me. Whatever point of view one or other of us might have in relation to national aspirations must not be allowed to interfere in any way with the deeper foundations of our spiritual-scientific striving. My intention is solely to make suggestions on which a judgement might be based. In no way do I want to influence anyone's opinion.
Misunderstandings can easily arise in this field, and it seems to me that some of the things I have said recently have indeed been open to misunderstanding. Let me therefore say immediately — since anyone can be misunderstood in this way — that, for instance, when I have spoken about the question of Belgian neutrality and events connected with it, I have had absolutely no intention of defending or attacking anything but merely wanted to state facts. Indeed, the first time I mentioned this I was simply quoting Georg Brandes who, so it seems to me, has expressed a truly neutral judgement.
It has not been my concern to criticize politically one measure or another taken by one side or another. My intention has been to stress the importance of the principle of truth in the world, to stress that the karma which has fulfilled itself in mankind has often come about because the attention paid to facts, the attention paid to historical and other connections of life in our materialistic age, is not permeated with the truth. When truth is not at work, when that extraordinary opposite of truth, namely, the lack of inclination to seek the truth, is at work, when there is little yearning for truth — all this is connected with the karma of our time. This is what we must study.
When we see what is being said during these years in which mankind is living, through what is today called war, we cannot object that such things are said only by the newspapers. What matters is the effect. These things have powerful effects. When we pay attention to what is said and to how these things are said, we find that it is just in this ‘how’ that something works which truly does not run concurrently with the truth. Do not believe that thoughts and statements are not objective forces in their own right! They are objective, actual forces! It is inevitable that they are followed by consequences, even if these are not translated into external deeds. What people think is far more important for the future than what they do. Thoughts become deeds in the course of time. We live today on the thoughts of past times; these are fulfilled in the deeds committed today. And our thoughts which flood through the world today will flow into the deeds of the future.
I am now coming to something which has easily led to misunderstandings, so let me say in advance: I am using the following as a model for the manner in which one may seek the truth. I said some days ago that peace would have been preserved if Sir Edward Grey had replied in the affirmative to the question from the German ambassador in London as to whether England would remain neutral if Germany respected Belgian neutrality. This statement may be disputed. I maintain, however, that it cannot be denied that things would certainly have taken a different course if Sir Edward Grey had answered in the affirmative; for then the violation of Belgium's neutrality would not have taken place.
If you recall everything I have said — and please consider that what matters here are the nuances — you will see that with not a single word have I anywhere defended the violation of Belgian neutrality. I certainly have not done this. But neither do I need to brand it as a violation of the law. To do so would be to carry coals to Newcastle, as the saying goes. Right at the beginning of the war the German Chancellor himself admitted that it was a violation of the law. It cannot be my task to add anything to this or to excuse anything about it. It has been admitted by those competent to judge that it was a violation of the law.
The fact remains — and I beg that we should understand one another properly today, my dear friends — the fact remains that on 1 August the English Foreign Minister was asked: Would England remain neutral if Germany refrained from violating Belgian neutrality? And he gave an evasive answer! The way the question was framed leaves no doubt that, if the answer had been affirmative, Belgium's neutrality would not have been violated.
You could say that the neutrality of Belgium had been guaranteed since 1839, and that as matters stood there was no need to ask, since Germany was obliged to respect the neutrality of Belgium. Therefore Germany had no right to demand that England should remain neutral if Germany were to respect the law, since it was her duty to do so. The respecting of Belgium's neutrality ought not to have been made dependent on England's neutrality. You could say that the German ambassador merely asked: Will England remain neutral if Germany keeps her promise?
So if someone maintains that it was formally correct of Sir Edward Grey to answer evasively, he is absolutely right. He is so right that it is pointless to go into it any more. But legally formal judgements are never what matters in world evolution. Such judgements never conform to reality! World history proceeds in ways which cannot be encompassed by formal judgements. A formal judgement is foreign to reality. But someone who makes a formal judgement will, if only he shouts loudly enough, always be in the right because, of course, sensible people do not object to the rightness of formal judgements. Formal judgements are also very easily understood; but they do not encompass the realities.
May I remind you that in my recent book Vom Menschenrätsel I stressed that it is not only the formal correctness of a judgement that matters but also the degree in which it conforms to reality. The important thing is that judgements must encompass reality. Nobody can have any objection to the formal correctness of Sir Edward Grey's answer. There is nothing to discuss, for it is perfectly obvious. But it is the facts we must look at, although the way we look at the facts must be such as to show how we ought to judge external matters if we want to prepare ourselves to win correct perceptions about spiritual matters also. Spiritual matters must be comprehended in all their reality; and for this, formal judgements are insufficient. So we must accustom ourselves to keep the facts together as well as we possibly can in external matters also.
I could argue for a long time on this, for we could speak for days solely about this question. First of all, if it were a matter of establishing a legal basis — for if neutrality is to be violated, it must first exist — we should have to discover whether Belgium's neutrality did, in fact, exist at the time when it was supposed to have been violated. I am not referring here to documents which have been found during the war. There is no point in discussing these since they are questionable and various opinions are possible. But if the matter were being discussed, and if everything relevant were being scrutinized and assessed in the way other things are also judged in ordinary life, then this point would have to be raised too: Surely the old neutrality formalized in 1839 lost its validity when Belgium occupied the Congo. If a state creates new circumstances by entering into international relations at a level where it could give away or sell territories as extensive as those of the Congo — or do anything else with them in relation to other states — then, surely its neutrality must be suspect.
I know that in 1885 the Congo was declared neutral as well; but it would be a matter of deciding whether or not this was contestable. But I do not want to decide anything. I merely want to draw your attention to the difficulties which exist and to the fact that it is not so easy to form a truly objective judgement about such things. A number of other things of equal calibre could be brought into the argument, so this is where the difficulties begin. Neither shall we discuss how far the old agreement of 1839 could still be valid, since Germany was not founded until 1871. All these things would have to be considered. For into the objective progress of events there flow not only fantastic ideas which we formalize, but also actual facts, without any contribution from human beings; actual facts also play their part.
Now, is it really true that the German ambassador formulated a question about something that should have been a matter of course? The question he asked was: Would Great Britain remain neutral if Germany kept the promise of 1839, even though Germany did not exist at that time! Earlier on, Belgian neutrality was not taken as a matter of course either. When, in 1870, war broke out between Prussia — together with the German principalities allied with her — and France, an agreement was reached between Great Britain under Foreign Minister Gladstone and Germany on the one hand, and between Great Britain and France on the other hand. In each case it was agreed that Great Britain would remain neutral if the other two respected the neutrality of Belgium.
So, in the year 1870, Great Britain was in exactly the same situation. Yet she did not take the attitude that the old agreement of 1839 was definitely valid. Instead, in case anything should happen, she balanced the neutrality of Belgium against her own. If a prejudgement such as this occurs, it cannot afterwards be said that similar steps should not be taken at a later date. So let us refer once more to something I have stressed several times: There is continuity in the life that runs through history; things are linked together. Just as an individual cannot do something to undo what has once been done, so it is with nations. You cannot take something for granted if it has not previously been taken for granted.
So this, too, must be taken into consideration. Even if the matter had been so simple that it could have been said: The agreement of 1839 was obviously valid, and so there was no need to request Great Britain for an additional commitment — even if this could have been said — then the counter argument is: that in 1870 Great Britain herself took the initiative. It was Great Britain who asked France, on the one hand, and Germany, on the other, whether they would respect the neutrality of Belgium. So at that time discussions took place about neutrality. And when discussions take place, others can follow from them at a later date.
The following can also be said. You know that it is not my task to defend the violation of neutrality, but I can say: If an affirmative answer from Great Britain had led to non-violation of Belgium's neutrality, then everything in the West would have taken a different course. But this was not my final word, for I added expressly: In addition, Germany offered to respect France and her colonies if England were to remain neutral. When no positive answer was forthcoming to this question either, the further question was asked: Under what conditions would England remain neutral? England was actually invited to name the conditions under which she would remain neutral. This was all over and done with on 2 August, for it happened on 1 August. England declined. Great Britain did not want to give any answer to questions on this subject. So you can really say: If Great Britain had given any kind of an answer, everything would have taken a different course in the West; even the external course of history shows this.
But I did not stop here either, for I said to you that I knew from other circumstances that even the whole war with France could have been avoided if Great Britain had given a suitable answer. The fact that there were other, more profound, reasons why this did not happen is something that weighs down the scales on the other side. But everything must be carefully considered if we want to form a judgement about the opinion that has been buzzing around the world for the last two and a half years. For there are still many people who believe that England entered the war because of the violation of Belgian neutrality, when in fact this very thing could have been avoided if she had not entered the war!
Now you might say: The whole war situation in the West would have been different if Germany had not violated the neutrality of Belgium. But then you are not distinguishing between what is formally and legally correct and all that is connected with the tragedy of world history. It is very important to distinguish between what is tragic and what is formally correct. Of course, things would have been different. What would have been different? Without, I beg you, bringing moral aspects into the discussion, let us now see what would have been different.
Let us assume that Belgium's neutrality had been respected despite Great Britain's refusal to make a commitment, which meant that at any minute she could be expected to enter the war. As things stood, the attitude of Great Britain made it absolutely inevitable that war would break out in the West. This must be obvious to anyone who really studies the matter, not only the Blue Paper but all the other documents as well. Whether it could have been avoided with the mood in France being as it was at that time is another question — hardly, perhaps! But let us assume that war broke out in the West because of Great Britain's attitude. What would have happened if Belgium's neutrality had nevertheless been respected? As I have said, I am not leading up to a moral judgement in any direction.
The following would have happened: By far the greatest part of the German army, which has been accused of so much, would have been entangled in France's defences and used up on the western side. Despite all the talk of Prussian militarism, the French army is hardly less powerful than the German — the figures are virtually identical — and this was the case before the war as well. Therefore, obviously the German army would have been used up in the West, and the invasion from the East which began in August and September, would have commenced with a vengeance. For the experts said that it would have been impossible to wage war in the West without engaging almost the whole of the German army all the time. Germany would have been totally exposed to the invasion from the East.
This was the situation. It might have been said that this was a wrong strategic judgement. This was arguable during the early months of the war, but not any longer. For since the failed attempt at Verdun, those who said that the whole German army would be used up if it was deployed solely in the West have been proved to be right.
So there was a choice between passing the death sentence on Germany or taking the tragic step of breaking in through Belgium, which was the only alternative if war in the West could not be avoided; for in the East it certainly could not be avoided! Anyone who says today that it could have been avoided must have the effrontery to say Yes and No at the same time. People today are hardly capable of considering what might be true and what false, but given that some might have the effrontery to say Yes and No at the same time, this is what they would maintain: We have been attacked by the Central Powers; we are not to blame for the commencement of the war; but we shall not end the war until we have attained our war goal, namely, to conquer this one or that one!
There you have Yes and No in the same breath! We are not the ones who want anything, it is the others who want something; they want to conquer, that is why they have attacked us; we, however, shall not end this war till we have achieved our long-standing aim of this or that conquest! It is really unbelievable that people exist who have the effrontery to say Yes and No in the same breath. Perhaps in the next few days you will discover that there is indeed a person who is capable of saying Yes and No in the same breath. Here is probably the most appalling document ever to have been published in recent times, for it depicts a logic riven beyond all meaning. This is indeed something that belongs to the karma of our time.
So what we have to do is distinguish between what is logical and formally legal and what is purely tragic. We must not succumb to the peculiar misconception that it could be possible in maya — that is, in the world of the physical plane — for real events to take place solely in accordance with what is merely formal and logical. But let us look further: We did not set out to defend or attack anything. Our intention was to show that it is not justifiable — especially while those accused are not in a position to defend themselves — to trumpet abroad that this war is being fought by one of the sides because of the violation of Belgian neutrality, without also proclaiming that one possessed the possibility of preventing this violation. The only possibility of escaping the tragedy would have been the neutrality of England. For no statesman may proclaim in advance the death sentence on his own country.
Of course it is reasonable if all those who are satisfied with reasonable judgements say: Agreements must be kept. My dear friends, if you were to see a list of all the agreements in public and private life which are not kept, and if you were then to be shown what the breaking of these agreements has brought about in the world, you would begin to realize just what forces in maya are the really effective ones.
But was there really such a good conscience on the side which failed to answer in the affirmative? The facts seem to speak against the possibility. For when, at a later date, the question of this discussion between the German ambassador and Sir Edward Grey was once again placed on the agenda, and when it was said that England could have saved the neutrality of Belgium, the English government defended itself. It did so not by invoking the argument of mere formal and legal correctness — for this there were too many excellent statesmen in the the English government at that time. Although I do not withdraw the judgement of Sir Edward Grey — formed not by me but by his English colleagues — he was, nevertheless, too good a statesman to fall back on the pose of maintaining that since an agreement had been formulated in 1839, Germany was obliged to abide by it even if England had given an evasive answer. Instead of doing this the English statesmen excused themselves in a different manner. Grey said that Lichnowsky had indeed asked this question but that he had done so in a private capacity and not on the instruction of the German government. Had he done so on the instruction of the German government, this would have been different. Though Lichnowsky had acted from the best intentions of maintaining peace in the West, he had not had the German government behind him!
Do you not think that in any private situation this would be called a lame excuse, a perfectly ordinary lame excuse! For the whole world knows that when the ambassador of a country speaks with a Foreign Minister he must do so with the full power of his country behind him, and that his country cannot but ratify what her ambassador says, unless she wants to appear quite impossible in the eyes of the world. So this was a perfectly ordinary lame excuse, grasped at because no one wanted to withdraw to a position which would have to be defended by saying, simply: What we did was correct. They certainly felt the weight of the fact that England could have prevented the violation of neutrality, quite apart from whether the violation was justified from the point of view of the other side. If an avalanche is threatening to fall and the one at the top of the mountain refrains from holding it back because, for some reason — which may or may not be justified and may certainly be unjustified — he is forced to let it go, and then if someone further down also fails to hold it back, with the justification that the one at the top should have done it — no, you cannot argue in this way! But to form judgements about these things always entails weighing them up. So the following would also have to be taken into consideration:
When did it happen? We have now arrived at 2 August. On 2 August the King of Belgium requested the intervention of England, that is, he requested England to intervene with Germany. The Belgian King saw it as a matter of course that England should negotiate with Germany about the neutrality of Belgium. Initially, England did nothing. She waited a whole day while Sir Edward Grey spoke to his Parliament in London. In doing so he concealed the conversation he had had with the German ambassador. Not a word did he breathe about it. If he had mentioned it, the whole session in Parliament would have taken a different course!
So after the discussion with the German ambassador had taken place, and after the King of Belgium had requested the intervention of England, everything paused in England, nothing was done. What was everybody waiting for? They were waiting for the violation of Belgium's neutrality to be accomplished! As long as it remained unaccomplished, matters could still have taken a course along which it would not happen. Powerful forces were working against it happening and it was hanging by a silken thread. If the request of the Belgian King had been fulfilled quickly enough, if England had intervened, it is questionable whether the violation of neutrality would have taken place. But when did Grey intervene? On the fourth, when the German armies had already set foot on Belgian soil! Why did he wait, even after the request of the King of Belgium? These are questions which have to be asked.
Much could be added to all this if the documents were to be studied both forwards and backwards. But this is not necessary, for I believe I have made it clear to you that these things were very well prepared years in advance. So there is no need to be surprised that events took the course they did in recent years. Of course, if you study the documents forwards only, you will only come up with formal answers.
It has been my intention not to take sides one way or the other, but only to show what is necessary to come to a judgement on these things. For in accordance with the nerve centre of spiritual science, where we strive for a lofty viewpoint, I would rather refrain from light-heartedly making derogatory judgements about what happens in world history when states collide head-on; for do not forget: Not nations, not peoples, wage war; states wage war!
In this field we tend to consider too little that, in addition to the forces of growth and becoming, world events also need the forces of destruction and decay. Is it any different with the individual human being? As we develop our capacities during the course of our lifetime, we cause our body to decay and be destroyed. Tomorrow I shall show you what profound connection exists between our soul life and belladonna, jimson weed, and other poisons found outside in the world. These are truths which delve deeply down into things. One must have the courage to give these truths a validity in world history. Therefore it is much better to understand, rather than to judge in accordance with some so-called norm or other. Any condemnation of states or nations usually stands on insecure foundations. If we are at last to ascend towards the spiritual world and be able to understand anything there, we must accustom ourselves to simply looking at facts, without any criticism — which belongs to quite another realm. Only then shall we understand what forces are at work in world evolution.
From this point of view let us now look at certain events — without anger, but by studying them carefully — certain events which I have hitherto observed have so far been considered solely from a moral point of view. Such a point of view must, of course, be applied to the actions of individuals, although it is absurd to apply it to the lives of states. One or other of you might even find it strange that I should look at these events without judging them morally; yet they can certainly be considered without any moral undertones.
One of the chief elements in the mighty British Empire is its dominion over India. This dominion over India has undergone a number of earlier stages. It took its departure from the East India Company, a trading organization which, to begin with, enjoyed the privilege of being the sole company permitted to trade with India on England's behalf. Then, as time went on, there developed, inexorably and appropriately, out of the various privileges enjoyed by the East India Company, the dominion of England over India — indeed, the English Empire of India. From this, indeed also through the East India Company, there also developed England's trade with China. From the end of the eighteenth century there was a lively trading relationship between India and China, and the English East India Company was already involved at that time. You know that England then gradually grew to be the foremost merchant of the world.
Then, as the element of trade became established in the Orient, something else was brought to bear on it; it came into contact with something else. From the seventeenth century onwards the habit of smoking opium had become widespread in China. Probably it was the Arabs who taught the Chinese how to smoke opium, since before the seventeenth century they had not done so. For those who do it, smoking opium provides a questionable but powerful pleasure. The opium smoker creates for himself the most varied fantasies out of the astral world. In these he lives. It is truly another world, but reached by a purely material path.
When the people who conducted England's trade with China, in the manner described, noticed that the habit, the passion of opium smoking was spreading rapidly among the Chinese, they established vast poppy plantations in Bengal for the production of opium. Those who are familiar with the laws of commerce know that not only does demand stimulate supply, but supply also stimulates demand. Any economist will tell you that if a large amount of some article is put on offer there will soon be a great demand for it. The East India Company was granted the monopoly by England for the export of opium from India to China. And the more opium arrived in China, the more the evil habit spread. From 1772 onwards several thousand chests were imported annually, each to the value of about 4,800 marks.
I have chosen this example for it has a very profound cultural and historical background, if all factors are taken into account. Only consider that, by introducing opium, which works on the soul, you are interfering with the spiritual life of a whole nation or, at least, of those to whom you are supplying it. I can use this example because I have no intention of condemning anyone who wants to trade. Trade is something that must move freely in the world. This is a perfectly justifiable principle. I have no intention of condemning anyone who might grow poppies in Bengal in order to manufacture opium for China and take gold in exchange.
But the Chinese saw their pathetically wasted opium smokers. Opium smokers gradually deteriorate, and after a while it was noticed that the habit was causing the degeneration of wide sections of the Chinese population. When the Chinese noticed this they outlawed the smoking of opium in 1794. They wanted to prevent any more opium from entering the country.
But as is the way with such things, prohibitions do not necessarily prevent trade with the forbidden article. Ways and means are found to carry on trading. So it turned out that despite the formal prohibition, despite the law which forbade the import of opium, the opium trade flourished. There are all sorts of ways, of which bribery is only one. In short, the opium trade flourished and increased from a few thousand chests in 1773 to thirty thousand chests in 1837: that is, over only a few decades. The profits, about thirty million francs a year, flowed into British India.
Once things had got out of hand to this extent, the Chinese could think of no other measure than the confiscation of the opium consignments as they arrived. To Canton, which was the usual destination of the consignments, they sent a capable Chinese — an energetic man, Lin by name, who confiscated the chests as they arrived. The English also had a capable man in their consulate, Captain Elliot, who was very energetic and even succeeded on one occasion in breaking through the Chinese blockade with a warship.
Now there arose the question of how to get out of this fix. Mountains of chests filled with opium were waiting to be dealt with, but the Chinese would not relent. The situation was most awkward. So Elliot, who was in a position to do this, had 20,283 chests signed over to himself personally and then handed them to the Chinese Government. This was the way out for the moment.
However, this did not remove the opium trade from the face of the earth, for in some quarters there was no desire to rid the world of the opium trade. So the Chinese found there was nothing for it but to make new laws once again, very strict laws indeed. Lin decreed that anyone caught trading with opium would be condemned to death by the Chinese courts and that from now on all ships were to be confiscated. Thus the Chinese were now faced with the prospect of the death penalty if they traded with opium.
But the British would not consider the abolition of the opium trade, just because a few people might lose their heads. Instead they said — and I quote — ‘With this demand, the Chinese Government has finally destroyed any sense of security.’ Then they ordered all British nationals living in China to leave, while armed assistance was requested from India. They, so to say, occupied the whole area. The Chinese meanwhile stood quite bravely by their decision to behead anyone caught trading in opium. So it appeared that the opium trade had ceased. Since the Chinese intended to confiscate any British ships carrying opium, there appeared to be no more British ships. What happened was that the opium was loaded in India on to American ships instead! So, just as much — indeed more and more — opium continued to arrive in China on American ships.
Elliot, the civil servant, said: The question underlying our conflict is quite simple. Does China wish to conduct honest and increasing trade with us, or does she want to accept responsibility for allowing her coastal waters to fall victim to open piracy and freebooting? The harbour at Canton was blockaded with help from India. In the skirmishing this involved, a Chinese was killed by an English sailor. Of course the Chinese Government demanded the extradition of the sailor. Every so often the Chinese tired of the whole affair, sometimes wanting to prove they were in the right and yet not wanting to prove the English wrong either. It is quite possible to do this! One day an English sailor drowned by accident. So Elliot, a very clever man, agreed with Lin, the representative of the Chinese Government, that they would confirm the drowned sailor to be the one who had killed the Chinese. The drowned sailor was handed over and the matter thus settled for the moment. But all these things led in the end, in 1840, to the war between England and China.
So the whole course of events was inexorable and could not have gone any other way. An incisive influence was exercised in a material way on the soul life of a people. Something took place which is connected with the whole process of world evolution. In England people ‘knew’ what it was all about! What did they know? In England people ‘knew’ that England had been ‘surprised’ by China — that is how they put it — and the reason given was that China could not tolerate England's cultivation of opium in India because the Chinese wanted to build up their own cultivation. This is what was said. Everybody ‘knew’ all about this, and another thing they knew was that the Chinese were barbarians! That is what people in England knew at that time. Lord Palmerston said: The protection of poppy cultivation in India must gain ground; it is a matter of protecting poppy cultivation in India; furthermore, the economists in China do not want to allow out of their country the money which should by rights be paid to India. All these were things well ‘known’ and understood in Europe!
War raged; and in war, inevitably, atrocities occur. Atrocities were committed, both by the Chinese and by the English. Whole villages were found in which the women lay in pools of blood in their houses; the Chinese men, having fought bravely, saw that they would have to kill themselves or surrender, so first they killed their wives and children. This war of 1840 was a sad war. Strange rumours began to circulate about Elliot, who had observed it throughout and who actually had it on his conscience. The rumours — perhaps they were true — said that he was inclined to initiate peace negotiations with the Chinese. So he was overthrown. Then — no, not Lloyd George! — a certain Pottinger was given the position of Elliot who had wanted to initiate peace negotiations. The war was to be fought to its bitter end, that is, until the island of Chusan and the cities of Ningpo and Amoy had been taken, until the English had advanced as far as Nanking and until, in 1842, China had become totally demoralized. Hong Kong was made over to England, five ports in China were opened for unlimited opium trade, and British consuls established. In addition to the earlier twenty-five million extorted — I do not quite mean extorted, there is another word which I can't find for the moment — in addition to the earlier twenty-five million extorted from the Chinese, a further demand was now made for ninety-seven and a half million war damages.
As I have said before, I would not dream of interpreting this process as anything other than a historical necessity. I would not dream of accusing anybody. Those who understand necessities of this kind, those who understand how things take place on the physical plane, know that such things are perfectly possible in the normal physical way of world evolution. The profits made from opium are now absorbed into the English national economy, and the English national economy includes a good part of English culture. Just as it would be nonsense to underestimate English culture, so is it also nonsense to doubt the necessity of such events, though perhaps the trifling satirical epilogue to the whole affair might be excluded from that necessity:
When the first instalment of the ninety-seven and a half million war damages was received, certain people came forward claiming they had been the first to have chests of opium confiscated and that the compensation they had received had been minimal. Now, they said, we have seen that our country regards the opium trade with China as legitimate, so we demand full compensation, since we were merely doing something over which our country has since been waging war. The minister whose task it was to decide the matter drew from his pocket a note he had given Captain Elliot at the time, stating that so long as Chinese law forbade the opium trade, the English Government would never agree to pay compensation to anyone who might suffer losses as a result of carrying on this trade. Since this Chinese law was in force at the time, he said, your demand has no foundation because you were contravening this law which was only later nullified by the war.
We need not decide whether this epilogue was also one of the historical necessities. But what is a necessity is that we should look at the facts. When this Anglo-Chinese war started in 1840, mankind stood at the beginning of a time about which we have often spoken. I have mentioned this very year to you as that in which materialism attained its zenith. It is good to understand how such things develop. As I said, just as it would be nonsense to underestimate English culture or English life — English civilization — so would it be nonsense to believe that something of this nature could have been avoided in the overall context of English evolution. It belongs to it. So it is entirely wrong to form any kind of moral judgement about it. If we did, we would be making the mistake of judging whole nations, whole groups in the manner which is only appropriate when we judge individuals. This is the very thing which it is impossible to do.
Yet again and again it is maintained that such a thing is possible. I have just received another pamphlet — there are so many peacemaking pamphlets to be had at the moment — which says: States have their own thinking, feeling and willing, just as do human individuals. Of course this is utter nonsense because you cannot, by analogy, transfer something which has reality on a higher plane to the level of the human being who has his thinking, feeling and willing in the physical sphere. Of course the folk spirits, the folk souls, also have their characteristics, but these are as I have described them in the lecture cycle I mentioned the other day. But to speak of the thinking, feeling and willing of nations is simply nonsense.
My dear friends, today I have introduced you to certain matters, for the simple reason that it was necessary to add some striking examples to our basic material. Tomorrow we shall continue to link this to more far-reaching viewpoints.