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Karma of Untruthfulness II
GA 173b

Lecture XIII

31 December 1916, Dornach

You will understand that for one who follows with sympathy the destiny of mankind it will be difficult to speak today, on New Year's Eve. I expect it will be understandable if what I have to say today cannot be rounded off in the way we have come to expect, for that ‘New Year's Eve gift’ received by mankind will hardly allow the free unfolding of what is in my soul.

Yesterday I endeavoured to describe to you a historical event and to show that on no account may such an event be judged in a moral sense, for events founded on historical necessity may not be assessed morally. We have to be quite clear that just as the Mystery of Golgotha has nothing to do with peoples or groups of people—for its light falls only on the individual human being—so, by analogy, is it also impossible to transfer to groups the way in which we morally judge the thinking, feeling and willing of the individual.

There are other cases, also, to which moral yardsticks may not be applied. For instance, it would not occur to anyone to apply a moral yardstick to the building of a house; no one would find one roof less moral than another because of its shape. It is just that this example is more extreme, so it is more obvious that people would not apply moral judgements to such things; in such an extreme case they would be unlikely to let themselves be led astray by moral judgements. In contrast, however, those who want to work on people's souls, which are ever open to such things, choose just this method of decking out with moral reasons things to which, in truth, moral judgements do not apply and which cannot be judged morally, except by hypocrites. That is why I put before you an event which had the capacity of throwing light on certain motives which are at work in human evolution on the physical plane.

It is not permissible to make moral judgements, either positive or negative, about events such as the Opium War I described to you yesterday. Where would a moral judgement lead, even if it were one which might make people consult their consciences? Suppose someone were to say: That was indeed an immoral venture, but now we have put it behind us. This would be one of those judgements intended to lull us to sleep! For thanks to the millions which flowed from Asia to Europe at that time, there exists today, in all its glory, that kingdom which ought to consult its conscience.

To be logical it would then also be necessary, from the same standpoint of conscience, to condemn the present intrigues just as firmly and sharply as one condemns the Opium War! If one did not do so it would be like taking into account, in the case of a house, only the first, second and third floors and the attic, while leaving out what cannot be left out—namely, the ground floor. What was won at that time belongs now to the whole configuration of the British Empire. Perhaps you have heard the example of how much a penny or a centime invested at the time of the birth of Christ at compound interest would have increased by now. This shows you what increase of riches is possible over the years. So if you want to judge the yield of the Opium War you must look at it as a whole. Then you will see that what has grown out of those millions—after all, this has been going on for a century—is something which is preparing to rule the world, to overrun the world; this is what may be found in what was won at that time!

You see, it would be an offence against all truth to consider in isolation a single event which is part of an ongoing evolution. What you can say is that what has since developed is one of the consequences of the Opium War. You can say this quite objectively, without taking up a positive or negative moral stance. It is not permissible to paint over the facts with shades of morality. If we do this today, we are preventing the possibility of any subsequent insight into what is going on now. On karmic and moral grounds we have to presume that, looking back on today's events in the decades or centuries to come, people will condemn with an equal degree of certainty and conviction what is today defended with noble moral patriotism. In the centuries to come, today's events will look very similar.

It behoves us to look more deeply into such things as they occur on the physical plane, especially at a moment like this when, on the one hand, the turn of the year should awaken a festive mood in our souls, while on the other hand the bitterness of events must move us deeply—unless we are utterly superficial. Regardless of any side we might support, none of us can fail to realize that on the words we have read today could depend the most terrible destiny for the whole of mankind.

I said: It behoves those of us who stand for spiritual knowledge to look more deeply into things. So today, since I do not know how much longer it will be possible to speak about such spiritual matters in Europe, I want to draw your attention to something which may serve as an example to help us look more deeply into conditions which are manifested outwardly in what we see on the physical plane. You see, even more than is the case in the sciences which apply to the physical plane, it is necessary to be clear that in spiritual science the facts and the way they relate to one another are not simple at all, but very complicated indeed. I have often stressed the complicated nature of these facts and have begged you to understand that although the general formulae, ideas and laws about the relationships between the different aspects of life which we receive from spiritual science are absolutely correct, nevertheless they are naturally extraordinarily complex in their application to actual cases.

We have often spoken about the time between death and a new birth and of how the human being descends again to the physical world in order to incarnate his soul-and-spirit being into a physical body. So we can realize that whenever we raise our spiritual eye to the spiritual world we always find souls who, with the forces they have gathered between death and their new birth, are preparing to descend into physical bodies. In other words, here down below the possibilities await the creation of those physical bodies, while up above there are the forces in the souls which guide them to these physical bodies.

Now you must consider a number of other things together with what I have just said. You know that one of the objections to the concept of repeated earthly lives is: The human population is increasing all the time, so where do all the souls come from?

I have often replied that this is a superficial objection, for the simple reason that people forget to take into account that this so-called increase in the population of the world has only been observed in very recent centuries. For instance, those scientists who are so very proud of the exactitude of their calculations would be highly embarrassed if one were to question them about the population statistics of the year 1348 when America had not yet been discovered. The objections often mentioned are indeed staggeringly superficial. It is a fact that in some parts of the world the birth rate diminishes while it rises elsewhere, so that the population density varies in different places. This brings about a certain amount of disharmony. It can happen that, in accordance with the conditions prevailing in relation to the incarnation of souls who are living between death and a newbirth, there are certain souls who, as a result of previous incarnations, are inclined to descend to a certain part of the world but that there are too few bodies available there. This can indeed happen. Furthermore, there is something else that can happen as well, which I would like you to consider in connection with what we have been saying.

Some time ago—and you will see from this that the lectures I have given here in recent weeks have not been without a wider context—I mentioned that John Stuart Mill, and the Russian philosopher and politician Herzen, have both pointed out that in many ways a kind of ‘Chineseness’ is beginning to manifest in Europe, as though Europe were becoming ‘chinesified’. This was no idle remark on my part. If John Stuart Mill, who was a keen observer, considered that many people in his vicinity were beginning to show noticeable Chinese traits, then in certain respects he was quite right.

Consider the following: Souls exist who, as a result of their former lives, are inclined to incarnate in Chinese bodies during the nineteenth century or at the beginning of the twentieth. Now since the Chinese population is nowhere near as great as it was in former times, it is, in any case, not possible for all these Chinese souls to incarnate there. In Europe, on the other hand, the physical population has increased considerably in recent times, and so many souls can be accommodated here who were really destined for incarnation in Chinese bodies. This is one reason why keen observers are beginning to notice that Europe is becoming ‘chinesified’.

But this alone would not have sufficed to prepare Europe for that European karma which was to come about. A helping hand was needed to assist a certain aspect of the great laws of existence. Now if over a long period something is brought about of the kind I mentioned yesterday, namely, that very many bodies in a whole population are caused to become emaciated, then a situation will arise in which souls who were inclined towards that area will not, after all, incarnate in those bodies. By bringing about the ‘opiumising’ of Chinese bodies and causing generations to come into being under the influence of opium's forces, it was possible to condemn the Chinese to take in, to a certain extent, some very immature, sub-standard souls, whose qualities I shall not discuss. But those souls who had themselves decided to incarnate in Chinese bodies were thereby prevented from approaching these ‘opiumised’ bodies. They were diverted to Europe where they brought about among the European population those traits which have, meanwhile, been noted by those keen observers I mentioned.

So you see that an event on the physical plane such as the Opium War has a quite definite spiritual background. In the first instance, its purpose is not to help certain people make millions and grow rich but to prevent certain souls who would have come from the spiritual world round about now, to strengthen the cultural forces of Europe, from incarnating yet, and instead to surreptitiously fill European bodies with Chinese souls. This is really so, however paradoxical it may seem. This momentous event has truly become fact. In a great many European people a disharmony between soul and body has been brought about in the way I have just described. Such disharmony between soul and body always has the consequence of making it impossible to use the tools of the body properly. This makes it possible, instead, for others to busy themselves with errors and untruths. It would not be so easy to work by means of errors and untruths, if those who see through these errors and untruths were not condemned, by the conventions of their day, to preach in the wilderness.

You see, therefore, that I certainly did not mention what I told you yesterday merely in order to link it in an insulting manner with a particular nation. I mentioned it as an example of how actions by human beings here on the physical plane can bring about far-reaching changes in the spiritual evolution of mankind as a whole. Furthermore, please do not imagine that I told you what I did about the hotbeds of deception, and the manner in which they bring about errors and illusions, simply for my own amusement. Here, too, my intention was to show you much that goes on in our materialistic age. And today I have sought to demonstrate the kind of result one discovers when one observes not only the physical events but also the spiritual background of what human beings bring about. Seen in this way, that Opium War meant the switching of a soul element from a part of the earth to which it belonged—and where it might have been of use, because it would have been united with bodies into which it would have fitted—to another part of the earth where it could become a tool for forces whose designs are by no means necessarily beneficial for mankind.

We must realize, of course, that an ordinary historian will only notice some degree of degeneration in certain strata of the Chinese population resulting from the Opium War. But one who, in addition, observes the spiritual aspects of cultural history will have to look more deeply in order to see what is brought about by this degeneration for the whole of mankind. For only in this fifth post-Atlantean period, which is entirely permeated by materialism, is it possible to observe things in a manner so deeply ahrimanic—a manner which pervades all thinking and all ideas—that if something good or something bad is done to a part of mankind, people really can believe that this will not affect mankind as a whole. Whatever is done in connection with, or by, a part of mankind, will always affect the whole of human evolution because of the way the forces behind the scenes of physical existence arrange things.

Not until the sixth post-Atlantean period will a sense of responsibility become general among mankind so that each individual feels responsible for what he does, not only towards himself but towards mankind as a whole. Today we are surrounded by such a mood of catastrophe because the very opposite of this is the general trend, and from the attitudes prevalent today mankind will prepare to crystallize out the opposite as the right view.

So this is an example which can show you that what takes place on the physical plane really does affect even the spiritual world, and is therefore not only significant for the physical plane but is also echoed in the events of the spiritual world and thus of the whole universe. This is expressed quite deliberately in the mystery drama not for the poetic effect but, for once, in order to give embodiment to a truth which needs to be placed into our present time equally as much as everything else that is contained in the Mysteries.

Man has as yet not progressed very far along the road towards the achievement of wider horizons in his view of the world. Somehow he does not really want wider horizons in his view of the world. At the same time, science today is intent on restricting the horizon more and more. For science is secretly afraid of what the truth really is. Fear of the truth is taking hold of mankind increasingly, both in everyday matters and in wider contexts. Indeed, if this were not the case in the wider contexts, neither could it come about in everyday situations. For instance, people would no longer continue to draw out the war merely because they are afraid that if an understanding were to be reached by means of proper discussion, certain matters would then be revealed of which they are—well, of which they are afraid.

Some of you will remember the lecture cycle I gave in Vienna in the spring of 1914 when I summarized much of what I have said over the years about the tendencies and inclinations of our time. I said there that it is possible to speak about a social carcinoma. I must admit to being somewhat astonished by the way such remarks—which throw a profound light on certain existing things—are very frequently taken simply as remarks which satisfy curiosity to some extent, just like any other remark that might be made.

I was trying to point out—at the beginning of 1914—that in our life today certain impulses are active comparable with the impulse in the physical human organism underlying the formation of a carcinoma, the disease of cancer. I said that just as one studies the sick physical organism, it would more and more become a task for mankind to study the social organism. Although poisons causing the disease are not present in the same way as they are in a physical organism, nevertheless they are no less poisons which create the disease. But to do this, a sense for what is spiritual is needed. And you cannot have a sense for the spiritual if you deny its existence. Of course the social organism is not infiltrated with bacterial poison as though it were a physical organism. The poison in the social organism can only be found if you have a sense for the spiritual as it interweaves with physical existence. But if there is a possibility of doing more than merely making analogies—which are inadmissible anyway—if there is a possibility of following events on the different planes, then it will be possible to form an idea of what is behind these things.

It might be asked how it can be possible at all in the social life of the globe to move, in the way I have described, a whole company of souls from one part to another, just as though an illness were being artificially cultivated in a human body. But if these things are understood, if they are, to begin with, studied independently of what comes to meet us in human life, much may be noticed. Consider that plant life, animal life and, of course, also the minerals, are all capable of secreting poisons. As you know, these poisons have two different characteristics. On the one hand they are ‘poisons’, they destroy higher forms of life; they destroy and slay, for instance, the human organism. But on the other hand, suitably prepared and taken in suitable doses, they are medicaments.

This arises from profound interconnections in the whole realm of nature. We ought gradually to acquire certain ideas about this, not based on hypotheses or, even worse, on fantasies, but on spiritual science. We know, for instance, the truth about the evolution of man and, connected with this, of way the world has passed through the Saturn, Sun and Moon existences and has now reached Earth existence. We know that before the present Earth existence there was the Moon existence. I have described this to some extent, though hitherto more physically, depicting the substantiality, the substances of Moon existence. From my descriptions you can see that this Moon existence was quite physical, that it was—at least in certain stages—just as physical as Earth existence is today. Even though the mineral kingdom did not exist, Moon existence was physical. The physical structures were held by different conditions, but they were physical. So the question arises: How can the substantiality of ancient Moon be compared with the substantiality of Earth, with what flows and pulsates in the substances of our Earth?

Spiritual investigation reveals that the substances existing on Earth today have really only come about during the course of Earth existence. They are such that the human body, which needs them for its nourishment, can unite itself with them. They passed through earlier stages but only reached their present stage during Earth existence. You could not speak of ‘wheat’ or ‘barley’ during Moon existence.

So what substances now present on Earth were there during Moon existence? Every mineral, plant and animal poison, every poison that flows through these kingdoms, everything we today call poison and which today works as poison—these were the normal substances of Moon! You need only recall something I have pointed out quite often, namely, that prussic acid was present as something quite normal on ancient Moon. I have mentioned this a number of times since the year 1906, when I spoke about it for the first time, in Paris. All these things are connected with prussic acid.

On ancient Moon the substances which are today poisonous played the same role as do the plant juices on Earth, those juices which agree with man. But why are the poisons still present today? For the same reason that Ahriman is present. They are what has remained behind, something that has remained behind in physical forms. So we now have what agrees with man, that is, whatever has progressed in the normal way, and certain other substances which have remained behind at the Moon stage, which is now the stage of poisons.

There is also another aspect to this matter. We know that today's spirituality only developed as a possibility during the transition from ancient Moon to Earth existence. Our normal development was also paralleled in the substances of the lower kingdoms. Only the poisons remained behind. But there is a link, not in the spiritual but in the physical sense, between the substances on which our higher man is founded—that is, the higher organs which make us human, those organs which only developed during Earth existence—and the poisonous substances of Moon existence. To a certain degree we bear within ourselves the further stage of development of the poisons. The substances we today regard as poisonous are something which has remained behind at an earlier stage. Those substances from the lower kingdoms which man cannot tolerate have developed in a retrograde direction. But those substances that have developed in a forward direction, those substances that live in us in such a way that they can transform themselves to become the bearer of our ego, these are the transformed poisonous substances of ancient Moon.

It is only because we bear within us these transformed poisonous substances of ancient Moon that we have to some extent the capacity to be ego-conscious beings. I have mentioned this, even in public lectures, by saying that, in order to live, man needs not only constructive but also destructive forces. Without the latter, ego intelligence would be impossible. From birth onwards, breaking-down, growing-old and death are necessary, for it is in the processes of breaking-down—not those of building-up—that the possibility for our spiritual development lives. The building-up process lulls us to sleep. The building-up process is like rank, abundant growth which sends us to sleep. It dampens down consciousness. Consciousness can only live by using up spiritual forces. Those structures within us, together with their substances, which use up spiritual forces—these are the transformed poisonous substances of ancient Moon; they are transformed in such a way that they no longer work in the way they did on ancient Moon.

It is difficult to imagine this in connection with certain poisonous substances. But what we have to imagine about the development of these poisons is that their intensity has been reduced by one seventh, or two sevenths, or three sevenths. Poisonous substances in plants are as they are today because they have remained behind from Moon existence. But other poisonous substances have had their poisonous potential reduced many times, and these have been inoculated into us during the course of evolution. Because of this we are capable of growing old during our lifetime. Also because of this we are capable of using these poisonous effects—for they are poisonous effects—which are connected with the way the male element works on the female element in human procreation. The effect of the poison is expressed in the fact that, without it, the female alone would tend to bring forth only an etheric being. For this etheric being to find a physical form, the rank growth of etheric life has to be poisoned. I hinted at this in my lecture on physiology some time ago in Prague. The act of fertilization provides this poisoning, just as in plant life the effect of etheric material on the pistil—which is the fertilization act of the plant—provides a poisoning by light.

Here you have something which has come into existence for man since the beginning of Earth existence: procreation. It is a kind of distilled poisonous effect, a poisonous effect which existed on ancient Moon in an intensity equalling that of the poisons which have now remained behind in the lower kingdoms. You can now understand a sentence which I simply want to place before you for the moment: Ordinary poisons, which are ahrimanic substances left over from ancient Moon, are the opponents of progressive evolution; distilled, in a way diluted, they provide the physical substance which is the bearer of our spiritual life.

What happens when a diseased form comes into being, when a form falls ill? Medical science will have to concern itself more and more with such things, so that it can widen its view through spiritual science. When a diseased form comes into being, this means that evolution is advancing faster, and with it our physical organism. If some form—and this need not only be a growth, it could be something fluid or not even fluid in the organism—if such a form comes into being, this means that a part of the physical organism is growing faster than normal. A carcinoma, for instance, comes about when a part of the organism excludes itself and starts to evolve more quickly than the rest of the human organism. In physical life, the life of substances, this is something luciferic. I do not mean luciferic in the moral sense; it is simply objectively luciferic. And it is balanced out by poison, because poison is ahrimanic—and that is the opposite. If you can find the proper polar opposite then the luciferic growth will be balanced by the poison, which is ahrimanic. These two can balance each other out if they work in the right way.

From this you see that the concepts of what is luciferic and what is ahrimanic may be pursued right down into the realms of natural life. They may also be pursued upwards into human life, human social life. If we wanted to be cleverer than the gods, we might ask why they did not make the world without all these poisons. We would have to be as clever as that King of Spain, who first asked this in relation to a particular case. Now, just as these poisons work as actual substances in the human organism, so do they also work spiritually in social life. And in social life it is possible to guide and lead them. What is grey magic really? Grey magic is nothing other than the guiding of poisonous effects in such a way that they cause damage and bring about sickness in the social sense.

This is, in the first place, something which must be taken into account by those who seriously wish to learn about life. So as not to go on for too long about one subject, we shall continue—probably tomorrow—to talk further about poison, sickness and health.

Meanwhile, we might find in our soul the question: What is the consequence of all this? If you meditate on it you will not fail to see the connection. The consequence is that, having evolved beyond the former atavistic knowledge of these things, mankind now has the task of striving for truth with the new consciousness which has been achieved. Without this, nothing is possible. The links with the old atavistic knowledge have been severed, precisely because mankind is to become free to develop ego-consciousness ever further. So there is a fading away of what was still quite clear to the old atavistic consciousness and which is expressed in certain myths. I have demonstrated to you the connection between a myth such as the Baldur myth and great all-encompassing manifestations of human evolution.

Our scientific simpletons who conduct research into myths and legends can go no further than to maintain that they are an expression of creative folk imagination. In reality, however, they encompass deeply significant truths which are revealed particularly through the fact that they are truly worked out down to the last detail. As an example, the Baldur myth, among many other things, gives us a very good idea of the gradation of poisons. That a parasitic plant exudes a certain degree of poison is expressed wonderfully in the way Baldur is slain by the mistletoe. This shows that there existed a knowledge of the gradation of poisons in the world, for instance, that mistletoe is poisonous to a degree which cannot be tolerated by man. Everything is differentiated by degrees, everything is graded.

When certain things are said to be ‘poison’, what is meant is that they are stronger poison which has remained behind at the Moon stage—they have not continued to evolve. But everything is to some small extent poison, in everything there is a little poison; the only difference is in the degree. Although I cannot back a certain doctor and professor who stood up in favour of alcohol and maintained he could prove that many more people had died of the poison ‘water’ than of the poison ‘alcohol’, nevertheless the point he makes is important: In all poisons there are degrees, and it is true that more people have been killed by water than by alcohol. It is a fact that something can be true but at the same time it may, without becoming untrue, be inapplicable to a certain case. I have often said it is not enough for something to be true. What matters is whether it can be incorporated into reality, whether it belongs to actual reality.

The ancient truths have, to a great extent, faded away. That is why significant indications about the truth of ancient myths still given, for instance, by the so-called ‘unknown philosopher’ Saint-Martin, remained totally incomprehensible to those who followed him. Saint-Martin, who considered himself to be a pupil of Jakob Böhme, was still just able to point to the true core of the myths. That was in the eighteenth century. By the nineteenth century the most total and utter nonsense was being put forward by way of interpretation of the myths. All this is connected with the way our time lacks a strong, intense urge for the truth. If this urge for truth had been sufficiently strong, it would have sufficed to lead mankind far more extensively towards spiritual life than has actually been the case. It is the weakness of the urge for truth which has brought it about that so few people experience a longing to deepen their spiritual life.

This shows itself in the external, concrete world as well. The sad and painful events of today show that the sense for truth does not flow through the world like the blood of the soul, and this is not always the fault of human beings. The sense for truth must be properly awakened. That is why, during the past weeks, it has been necessary to point to concrete, sense-perceptible affairs in so far as they are the expression of spiritual impulses and spiritual events. It is because of the striving for truth—or rather the lack of striving for truth today—that current affairs are handled and things are said which are believed in the widest circles, although they are in fact nothing but absolute inversions of the truth. In an age when it is possible to make the truth, conform to any kind of antipathy, passion or instinct, a great deal of effort will be needed in this age to awaken a strong sense for the truth which can then lead to a spiritual life. The details show that this is so.

Only consider all the things that have been said in the two-and-a-half years since this event called the war started to rage. Consider further all the things that have been believed. As I said yesterday, the striving for truth, the search for truth, has been the only standpoint for everything I have said; there has been no intention of taking sides in any way at all. It is necessary, however, when making an assertion—even if only in your own soul, for that is just as much a reality—to have the will to take into account that in a particular case the truth might not be entirely available to you and that it is therefore a matter of holding back and searching for ways which can then make it possible to come to a judgement of something.

Let us look at a particular case. Think of all that was disseminated in America in connection with European life during the build-up to this war! Much that has echoed back to Europe reveals what is believed in America. Why are these things believed? They are believed because people over in America have, of course, just as little possibility of understanding European life as did the English with regard to life in China after the Opium War. Pangs of conscience might inspire someone today to admit that the Opium War was a faux pas. I should like to remind such a person that among those in the British Parliament who sang the praises of the outcome of the Opium War as ‘an achievement of British culture’ was old Wellington himself—not one of the worst.

Some time ago an American wrote an essay for his countrymen which they obviously failed to note. To conclude this evening I shall read some passages to you so that you can see the judgement of a man who genuinely endeavours to understand things. Do not rejoin that after seeing what has happened in recent weeks a different judgement could be reached. Of course a more profound background might be found. But to form a judgement such things are not needed. To form a judgement it is enough to have a true sense of objectivity about the external events which are taking place. This sense of objectivity has been little in evidence.

This is what George Stuart Fullerton, a professor at New York University, writes about Germany. Allow me to read to you from this document, which provides such a contrast to that New Year's Eve document which is now circulating in the world. Fullerton writes:

‘I am an American without a drop of German blood in my veins, so that I can not be suspected of having the natural partiality for Germany which characterizes the German-American. Moreover, I can claim the right to be as truly an American as any one, since my family has been American as long as there has been an American Nation. I love my country, and pray that it may have before it a great future, and a prosperity founded upon right and justice. Nevertheless, no man has the right to be only an American, but must remember that he is also a man, and that, as a man, it is a matter of concern to him that justice should prevail in other continents than his own. We Americans are neutrals, but we have a right to know the facts about the great war, and it is our duty to aim at intelligent comprehension of the situation.’

He is a man who applies only his common sense to what he sees; he is not an occultist.

‘For thirty years I have known Germany, and have been interested in her science, her literature, and her political and economic development. At first, I saw the land through the eyes of a mere visitor, but of late years I have had the opportunity to know it much more intimately. I have seen a people, formerly comparatively poor, not very strong, not very closely welded into a unit, become rich, powerful, united, and so advanced in its social development that its internal organization compels the admiration of the economist and of the humanitarian. The land has prospered exceedingly in the intelligent pursuit of the arts of peace. Austria I have visited in past years, and last winter I spent in that Empire in the capacity of first American Exchange Professor to the Austrian Universities, lecturing at Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, Cracow and Lemberg. I met many persons in public and in private life and had an opportunity to feel the pulse of public opinion.

     I say without hesitation that no class, either in Germany or in Austria, desired to precipitate this terrible war. Peace was desired, and earnestly desired, for economic reasons. But war was forced upon both nations. That war came just when it did may be regarded as an accident, for the war was sure to come in any case.

     As many of my fellow-countrymen are imperfectly acquainted with the conditions which prevail in Europe; as they themselves live under conditions so different that it is difficult for them to realize the significance even of facts which are truly brought before them; and as they have, moreover, been systematically misinformed by certain of the parties interested, who have had the opportunity to cut the German cables, it is not surprising that there should be, in America, much misunderstanding of the situation. I think it my duty to make a brief contribution towards the clearing up of this misunderstanding.

     Americans have heard a great deal lately of German militarism, and many of them have a vague notion that it is a menace to European civilization. Of what the word really stands for they have no intelligent notion. In America we have brief attacks of militarism—as at the time of the Spanish-American war, or when there is common talk of a possible war with Mexico—but militarism, as a permanent condition of things, does not exist. And if it is not to be met with in the Great Republic, why should it exist in Germany? The American who is not acquainted with Germany and with the position in which she finds herself can find no satisfactory answer to this question. An answer is, however, not far to seek.

     The Germans are a peace-loving people. We Americans know that there is no element in our own population more orderly, industrious, and law-abiding, than the German element. The German in Germany has the same characteristics. The land is an orderly land, and the population is enlightened, disciplined, and educated to respect the law. The rights of even the humblest are jealously guarded. The courts are just. The successes of the Germans are attained as the result of careful preparation and unremitting industry. Even competition in business is carefully regulated by law, and the laws against what the community regards as ‘unfair competition’ are rigorously enforced. No one who lives among the Germans and learns to know them can feel that he has to do with an aggressive and predatory people. And those who spent in Germany, as I did, the month of August 1914, mingling freely in the crowds on the streets during the two weeks of the mobilization, when the public excitement was the greatest, can only wonder that a people so peaceable and self-restrained should be capable of the daring courage which has since stormed fortresses, and has gathered laurels on land and sea in a way which compels the admiration of all who have not been kept in ignorance of the facts.

     Yet this orderly and peace-loving people, a people which has not only loved peace, but has for more than forty years kept the peace, while other nations carried on wars, a people that has, in the pursuit of the arts of peace, grown exceedingly rich and prosperous—this people has all the while trained the mass of its male population to be prepared for war in case of emergency, and has built up a formidable fleet. Finally, it has gone to war against what seemed, at first, to be overwhelming odds, and the rising has not been that of a class, but of a nation. Neither the Emperor, nor the Government, nor the officers in the army and the navy are responsible for the public sentiment which makes this movement in Germany a national uprising. Even the Social-Democrats and those of a kindred way of thinking, men who have never been accused of servility to the Emperor or the Government, nor suspected of a weakness for army and navy, have stood by their country to a man, and are now fighting bravely and dying without a complaint at the front. In the past three months I have not met with a German of any class, from the highest to the lowest, who has not been heart and soul for the war. I have heard no laments from those who have sent their sons; I have heard no criticism of their country from those who have been bereaved, and I know many such.

     A strange phenomenon to be observed among a peaceable and industrious race, a race as devoted to the cultivation of the sciences and arts as it is to industrial pursuits; a civilized race, not one living in a state of barbarism and to which war is welcome, a diversion rather than a calamity. To the American who cannot put himself in the place of the German, an inexplicable phenomenon. What has possessed the Germans to prepare for war on a great scale? What drives them to fight even against a world in arms, and to stake their all in the gigantic contest?

     Let me help the American to put himself in the place of the German. We Americans inhabit a land more than four-fifths the size of all Europe including Russia. It is fifteen times the size of the German Empire, and has only ninety-eight millions of inhabitants, so that we are in the position of a family occupied in growing up to fill a large and well furnished house. It does not cross our mind that our neighbors, either near or remote, can seriously frighten us. Who could invade us with any hope of success? Who could threaten our national existence, or subject us to anything approaching a state of bondage?

     To the north of us is Canada—an empty house, a country with only seven million inhabitants, which could not hurt us even if it wishes to do so. To the south is Mexico, which can make trouble within her own borders and can cause some Americans to regret their investments there, but which is no more formidable to the United States than an unruly class in a school. To the west and to the east we have the broad sea. Japan might quarrel with us, and might be a detriment to some of our foreign trade.’

He is rather optimistic here! But never mind; at the time this judgement was appropriate.

‘But Japan is far from us,’—she will draw nearer in the future!—‘and we know very well that she is too poor, and will long be too poor, to carry on a long-continued war. At the most, Japan can only annoy us. That European states should, singly or combined, crush us, is a contingency too remote to fall within our horizon. As much of an army and as much of a fleet as we think necessary to our purposes we freely call into being, nor does it occur to us to ask the permission of any other power before increasing either. Why should Mr. Carnegie fill his house with bread, as a provision against a possible famine in the State of New York? Why should Mr. Rockefeller store gold and silver coins in a stocking and hide them in his mattress? The occupant of a Nebraska farm who should build a sea-worthy boat, in order to be ready for all emergencies, we should regard as out of his mind. We Americans do what seems to us prudent and practical under the conditions which prevail in America, and we have no more need for the German army than has a Philadelphia Quaker, at his Yearly Meeting, for a revolver. What we think we really need, however, we set about with much energy to obtain.

     But suppose that our territory were not too large to be invaded. Suppose that to the north of us, we had a great land with a vast population of more than one hundred millions, under an autocratic government, boasting, even in time of peace, an immense army. Suppose that this land had for many decades shown a restless activity in extending its borders at the expense of its neighbors, where it had found them too weak to resist aggression. Suppose that its population was upon a plane of civilization far less advanced than our own; so little advanced, indeed, that the overwhelming majority were compelled to live in what civilized men must regard as a condition of distressing misery, ignorant, dumb, passive, a tool in the hands of a bureaucratic class which would not be the first to suffer from the added miseries entailed by a state of war. Suppose that we had information that this neighbor of ours had for some time been massing its troops upon its borders in a way that could only be interpreted as a menace.

     Again, let us suppose that we had to the south of us, not Mexico, but a rich, resourceful, and highly civilized nation of forty million inhabitants, with a large army, formidable, well-drilled, and well equipped with all that is necessary to carry on successfully modern warfare. Suppose that this nation had for forty years made no secret of the fact that it was animated by a bitter sentiment of resentment against us, and hoped some day to have its revenge. Suppose that it stood in relations with the power above described, and also with a third power to be mentioned below, such that we had reason to fear that they might act in concert to our detriment.

     Now let us extend our suppositions, too, over the case of this third power. Suppose that we did not have the broad sea upon our borders to east and west, with the trade routes of the world open to us, but that there existed a third power so fortunately situated as to be inaccessible by land and yet in direct control of our only available outlets to the sea. Suppose that our foreign commerce was far more important to our prosperity than it actually is; that our prosperity was in large measure based upon our export trade. Suppose that the third power in question was rich enough to maintain a navy equal to our own combined with that of any other great power with which we might contract an alliance, and openly avowed its intention to retain control of the sea by maintaining this proportion. Suppose that its control of the sea even made it possible for this power to cut international cables, and only let through to the world so much regarding what we did or what others did to us as seemed to it in accordance with its policy. Suppose that this power had an “understanding” with the two described above, and we had, reason to fear that it might join them should they attack us.

     How could we Americans accept such a situation? I know my Americans. I have lived through the Spanish war, and have seen a University emptied of professors and students eager to fight under the flag of their country. Yet the Spanish war was, to America, a very small and unimportant affair. Spain could no more crush the United States and reduce our country to virtual subjection than it could stay the moon in its revolutions. Were our land really in danger, or did we believe our land to be in danger, what would happen in the United States? Would we be peaceable and patient, anxious to make concessions, willing to give up territory, eager to limit, under compulsion, our army and navy? Would we humbly declare our readiness to step out of the race for industrial success, or to ask permission of another power for access to the trade routes of the world? I know my Americans, and such questions strike me as broadly humorous.

     In this paper I have no other aim than to set the American in the place of the German. Whether it is or is not desirable that Germany or Austria, or parts of them, should be reduced to the condition of Finland or Poland; whether France should be allowed to take Alsace and Lorraine; whether England should be freed from a business rival so intelligent and industrious as to be formidable in time of peace, and should be left in control of the sea routes to America, Asia, Africa and Oceanica;—with all this I am in no way concerned. I wish only to make clear that, under like circumstances, Americans would do what the Germans have done. The Germans have, not without reason, feared Russian and French aggression, and have made preparations for many years to forestall it. German science and industry have led to an enormous expansion in German trade, and the Germans have not been willing to trust their trade to the mercies of Great Britain. Under this regime Germany has prospered exceedingly. Militarism, which the German regards as only a somewhat offensive name for his necessary preparation to repel very real dangers, a legitimate measure of self-defence, has not hampered Germany a tithe as much as she was hampered in the past, when she was not in a position to defend herself. Militarism is undoubtedly a burden, but it has not prevented Germany from cultivating successfully the sciences and arts, to the great benefit of humanity; from initiating and carrying out social reforms which insure to all classes of her population an unusual measure of well-being; from developing her internal resources and building up her foreign commerce in a way that has made her a rich nation. Militarism may be a crushing burden, abstractly considered, but it has not crushed Germany, and, to the German, that is a consideration which deserves to be weighed.

     We are all influenced by the constant repetition of a catchword. Americans have heard so much of German militarism, largely from certain foreign sources, that it would be surprising if some of them were not deluded into believing that Germany is the only European nation with a large army. Yet Russia has a larger army, and has for years been using it for aggression. France, with a much smaller population then Germany, has an army of approximately the same size, and, hence, may, with much greater justice than Germany, be accused of militarism.

     And Great Britain has the exact equivalent of an immense army—she has a colossal fleet, which she keeps up at an enormous expense to herself, and which she increases from time to time, with the avowed purpose of allowing no nation to dispute with her the control of the sea, that great common highway of the world, over which all may pass, but which no nation may possess. How formidable this equivalent for a great army may be to other nations has been made clear in the present crisis. There is no nation in Europe that can, without asking England's permission, sail into the Atlantic, pass the Straits of Gibraltar, make use of the Mediterranean, or reach Asia by way of the Suez Canal. The public highway has by a single nation been fenced in and made private property.

     It is a pity that the word “Navalism” is not good English, for that which it exactly describes has been peculiarly English for a century. “Navalism” can be a more serious menace than militarism, for the latter threatens chiefly one's more immediate neighbors. “Navalism” holds a threat over every nation on the face of the globe.

     I repeat that, in this paper, I am not urging that it would be a good thing for the world for any one nation rather than another to emerge from this great contest victorious. One's opinions upon such matters are not dictated wholly by pure reason.’

This man speaks very good sense!

‘I wish only to make the real issue clear, and to avoid the fallacy of catchwords and phrases. I make no reference to the neutrality of Belgium, nor do I think it worthwhile to touch upon the question who first formally declared war on this side or on that. In the light of what the world now knows, these have become wholly trivial matters. The explanation of the attitude of the German people is to be sought at a much deeper level. And I maintain without hesitation that we Americans, under the same circumstances, would have done just what the Germans have done. Would it have been right? Would it have been wrong? I leave it to Americans to decide.

     Some Americans—not many—are by their nature inclined to the acceptance of the status quo, that somewhat ambiguous expression so often found in the mouth of the man who thinks it to his purpose to urge the continued existence of a state of things which long has been or which has recently come to be. Had Austria accepted the status quo, she would not have resented the revolutionary activities of the Servians within her borders; she would not have resented the murder of her Crown Prince; she would not have opposed resistance to Russia. Had Germany accepted the status quo, she would not have prepared for defence, have reacted to Russian mobilization on her frontier, or have endeavored to prevent the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary. She would have offered her cheek to the French; she would have left Britain to rule the waves according to her pleasure, and in accordance with an old tradition. What would have happened to Austria and to Germany had the status quo been thus respected? It would undoubtedly have been something very disagreeable to Germans. On this point they are all agreed, and it is this that has led Prince and Peasant, Catholic and Protestant, Conservative and Social-Democrat, to drop all other causes and to go wholeheartedly to war.

     Shall we urge upon Germany, rather than upon other nations, the acceptance of the status quo and a tender regard for the “balance of power”? As for the “balance of power”, any nation that is intelligent and industrious, and that, preserving the peace for nearly half a century, is enabled to develop its industries and become thereby rich and powerful, unavoidably disturbs it. Nations less civilized, or less industrious, or more quarrelsome, are put at a disadvantage. As for the status quo, has it been accepted by Servia, by Russia, by France, by England, by Japan? And what, on the whole, has been the attitude of the American towards it?

     Did we accept the status quo when we dispossessed the Indians? Did we bow down before the principle when we published our Declaration of Independence in 1776? Did we show our respect for it when we rebelled against the search of American ships and the impressment of American seamen by Great Britain in the years preceding 1812? Did we think of the status quo in 1861, when we refused to recognize the Confederacy, and insisted upon the integrity of the Union? Did we treat it with deference at the time of our war with Spain?

     The status quo is a catch-word. The balance of power is something which, in the normal course of human events, is always being upset and set up again upon a new basis. We Americans are not, I think, a quarrelsome people, but we have long ago recognized that the times change and that we change with them. To new conditions we make new adjustments, and we guard jealously enough what we consider our legitimate interests, whether they be new or old. Were it necessary, we should not hesitate to guard them by a prompt display of force. And among our legitimate interests we should certainly place in the front rank our national self-defence and the enjoyment of such advantages as we have, by intelligence and industry, and in the pursuit of the arts of peace, obtained.

     We are neutrals, but we have a right to know the truth even about Central Europe. It is not right that we should be kept in ignorance, or led, through misrepresentations, to condemn in haste nations with which we stand in friendly relations. When we see a great nation of some seventy millions, a nation highly civilized, wealthy and cultivated, a nation well aware that it can prosper as few others, if it be allowed to exercise its industries in peace—when we see such a nation go to war against powerful odds, risking its very existence in the struggle, we must be shallow, indeed, if we suppose that its whole population, a naturally peaceable and orderly population, has either gone mad or lapsed into barbarism. We must stand before an unsolved problem until we attain to information and comprehension.

     Let the American forget the conditions under which he himself lives. Let him think himself into the situation of the German. Then let him ask himself what, under the circumstances, he would do.’

These are the words of one who had the will to see things as they really are, and not to listen to what is said in the newspapers and journals of the periphery. Are these the only people who spoke like this? Such people are equipped with a genuine sense for the truth. This is how they spoke.

Yesterday—this is very relevant—I had a look at the Basler Nachrichten. It quoted some words which were actually spoken. It is a good thing that they have been quoted. They were spoken in 1908 by an Englishman in front of other Englishmen in order to point out that Germany had every reason to adopt a militaristic attitude, and that it would have been unwise for Germany not to have adopted this ‘militarism’, which has since become a slogan to be slandered. The words this Englishman spoke to other Englishmen were:

‘Look at the position of Germany ... Suppose we had here a possible combination (of enemies) which would lay us open to invasion, suppose Germany, and France, or Germany and Russia, or Germany and Austria, had fleets which, in combination, would be stronger than ours, would we not be frightened? Would we not arm? Of course we should!’

Lloyd George spoke these words in 1908 with as much conviction as he now thunders his tirades into the world! These words were spoken by Lloyd George in 1908!