The Challenge of the Times
6. The Innate Capacities of the Nations of the World
8 December 1918, Dornach
In the last two lectures I pointed out that the so-called social question is not so simple as it is usually supposed to be, and that it is necessary to take careful account of the complicated nature of man. We must take account of the fact that both social and antisocial impulses exist in him and must come to expression regardless of what social structure exists and what social ideas are brought to realization. As we have seen, the antisocial impulses, especially in our epoch of the consciousness soul, play a special role. In a certain way they have an educational mission in the evolution of humanity in that they cause men to stand on their own feet. They will be overcome by reason of the fact that, after the epoch of the consciousness soul, there will follow the epoch of the spirit self, already in course of preparation, whose essential mission will be to bring humanity into social unity. This will not happen, however, in such a way as is dreamed at present by people indulging in illusions, but in such a way that one person shall really know and be interested in the other as a human being. In short, he shall center his attention upon the other person so that each individual shall acquire the capacity of comprehending the other with full interest.
What comes to light today as a social demand, constitutes in a certain way a sort of skirmish or outpost action, a sort of preparation, which naturally takes a chaotic form and gives rise to many illusions and errors because it is only the germinal stage for something that will come later. These illusions and errors are due to the fact that social impulses at the present time arise in great measure from the unconscious or the subconscious, and are not clarified by spiritual knowledge of the world or of humanity. This illusory form comes especially to expression in the development of the so-called Russian revolution. It is characterized by the fact that in its present manifestation it has no right relationship to what is in course of preparation as a people in Russia for the coming sixth post-Atlantean epoch. Rather, it is brought in out of abstractions. Thus these more or less illusory ideals of the present Russian revolution are especially significant in connection with a study of this chaotic stirring within humanity in relation to something that is to come later. We may say that the especially characteristic head of this Russian revolution, Trotsky, who is typical of the abstractly thinking man, living entirely in abstraction, appears really to have not the least notion that there is a reality in such a thing as human social life. Something wholly alien to reality is thought out and is to be implanted into reality.
This is not a criticism but a mere description. The simple truth is that one of the characteristics of our times is that the inclination toward abstraction, toward a thinking alien to reality, wills also to implant within reality such principles as are simply assumed without any knowledge of the laws of this reality. These principles are considered absolutely right without regard whatsoever for complicated human life, as we study it with the help of the spiritual lying at the basis of external physical reality. But everything that is to come into existence must arise from this reality. For that reason, since in this case something so preeminently alien to reality is brought forward, including in a chaotic way all manner of impulses and instincts due to the proletariat way of thinking, great significance therefore attaches to the ideas that seek to be realized in this Russian revolution and that live in these Russian revolutionary heads of the present time.
From this point of view they are exceedingly significant. Indeed, we can see that in Russia persons with the most varied conceptions of life have taken part in a brief span of time in giving shape to the revolutionary movement. As things have been brought to a climax in Russia, the real social problem of the present age became actual under the influence of the war catastrophe. From this actuality of the problem of ownership there then developed in March 1917 the so-called February Revolution in Russia, whose essential objective was to overthrow the political powers that stood behind the system of ownership. But this purely political, externally political, form of the revolution was soon set aside in the very first stages of the revolutionary thinking by those men who are conceived, according to Trotsky's terminology, to be men of understanding. They are men who, by all sorts of speculations, clever concepts, ideas, and even clever notions transformed into concepts, wished to bring about a social structure. These revolutionaries comprised primarily those persons who had already at an earlier time taken part more or less in the forming of the social structure, the intelligentsia, the commercial people, the industrial circles, all of whom took human reason as their point of departure in the effort to bring about some sort of social formation.
Trotsky, however, considers, with a certain justification even though relative and one-sided, that these persons who wish to bring about a social structure in such a way through all sorts of speculations, with good intentions and good will, merely delay the revolution. They have no capacity whatever, are incapable of doing anything at all. You know on the basis of the reflections I have presented to you that the proletariat world view tends primarily to the judgment that nothing whatever can be accomplished by such considerations no matter how clever they are, even though they are based so completely upon the foundation laid by those persons whom Trotsky calls chatterers or tongue-waggers because they can speak so cleverly. In other words, these rational considerations are rejected by the proletariat world view out of a certain instinct, which has become gradually a definite theory in marxism. There is simply no belief that any sort of satisfactory social structure can be brought about in the future by any kind of rational considerations whatsoever. The only thing that the proletariat believes is that fruitful ideas are born only in the heads of the proletariat themselves, in the heads of these masses who own nothing, and out of the economic conditions in which the members of the proletariat live. These ideas can never be born in the bourgeoisie nor in any other class, for the reason that they inevitably think differently because of their characteristic ideas. Only within the class of the workers do ideas arise that alone can give the motive force to bring about a future social formation.
When we consider this fact, it is clear that the inevitable conclusion for such a head as that of Trotsky is that the only thing to be done is to deprive the bourgeoisie of their possessions and to lead the propertyless classes to the position of mastery. This is something that has been in a preparatory stage in 'such heads for decades, and they now wish to introduce it into Russia since the great crisis has arisen in that country. This condition was to be brought about through the so-called October Revolution, after the other parties — if we may so call them — were set aside in the seizure of power by the proletariat itself. From this point of view, which is naturally a purely abstract one and concrete only to the extent that it makes everything dependent upon a definite class of men, thus constituting a reality, the leading personalities of the Russian Revolution have guided affairs since October 1917.
Now, such a revolutionary way of thinking gives rise to certain difficulties. These difficulties follow in a particularly intense form in Russia, and it was characterized by certain special prerequisites, as you know on the basis of our spiritual-scientific discussions. These difficulties arise from the existent class formations throughout the world, only they were manifest in a particularly intense way because of Russian conditions. The first great difficulty is that the whole social and political leadership of humanity is to be given over to a class that was previously deprived of everything, and had no connection whatever with so-called culture. The proletarian, who is actually to take the steering wheel, has previously been excluded from all those impelling forces that established the existing power factor. He has hitherto never taken anything to market except his own labor, his physical capacity for handwork.
This condition exists in all countries. Thus it will come about everywhere that, to the extent that a revolution takes rise, the proletariat will at first take over the leadership as a political group. Everything, however, will continue as it was, in a certain sense. Those persons who have hitherto held administrative power will remain in their positions because they are technically trained and know their jobs. In other words, there will be no further change than that a governing board of laymen will interject itself into the whole apparatus brought over from ancient times. But the important point is that this governing board of laymen is a special type, the proletariat type, and it will be composed entirely of proletarians. Since these persons will all belong to the proletariat they will wish to make certain that the principle shall apply that holds that the controlling ideas in the future can come only out of the heads of the proletariat. This leadership cannot be subjected to such a thing as a national or a constituent assembly, because that would be a certain continuation of what existed earlier. Rather, what is to come about must constitute a radical transformation. It is not necessary first to elect; those who are to lead are there simply because they belong to the proletariat. It would not be a national constituent assembly, but the dictatorship of the proletariat.
At first, this led to the difficulty that the proletarians, as I have said, are laymen, who could merely act as overseers over those who continued the previous administration. These individuals, of course, clung to earlier interests. Thus, particularly in Russia, the proletarians ascended to the top. They previously had nothing to do with matters belonging to the state organism and were compelled to take over everyone who conducted things according to ideas corresponding to the earlier state organism. They thus brought over into the state, which was to be subjected wholly to the dictatorship of the proletariat, interests belonging to the old bourgeois state. These behave just like an enemy who, although not carrying on open warfare or a counter-revolution, yet carries over into the enemy's country everything from his country that is to work destructively upon the other. It was in this way that the proletarians who had taken over the leadership in Russia looked upon the activities of the old imperial groups as sabotage. Their first struggle was to overcome this sabotage that consisted in the effort to bring over into the regime they were seeking to establish what would really constitute the support only of the old regime. The process was the same as if a citizen of one country that had not openly begun any sort of hostility should carry poisonous materials into a foreign land to impregnate its fields so that nothing would grow there. Thus the members of the proletariat looked upon what came from these old staffs of officials as sabotage. At first their most intensely applied regulations were directed toward the mastery of this sabotage. Here they showed no restraint whatever. Everything they considered destructive they sought to root out completely, and such a person as Trotsky is really convinced that sabotage at present has already been overcome to a certain extent. Those who did anything whatever to violate the will of the people and proletariat thinking were driven out or otherwise punished.
The difficulty, however, is certainly not overcome, as Trotsky himself sees perfectly well, by merely combatting so-called sabotage. He sees that it is necessary to retain the entire body of former administrators, but that it must be made to serve the purposes fundamental to the leadership of the proletariat.
Trotsky, for instance, sees in this the first great difficulty. This is something he believes can be overcome by his abstract means, but he will be unable to do so. Illusion begins at this point, for the simple reason that Trotsky is a spirit alien to reality. This illusory element is based upon the abstract notion that it is possible to make the whole body of technical officials, of intellectual and commercial people, servants of a governing board consisting entirely of members of a dictating proletariat. It is a disbelief in the configuration of the life of soul and spirit that is manifest in this illusion. The simple truth is that, after a certain length of time, the condition will revert to just what it was previously. If the old ideas are maintained, if there is failure to realize the truth of what I have often emphasized here — that the social transformation must proceed out of new thoughts — if the old technicians, the old officials, the old generals are simply put back in their positions, if the old is simply taken over and people do not advance to meet the new, most of all through education, it must revert to what it was. In other words, such a process will not overcome conditions but will simply continue them. It is possible to overcome sabotage for a certain length of time by means of regulations applied by force, but it will raise its head again and again. If it is true that a person is dependent upon the situation in which he finds himself — and he has been dependent for three or four centuries, which is true with reference to modern history — the result will be that, if he is not freed from these relationships by means of effective thoughts that can come only from the spiritual life, he must inevitably fall back into the old habits of thinking and acting, just as surely as a cat falls on all fours.
This is a point where such thinking is revealed in its illusory character, utterly alien to reality. I might indicate many such points, but I wish to make clear to you only the special configuration of this thinking. I wish to show you by means of individual examples how this thinking betrays its utter unreality. It is not possible simply to think out one thing or another that should occur, but it is necessary to take account of these impelling forces active within reality in accordance with inherent law. If a person does not live with these, he inevitably falls prey to illusions. One of the most important illusions in the case of Trotsky is the following. Trotsky knows that through the particularly intense suppression that has been experienced by the great masses even of the present proletariat in Russia — and this term is justified — conditions had to come to a special climax among these persons. He knows that the form the revolution takes under these special conditions cannot lead to a victory. He is out of touch with reality, but not so completely out of touch as to prevent him from seeing in a rational way that it is possible to bring a new social structure into existence under the present conditions in a region which, however extensive, is limited in comparison with the whole earth. For this reason Trotsky counted upon a revolutionary movement to be brought about by the proletariat throughout the civilized world. He did not indulge in the illusion that the Russian revolution alone could be victorious. He knew that it depended upon the victory of the proletariat revolution throughout the world.
Now, the whole abstract character of Trotsky's way of conceiving things manifested itself in these ideas. Trotsky believed in the proletariat revolution over the whole earth. He believed that the war would gradually take on such a character as to bring about a sort of proletariat revolution throughout the world end that the war would be transformed into the proletariat revolution.
Now this catastrophe of war will certainly be transformed into all sorts of things. But the actuality of things has already shown conclusively that this idea of Trotsky's is out of touch with reality. It would have been true only if this war catastrophe had ended in universal exhaustion, if such a striking so-called victory — it came about in a strange way — had not been achieved by one of the parties to the war. This victory simply eliminates the hope that exhaustion might come about uniformly throughout the civilized world. What has occurred is a decisive hegemony of the Western Powers in connection with a complete subjection on the part of the Central and Eastern Powers. A complete mastery over the Central and Eastern Powers by the Western Powers is what has been established as a dominant force, and the situation could not have been otherwise. This was clear to those who saw into reality in this realm. Trotsky, however, is simply a spirit alien to reality, and he ought now to say to himself, “I have been refuted by events.” He uttered something not without basis, something brilliant in a merely abstract way of thinking when he said, “The bourgeois conception of life at the present time has no alternative but to choose between lasting war and revolution.” The thing turned out differently. The so-called victory of the Western Powers has taken place — neither lasting war nor revolution. In what is beginning in a preliminary way in the West there is no germ for any sort of proletariat revolution. On the contrary, here there is simply the shaping of the entire West into a politically organized great bourgeoisie, facing the proletariat of Central and Eastern Europe.
This is the outcome in world history. It will certainly be transformed again but at present exists. This is the real state of the case, so that Trotsky ought, therefore, to reflect in an entirely different way if he wishes today to see reality. He would have to say to himself, “Under this shaping of events, how can what I intended through the Russian revolution become victorious, since one of the most important presuppositions, the world revolution of the proletariat, will not occur?” If he is still counting today upon this world revolution, it is simply evidence of his complete isolation from reality.
At still another point the alienation from reality characterizing the thinking of such a revolutionary manifests itself in a peculiar way. Such revolutionists also have naturally always referred to Prussian-German militarism as the greatest of all evils, declaring that it must be overcome and eliminated from the world. Now the course of events has been such that Prussian-German militarism has been eliminated from the world, but the militarism of the Entente will in the near future exercise a considerable domination! Now, I do not wish in the least to speak about this, but Trotsky himself has had occasion t6raise the question, “What, then, is the most important of the immediate tasks of the Russian revolution if it wishes to maintain itself?” His answer is, “The creation of an army!” Just this is designated by Trotsky as the most important immediate task.
These things ought to receive careful attention. They need to be thoroughly seen through. Only when these things are observed and seen through does it occur to people to say, “Now, I must really look a little deeper into the impelling forces within humanity if I desire to form conceptions for myself as to what is to result from the chaos that this war catastrophe has developed.” But humanity is decidedly disinclined today to penetrate into such impelling forces, which I have described to you here from the greatest number of viewpoints as the true, the only possible, social forces. Humanity would be able to get under the surface of these things if the determination were reached simply to get a firmer hold upon the real forces dominant in man's evolution.
One extremely characteristic expression appears again and again from the minds of the Russian revolutionaries. In the main, what do these members of the proletarian dictatorship really wish? They want to make the world into a great factory interpenetrated by a kind of bank bookkeeping system extending over all groups. “We shall fit the old technicians, the old officials, even the old generals into our proletariat dictatorship,” they say, “but we must have the bookkeeping for the total economy, the factory accounting department in our own hands.” This is not surprising, because the whole movement has taken its rise in modern industry. If people would only pause to reflect that this movement has originated with the proletariat of modern industry, no one would be surprised that their way of thinking, developed in connection with what these people have seen in factories, should be applied to everything upon which they can lay their hands. This is the natural result and consequence of the failure of the bourgeoisie to pay attention to the enormous expansion of the proletariat in recent times. Even if it was inevitable that the bourgeoisie closed their eyes and calmly permitted everything to occur, it most certainly is not a matter of necessity that the still more important conditions, the impelling forces existent in the world, should continue to be unobserved. So long as these forces are not observed, it is impossible for people to become acquainted with social tasks.
Here it is necessary to know how differentiated humanity is in various parts of the world — as I said, indeed, yesterday or the day before. It is necessary to know that the people live in the West differently than those in the East and in the Middle Countries. It is not possible by means of abstract ideas, which ignore realities, to bring about any sort of social formation. The Russian revolution is certain to suffer shipwreck because of its great illusion and isolation from realities.
Such illusions can be transformed for a time into reality by people who are free beings through education, that is, free to the extent that a person who possesses the power can make use of it. But reality then eliminates illusions; it cannot use them. Reality accepts only what is in keeping with the course of this reality. We must not forget that the most important thing of all is the fact that we are living in the age of the consciousness soul development, which occurs in sharply differentiated forms throughout the world.
Let us consider the various impelling forces underlying the civilized world in the light of the most important European differentiations that come to expression through language. I have often brought to your attention the fact that the English-speaking peoples possess the real germinal potentiality for the development of the consciousness soul. It is important that we should see this clearly. This is connected with everything that happens to the world, if we may so express the matter, under the influence of the English-speaking peoples. The English people — I am by no means speaking of individual persons, but of the people — are endowed with all the impelling forces that lead to the consciousness soul. The condition is such that the trend toward the consciousness soul appears instinctively in them in a manner entirely different from that characterizing the rest of humanity. This spiritualized instinct to develop the consciousness soul exists nowhere else in the world as it does among the English people. There it is an instinct, and nowhere else is that so, even among the people of Roman descent who are united with the English-speaking peoples. The people of Roman descent constitute really successors to what actually lived in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. At that time this Roman people had the instinct for what developed in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch in special degree. Their instincts are no longer elemental in the same way. They have been rationalized, intellectualized and they appear in rhetoric, through the intellect, through the psychic life as a decorative form. They have been removed from the instinctive life. What appears among the Latin people as a folk temperament is altogether different from what appears as a folk temperament among the English people. Among the English people this trend toward the consciousness soul, this striving of the individual person to stand upon his own feet, is an instinct.
In other words, what constitutes the mission of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch is rooted in the English as an instinct, as an impelling force arising instinctively from the soul of the people. Now, their position in the world is connected with this fact. This impulse is dominant within the social structure of the English-speaking peoples. It is decisive, and it can suppress other tendencies. The other tendencies, as you can see from the explanations I have offered, look toward the integration I have given of the social question, that is, the economic impulse and the impulse of spiritual production. If, however, you study the folk character of the English-speaking populations psychologically, you will see that these impulses, the economic and the spiritually productive, are wholly overshadowed by what rises from the instinctive impulse that tends toward the development of the consciousness soul.
For this reason the spheres that must shape the social life of the future take on a special coloring among the English-speaking people. The three spheres must in the future show themselves especially effective in special ways, and they must be decisive. First, politics, which must provide security. Second, the organization of work, purely material work, the economic order. Third is the system of spiritual production, to which I attribute also, as I said to you, jurisprudence and the administration of justice. These three spheres of the social structure are, as a matter of course, overshadowed by what constitutes the primary impulse in the case of any differentiated peoples. The fact that a development toward the consciousness soul works instinctively among the English-speaking people brings it to pass that among them — as history teaches in profusion — politics, one branch, take on the most conspicuous form, and the dominant position. Politics are dominated wholly by the instinctive impulse to set men on their own feet, and to develop the consciousness soul fully. The instinctive impulse drives in such a direction — and this is a mere description I am giving, and no criticism. It drives toward the result because it is instinctive and instincts are always rooted in self-seeking. Among the English-speaking peoples self-seeking and political goals simply coincide. It leads to the fact that all politics performed in an utterly naive fashion — and this does not justify attaching any blame to a politician of the English-speaking peoples — can be used by the self-seeking person to fulfill thereby the mission of the English-speaking people. It is only in this way that you will succeed in understanding the real nature of English politics, which are actually the dominant politics of the entire population of the earth. If you observe the matter, you will find that English politics are considered everywhere as ideal — the parliamentary system with its shuffling of majorities and minorities, etc. If you examine the conditions in the various parliaments as these have developed, you will see that British politics have been determinative in the political life. But, as these politics have spread in various places among differently constituted peoples, they could no longer remain the same because they are rooted, and rightly, in the self-seeking and egoism that inevitably clings to everything of an instinctive nature.
It is this that renders understanding so difficult when people try to grasp the nature of English or American politics. The nuance, which it is absolutely necessary to set clearly, is not clear at all. This is the fact that these politics must be self-seeking, and must rest upon impulses of a self-seeking character. Because of their special nature, they must rest upon self-seeking impulses. Thus, they will look upon these self-seeking impulses as something to be taken for granted, as the right and moral thing. No objection can be raised here. This is not to be attacked with criticism, but to be recognized as a necessity in world history, even a cosmic necessity. Neither can this statement be refuted, for the simple reason that anyone who undertakes to oppose it as a member of the English people will always find himself on a false path. On the basis of moral considerations, which have nothing to do with the matter, he will deny that the politics of the English people are self-seeking, but moral considerations have nothing to do with this. English politics will achieve what they bring about precisely by reason of this instinctive character.
So, during our fifth post-Atlantean epoch, the element of power is assigned to this English-speaking population. We call to memory the three figures in Goethe's fairy tale: power; phenomenon or appearance; wisdom, knowledge. Of these three elements, power is assigned to the English-speaking people. What they accomplish politically in the world is possible by reason of the fact that one of their inherent, inborn characteristics is that they should work by way of power. To work by way of power will be accepted during the fifth postAtlantean epoch as something not subject to discussion. English politics are accepted all over the world. Of course, all the injurious effects, which, however, are always to be found in the reality belonging to the physical plane, may be sharply criticized, even by those belonging to the British Empire itself. Yet British politics are accepted. It is inherent in the evolution of our times that they are accepted, and without any reflection, without any effort to find reasons for this. Moreover, the reasons would never suffice, because it is simply a matter of immediate inevitability that the power that comes from this direction is accepted.
This is not true as regards the people of Roman descent who are united with the English-speaking peoples. They manifest in a certain way the shadow, the time shadow, of what they were during the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. Instincts have been transmuted into the intellectual where they are no longer so elemental. Thus, English politics are accepted as something beyond discussion. French politics are accepted only by those whom they are able to please. The French nature is loved in the world to the extent that it pleases. The English nature does not depend at all upon this. It is based upon the incontestability with which the effective politics of the present time fall to the share of the English nature, Because of this situation, however, it is also possible that precisely among the English-speaking populations, the economic life is held within limits and is subordinate to the dominant impulse toward self-seeking and power that is suitable in politics. The spiritual life also, to the extent that it belongs to the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, becomes subservient to politics. Everything enters unitedly in a certain way into the service of politics.
Thus marxism is simply wrong for the English-speaking world because it presupposes politics to be an appendage of the economic order. This is not the case among the English-speaking peoples.
The marxist social order is prevented from succeeding there, not by reason of argumentation or discussion, not because of anything that happens in the world, but through the fact that the British Empire is constructed upon a different foundation of realities from those upon which marxism and the marxist proletariat builds. This is the great contrast between the proletariat, thinking in a marxian way, and the British who work out of the instinctive life, extending the British Empire throughout the world. Success will not be attained by the banking institutions or the bookkeeping system that Trotsky wishes to introduce into Russia. It will be attained by the great banking institution, the great institution of finance, into which the English-speaking population is organized by reason of its special inherent qualities. If we investigate the manner in which an individual people is related in its particular differentiation to the three spheres of society that I have described to you as based upon reality, this can be clearly seen.
Something else must be added to this. It is extremely important. The differentiation regarding which I spoke to you goes so far that the person who does not strive to free himself from his people, but rather strives for closer union — and politics do definitely strive for such union — has entirely different experiences in connection with the Guardian of the Threshold from those of the person who strives to free himself from his people. Here I come to a point that, if you will study it thoroughly, will provide you with the basis for distinguishing between wholesome occultism that appears naturally throughout the world, without differentiation as to peoples, and the kind of occultism that enters into the political service of a people and works outward as in the case of those societies I have mentioned. You may ask, “How, then can I distinguish these?” You can distinguish them if you will give close attention to these great differentiating characteristics that I shall present to you today.
In order for anyone to attain to real occultism, thus serving the whole of humanity, he must outgrow his folk character. He must in a certain sense — here we may be permitted to use the Indian expression — become a “homeless” person; in the innermost nature of his soul he must not consider himself as belonging to any one people. He must not have impulses that serve only a single people if he desires to advance in genuine occultism. But the kind of occultism that desires to serve a single people in a limited way arrives at a special experience when confronting the Guardian of the Threshold. Thus, in the case of all those who seek for an occult development within the societies of the English-speaking peoples, what becomes manifest in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold is that they discover at the moment when they desire to cross the Threshold those forces living in the depths of human nature. These become manifest when one enters the super-sensible world and are of the same character as the destructive forces in the universe. This is what they behold in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold. When they are guided in such a society to the point of crossing the Threshold, they then become acquainted with the evil powers of disease and death, of everything that paralyzes and destroys. When the same destructive forces that cause death in nature — and they work within us also — bring about knowledge, it is this knowledge that comes to light in those societies. Most assuredly one does enter the super-sensible world, but one must pass the Guardian of the Threshold. It is necessary to pass by the Guardian of the Threshold in such a way, however, that one has the experience of learning to know death in its true form, as it dwells in us and also in outside nature.
This is due to the fact that ahrimanic powers live in external nature around us, and in it you can perceive no other than ahrimanic powers — that is, to the extent that you remain within external nature. You can come into contact with the manifestation of such powers as enter into external nature in the manner of specters. This explains the inclination of the West to spiritualism, to the seeing of such forms as really belong to the sensory physical world, and are not visible in ordinary life except under special conditions. These are the powers of death, destructive powers, ahrimanic powers. There are absolutely no other spirits within the whole broad realm of spiritualistic gatherings than ahrimanic spirits, even where the spiritualistic gatherings are genuine. They are the spirits that a person takes with him out of the sense world when he crosses the Threshold. They go with him. They pursue him thence. The person crosses the Threshold, and those who accompany him are the ahrimanic demons, which he had not previously seen but which he sees on the other side. These are the servants of death, illness, and destruction. This experience shocks the person into super-sensible knowledge and brings him into the super-sensible world.
All persons who are trained and instructed in this way for occultism have significant experiences. This is a significant experience of which I have spoken to you, but it is an experience growing out of the fact that the person does not devote himself to an occultism related to all human beings, but to a form pertaining to a single people. There is such a differentiation. If the assertion is made to you anywhere in the world that when you cross the Threshold you learn primarily the evil powers of illness and death, you may know from this statement that the occultist in question comes from the corner I have often described to you. You will know this simply on the basis of the experience he relates to you in connection with the Guardian of the Threshold.
The situation is different in connection with the German-speaking peoples. Into the German-speaking population something has also been interjected. The Latin element has been interjected into the English people in the sphere of its world power. The German-speaking people has something that does not come from the past but is like a flash of heat lightning betokening the future. The Slav element, beginning in Russia, is the future, is actually present only in its future germinal potentiality but the Slays, who have been thrust forward, are the vanguard, the heat lightning portending what is in course of preparation. They signify in some way the heat lightning of the future of the Central European German world, as the Latin element signifies the shadows of the past of the Western English-speaking world.
This German element itself, however, does not possess an instinctive basis for the development of the consciousness soul, but only the basis through which it can be educated to the consciousness soul. In other words, whereas in British regions the instinctive basis for the evolution of the consciousness soul is present, the German Middle European must be educated into the consciousness soul if he is to make this active within him in any way. He can achieve this only through education. So, since the epoch of the consciousness soul is at the same time the epoch of intellectuality, the German who is to bring the consciousness soul in any way into activity within himself must become an intellectual person. Thus, the German has sought his relationship to the consciousness soul primarily by way of intellectuality, not by way of the instinctive life. Therefore the tasks of the German people have been attained only by those who have taken in hand in a certain way their own self-education. The persons of mere instinct remain untouched by this inner activating of the consciousness soul and remain behind in a certain sense.
This is likewise the reason why the British people are endowed instinctively from the start for politics, whereas the Germans are a non-political people and not in the least endowed for politics. When they undertake, therefore, to pursue a political course, they run a great risk, which will become especially clear to you if you give particular attention to the fact that the Germans have taken over the task of introducing the second element into the world within the intellectual sphere. The British folk character is power. The German folk character is the appearing, the seeming, if you will, the shaping of thoughts, that which is not in a certain sense of the solid earth. In the British folk character all is of the solid earth, but just trace the intellectuality of the Germans. You may compare it with that of the Greeks, except that the Greeks gave form to the seething in accordance with its picture nature whereas the Germans have given form to the seeming especially in relation to its intellectualizing nature. In the last analysis, there is nothing more beautiful than what has been formed through Goetheanism, through Novalis, through Schelling, through all those spirits who are truly artists in thought. This makes the Germans a non-political people. If they are expected to be political, they are not equal to a person who thinks politically through his instincts.
Of the three things that are included in Goethe's fairy tale — power, seeming, knowledge — what has fallen to the lot of the Germans in the intellectual epoch is the moulding of intellectuality in the sphere of the seeming. If he is determined, nevertheless, to take hold of politics, he runs the risk of bringing into the sphere of reality what is beautiful within the formation of thoughts. This is the phenomenon, for example, of Treitschke. In reality, it will then sometimes happen that what is really beautiful in seeming, since it does not lie within the limits of its own potentialities, will become something not rightfully connected with the human being, something that may remain a mere assertion, or must make the impression of untruthfulness upon the world. The great danger, which can obviously be overcome, consists in the fact that the German not only lies when he is courteous, 1An allusion to Faust II, Act 2: “Im Deutschen lueght man wenn man hoflich ist.” (In German, one lies when one is courteous. but he may also lie when he introduces even his best talents into a field for which he does not possess inborn potentialities. He must first develop these potentialities within himself, but to do so must make a special effort.
Some years ago I said that the Englishman is something, and that the German can only become something. This constitutes the great difficulty in German culture. This is the reason why in the culture of Germany and of German Austria only single individualities stand out prominently who have taken themselves in hand, whereas the masses do not will to occupy themselves with thoughts, which are inherent in the instincts of the British peoples, but will to be controlled. It is for this reason that the population of Central Europe fell under the domination of such lust for rulership as that of the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns — just because of its non-political nature, and because the German is faced by entirely different necessities if he wishes to achieve his mission. He must be educated to this mission. He must in some way be touched by what Goethe moulded into form in his Faust, that is, by the process of becoming of the human being between birth and death.
This is manifest, likewise, in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold. If an individual remains within the German folk character, and comes thus to the Guardian of the Threshold, he does not observe, as do those British societies of which I have spoken, the evil servants of illness and death. It is in thi6 way that you can draw a distinction if you give close attention to these things. He observes primarily how ahrimanic and luciferic powers, the former rushing in from the physical world and the latter rushing in from the spiritual world, are engaged in a conflict with each other. He sees how this struggle must be observed, since it is really a continuously fluctuating struggle and it is never possible to say where the victory will fall. Such a person becomes acquainted in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold with what constitutes the real basis for doubt, what is present in the world as a continuously inflamed and undecided struggle, what brings one into a state of wavering but at the same time educates one into looking at the world from the most varied points of view. This will be the special mission of the German people in spite of everything possible to the contrary. They shall take hold upon world culture from this side, even as the German people. Through its special character as a people, certain things that I shall touch upon today, for example, in the realm of knowledge, can be evolved only through the German people.
Darwinism in its materialistic coloring has arisen from the British people. This is an entirely true principle — you can read this in my book, The Riddles of Philosophy. It is an entirely true principle that organic creatures have gradually evolved from the imperfect to the more perfect, even up to man. The perfect is derived from the imperfect. This principle is absolutely true if a person observes the physical world and in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold comes upon the powers of death and destruction. But we can express this also differently; in other words, we can say that the imperfect is derived from the perfect. Read the chapter dealing with Preuss in my book, Riddles of Philosophy. We can just as well prove that the perfect existed first and that the imperfect comes into existence through decadence. In other words, that man existed first and that the other kingdoms later descended from him through decadence. This is just as correct. The situation in which a thinking person finds himself the moment he must say one thing is true and the other also true — to recognize this situation in its whole fruitful character was really granted to the German peoples alone by reason of their folk character. This is not understood at all anywhere else in the world. It is not at all understood in the world that people can argue for a long time over this question, one maintaining that the perfect beings are derived from the imperfect, as Darwin does, and the other maintaining, as Schelling does, that the imperfect beings are derived from the perfect. Both are right, but from different points of view. If we look at the spiritual process, the imperfect is derived from the perfect; if we look at the physical, the perfect is derived from the imperfect.
The whole world has been trained to be able to hold firmly to one-sided truths. The German people are tragically condemned to stupefy themselves, thus denying their own potentiality, when they linger in the presence of a one-sided truth. Should they develop their own potentialities, it will become clear to them everywhere, provided they submerge themselves to a certain depth, that no matter what assertion is made in regard to universal relationships, the opposite is also true. Only by seeing the two things together is it possible actually to see reality. We learn to recognize this truly in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold when we behold the struggle between those spirits who accompany us all the way to the Guardian of the Threshold out of the physical world and those who rush against them from the other world, from the super-sensible world. These are overlooked by those societies of which I have spoken.
Again, the situation is different in the case of the genuine Slavic-speaking population. But I have already said that the Western Slav has been interjected in a certain way into the German-speaking Middle European population. Just as the Latin element is the shadow of the past, so are the interjected Western Slays, with whom the German-speaking population toward the East is brought into contact, heat lightning indicating what is to come from the Slavic peoples in future. For this reason, they manifest in a certain directly opposite way what the Latin population among the English shows in its way. The Western Slays are also organized in the epoch of the consciousness soul for intellectuality, but they transform it into mysticism. The Germans are non-political; the Western Slavs are also non-political, but they tend toward bringing the spiritual world down into the physical world. They do this even in the present life. In this way they have a characteristic precisely opposite that, for example, of the French or the Italian. The Italians and the French, in their politics, are dependent upon the degree to which they please others. The politics of England are accepted as something beyond discussion whether it pleases or does not please. The politics of France depends upon the degree to which the French people please other persons. The effect of what they have done has been dependent upon this. At certain times they have pleased greatly. In the case of the Western Slays it is different. Their politics are dependent upon the manner in which their spiritual nature acts antipathetically upon the German-speaking population. They are dependent upon the degree to which they fail to please. If you study the destiny of the Czechs, the Poles, the Slovenes, the Serbs, the Western Slays, you will find that this is brought about by the degree to which they are antipathetic and fail to please the Middle European population. The relationship of the French or the Italian is dependent upon how they please; the relationship of the Poles, Slovenes, Czechs and Serbs is dependent upon the manner in which they fail to please. If you study history you will find this principle confirmed in a wonderful way because one is connected with the past and the other with the future.
The situation is utterly different in the case of the Slavic people of the East. They hold the germ of the future. There the situation is such that germinating spirituality is the basic characteristic, the most fundamental nature of the Slavic population. Unlike the great mass of the German population that always causes only its individualities to stand prominently among it, the Russian people are dependent upon the individuality who receives outside of the folk character the revelation that ought to be received by the people. The Russian people's culture will continue to be a culture of revelation for a long time, even to the dawning of the sixth post-Atlantean epoch. The Russian in greater measure than any other person is dependent upon the seer, but he is also receptive to what the seer brings to him.
The English-speaking people are simply guided through their politics to that for which it is endowed by nature. The German-speaking people are brought by their politics to something that really does not pertain to them, something whereby they are easily led into a dark channel, into untruthfulness, especially when they surrender themselves to their instincts. This never happens, however, to those persons with the appropriate self-education who are striving toward intellectuality. They actually represent the German people. The others have simply not arrived at what constitutes the real nature of the German people and are living below that level. This is still more true of the Russian people. The Russian people are not only non-political like the Germans but anti-political. It is for this reason that British politics will be self-seeking; German politics will burgeon into a dreamy idealism, which may have nothing whatever to do with reality. I am not speaking in a moral sense here but this dreamy idealism is connected with everything untrue and theoretical, and all that comes from theorizing is untrue. Russian politics must be utterly untrue, since they are an alien element and do not belong to the Russian character. When the Russian wishes to become political on the basis of his character, he is more likely to become ill. Among the Russian people becoming “political” means becoming “ill.” It signifies taking destructive forces into oneself. The Russian is anti-political, not merely non-political. He may be overpowered by such politicians as those who were in office at the beginning of this war catastrophe, but these do not work as Russians. They work as something entirely different. The Russian, however, becomes ill when he is expected to become a politician, for he has nothing whatever to do with politics if he stands within his own folk character. He has to do with something different. He has to do with what constitutes the third element in the sense of Goethe's fairy tale, that is, with knowledge and wisdom that is to dawn upon humanity during the sixth postAtlantean epoch.
It is thus that the threefold combination is distributed: power, seeming, knowledge — West, Middle, East. This must be taken into account. Since the Russian nature becomes ill in connection with politics, even such politics as those of bolshevism can first be expected of the Russians in the crassest form, in the most radical form, because it would be possible to inoculate the Russians with something else just as well. The Russian nature is not only non-political, but anti-political.
These things become manifest in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold. What the Russian primarily perceives in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold, if he remains within his Russian nature as an occultist, is the spirits rushing toward him from the other side, the spirits rushing inward from the super-sensible. He does not see the spirits who accompany him, nor does he see the struggle between them. He sees primarily the spirits coming across from the other side, which are in a certain way full of light. He does not see death. He does not see decay. He sees what, in its sublimity, overwhelms the human being, so to speak. It puts him in danger most of all of being ever more humble and of throwing himself upon his knees in the presence of the sublime. Being blinded by what comes across is the danger in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold for the Russian who remains as an occultist among his own people.
Such things must absolutely be taken into account if we are to see actual realities. Things are actually so in the world, things actually work in this way. Abstractions do not suffice. Humanity has never succeeded by means of abstractions. In earlier periods of time humanity possessed instincts, but in the case of the English-speaking population only one instinct exists in its spiritualized form and that is the instinct to develop the consciousness soul. Everything else must be consciously acquired. This is the characteristic thing for the world, that these things must be achieved consciously. Without knowledge of the forces working in humanity regarding which we have spoken today, it is impossible even to think of being able to say anything determinative about the social element. If a person speaks of social reform without knowing the object to which this reform is to be applied, he is speaking like a blind man about colors.
It is this that gives repeated occasion for the warning that the time has actually arrived when the human being must take earnestly the duty of learning through his life and not dealing with it like a game to be played. By means of those things we develop from our inherited potentialities, we get as far in our lives as the twenty-seventh year. In future the number of years will be continually lower. You know this on the basis of earlier discussions. We need something that maintains us throughout life as human beings who are in the process of becoming and not as individuals who are finished and completed. On the basis of these things, men will obtain an insight into much that bears on the social question. They will correct much of what they possess today in the form of illusory ideas and, indeed, much must be corrected. It may well be said that the task that lies before men can be called a difficult one, but it can be mastered. Just consider for a moment the fact that you are actually sitting here, and know these things. But do not consider yourselves on that account as specially chosen. Reflect rather upon the fact that in the world outside there will be many others who will be able to understand the same things. It is by no means impossible that these ideas shall enter into human life. In other words, the hindrance is only something artificially set up. To be sure, this artificially erected hindrance is something terrible, but it must be overcome for the reason that salvation can come in no other way. May everyone in his own place do what is possible toward overcoming the difficulties in this field.
There is much that needs to be done for humanity if only we allow the seriousness of our task to fill us through and through. First, it is necessary to achieve an insight into reality; not to live one's life in dull drowsiness, nor permit humanity to live its life in dull drowsiness. As we become acquainted with individuals today we observe how little people are inclined really to go deeply into such things. We have surely experienced the last four or four and a half years! Truly it was repeatedly possible to have well-meaning, even quite intelligent, persons approach one with all kinds of programs for the future — and what programs for the future there are in the world! People think out every imaginable thing. From the very beginning, however, these things are not calculated to bring healing to humanity, but rather nothing whatever or a curse — nothing whatever if no one takes them up or a curse if people enter into them. It is necessary to resolve only one thing and that is simply to acquaint one's self with reality. One will then not suppose that he can form a union or do this or that. But people will consider themselves in duty bound to think in harmony.with this reality whatever it is they think is real. If only within our own Movement, at least, a goodly number of persons would really endeavor in the right way to permeate their soul lives with those impulses to which we have here called your attention! If they would turn their attention away from abstract fantastic ideals for human happiness, would study instead the actual tasks and impulses of our own time, and would determine their own conduct accordingly, something would really have been attained.
Now, I have wished once more from a special point of view to show you today how the social question also must be studied. A person cannot simply say, “Since I am a human being I know mathematics, and I can, therefore, build a great railway bridge.” He knows that he must first gain a knowledge of mathematics, of mechanics, of dynamics. Thus must a person learn the laws of the being of man if he wishes to have true social judgment even in the simplest matters. People are simply not identical in their natures over the whole earth, as Trotsky imagines, but are at most differentiated as groups when they belong to single peoples, or are actually individualities. On the one hand, we must learn to understand the characteristics of groups — for example, according to languages, as we considered the matter today. On the other hand, we must acquire what was brought to your attention yesterday and that is the direct understanding of one human individual by another. This is connected with everything that ought to live within us in the form of social judgment and social feeling. In other words, I have wished to acquaint you once more from a certain point of view with what may give direction to social judgment and a social feeling. I wanted to call your attention to the profound seriousness of what is called the “social question.”