31 January 1919, Dornach
We can really say that at the present time a deep tragedy lies over humanity. Many of the lectures which I have recently delivered to you, will have shown you this, for they dealt, to a great extent, with the development of the social problem, of the social riddle of our time. Particularly in regard to this social riddle we may say that a certain deep tragedy now lies over humanity. For we can see that the social problem, which many people — particularly the so-called intellectuals — consider more or less as a theoretical question, is now taking on a truly significant and a very practical form, throughout vast territories of the civilised world.
The tragic aspect of this matter is that wherever the social problem now rises to the surface in practical life, we find that men of every profession and of every social class, are very badly prepared to face the social situation of the present. People of every standing, who are now confronting this situation, which does not only oblige them, as in the past, to speak about the social problem, but also to form a judgment concerning this or that question connected with the social development, (it is easy to see that this is entailed by the conditions of the present do not find any starting point which might enable them to form a judgment. They do not find the possibility to develop the right way of thinking which might enable them to form the judgments which the present time so urgently requires. Do we not see that the leading men of the bourgeoisie adopt for daily use — and even for the weekly and yearly use of their thinking! — certain forms of thought coming (though this is not always clearly evident) from the modern natural-scientific way of thinking. People who think at all to-day, think in natural-scientific terms, even though they do not have any ideas concerning natural-scientific subjects; they think in the way in which it is right to think in natural science; they think in the direction developed through modern natural science.
But this kind of thinking does not make us progress one stop in social matters! As a rule, people do not want to admit this. They prefer to ascribe, the present chaos to all kinds of different causes. They are not yet willing to face the fact that they should really admit to themselves: We are confronting a social chaos, as far as the great majority of the civilised world is concerned; we must learn to judge things, yet through our present habit of thinking we cannot obtain any essential fact enabling us to form true judgments.
If we really wish to bear in mind the whole weighty tragedy of the above-mentioned fact, we must consider the following: The events which are now rising to the surface have slowly prepared themselves ever since the 16th and 17th century; since that time, the leaders of humanity have not really done anything to develop true judgments in regard to that which is really needed. The economic orders which existed up to the 16th and 17th century have been dispersed; now they exist no longer. We might say that up to the middle of the 19th century, they were replaced by a kind of economic chaos, or rather, an economic anarchy. Ever since the middle of the 19th century, humanity has been striving to form social corporations able to break the existing economic anarchy. But it strove after this with insufficient means.
Let us now consider this situation; lot us observe it at least more closely.
If we look back to the time which preceded the 17th and 17th century, we find that people were then gathered together into more or less stable associations, in accordance with their profession or trade. To-day we do not know much about the inner structure of these associations, but they were organised and structured in such a way as to offer a certain satisfaction to the people of that time. In these professional associations, which existed in the form of corporations, guilds, etc., the individual human beings were able to take a full human interest in the organisation of their particular sphere of work. One might say, that every man had a full share in the interests of his corporation; all his own aspirations were connected with it. If he was an apprentice and belonged to such a corporation, he could hope to become a journeyman and finally a master. He could cherish the hope of climbing up the social ladder. Under certain conditions, these organisations were more or less useful in the development of humanity.
Then the new age dawned. Through our spiritual-scientific studies, the true inner character of this modern age is known to us. In a conscious way, man seeks to place himself at the very summit of his own personality. He seeks to unfold the consciousness-soul. This is the inner impulse of the forces which are now struggling to come to the fore and which are now developing, though various conditions mask this. The old organisations, which had arisen from entirely different aspirations, were no longer suited for the development of the personal, individual element, after which humanity was now striving. We therefore see that from the 16th and 17th century onward, a certain individualism begins to develop also in the sphere of economic life and that the old associations, the old communities, are demolished.
During the time of transition, we discern certain transitional phenomena in this process of demolishment: during the 16th and 17th century, we discern a transitional form of development which we might call a monopolisation of various branches of production. Particularly under the influence of the economic individualism, we can discern the development of a kind of anti-monopoly movement, and this really lasts until the middle of the 19th century. Then it passes over to the modern capitalistic production.
In a certain way modern production reckons with individualism. The old communities were dispersed, and the economic initiative was now taken over by individual human beings, by the capitalists. They became the contractors and employers, and from their daring and initiative it depended whether the economic life prospered or not.
By the side of this, we have the development of modern technical life, which entirely transformed the whole economic life. It was this transformation which really gave rise to the modern proletarian class. As a result, we have on the one hand the development of capitalism, and on the other hand the development of the proletariat. Through a hand to mouth existence, and finally through the lack of interest and understanding on the part of the leaders of economic life, a complete misunderstanding arose between the leading capitalists and their followers, and the working proletarian population.
You see, the great majority of men who are now bungling with the social problem in this or in that way, really overlook the great differences which now exist throughout the world in regard to the social life of humanity. We should bear in mind that in recent times, the western states and North America have completely turned towards a direction which might be called a bourgeois democracy.
This bourgeois democracy
reckons with certain ideals of liberty and of equality, and applies
those ideals to economic life. But to a certain extent, this bourgeois
democracy has remained behind, for it applies the principles, or rather
the programmes of the bourgeoisie, in the form in which they arose before
the time of modern engineering. In the western countries we therefore
see the development of this bourgeois democracy, and we see it calling
into existence its own corporations and a certain social structure;
yet it gradually becomes permeated by an element which results from
the modern engineering age, it becomes permeated by the proletarian
element. These western countries, however, do not reckon seriously with
the proletarian population.
In Central Europe, the development of the modern age has shown the trend of things in a fearfully clear way. What has been the fundamental character of the central European states? Their essential character consisted in a state-structure based upon very old, traditional forms. In Central Europe, and even in Russia the ideas which influenced the mentality which was connected with the state, had been handed down from very ancient times. These ideas had been preserved — no matter whether they were monarchical or non-monarchical, for this is not so important — but they had been preserved in such a way that the old corporations developed into the so-called modern states. These modern states of central Europe, stretching as far as Russia, are in reality remnants of medieval thoughts and feelings. Their structure is in keeping with medieval elements. But life does not adapt itself to obsolete ideas. In the countries where such obsolete structures arose, something else appeared as well, out of a necessity which was far stronger than that which had been transplanted from the Middle Ages: the economic structure, the economic body arose. And this economic body has laws of own, it demands its own laws.
The thoroughly pathological process now arose that modern economic life and its requirements turned to the old government structures; people thought that economic life could be permeated with these old state-structures. Economic life, which was, or rather is, a completely new element, was to be incorporated with the body of the state, although this had grown out of entirely different conditions.
Than came the modern catastrophe, the terrible catastrophe of the past years. This catastrophe clearly showed (what I am telling you now, helps us to understand its course) that it is impossible to unite modern economic life with an obsolete state structure, with the ideas connected with such a state. That this catastrophe has become a crisis during the last months, is evident through the fact that the central European structures have been swept away. They do not exist any more, and also the economic body has disappeared. Any man of insight can perceive that in the future course of events it would be impossible to couple together the new economic demands with the old state corporations, because these old corporations were swept away, instead of becoming modernised in accordance with the requirements of modern life.
Here, we face a very strange outlook. This movement which must spread over the whole of humanity, has, for the time being, been arrested in the western countries. But it can only be arrested so long as the old bourgeois-democratic impulses, which do not take into account modern economic life, are still strong enough to suppress the proletarian life. But when this proletarian life can no longer be suppressed in the western countries, the short-sighted people there, will realise that they have been gambling with life! Yet they do not wish to listen to this, before it is too late!
In the central European and in the eastern countries of Europe the spark has already fallen into the powder barrel. It is an anachronism to speak — out of pure laziness — of ideas which no longer exist, of concepts which have disappeared completely. Yet in certain circles, people still speak of Russia, of Germany, and even of Austria which has ceased to exist externally, they still speak of these countries, and do not realise that they should turn instead to new ideas. Some people still talk in this way, whereas in these countries it is clearly evident that impulses which have been handed down from the past must be abandoned. Even in thought, they should be given up. People, however, find it difficult to understand that they should not merely judge the things that lie under their very nose, for those judgments will never be conclusive; they should learn instead to develop now thoughts, new ideas. Yet modern people find it so difficult to understand this!
This unwillingness on the part of modern men to understand how necessary it is to-day to acquire new ideas, new concepts, is chiefly based upon the fact that these modern men have a firm belief in the ideas which have been developed during the past centuries, they are firmly convinced of a manner of thinking which is wonderfully suited to natural-scientific spheres of work, but which is absolutely unsuited to social problems, it cannot be applied to the solution of social problems! Yet people do not want to grasp this. They are not willing to see that they have developed a definite kind of thinking, and that the life which has now come to the fore in the external world calls for a kind of thinking which entirely differs from the existing kind. Yet people find it so difficult to understand this, although the facts themselves speak a tremendously clear language.
Let me indicate one fact, which is eminently instructive, if we consider it in the right way. Men who took a more unprejudiced interest in modern life, experienced, one might say, a kind of theoretical surprise in the early nineties of the past century, when the German social democrats, who were the most advanced people in this direction, passed over from their old ideal to that of the so-called “Erfurt Programme” (elaborated in the early nineties at Erfurt, during the Congress of the Social Democratic Party). The old ideal, if I may use this expression for certain propagandistic aims, still contained an unscientific way of thinking, it contained thoughts which had nothing to do with natural science. But the Erfurt Programme led the modern proletarian movement into a superstitious attitude in regard to natural-scientific thought. From that time onwards, the proletarians endeavour to master the whole social question by applying to it scientifically trained thoughts.
We might say: Before the elaboration of the Erfurt Programme, the social-democratic ideals of the proletariat converged in two points, two ideals. These two points were in the first place, the suppression of the system of paid labour, and in the second place: the elimination of every social and political inequality.
These two points were still based upon a far more universal way of thinking; which proceeded from judgments which were based more upon instinct and feeling. During the last centuries, these judgments rose up into human consciousness, and people began to look upon the human being as the centre of every social endeavor. Paid work, the system of paid labour, was to be suppressed. That is to say, man should be given the possibility to lead an existence in keeping with human dignity (this was a rather muddled idea, but we can develop it clearly with the aid of spiritual science), human labour was no longer to be placed on an equal footing with objects sold as goods, it was no longer to be treated as merchandise. The system of paid labour was to be suppressed and replaced by something which would no longer compel the human being to sell his personal labour. This concept still took into account something universally human. And it was the same with the idea of suppressing social and political inequality.
With the so-called Erfurt Programme, this thought which lay at the foundation of the socialistic ideal of earlier times was given up at the beginning of the nineties of the 19th century. Two other points were now taken as real goals, as aims. These two points were: In the first place, the transformation of capitalistic private property into collective property, that is to say, the collective control of the means of production. Machines, landed property, etc. were to pass over from private proprietorship into collective proprietorship. This was the first point. The second point was the transformation of the production of goods into socialistic production, controlled through and for the communistic body.
These two items on the programme are altogether adapted in their manner of thinking to the purely natural-scientific thoughts of modern times. In this programme it is no longer a question of man acquiring or conquering something; it is no longer a question of suppressing the system of paid labour; it is no longer a question of eliminating social and political inequalities, but it is a question of something which completely eliminates the human being as such, of a process which ignores the human being, a process which takes its course under the influence of cause and effect, in the same way in which processes of Nature take their course under the influence of cause and effect. It is simply a question of transforming the private property of means of production into a collective property, and what the human being experiences through this transformation is quite an indifferent matter. And the economic order is no longer to be a production of goods, but a socialistic production; the community itself is to produce, and the goods produced are to exist for the collective community. Goods produced by private individual initiative, and brought on to the market in order to be purchased by others, is a process which differs from the socialistic production of goods. The socialistic production applies, as it were, the principle of individual production, where the producer himself consumes the goods which he produces, to the whole community. The production of goods reckons with individual human beings. One individual produces something, brings it on to the market, and another individual takes it away from the market by purchasing it. But the socialistic production returns to the primitive form of production, where every human being produces the goods which he consumes (at least people imagine that this was once the case!); now this is to be done by the whole community. The market ceases to exist, for the community produces the goods which it consumes. The goods produced are no longer merchandise, but they are distributed among those who belong to the community. Those who produce the goods are also the consumers.
In this case, purely natural-scientific concepts are applied to the social organism. You see, modern men do not like to bear in mind differences such as these in the socialistic programme before the Erfurt Congress and after the Erfurt Congress, they do not like to bear in mind such differences, because to-day people do not like to think, in spite of the fact that they are so proud of their thinking.
Now we must consider another misery. We can study it particularly well if we consider one of the classical writers, who have dealt with the social problem, when this problem was still: a more theoretical question — for instance a writer such us Karl Kautsky.
In one of his books, Kautsky tries to prove that the capitalistic economic order should be transformed into a socialistic order, and he says that in this transition the production of goods must cease. It must be replaced by self-consumption, so that the consumer is at the same time the producer, that is to say, a community is producer. At the same time, he advances the problem: What people are to form this community? And he replies: This can only be the modern state, the government. That is to say, he gives an answer which he should not have given. He did not realise, and people of his type do not even realise this to-day, that the state, which they call a modern state, is in no way a modern structure. The states of central and of eastern Europe which were swept away, were not modern structures, for they existed upon the foundation of old traditions, and not upon those contained in modern economic life; it was therefore impossible to establish a connection between modern economic life and these obsolete state-structures, as people of Kautsky's type imagined.
These states were therefore swept away, and what has remained of them is something spectral and ghostly, which continues to haunt the minds of men; this too will be swept away… nothing will remain except problems in every sphere of practical life,— only problems will remain.
A completely new way of thinking will be needed in order to reply to these questions, which are not theoretical questions, but facts. This new way of thinking exists, as I have explained to you in our lectures, in our spiritual-scientific conception. This new way of thinking consists in the realisation of the fact that it is necessary to study the fundamental laws of a human organisation in the same way in which spiritual science studies the fundamental laws of the individual human organisation.
When we study the fundamental laws of the individual human organism, we come to the threefold structure of the nerves and senses: the rhythmic system and the metabolic system. And we can only understand the human being within the course of time if we understand the interplay of these three systems in the human organism.
In the sphere of external life, this corresponds to the understanding of the three members of the social organism. The social organism must be subdivided into a spiritual system, an economic system, and a juridical system, which should however exclude jurisprudence as such, which should only contain the external juridical system, the political juridical system.
Even as modern natural science does not wish to kn0w anything concerning the threefold structure of man and treats alike everything which exists in the human being, so modern social thinkers do not wish to know anything concerning the body's threefold structure. Just because they do not wish to know anything concerning the threefold structure of the social body, they are so helpless and perplexed, and they will continue to be without advice, so long as they refuse to know what must really be done in the face of the great practical requirements of daily life. A regeneration of thinking is needed. It is necessary to perceive that modern natural-scientific concepts, which are very useful in certain fields, cannot bring us forward one step, in the sphere of social life.
We my thus observe some very strange phenomena. Indeed, it is not astounding that people begin to think in a more or less social way, and before the fearful catastrophe of recent years broke out, which partly revealed the original aspect of the social enigma, it was not surprising that certain people began to think in a social way. Particularly if we study the thoughts and conceptions of some of the leading teachers of national economy, we can perceive how helpless they really are in the face of the phenomena which now present themselves.
As an example, let me read you a definition which Jaffe, a national economist of some repute in certain circles, gave for the ideal condition of a social organism. In thoughts which entirely come from ideas developed in this field by modern humanity, Jaffe describes what he thinks he ought to describe and then he recapitulates and gives an idea of the social condition which would correspond to modern requirements and to the requirements of the modern industrial development, as well as to other forms of development. Consider this definition, which is, I might say, exceedingly clear and does not constitute one of the insignificant products of modern national economic thinking. Let me read to you quite slowly what Jaffe indicates as the ideal future condition of the social organism. It is that condition of the economic order in which all parts of the nation grow together into an organic whole, and in which every part has its assigned place. Each part belongs to the whole as a serving member of the community, which in the end serves each single part. This condition not only guarantees outwardly an existence which is in keeping with human dignity, but it also ennobles man's work and confers dignity: upon it, because it does not pursue individual aims, but is service on behalf of the general welfare.
I believe that a great number of people who think altogether in accordance with modern habits of thought, will find that this is an extremely clever definition and quite to the point. They will even say that it contains everything that can be desired. Within an ideal economic order, every individual human should have his assigned place, the place which suits him and where he can fulfil his tasks. His work should not only guarantee him an existence in keeping with human dignity but through the fact that he places' it at the service of the community, the community: should to at his service. Such a definition impresses many people, who believe that they can think soundly; it will give them the impression:“My God, how clever I am, for at last I have discovered how matters really stand!
Poverty comes from pauvreté — this too is a definition, and Jaffe's definition does not differ much from it! For it can be applied to the present social organisation, at least to the one which existed before the war, and also to the conditions which existed in various countries, for example, in Germany, during the war. Yet we can say at the same time that this definition does note apply to any State, Such a definition is the very pattern of abstraction.
We therefore find to-day that people think out many systems, yet the definitions which they advance do not in any way approach reality,
Take, for instance, Jaffe's definition. He describes an ideal economic condition of the future. This is an economic organisation in which every member of the nation forms part of an organic whole. In reality, this occurs whenever a state arises,even in the worst kind of state. In spite of everything, all parts of the nation have somehow grown together into an organic whole; they form an organic whole in spite of everything. But when a man has leprosy, every part of his body is leprous, and all these leprous parts form an organic whole. Consequently, the same definition may be applied both to a sound and to a diseased body.
Nobody notices this, so long as the definition remains mere theory. But when a situation such as the present one arises, that is to say, when the disease has broken out and a healing treatment becomes necessary, then the concepts which people generally have, prove absolutely useless.
Jaffe continues: “Where everyone has his assigned place, as a serving member of the community”. Well, this is really the case in Germany, for example… With the exception of a few men who do not wish to have anything to do with the state, the great majority of people are serving members within a whole. At least, they give their votes. “Serving member of a community which finally serves each one”: This, too, is correct, for it can be applied even to the worst form of government. “It does not only guarantee him outwardly his existence” there may be some meaning in this, but it is a phrase, an empty appendage, for it is simply one of the usual phrases. In the words, “which ennobles his work and confers dignity upon it”, it is essential to bear in mind what is meant by “ennobling” and “dignity”… “Because it does not pursue individual aims, but is service on behalf of the general welfare” — this can be applied even to the worst state!
You see, therefore, that
a smart definition advanced by an economist of repute is not much better
than the definition, poverty comes from pauvreté! The great majority
of men now suffers under such abstract unrealities. For people hardly
have an idea of the reality which lives and weaves behind the phenomena.
Think how far they are from considering and applying a truth such as
that of the threefold structure, which we have advanced as something
fundamental and essential! People still believe that
they can discover a formula, let us say for the “socialisation” of life, for this has become a catchword.
Though the comparison may be somewhat lame, this is not much better than the discovery of a science through which one can digest! In real life, the human organism must digest. In order to do this, it must have a threefold structure, and it can maintain its life-functions through a right cooperation of the three members. If we give a threefold structure to a community, it will not be necessary to discover formulae for the socialisation of life, for this will take place of its own accord.
Think how immensely complicated are the processes which take place within the human organism! Imagine how difficult it would be to think out all that occurs within you during the two hours after your lunch! You have eaten your lunch and you digest the food, but this is a tremendously complicated process, which consists of innumerable details. Imagine that your digestion were to depend on the fact that you have to think it out — in that case you would not be able to live one single day!
Committees assemble at this or at that place and they discuss ways and means of socialising life. Yet the public life of humanity is through and through g complicated process; and its details can be grasped just as little as, for instance, the details of the digestive process, or the thinking process, or the breathing process. But the right thing will take place, if we allow the impulses of a threefold structure to work together!
Take the following example: To-day it is hardly possible to read the books of socialistic or social writers, without wondering at their surprising store of knowledge. Socialistic writers, even more than those of the middle classes, have collected a mass of statistical and historical material, reaching as far as the present time, in order to find out what course of development would be needed at present. The course of human development is to teach them, let us say, how to socialise life.
Yet a strange thing arises within this process which takes place in the human community. These writers grasp a phenomenon by one of its ends, but immediately it slips away from them at the other end! If they begin to socialise life in the way which they consider best, by taking hold of things at one end, everything slip away again at the other end.
An example can illustrate this: Let us, consider the following fact: In 1910, an American factory of rails produced in two and a half days as many rails as one week's output of ten years previously. That is to say, this factory put on the market in two and a half days the number of rails which they produced in 1900 in one week. In spite of this, the workmen worked for a whole week.
In order to obtain a conception of the relationship existing between employer and workmen, we must say: The workmen who continue to work for the whole week after the year 1900, really produce in that time the double amount of work. Of course, each workman produces the double amount of work for the market, and many conditions show him this. This increased labour on the part of the workman is naturally expressed in the proletarian problem. The workman is of course fully aware of the fact that the employer earns twice as much, and factors arise which induce him to demand twice as much pay from the employer. If we now theorize and say, it is not necessary to pay the workman twice as much, but he ought. to receive so and so much more, we only take hold of things by one end. But at the other end, they slip away, for the rail of course become so and so much cheaper. The cheaper price of the rails then reflects itself in other phenomena of social life, and corrects the proletarian problem which arises, on the one hand. We can really say that conditions are so complicated within the social organism, that if any question is tackled from one aspect, other aspects immediately arise which paralyze the solution which we advance.
Let us now take another example: — Take the national economy of Germany. I have already explained to you in past lectures that engines, mechanical labour, relieve humanity, as it were, from human labour. Particularly in the economic life of Germany, which has developed enormously, we can say that in the last decades engines — apart from locomotives — have done the work of 70 to 80 millions of men, which is more than the population of Germany. Only a part of Germany's population consists of workmen; consequently, in the years before the war, and through the new economic order, a workman in Germany did the work of four of five men together, he worked four or five times as much as a workman before the introduction of mechanical labour.
Think what a change this meant to life in general! But the phenomena which thus arise, appear at so many different points in life, that a socialisation carried put from any one standpoint, would bring about the worst possible results from other standpoints.
Social life is just as complicated as the life of an organic being. It is not our task to discover formulae for that which should take place, but we should instead give the social organism a structure which enables it to work spontaneously, so that it orders its processes, in the same way in which the human organisms brings in order its functions. This is the only point which should be borne in mind.
You therefore see that matters should be grasped from quite a different standpoint; we should namely bear in mind that it is necessary to penetrate into the real being and essence of the social organism. This is far more important than any discussion connected with the building up of a community.
For the countries of central and eastern Europe, it will be an excellent school to realise very soon that it is no longer possible to talk in the usual way of the socialization of the means of production. People still talk of these things in accordance with old habits of thought, and they forget that the States no longer exist, that they have disappeared, and must be replaced by something quite new. These people will elect, to begin with, statesmen whose heads are still filled with obsolete concepts, and these statesmen will do things in accordance with these old ideas. The result, however, will not be real and living; it will resemble a human being just as little as the Homunculus in Wagner's test-tube. In the end, they will realise that it is impossible for them to continue along the old paths. Practical life itself will convince them that the confused ideas which arose during the past decades cannot possibly cope with the practical situation which must be faced in the present time.
This will draw your attention to the fact that it is necessary above all to investigate real life, so that reality, real life lead us to the question: What shape can the demands of social life take on at the present time?
There is one thing which I have emphasized again and again: Let the proletarians say whatever they like… As a rule, it is quite indifferent what people say to-day, for they only voice that which exists in their upper consciousness, whereas that which they really need, the essential thing which they require, lives in their sub-consciousness.
We hardly ever learn to know people through what they say. We gain a far better knowledge of their true being, by considering that which confusedly comes out of their sub•consciousness. The way in which they talk, tells us far more than the actual content of their words, far more than what they say. For the content of their words is generally handed down from a moribund or already lifeless epoch. The new element is something which is rooted in mane's sub-psychical regions.
We find that the proletarian population propagates everywhere categorical ideas. These are mere words learnt by rote through Marxism, or derived from some other source. The true impulse (and how many impulses there are!) is that human labour should not be allowed to be considered as a merchandise.
If we were to ask a modern proletarian, what he is really striving for, he would reply: I want State-controlled means of production, I want socialisation, etc., etc. But he would speak the truth, if he would stress the following point, among the many which we learn to know in their true aspect: “What I really want, is that my labour should no longer be treated as a merchandise, but as something quite different.”
Modern thought is therefore a compound off' the very oldest elements And of something which the human souls contain in their sub-conscious depths, as the newest, most modern requirement. But the human beings are not conscious of this demands arise which have lost every meaning for a great number of educated people, old forms of community life are to take the place of private employers.
In the case of States which have ceased to exist, it is really grotesque to think that the government should take the place of private employers. People think that something which no longer exists can replace the employers and they blunder over this problem. Modern thinking and feeling have really ended in a blind alley!
To-morrow we shall speak more in detail concerning the question of how a government or any other community can or cannot take the place of private employers.