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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Younger Generation
GA 217

Lecture XIII

15 October 1922, Dornach

Naturally a great deal more could be said in conclusion to what I have put before you here. In speaking one is obliged to explain things in words and ideas. What is intended is the unity of character, the unity of force, that one would wish to make stream through the words and ideas. Let me sum up by using a half pictorial form to convey what I still wish to say to you. Elaborate it for yourselves and you will perhaps understand better what I mean.

Now from various aspects I have drawn your attention to how every civilized human being today lives in intellectualism in a life of concepts, which in our epoch has developed in the most intense, penetrating way. Mankind has worked itself up to the most abstract concepts. You need only compare, for instance, how in an age preceding our own, Dante received descriptions of the world from his teacher. Everything was still permeated with soul, everything was still of a spiritual nature; it wafted like a magic breath through the whole of Dante's great poem. Then came the time when humanity molded what was experienced inwardly into abstract concepts. Men have always had concepts but, as I have already explained to you, they were revealed concepts, not concepts that no longer corresponded to inner revelations of the soul. Only when men had wrestled through to concepts no longer springing from revelations did they evolve concepts from observation of external Nature, and from outer experiments—only then did they allow validity to what was received from outside through mere observation.

If we go deeply into the old world of thought, into that of the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, we have the feeling that it was united with the inner being of the soul. There was still an inner life then, a living from within outwards, an experiencing which arose in man because he had united himself with this life.

The conceptual system even of the most primitive human being is acquired from outside today, from external Nature observed by the senses. And even those who still cling to the older concepts no longer hold to this belief with any depth of conviction, not even the peasant. When something is passed on from outside, something established scientifically and verified by Nature, it becomes the ideal towards which people strive. But concepts, ideas, arising out of the inner life of the soul, have the characteristic by thus struggling out of the soul, as I have already explained, of becoming dead concepts. And the human being feels it right that, in so far as they are born out of his inner being, these concepts shall die. But the strange thing that has come to pass during the last few centuries, reaching its culmination in the nineteenth century, is that the concepts dying in the inner being took on fresh life from the outer world. It can actually be proved by a historical phenomenon. Think how Goethe out of his inner being built up a whole conception of evolution. It reached its zenith in his concept of metamorphosis. We have the feeling that we are working out of the living into the dead, but that the human being has to work into what is dead because the living implies coercion. Freedom could only arise by concepts becoming dead. Yet these concepts have taken on new life from outer Nature. Inasmuch as Darwinism, for instance, has come upon the scene—even in our Middle European civilization—we have concepts and ideas which acquire new life from outer Nature. But it is a life which devours the human being.

Today we must feel the full intensity of being surrounded by a thinking bound to Nature but which devours the human being. How does it devour the human being? With the ideas the most advanced kind of thinking draws from Nature, we can never understand man. What does our magnificent theory of evolution provide? It gives us a survey of how animals evolve from animals, and how man stands before us—but only as the culminating point in the ranks of the animal kingdom, and not what we are as men.

This is what modern civilization tells us. Previous civilizations understood the kingdoms of Nature as arising out of man, modern civilization grasps man as arising out of Nature, as the highest animal. It does not grasp to what extent animals are imperfect men. If we fill our soul with what our thinking has become through Nature, there appears in the picture of the man-devouring dragon what is the most potent factor in modern civilization. Man feels himself confronting a being who is devouring him.

Consider how this devouring has taken effect. Whereas from the fifteenth century onwards natural science has been triumphantly progressing, knowledge of man has been more and more on the downgrade. The human being could only keep going with difficulty, by preserving and handing on the old no longer living ideas and traditions. Only with difficulty could man protect himself from having his innermost life devoured by the dragon. And in the last third of the nineteenth century the dragon stood with particular intensity before the human being, threatening in the most terrible way to devour the individual life of the soul. Those who had within them a fully developed life of soul felt how the dragon, who was destined for death, had acquired fresh life in the new age through observation and experiment, but it was a life that devoured the human being.

In more ancient times men played a part in producing the dragon, but endowed with the necessary amount of death-forces, they could master him. In those days man contributed to his experience only as much intellectuality as he could master through forces of the heart. Now, the dragon has become sternly objective; he meets us from outside and devours us as beings of soul.

This is the essential characteristic of civilization from the fifteenth century on into the nineteenth. We see it correctly only when we consider the picture of the dragon; in olden times it had a prophetic meaning and pointed to what would come in the future. But olden times were conscious of having given birth to the dragon, and also of having given birth to Michael or St. George, to forces capable of overcoming the dragon.

But from the fifteenth century and on into the nineteenth, humanity was powerless against this. It was the epoch that has gradually succumbed to complete belief in the material world. As a result it had become so paralyzed in its soul-life that in respect of the deepest treasures of the soul, truthfulness had gone. An era which made the world arise out of the Kant-Laplace primeval nebula which densifies into a globe, and in this process engenders living beings and finally man—could but say: Ultimately such activity must disappear into universal death by warmth, but that will also be the death of everything man has developed in the moral sphere! There have always been people who sought to prove that the moral world-order could find a place in a world-order as conceived by Kant-Laplace, ending with universal death, yet such a view is not sincere. And by no means sincere, by no means honest, was the view that considered moral development to originate in illusions and disappear when the universal death through warmth brings about complete annihilation.

Why did such a view of the world ever arise? Why does it fundamentally live in all souls today? Because the dragon penetrates even to the remotest country cottage—though not consciously recognized—and slays the heart. Why is this so? It comes about because man can no longer understand man.

For what takes place in man? There is taking place every moment in man what occurs nowhere else in the earthly world around us. He takes in the foodstuffs from the surrounding world. He takes them from the kingdom of the living and only to a small extent from what is dead. But foodstuffs as they pass through the digestive system are destroyed, even the most living ones. Man takes in living substance and completely destroys it in order to infuse his own life into what has been killed. And not until the foodstuffs pass into the lymph ducts is the dead made living again in man's inner being.

One can see if one penetrates the being of man that in the human organic process, permeated as it is with soul and spirit, matter is completely destroyed and then created anew. In the human organism we have a continual process of destruction of matter so that matter within the human organism can be newly created. Matter is continually being changed into nothingness and newly created in us.

The door to this knowledge was firmly barred in the nineteenth century, when man arrived at the law of the conservation of matter and of energy, and believed that matter is also conserved in the human organism. The establishment of the law of the conservation of matter is clear proof that the human being is no longer inwardly understood.

But now consider how infinitely difficult it is today not to be considered a fool if one fights against what is regarded in modern physics as a definite fact. The law of the conservation of matter and of energy simply means that science has entirely barred the way leading to man. There the dragon has entirely devoured human nature. But the dragon must be conquered, and therefore the knowledge must gain ground that the picture of Michael overcoming the dragon is not merely an ancient picture but that it has reached the highest degree of reality just at this time! It was created in ancient times because men still felt Michael within themselves permeating their unconscious, and by which they unconsciously overcame what arose out of intellectualism. Nowadays the dragon has become quite external. Nowadays the dragon encounters us from outside, threatening continually to kill the human being. But the dragon must be conquered. He can be conquered only through our becoming aware how Michael, or St. George, also comes from outside. And Michael, or St. George, who comes from outside, who is able to conquer the dragon, is a true spiritual knowledge which conquers this center of life (which, for man's inner being is a center of death)—the so-called law of the conservation of energy so that in his knowledge man can again become man in a real sense. Today we dare not; for so long as there is a law of the conservation of matter and of energy, moral law melts away in the universal death through warmth—and the Kant-Laplace theory is no mere phrase!

Man's shrinking away from this consequence is the fearful untruth that has penetrated right into the human heart, into the human soul, and has seized hold of everything in the human being, making him a being of untruth upon the earth. We must acquire the vision of Michael who shows us that what is material on earth does not merely pass through the universal death through warmth, but will at some time actually disperse. He shows us that by uniting ourselves with the spiritual world we are able to implant life through our moral impulses. Thus what is in the earth begins to be transformed into the new life, into the moral.

For the reality of the moral world-order is what the approaching Michael can give. The old religions cannot do this; they have allowed themselves to be conquered by the dragon. They accept the dragon who kills man, and by the side of the dragon establish some special, abstractly moral divine order. But the dragon does not tolerate this; the dragon must be conquered. He does not suffer men to found something alongside him. What man needs is the force that he can gain from victory over the dragon.

You see how profoundly this problem must be grasped. But what has happened in modern civilization? Well, every science has become a metamorphosis of the dragon, all external culture too is an outcome of the dragon. Certainly, the outer world-mechanism, which lives not only in the machine, but also in our social organism, is rightly called a dragon. But besides, the dragon meets us everywhere, whether modern science tells us about the origin of life, about the transformation of living beings, about the human soul, or even in the field of history—everywhere the result proceeds from the dragon. This had become so acute in the last third of the nineteenth century, at the turn of the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth, that the growing human being, who longed to know what the old had received, saw the dragon coming towards him in botany, zoology, history, out of every science—saw himself confronted in every sphere by the dragon waiting to devour the very core of his soul.

In our own epoch the battle of Michael with the dragon has for the first time become real, to the highest degree. When we penetrate into the spiritual texture of the world, we find that with the culmination of the dragon's power there also came—at the turn of the nineteenth century—Michael's intervention with which we can unite ourselves. The human being can have, if he will, Spiritual Science; that is to say, Michael actually penetrates from spiritual realms into our earthly realm. He does not force himself upon us. Today everything must spring out of man's freedom. The dragon pushes himself forward, demanding the highest authority. The authority of science is the most powerful that has ever been exercised in the world. Compare the authority of the Pope; it is almost as powerful. Just think—however stupid a man may be yet he can say: “But science has established that.” People are struck dumb by science, even if one has a truth to utter. There is no more overwhelming power of authority in the whole of man's evolution than that of modern science. Everywhere the dragon rears up to meet one.

There is no other way than to unite ourselves with Michael, that is to say to permeate ourselves with real knowledge of the spiritual weaving and being of the world. Only now does this picture of Michael truly stand before us; for the first time it has become our essential concern as man. In olden times this picture was still seen in Imagination. That is not possible today for external consciousness. Hence any fool can say that it is not true that external science is the dragon. But it is the dragon all the same.

Yet some saw themselves confronting the dragon but were not able to see Michael: those who grew up with science and were not so bewitched by the dragon that they quietly let themselves be devoured, who reacted against the soul being investigated by apparatus for testing the memory—who found no answer to their search for man, because the dragon has devoured him. This lived in the hearts of many human beings at the beginning of the twentieth century—they felt instinctively that they saw the dragon, but could not see Michael. Hence they removed themselves as far as possible from the dragon. They sought for a land which could not be reached by the dragon; they wanted to know nothing more of the dragon. The young are running away from the old because they want to escape from the region of the dragon. That also is an aspect of the Youth Movement. The young wanted to flee from the dragon because they saw no possibility of conquering the dragon. They wanted to go where the dragon was not.

But here there is a mystery and it consists in the fact that the dragon can exercise his power everywhere, even where he is not spatially present. And when he does not succeed in killing man directly through ideas and intellectualism, he succeeds by so rarefying the air everywhere in the world that one can no longer breathe.

And this will certainly be the case—young people who ran from the dragon so as not to be injured, and who came into such rarefied air that they could not breathe the future, felt intensely the nightmare of the past because the air had become unwholesome where it was formerly possible to escape the immediate influence of the dragon. The nightmare that comes from within is, as regards human experience, not very different from the pressure that comes from without, from the dragon.

In the last third of the nineteenth century, the older generation felt direct exposure to the dragon. The young people then experienced the nightmare of the air corrupted by the dragon—air that could not be breathed. Here, the only help is to find Michael who conquers the dragon. Man needs the power of the victor over the dragon, for the dragon receives his life out of a world quite different from that in which the human soul can live. The human soul cannot live in the world out of which the dragon receives his life-blood. But in the overcoming of the dragon the human being must acquire the strength to be able to live. The epoch from the fifteenth century to the nineteenth, which has developed the human being so that he has become quite empty, must be overcome. The age of Michael who conquers the dragon must now begin, for the power of the dragon has become great!

But it is this above all that we must set going if we want to become true leaders of the young. For Michael needs, as it were, a chariot by means of which to enter our civilization. And this chariot reveals itself to the true educator as coming forth from the young, growing human being, yes, even from the child. Here the power of the pre-earthly life is still working. Here we find, if we nurture it, what becomes the chariot by means of which Michael will enter our civilization. By educating in the right way we are preparing Michael's chariot for his entrance into our civilization.

We must no longer nurture the dragon by cultivating a science with thoughts unconcerned with penetrating into the human soul, into man, so as to develop him. We must build the chariot, the vehicle for Michael. This needs living manhood, a living humanity such as flows out of super-sensible worlds into the earthly life and manifests there, precisely in the early periods of human life. But for such an education we must have a heart. We must learn—speaking pictorially—to make ourselves allies of the approaching Michael if we want to become true teachers. More is accomplished for the art of education than by any theoretical principles, if what we receive into ourselves works so that we feel ourselves Michael's confederates, allies of the spiritual being who is entering the earth, for whom we prepare a vehicle by carrying out a living art of education of the young. Far better than all theoretical educational principles is to lift up our eyes to Michael who, since the last third of the nineteenth century, has been striving to enter our outworn dragon-civilization.

This is the fundamental impulse of all educational doctrine. We must not receive this art of education as a theory, we must not take it as something we can learn. We should receive it as something with which we can unite ourselves, the advent of which we welcome, something which comes to us not as dead concepts but as a living spirit to whom we offer our services because we must do so, if men are to experience progress in their evolution. This means to bring knowledge to life again, it means to call forth in full consciousness what once was there in man's unconscious.

My dear friends, in olden times when an atavistic clairvoyance was still natural to human beings, there were Mystery centers. In these Mystery centers, which were at the same time church, school, and center of art, the pupils sought also for knowledge, though more of a soul nature, in their development. Many things could be found in such centers—but libraries did not exist. Do not misunderstand me—no library in our own sense. Something existed akin to our library, that is to say, things were written down; but everything that was written down was read with the purpose of working upon the soul. Nowadays a great deal of what constitutes a library is only there to be stored up, not to be read. The bulk is used only when a thesis must be written because there such things are discussed. But people would prefer entirely to eliminate livingness. What is supposed to come into these theses must be quite mechanical. The aim is for the human being to enter into them as little as possible. Man's participation in spirituality has been wrested from him.

Spirituality, but now in full consciousness, must become living again, that we do not merely experience what can be perceived by the senses but experience once more what can be perceived by the spirit. The age of Michael must begin. In fact everything that has fallen to man's lot since the fifteenth century has come to him from outside. In the age of Michael the human being will have to find his own relation to the spiritual world. And learning, knowledge, will acquire a quite different kind of value.

Now in the ancient Mysteries what was in the libraries was more of the nature of monuments upon which was inscribed what was intended to pass into man's memory. These libraries contained what cannot be compared in any way with our books. For all leaders in the Mysteries directed their pupils to another kind of reading. They said: Yes, there is a library—but they did not call it so—and this library is out there in the human beings walking about. Learn to read them! Learn to read the mysteries that are inscribed in every man. We must return to this. Only we must come to it, as it were, from another side so that as teachers we know: All accumulation of learning, of knowledge, is worthless. As such it is dead and gets its life only from the dragon. We should have the feeling that in wishing “to know,” knowledge cannot be stored up here or there, for then it would at once fall apart. In literature, what is Spirit can only be touched upon lightly.

How can you really find within a book what is Spirit? For the spiritual is something living. The spiritual is not like bones. The spiritual is like the blood. And the blood needs vessels in which to flow. What we recognize as spiritual needs vessels. These vessels are growing human beings. Into these vessels we must pour the spiritual in order that it may hold together. Otherwise we shall have the spirit so alive that it immediately flows away. We must so preserve our knowledge that it can flow into the developing human being.

Then we shall make the chariot for Michael, then we shall be able to become Michael's companions. And what you seek, my dear friends, you will best attain through being conscious of wishing to become companions of Michael.

You must once again be able to follow a purely spiritual Being who is not incarnated on the earth. And you will have to learn to have faith in a human being who shows you the way to Michael. Humanity must understand in a new and living way the words of Christ: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” For it is just through this that it is in the true sense “of this world!” For the task of man is to make the Spirit, which without Him would not be on earth, into a living content of this world. The Christ Himself came down to earth. He did not take man away to an earthly life in the heavens. The human being must permeate his earthly life by a mediating spirituality which gives him power to conquer the dragon.

This must be understood so thoroughly that one can answer the question: Why did human beings tear each other to pieces during the second decade of the twentieth century?—They tore each other to pieces because they carried the battle into a region where it does not belong, because they did not see the real enemy, the dragon. To the conquest of the dragon belong the forces which, only when developed in the right way, will bring peace upon earth.

In short, we must take seriously our entrance into the Michael age. With the means available at present, we shall have to guide man again to the experience of being surrounded by the picture of Michael, powerful, radiant; for Michael, through the forces developing in man towards a full life of soul, can overcome the dragon preying on humanity. Only when this picture can be received in a more living way than formerly into the soul, will there come forces for the development of inner activity out of man's knowledge that he is of the company of Michael. Only then shall we participate in what can lead to progress and bring peace between the generations, in what can guide the young to listen to the old, and the old to have something to say which the young long to receive and understand.

Because the older generation dangled the dragon in front of youth, they fled to regions poor in air. A true youth movement will only reach its goal when instead of being offered the dragon, the younger generation finds in Michael the forces to exterminate the dragon. This will show itself by older and younger generations having something to say to each other and something to receive from each other.

For, in fact, if the educator is a complete human being he receives as much from the child as he gives to the child. Whoever cannot learn from the child what he brings down from the spiritual world, cannot teach the child about the mysteries of earthly existence. Only when the child becomes our educator by bringing his message to us from the spiritual world will the child be ready to receive from us tidings of earthly life.

It was not for the sake of mere symbolism that Goethe sought everywhere for things that suggest a breathing—outbreathing, inbreathing; outbreathing, inbreathing—Goethe saw the whole of life as a picture of receiving and giving. Everyone receives, everyone gives. Every giver becomes a receiver. But for the receiving and the giving to find a true rhythm it is necessary that we enter the Michael Age.

So I want to conclude with this picture for you to see how the preceding lectures were actually meant. Their aim was that you should not merely carry away in your heads what I have said here, and ponder over it. What I should prefer is for you to have something in your hearts and then to transform what you carry in your hearts into activity. What the human being carries in his head will in time be lost. But what he receives into his heart, the heart preserves and carries into all spheres of activity in which man is involved. May what I have ventured to say to you not be carried away merely in your heads—for then it will certainly be lost—but if it is carried away in your hearts, in the whole of your being, then, my dear friends, we have been talking together in the right way.

Out of this feeling, let me give you my farewell greeting today by saying: Take what I have tried to express as if I had wanted, above all, to let something that cannot be uttered in words penetrate to your hearts. If hearts have found some connection with what is meant here by the Living Spirit, then at least in part what we wanted to achieve in these gatherings will have been fulfilled. With this feeling we will separate today; with this feeling, however, we shall also come together again. Thus we shall find association in the Spirit, even though we work apart in different spheres of life. The chief thing will be that in our hearts we have found each other; then the spiritual, all that belongs to Michael, will also flow into our hearts.