The younger generation is always faced with the dilemma of being heir to the old while about to become a guide for the new. Never did this dilemma seem greater than after the turn of this century when Rudolf Steiner spoke; for us today it looms even larger, with no end of its precipitate growth in sight. Uncountable remedies have been offered, and self-appointed pundits of many nations, creeds and convictions continue to peddle their wares. Instant diagnosis is followed by suggestions of all kinds of therapies — from more money to nihilistic revolutions. To be “deeply involved” is the demand of the day, but this is naturally followed by the question as to how to be so without losing one's identity. If a fresh view can be maintained — despite the “systems” which tend to make us into interchangeable items within a catalogued society, the problem of providing the incentive for this is somewhat like that faced by the inexperienced gardener who lifts each sprouting plant from its seedbed to check on its root development. The very manner of growth — first a stillness, then a sprouting, a sudden spurt of leafing followed by a pause before further growth — a way necessary for all living things in order to be alive and to be themselves, is even less within our understanding today than at the time these lectures were given.
Therefore these lectures are not less applicable today. The reader, provided he can be guided by the circumspect sequence of the thoughts and images contained in them, will be stirred as well as strangely quieted. Here we are led, not thrust forward or backward; here we are guided, not badgered, threatened or left direction-less. Yet the direction we receive is not merely a signpost to all too obvious and all too fallible remedies. Rather, we are enabled to begin assembling convictions from within until the conflux of such inner preparedness can meet with the final image of “the chariot of Michael.”
To achieve the image of this chariot, however, demands a new education. By its nature it signifies not so much the content and circumference of material as the way in which it becomes, as conveyance, a transmitter of substance. We may time and again consult one single paragraph, to know what was meant then and is still implied for us today:
“The great transition to this newer age consists in man meeting man free of his sheaths — according to his disposition, to what the soul demands; but the capacities for this untrammeled encounter have not yet been acquired. Above all we have not yet acquired the possibility for a relation between ego and ego. But this must be prepared for by education. That is why the question of education is of such burning importance.”
As can readily be felt throughout, this cycle of lectures was given to a group of young people in whom an active current — sometimes even causing divisions — was to be carried into the inner meaning of education. Destiny spoke throughout their sometimes heated discussions, awakening one and beclouding another. The call to carry a new education out into this world — an education for life, for the spirit in Man and in the universe — had begun to sound. It was the year of challenge, 1922, and Rudolf Steiner responded to it, traveling and lecturing untiringly — from the East-West Congress in Vienna to his visits to England. At Stuttgart, where these particular lectures were given, the young listeners had to develop a new ear to perceive something of a new dawn of the spirit, even while Rudolf Steiner was speaking to them — surveying, explaining, developing and guiding them toward an understanding of themselves in their present world-situation. In this new dawn some of those listeners, like the readers of these lectures today, could understand the necessity for self-education as the preliminary to all other education. And from their desire to become educators, to be able to dispense true nourishment, they began to recognize that the growth of such food demands that the plough first be turned inward and seeds of spirit sown. Eventually — in good time and according to the rhythms of growth, with the power of the sun and the moon and the stars — a harvest may mature, which will yield bread, not stones, in man's relation to man.
This cycle of lectures “To the Younger Generation” speaks of a pathway to a Michaelic harvest for ears which have the good will to hear. If they only now appear in English — forty five years after the sowing — we should neither be disheartened by the slowness of growth nor complacent about the fruits already gathered. Much rather when we have read, listened and heard and have become better aware of the pathway — may we continue toward that universal harvest with greater singleness of purpose, without dismay and, however lonely, with a certainty of spirit-companionship transcending all generations.