Rudolf Steiner Archive 

LECTURE SEVENTEEN
Dornach, 8 January 1917

When, after repeated requests, I decided to speak about some aspects of most recent history leading up to the present, I expressly stated that my concern was the understanding of the facts and that there was no question of entering into politics or anything to do with politics. I frequently repeated this statement. Despite this, it seems to me that a definite carelessness — not to use a stronger word — is gaining ground amongst us in this respect. People do not consider that when someone is speaking the truth with the intensity that has been the case, he has a right to claim that attention is also paid to the manner of its expression. It appears that here and there people have been speaking about these lectures as if they were political lectures. Lack of consideration has for a long time been the order of the day among some of our members — only a few, of course; I refer only to those who are meant. Everything I have said and repeated over and over again out of anxiety for our concerns has fallen on deaf ears in some quarters. It is perfectly apparent that again and again the matters we speak about here are reported to outsiders in the strangest manner.

As such, I have nothing against reports if they remain within the obvious bounds. But it is clear from various recent publications — among them a most scandalous compilation from the Vollrath Note 1 ] camp — that matters are not reported in a manner befitting the way they are discussed here, but in a manner — perhaps from want of a better understanding — that enables the most horrible distortions to be fabricated. I know very well that the source of this is to be found in our midst, and if again and again I hold my peace and refrain from taking steps against those so-called members who behave in this way, it is out of love for our whole Movement and our whole Society. It is surely not possible to hold a constant succession of hearings. It would, however, be possible for members who understand what is going on, to approach in a suitable manner those of whom it is known that their attitude to the spiritual content given here is not what it ought to be. I do not even want to maintain — though sometimes it is indeed the case — that there is a direct lack of morality in people's behaviour, but there is certainly a lack of insight into the way one might behave. If someone wants to speak about what he has heard, it is incumbent upon him to ask himself with honest — let me say — self-knowledge, whether he has really understood it in a way which enables him to pass it on.

It is necessary, unfortunately, to draw attention to this from time to time. I assure you that I am not doing so without good reason. If things go on as they are, it will become necessary to remain silent about certain matters, and it is easy to see what would then become of our Movement. And a share in bringing this about would lie with those members who again and again fail to prevent themselves from using the most awful expressions which can then lead to frightful distortions. Surely it is not necessary to speak about these things in places where they can be overheard by people who do not belong amongst us, and to use expressions which might come easily to the tongue, but which in no way correspond to the whole purpose on which these lectures are founded!

I must admit that having decided after repeated requests to give these lectures, I can only view as entirely personal attacks the instances in which they have been described as ‘political lectures’.


Now that we have discussed the many considerations contained in the lectures of the past few weeks, it will today be possible to draw some of them together in order to throw light on aspects which can help us to understand what is happening today. I shall first endeavour to recount quite baldly, in the most external fashion, the historical sequence of events as they occurred, and then, on the basis of the insights gained over the past weeks, I will point out some of the deeper-lying causes. I want to state expressly that, particularly today, I shall attempt to weigh carefully every single expression so that each one provides an exact delineation within which the view it expresses can come to light. Let me start, then, by describing quite externally and briefly certain events, viewpoints and impulses.

As you of course all know, the present painful events have come about in connection with the murder in June 1914 of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne. This assassination was followed in the whole of Europe by a newspaper campaign which showed, in what might be called surging waves, the degree to which passions had been aroused in every quarter. All this led to the well-known ultimatum from the monarchy of Austria-Hungary to Serbia which, in the main, was rejected by Serbia; then on to the Austro-Serbian conflict which was intended by the leading Austrian statesmen to consist of a military entry into Serbia, without any annexation of Serbian territory, for the purpose of exerting military pressure in order to force an acceptance of the ultimatum. The purpose of the ultimatum was to prevent Serbia from inciting unrest against the stability of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy via Austria's southern Slav population.

As you know, Austria comprises quite a number of nations — there are thirteen recognized languages and many more than thirteen distinct peoples. In the southern region the population is Slav; more to the West are the Slovenian Slavs; to the East, adjacent to them, the Dalmatian, Croatian, Slovenian, Serbian, Serbo-Croat population; then also the various groups who live in the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina which were annexed by Austria in 1908, though occupied by her long before that. Serbia borders on the territories populated by these southern Slavs. Austria believed it could be proved — and evidence of this proof can be found all over the place by anyone who cares to seek it — that Serbia was inciting unrest with the aim of founding a Southern Slav kingdom under the sovereignty of Serbia and entailing the detachment of the southern Slav population of Austria.

At all costs the assassination of Franz Ferdinand had to be linked with these things, for the following reason: From 1867 onwards, the monarchy of Austria-Hungary was a dual state comprising, in accordance with a not very concise description ‘the kingdoms and lands represented in the Reichsrat’, and secondly ‘the lands of the Holy Crown of St Stephen’. Among the lands represented in the Reichsrat were Upper and Lower Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Istria, Dalmatia, Moravia, Bohemia and Silesia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Bukovina. To the lands of the Holy Crown of St Stephen belong first and foremost the Magyar regions to which was annexed what had formerly been Transylvania, which is inhabited by a number of peoples; further, Croatia and Slavonia, the latter enjoying a kind of limited self-government within the Hungarian state. A dual monarchy, in other words.

Now it was known that Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, wanted to overcome the drawbacks of the dualism of Austria-Hungary and replace this dualism with a ‘triadic’ reorganization. This triadic structure was to come about by making the southern Slav territories belonging to Austria self-governing, in the way the lands and kingdoms represented in the Reichsrat and also the lands of the Holy Crown of St Stephen were self-governing. This would have put a triadic structure in place of the existing dualism. You can see how, had it been realized, this would have led to an individualization of the separate southern Slav peoples within a kind of southern Slav community in the Austro-Slav regions. It would have meant a step closer to the aim of assimilating the western Slavs with western culture, thus working against what I have called Russianism in these lectures. This could quite well have worked out, for the structure of the Austrian state is entirely federalistic, not centralistic, and before the war it tended anyway increasingly to grant federal status to the different peoples. From 1867 to 1879 centralism was the aim; from 1879 onwards the efforts to centralize had to be seen as a failure, and from then on federalism was the aim.

In opposition to this were the efforts on the part of Serbia to found a confederation of southern Slavs under the hegemony of Serbia. This did not arise from within the Serbian people, but I have described to you how peoples are, in a way, led simply by means of suggestion. For this to happen, the southern Slav territories would, of course, have to be wrested from Austria-Hungary.

This concludes my brief summary of what lies behind the Austro-Serbian conflict. What I have just been telling you is all to do with the Austro-Serbian conflict. It is thinkable that this conflict could have been ‘localized’ — I have used this expression once before. Had this come about — I am speaking hypothetically — the European world war would have been avoided. What would have happened if the strictly circumscribed intentions of the Austrian statesmen had been realized? Part of the Austro-Hungarian army would have marched into Serbia and stayed there until Serbia agreed to accept the ultimatum which would have quashed the possibility of a southern Slav conferation under Serbian hegemony, and, of course, Russian supremacy. If no other European power had interfered in this matter, if they had all done nothing more than stand to attention, as it were, then nothing would have taken place except the acceptance of this ultimatum. For Austria had guaranteed that she had no intention of annexing any parts of Serbian territory in any way. As a result, such assassinations as took place many times — that of Franz Ferdinand was only the last in a whole sequence incited by Serbian agitators — such assassinations would not have taken place, and without such agitation the establishment of a southern Slav confederation under the supremacy of Russia is, or rather would, of course, have been impossible. If events had taken this course — I speak hypothetically again — this war need never have broken out.

So what is the connection between this Austro-Serbian conflict and the World War? To comprehend this connection it is necessary to pass beyond an understanding of the external situation and, if I may say so, enter the deeper secrets of European politics. It is not politics we want to enter; we want to understand in our soul what it was that lived in these politics. I want to answer the question: How did a European conflict arise out of the Austro-Serbian conflict? What is the link between the Austro-Serbian question and the European question?

We must turn our attention to what I have just said about the southern Slav confederation. It was the British Empire, the more it took on a conscious form, that was interested in a southern Slav confederation, independent of Austria, but under the supremacy of Russia. In the societies I have mentioned it was the establishment of what was termed the Danube confederation — by which was meant this southern Slav confederation, which was to comprise the southern Slav peoples together with Romania and include the southern Slavs of Austria — that was expressly discussed. In the nineties of the nineteenth century we find everywhere in the occult schools of the West, under the direct influence of British occultists, indications that such a Danube confederation would have to come into being. Attempts were also made to manipulate the whole of European politics towards the creation of this Danube confederation, which would entail the relinquishing of the Austro-Slav territories.

Why was the British Empire interested in this Danube confederation, a project which was anti-Austrian and pro-Russian? The powers which have been in opposition to one another most strongly in recent times as a consequence of the imperialism which has broken out across the world, those powers which actually coexist with the greatest hostility, are the British Empire and the Russian Empire. Such hidden hostilities can indeed manifest outwardly as friendships and alliances. When there is such bitter hostility between countries outwardly coexisting peacefully, a certain consequence results from the fact that our earth has a specific characteristic: namely, that it is spherical in shape. If our earth were a flat plain stretching in all directions, such conflicts could not come about. But since our earth is round, not only do we eventually arrive back at our starting point if we walk long enough in a straight line, but something else also happens: Expanding empires come up against each other at a certain point, and when they collide they have to follow through with their opposing interests. This occurred between the British and the Russian Empires. Among many other situations, it became most obviously apparent when they collided with great force in Persia. The question was: Should Russia succeed in moving down against India and there gradually hem in the British Empire, or would the British Empire erect defences?

When your aim is to gain sovereignty, you can pursue it by means of war, or by other means, depending on which seems the most favourable. For the British Empire it seemed for the moment — in the case of states, only limited periods of time are reckoned with — more favourable to prevent Russia from proceeding against India by providing a different channel, by diverting her attention in another direction in which she could achieve the satisfaction of her natural ambition. Empires are always ambitious. This was to be brought about by conceding to Russia the sovereignty over the so-called Danube confederation. Thus the British Empire was indirectly interested in making the Danube confederation as extensive as possible, for the Slavs in the South wanted to belong together, and this feeling of belonging was stirred up in the way I have described to you. Thus the confederation of southern Slavs was to be played into Russia's hand so that she might withdraw her attention from other directions. This was why the confederation of southern Slavs, to be set up under Russian sovereignty, was in the British interest. It was a long story, prepared well beforehand.

Here we see one of the threads linking the Austro-Serbian question to the question of sovereignty on a world scale. This is how the whole relationship between the British and the Russian Empires was drawn into the matter. It was not a matter of Austria and Serbia, for the whole Austro-Serbian question necessarily became the question: Should Austria take the step towards a triadic structure, thus diverting the confederation of southern Slavs from its path, or should steps be taken towards a Russian-dominated southern Slav confederation? In this way the Austro-Serbian question became coupled with the European question.

When such situations exist — for what I have just described lived in human beings as absolutely real impulses — it is like an electric charge which will at some point have to be discharged. This, then, was one of the threads.

It is still, however, highly questionable whether the Austro-Serbian conflict would have led to the World War, if there had not been further aspects in addition to those we have just discussed. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that it would have done, if there had been no other causes. But there were plenty of other impulses, all of which reinforced the situation. First and foremost among these was the Franco-Russian alliance within the general European situation. This Franco-Russian alliance had existed since the nineties of the nineteenth century and, looking at the situation objectively, it could not have been more unnatural. No one will doubt that France had entered into this alliance with a view to winning back Alsace-Lorraine, for there is no other imaginable reason for this alliance. All other reasons would only have spoken against such an alliance. In the end, though, those other reasons carry little weight in comparison with the driving forces, for the fact is that an alliance such as this exists; through its very existence it represents a real force. It is there. Much more important than the actual aim of this alliance is the fact that here are a western and an eastern state who in combination constitute a monstrous military power. And between them lies Germany who could not but feel permanently threatened militarily by the scale of this combined French and Russian military might. It was this encirclement of Germany to West and East by the Franco-Russian alliance which became one of the driving forces in European affairs.

To discover further influences which played a part we must look at the following: In recent decades, imperialism has led to a general desire for expansion. You need only look, for instance, at the monstrous growth of the British Empire. Or think of France, whose territorial expansion over the last few decades has been incomparably greater than at any earlier time, when France, as she herself said, marched at the head of European civilization.

The events of recent decades have been like a chain reaction: In every case what came next could not have taken place without what had gone before. The most recent point of departure — of course we could go back further — lies in the British Empire's seizure of sovereignty over Egypt. For today's way of thinking it is perfectly reasonable to justify such an action by claiming the necessity of rounding off and securing one's assets. The expansion of British sovereignty over Egypt was justified by saying that a bridge to India was needed. The hope was that Arabia could be gained too, thus creating a direct link with India.

The expansion of the British Empire to include Egypt provided, to some extent, a protective barrier against any awkward expansion of the Russian Empire westwards; any such expansion westwards need not have harmed the British Empire to any great extent if Egypt had been able to provide the necessary link with India.

Now since the earth is spherical, there is insufficient territory for unlimited expansion outwards by empires because eventually they will clash. In consequence the expansion of one empire generates in the other an equal lust for expansion. Thus the expansion by France to include Morocco, in two stages in 1905 and 1911, was nothing other than a consequence of the expansion of the British Empire to include Egypt. Note 2 ] The mutual recognition of these expansions — France's recognition of British dominion over Egypt and British recognition of France's dominion over Morocco — provided the threads with which an Entente Cordiale between the French and the British Empires could be spun. But because Germany was in the middle, efforts were made, as you know, to establish the Triple Alliance: Germany, Austria, Italy.

However, the distribution of Morocco and Egypt, and what followed this, meant that, at the Algeciras Conference, Note 3 ] and particularly with the help of an elderly Italian politician who was well versed in these things, Italy was even then successfully drawn into the sphere of influence of the western entente between France and England. After the Algeciras Conference sensible people in Central Europe no longer believed that Italy would be able to remain faithful to the Triple Alliance. Because of the way she had behaved there had to be consequences for her, resulting from the seizure of Morocco by France. And the consequence was that Italy was permitted to establish herself in Tripoli. In effect this meant that Italy had been given permission by the West to wage war on Turkey. So Egypt led to Morocco, and Morocco to Tripoli. Then, because Tripoli meant a new weakening of the Turkish position, Tripoli led to the Balkan War. These events took place like a chain reaction, Egypt-Morocco-Tripoli-Balkan War; each is unthinkable without its predecessor.

Turkey having been weakened by the Italo-Turkish, or Tripoli War, the southern Slav peoples, with the others in their wake, and also the Greek peoples, believed themselves strong enough to win the Balkan peninsula for themselves. As a result of this, the trend towards a southern Slav confederation became linked with the national aspirations of the Balkan countries. The linking of these two chains gave the Balkan War an outcome in which Serbia was the strongest winner. Serbia has grown very powerful, incomparably more so than she was before. In consequence there came a revival of the ideal of founding the southern Slav confederation under the hegemony of Serbia and the overall sovereignty of Russia. This led to the agitations which culminated in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, which in turn led to the Austro-Serbian War. Now we have brought the two links together: The Austro-Serbian question was linked with the European question as a consequence of the whole historical process.

Those who followed these events with understanding were able to see under these circumstances many years ahead to the coming war, hanging like a sword of Damocles over European culture and civilization. Wherever these things were discussed you could hear how people realized that Russia's pretensions would lead to a conflict between Central and Eastern Europe. This conflict was inevitable. No one who studies the realities of history will say that this conflict between Central and Eastern Europe was not based on what may be called a spiritual necessity. Just as in ancient times conflict arose between the Roman and the Germanic peoples, so in modern times there had to be conflict between Central and Eastern Europe. There were manifold forms it could have taken, but conflict there had to be. Everything else, in so far as it had to do with the East, was included in this conflict.

It was the pretensions of Russianism that led to the expectation that somewhere or other these pretensions would lead to an attempt by Russia to impose sovereignty on the Balkan league. This was expected. The geographical situation made it inevitable that there would be a clash between Russia and Austria. And when this clash occurred — so said all those who had been contemplating these things over the years — everything else would automatically follow.

How, it was asked, would the situation be shaped by the existing structure of alliances at the moment of Russia's attack on Austria? Obviously no one expected Austria to attack Russia of her own accord. This was unthinkable; Austria could not possibly find herself in a position to launch an attack on Russia. It had to be supposed, therefore, that matters would arrange themselves in a way that would enable Russia to attack Austria. Well and good! Because of the alliance between Austria and Germany, Germany could be expected to stand by Austria and attack Russia in her turn. And as a result of Germany's attack on Russia — I am telling you what was presumed — the Franco-Russian alliance would come into action. France would be obliged to take Russia's side and attack Germany. And because of the relationship between France and England — whether laid down in a treaty or not — England would have to join in the attack on the side of Russia and France. These things were foreseen. The structure of treaties and alliances would automatically lead to a sequence of events.

In the end, the sequence was not quite what had been expected by those who concerned themselves day in, day out, with the future of Europe. What form did it take? Let us see. I have already described to you the history of the ultimatum, the rejection of the ultimatum, the resulting insistence by Austria on acceptance of the ultimatum. But the European powers did not remain indifferent to all this, for Russia immediately made ready to enter the fray as Serbia's protector. This made the localization of the Austro-Serbian question unthinkable. From the British quarter came all sorts of meaningless suggestions of the kind made by those who either want to take a hand in affairs without thinking things through properly, or who want to build up for themselves from the start a world-wide reputation of having endeavoured to settle the matter by peaceful means. This is not actually the aim, but it has to be possible later on to say that it was.

So the meaningless suggestion was made to call a conference made up, of all things, of England, Germany, France and Italy, to decide about the questions pending. Just imagine what would have been the outcome of such a conference! A majority verdict would have been required on whether Austria's demands to Serbia were justified or not. On the basis of the real situation, imagine, please, how the voting would have gone! Italy had inwardly deserted the Triple Alliance, France was on Russia's side, Russia was obviously only satisfied if Austria was refused the right to insist on acceptance of the ultimatum, England was in favour of the Danube confederation. Leaving aside Austria, the majority would have gone to Italy, France and England. Germany would obviously have been out-voted at all costs. This conference could not possibly have led to anything other than a refusal for what Austria, from her position, was compelled to demand. That means that if this conference had been held it would have been nothing but a farce, for Austria would either have been forced to give up her pretensions, or, regardless of the outcome of the conference, she would have continued to demand acceptance of the ultimatum. In other words, the conference would have been nothing but a bluff, as they say. A thorough study of the documentation reveals, however, that from the start Russia's pretension was to interfere in the Serbo-Austrian question. So it is really irrelevant whether the World War came about as the result of an automatic sequence of events or of deliberate scene-setting leading inevitably to the War.

It was the scene-setting that took place for, in addition to the various impulses, you must also take into account a quite particular mood. Maybe no other world event, no other historical event but this, has ever been quite so dependent on a certain mood. The mood of soul of those participating in the outbreak of the War at the end of July 1914 was certainly one of the most important causes. Of course there were also agitations at the outbreak of earlier wars, but they did not sweep in with such stormy, such hurricane force, as did the events between 24 July and 1 August 1914. Within a few days a monstrous agitation had gathered over the participants, an agitation in which was concentrated all the accumulated anxiety of the many years during which this coming event had been foreseen. This mood must definitely be taken into account. Those who do not do so can only speak in empty phrases.

All kinds of points could be brought in to characterize this mood, but I shall draw your attention to only one. An event had taken place which was indirectly, though in fact very strongly, connected with the outbreak of the War. If it is to be evaluated properly it will, and must, be seen in its proper place amongst the other events in Europe. This was the German defence bill, Note 4 ] laid before Parliament after the Balkan War, which budgeted for an enlargement of the German army by means of a single large defence payment. This enlargement of the German army, which, by the way, was not anywhere near completion by the time the War broke out, can be studied by anyone in connection with the results of the Balkan War. These results showed that for an uncertain time in the future the clash between Russia and Austria was being manipulated. It was only because of certain situations, which I do not want to go into here, that Russia was prevented as early as 1913 from attacking Austria in order to gain sovereignty and dominion over the Balkan confederation. The enlargement of the German army was undertaken for no other reason — as I said, I am choosing my expressions very precisely today — than the threatened dispute with the East. Yet the French reaction followed promptly: If Germany is enlarging her army, then we must do something about strengthening ours. What this means is that the destiny, the inevitable necessity for Central Europe to take precautions with regard to the East, always produced reinforcements in the West, which naturally produced further reactions in their turn.

In this way matters progressed. In particular, everything connected with the defence bill after the Balkan War generated terrible anxiety in Central Europe because the whole of the European periphery was seen to have turned against Central Europe. Opinions differed only in the matter of Italy: Some still thought she would somehow throw in her lot with Central Europe, while others no longer held this to be possible.

Let us still assume — hypothetically — that the World War did not break out. There was only one precondition that could have prevented it. Russia would have had to refrain from immediate war threats — in other words mobilization, which under the prevailing circumstances could only be regarded as a war threat. Central Europe could not for one moment have thought that France would not go along with Russia, so an assault on two fronts had to be reckoned with. The only course of action open to those in positions of responsibility was to paralyse this assault in some way. No one in a responsible position could have thought: Let us spend the next fortnight at a conference! Not only could this conference have led absolutely nowhere, as I said, but it would have meant certain defeat. But no one can be expected to accept certain defeat from the outset. So the only possibility was to match the monstrous military superiority of West and East by means of speed.

For this the only possible course of action, as I showed earlier, was to violate international law and march through Belgium. Any other solution could only have led to the involvement of most of the German army in a long war of defence in the West while leaving the way open to invasion from the East. This was one of those historical moments at which — whether you can express it aptly or not — a state is forced to enter into a breach of the law in self-preservation. There is no other course of action open to those responsible for that state. In Central Europe it was — and I am choosing my words very carefully today in order to make my meaning quite clear — for some of those in responsible positions utterly monstrous to attempt war on two fronts at once.

So the attempt was made to restrict the matter to a single front. Careful, carefully intentioned, attempts were made to keep France neutral, and it was believed that France could be induced to remain neutral. No one in Central Europe had any intention of harming France. With a feeling of total responsibility it is possible to say that absolutely no one in Central Europe, no one in Germany, had any intention of harming France. What was done was done only with a view to tying matters up as quickly as possible in the West in order to prevent the threatened invasion from the East. It therefore never ceases to be astonishing that so much talk persists in the world about all the atrocities Germany has committed towards the West. None of the atrocities would have occurred if only France had declared her neutrality.

France was perfectly capable of protecting herself and Belgium against any attack. That France was forced to keep her agreement with Russia is her own affair and should not be trotted out in the same breath as the atrocities committed by Germany, for the allegiance of one state to another is no business of her enemies.

Since it proved impossible to keep France neutral by direct means, the attempt was then made via England — here, too, without success. I have touched a number of times on how England could have saved Belgium and, equally well, France. These things must be viewed absolutely objectively. Please accept as totally objective the statement that, once the war between Austria and Serbia could no longer be localized because Russia would not allow this, every effort was made at least to prevent it from spreading to the West. Truly, no one in Central Europe was seized with the madness of wanting to make war on two fronts, let alone subsequently on three.

That all the other universal untruths followed on from this is really not surprising now, when every day astonishes us with new lies, spoken, written and printed. Before coming here today I found someone had put on my desk a pamphlet by one of the participants engaged in the neutrality debate with Georg Brandes. Here, on the English side, you have William Archer, in whose pamphlet Note 5 ] you find juxtaposed the black infamy of Germany and the pure innocence of the allies. Ten points illustrate the black infamy, and the angelic, utter innocence of the allies; we need consider only one of these, the second. The second point states that in Germany there exists a notable faction which is openly agitating for further territorial expansion, either in or outside Europe. In contrast it is said of the allies — in English, mark you: The allies have no desire for any territorial expansion, least of all at Germany's expense; even France's feelings for Alsace-Lorraine are exclusively peaceful.

My dear friends, much can be both printed and spoken these days! The other nine points are in similar vein. Just think of the expansion undertaken by England and France over recent decades; and then read that these countries have no desire for territorial expansion. It is quite possible nowadays to say and print the exact opposite of the truth, just as it is possible for countless people to believe it. People do indeed believe these things.

Here, then, you have the historical view of these events. Now we must link this external historical process with what we can discover through our knowledge of the impulses from the West which have been at work for a long time. Not all the impulses that make use to a greater or lesser degree of occult forces — such as we have discussed — are included in what might be called the outer ramifications: namely, Freemasonry, though as we have seen, a great deal is indeed brought about by western Freemasonry. Many strings are pulled by those involved there. And as I said, account is taken of long stretches of time.

Now add to the points I have been making the fact that modern Freemasonry undergoes a process of consolidation in England at the beginning of the eighteenth century, on foundations, of course, which are older. Within Britain, not the Empire, but the United Kingdom, Freemasonry remains — let me use the correct expression — essentially respectable in the interests it pursues. But everywere else, outside Britain, chiefly — or indeed exclusively — political interests are pursued by Freemasonry.

Such political interests, to the most marked degree, are pursued for instance by the French Grand Orient, and also by other Grand Lodges. You could ask: What business is it of the English if political trends in other countries are pursued by certain orders of Freemasonry which possess an occult background? In reply you might remind yourself that the first Grand Lodge in Paris was founded under the jurisdiction of England, not France! Englishmen, not Frenchmen, founded it; and then they let the French in. Then also remind yourself that after the founding of this Grand Lodge in Paris in 1725, this Grand Orient in turn sanctioned the founding of a lodge under its own jurisdiction in Paris in 1729. There were, under the jurisdiction of England, foundations in Gibraltar in 1729, Madrid in 1728, Lisbon in 1736, Florence in 1735, Moscow in 1731, Stockholm in 1726, Geneva in 1735, Lausanne in 1739 and Hamburg in 1737. I could carry on for a long time with this list. I could show you how a network was founded of these lodges, which were to act as the external tools for certain occult, political impulses. They differed in character from those in the United Kingdom itself. In addition to the breathtaking sequence of changes as we see them in history, such as the Jacobins and the furore they created, the Carbonari and their political activities, the Cortes in Spain and others, they also have a strong influence on the culture of their time and send out shoots which even show in the works of the greatest spirits of their time. We need only think of Rousseau's natural philosophy, or the critical philosophy of Voltaire, which became ever more cynical though its aim was to enlighten, or the efforts of the Illuminati, who wanted to overcome the prevailing cynicism, and similar circles. These progressive circles were crushed by reactionary streams, but continued to work in manifold ways underground.

So here you have the source of much that I have been describing. And you must attach a degree of importance to the following: The English Freemasons can maintain today that their lodges are entirely respectable and that any others are none of their business; yet if you look beyond the historical connections and the interplay of opposing currents, you are sure to find high-level British politics hiding in the background.

To understand the deeper meaning of these politics it is necessary to draw a little on recent history. Preparations having been under way from the sixteenth century onwards, there has been a tendency ever since the seventeenth century towards the democratization of society — in some countries more quickly, in others more slowly — by taking power away from the few and giving it to the broad masses. I am not here involved in politics and I shall not therefore express myself in favour of either democracy or anything else. I simply wish to state facts. The impulse towards democracy is having its effect in modern times at varying speeds, and so different streams are coming into being. It is a mistake, where several streams are apparent, to follow the course of only one. The way streams flow in the world is such that one always forms a complement to the others. Let us say a green and a red stream are flowing along side by side. Nothing occult is meant by these colours — it is simply to illustrate that there are two streams flowing side by side. Usually people are, let me say, hypnotized into looking at only one of the streams, while they fail to see the other flowing beside it during the same period in history. As you know, if you push a hen's beak into the ground and then draw a line leading away, the hen will always walk along this line. In the same way people today, especially university historians, see only the one side, and can therefore never really understand the historical process.

Parallel with the democratic stream there came into being the use of occult motives in the various secret societies — in isolated cases, also Masonic orders. In their purposes and aims these are not, of course, spiritual, but there developed, let us call it, a spiritual aristocracy parallel to that democratic stream which was at work in the French Revolution; the aristocracy of the lodges developed. To see clearly as a human being today, to be open to the world and to understand the world, it is necessary not to be dazzled by democratic logic — which has a place only in its own sphere — by empty phrases about democratic progress and so on; it is necessary also to point to that other stream which asserted itself with the intent of gaining power for the few by means that lie hidden within the womb of the lodge — the ritual and its suggestive influence. It is necessary to point to this also.

This has been forgotten during the age of materialism, but before the fifties of the last century people did point these things out. Study the philosophical historians prior to 1850 and you will see that they pointed to the connection between the lodges and the French Revolution with all that followed it. During the period that can be seen as preparatory for today, western historical development, the western world, never emancipated itself from the lodges. The influence of the lodges was always strongly at work. The lodges knew how to find channels through which to impress certain directions on people's thoughts. Once a web like this has been spun — of which I have shown you merely a few strands — the button need only be pressed for things to be set in motion.

Emancipation from all these situations, and the impartial embracing of humanity as such, only really came about under the influence of such great spirituality as developed in German philosophy beginning with Lessing, and developing through Herder and Goethe. Here you have a spiritual stream which took account of all that lives in the lodges, but in such a way that the mystery was brought out of the obscurity of the lodges and transformed into a purely human matter. You need only glance at Goethe's fairy tale The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, at Wilhelm Meister and other of Goethe's writings. This was material with which the step to emancipation could be taken and which still today makes emancipation possible. So you may view that whole part of German cultural history portrayed in my book Vom Menschenrätsel Note 6 ] as a forgotten reverberation which is entirely independent of all the intrigues of the lodges.

In western culture over the last few centuries preceding our own day you will easily find many ways of demonstrating how the character of ideas in the exoteric world stemmed from the esoteric thinking of the lodges. Obviously this does not apply to the time before Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare but it is certainly true of what came later. But the spiritual culture linked with Lessing, Herder and Goethe has no such connections. You might ask: What about German Freemasonry — in Austria it is proscribed, so there is none there — or Magyar Freemasonry? Well, the others did not allow them to join in. They are quite an innocuous crowd. Though they might appear as thick as thieves with regard to their secrets, this is nothing but show.

The real, mighty impulses emanating from the quarters I have described to you are truly not found in German Freemasonry, which I have no wish to offend. So you can easily understand how it was possible for some rather strange occurrences to take place. Suppose, for instance, someone were to make known in Germany the things I have told you about societies, their secret connections and their external branches — the lodges of Freemasonry. It could be rather useful to make these things known there, but what would be the consequence? Experts would be asked to corroborate these things, and in this case the experts are the Freemasons themselves. But it would never occur to any Freemason in Germany to say anything other than that the English lodges do not concern themselves with politics, that they are concerned only with entirely respectable matters. This is all he knows, for he is ignorant of anything else. You can even be told — and this has actually happened — if you ask about specific names, that they are not on the list of members. They have the list but are unaware that perhaps the most important of all are not included in the list. In short, German Freemasonry is a quite innocuous society.

This does not alter the fact, though — and this may truly be said without any kind of arrogance or nationalistic affectation — that the spiritual life cultivated by certain western secret brotherhoods actually stems from Central Europe. Look at this historically. Robert Fludd: Note 7 ] pupil of Paracelsus; Note 8 ] Saint-Martin in France: pupil of Jakob Böhme. The origin of the movement itself is to be found in Central Europe. From the West comes the organization, the establishment in degrees — some western lodges have ninety-two degrees; just imagine how elevated you can become if you rise to the ninety-second degree — the use of knowledge for political aims, and the introduction of certain external elements.

We have just had an example which is quite typical, one to which I drew your attention. I am only describing these things in order to make you aware of their objective nature, just as the facts of natural history can be described; not from any nationalistic affectation. I drew your attention to the recent appearance of a book by Sir Oliver Lodge, Note 9 ] in which he reports on communications he has received through various mediums from his son who was killed in action. A book like this, written by such a distinguished scientist, is sure to cause quite a sensation. Now that I have read the book there is no need for me to retract anything I said to you a little while ago. I said at the time that I would return to this subject. The strongest proof offered by Sir Oliver Lodge is the following: Seances with various mediums result in the manifestation of the soul of Raymond Lodge, who died in action. These seances tell us nothing people do not know already and would be unlikely to make any strong impression on anyone. But one thing did make a strong impression on the eminent scientist Sir Oliver Lodge and his whole family, who up to that point had been very sceptical about such things. At one of the seances a group photograph was mentioned, showing Oliver Lodge's son together with other people. This photograph, one of several, was described as showing the same people at the same place, but in varying arrangements; the same people are seen, but with differing gestures. Raymond Lodge described this photograph through the medium at that seance in England. But Sir Oliver Lodge and his family knew nothing about this picture, for it had been taken at the Franco-Belgian front at the end of Raymond Lodge's life and sent by him to his family, though it had not yet arrived. So this medium described a group photograph which existed but was unknown to the family: the participants in the seance. They only saw it after it had been described by the medium.

For those who dabble in the occult, this is naturally tremendously convincing. What should you make of the fact that a group photograph is described at a seance, the participants of which know nothing about it? The family, the participants in the seance, know nothing of it and nor do the mediums, because it has not yet arrived in England. It is still on the way. It only arrived later. Yet an exact description is given of where Raymond Lodge is sitting in relation to the others and even of the way he has laid his hand on a friend's shoulder. What could be more convincing than this?

However, Sir Oliver Lodge's interpretation can only have been reached by someone who merely dabbles in the occult. If he had known nothing much but had investigated the literature — for instance Schubert Note 10 ] or similar people who still wrote about such things in Germany around the first half of the nineteenth century — he would have found countless examples of something that every genuine occultist knows: When consciousness is damped down even slightly, future events can be seen. The most simple case of seeing a future event is when someone experiencing a moment of lowered consciousness sees a funeral procession which will not take place for several days. A person has not even died, yet someone sees his funeral. Something in the future is seen. This is quite normal when consciousness is lowered. So this is what took place: A photograph has been taken in Flanders and is on its way to England. The time will come when the family will focus their eyes and their understanding on it, when they will bear it in their thoughts. The medium foresees it as an image of the future. Whether you foresee a funeral procession, or whether you foresee how a family receives such and such a photograph of their son in a few days' time — it is the same phenomenon: that of seeing a future event in advance. This is just a phenomenon.

If he had known something about real occult facts, he would not have interpreted the event as he did. Such an interpretation arises because occult values, occult laws, are seen from a materialistic standpoint. It comes about because people avoid undertaking that form of development which would enable them to comprehend the spiritual world in an inward process. Instead they want to see the spiritual realm by laboratory means, purely materialistically. The spirit is made materialistic, whether by Sir Oliver Lodge or anybody else. But this is only one example of what happens to everything that is spiritual. These things can be observed, just as you can observe the progression from Paracelsus to Fludd, from Jakob Böhme to Saint-Martin; everywhere the spirit is made more materialistic.

As the Anthroposophical Society we only succeeded in saving ourselves from becoming materialistic by emancipating ourselves from the Theosophical Society. For impulses emanating from the kind of society I have described penetrate deeply into the social fabric. Naturally, here again I must beg you not to misunderstand me. I am not saying that this is a natural characteristic of the western nations. But it exists and has succeeded in influencing the course of history and is not even without influence on the untruthfulness which is now playing such a devastating part.

It is particularly to this untruthfulness that I am obliged to draw you attention, for this untruthfulness always takes the form of accusation, of blaming others. That dismal New Year's Eve note Note 11 ] is really nothing but an accusation based on a distortion of the facts, just as is the article by Mr Archer which I read to you here. But you see such things are beginning to be believed, they are beginning to play their role. In a few weeks' time people will have long forgotten that an opportunity to achieve peace was present in a form that could not be overlooked by the world, and that this opportunity was thwarted by the powers of the periphery. People in Europe will once again begin to believe that the offer of peace was refused by the powers of the Entente on purely humanitarian grounds, on the basis of the extraordinary reasoning that if one wants peace one must prevent it from coming about. Even such grotesque untruths as this are believed nowadays. That they can be believed at all derives from preparations made by the kind of occultism I have been describing to you. It is indeed a sign of an arrant corruption of the soul when it becomes possible to write down side by side the two sentences I mentioned about the black and the white raven. And this corruption of the soul comes about as a consequence of an atmosphere tampered with by organizations such as I have described.

In this connection, too — I can say this quite objectively — there has been a tendency for Central Europe to emancipate itself. In all the Central European spiritual life thrown open by Lessing, Herder, Goethe, such as we have spoken about during the course of our anthroposophical life, you have seen clearly enough how the direction was towards a gradual evolution into the spiritual world. What it is not inclined to do, is enter into any kind of permanent compromise with what lives in the western streams such as those I have described to you. This is impossible. That is why things appear in a different way.

Let us look back for a moment to Fichte, Note 12 ] so disparaged in the West today; let us turn to his Reden an die deutsche Nation. What is Fichte aiming at? That the German nation should educate itself! What he says in Reden an die deutsche Nation is not aimed at other nations; he is endeavouring to inspire Germans to improve themselves. But others seem to have what we might call a real ‘genius’ for misunderstanding whatever comes into being in Germany. That harmless national anthem Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, which, if you take the trouble to read the next few lines, speaks of nothing more than loving one's fatherland above all others — for only the different parts of the fatherland are named — is made into something utterly grotesque. In the same way, if one wants to, one can misunderstand Fichte, since he begins Reden an die deutsche Nation with the words ‘I speak for Germans as such, and about Germans as such’. Why does he say this? Because Germany is divided into a whole number of small individual states, and he does not want to address the Prussians, or the Swabians or the Saxons, or the people of Oldenburg, Mecklenburg or Austria and so on, but Germans as such. He wanted to unite all the individuals. So he is talking to Germans and only to Germans. I do not want to praise the Germans, but such things may justifiably be included in a description of them.

I have brought up this matter today because there is definitely a tendency to sound a note in the centre, a note differing from that of the periphery. And if our anthroposophical work can contribute to this other note, there is no reason why we should not say so amongst ourselves. Just today I received a pamphlet by our friend Ludwig von Polzer, Note 13 ] who as you know worked here: Thoughts during Wartime. Whether you agree in detail with what he says or not, it is interesting to note that he is not particularly concerned with attacking and insulting others but rather with reading the riot act to his Austrian compatriots. It is to them he speaks. Obviously he has come to be an Austrian as a result of his karma, but he nevertheless reads the riot act to his Austrian compatriots. He does not say: We are blameless, we never did this or that, we are pure white angels and all the others are black devils. No, he says:

‘Why does mankind hate itself and tear itself to pieces? Are external political differences of opinion really the cause of so much suffering? Every party to the fray claims to know what it is about, but in reality none of them know.
A declining, decadent culture is fighting its deathly struggle. The Central Powers, who are fighting for the first germination of a new culture, have not recognized it as yet; they fight for something they do not know, for something unknown to them; and they are themselves still filled with the convictions against which their own soldiers are bleeding in battle.
The old degenerate ways must be, as it were, vomited forth and that is why in their final fling they are running so wild.
Do we not come up against it amongst ourselves wherever we turn, this attitude of the Entente which bears the old, decadent culture? Has it not infected us as well? We see it on the streets in the latest fashions, it is embodied in modern architecture, it grins down at us from the hoardings, in commerce it runs to orgies, it inflates itself in bureaucratic madness, in its self-important untruthful humanism it lies to itself, our press seeks to outbid its colleagues of the Entente in devotion to the truth, and so on.
The Entente is here among us, fuming and raging, claiming to work for our honest soldiers and compatriots, almost all of whom have meanwhile died a sacrificial death.
All these things running so horrifyingly wild in our own country — let it be hoped for the last time before the end — are not deutsch.’ Note 14 ]

So all those things worthy of censure in his own country he calls ‘not deutsch’. His main aim is to appeal to the conscience of his own compatriots. There are further, similar passages in this booklet. It is good that such a thing is said for once in connection with our own endeavours. There is no need for us to be in total harmony with every sentence that is written amongst us. The most wonderful achievement will be to work on all these things independently, preserving our individuality and taking nothing as dogma or as the word of a higher authority. Those things which are meant to come to the fore are quite able to do so without the help of any authority. But to give our Society meaning we need to stand together in unanimity. In part this means, of course, that we should be alert to what goes on amongst us and should recognize those who work alongside us and who endeavour to place before the world what goes on within our Anthroposophical Society in such a way that it really reflects the intentions of our Society. The main thing we can do to help our age is to work with understanding through the impulses of this age from our viewpoint. We need not lose heart, for however unfavourable conditions become in time, we may recall Lessing's words: Is not the whole of eternity mine? Note 15 ] This is a thought that concerns every single human being.

We should be particularly careful to develop good practices with regard to the proper evaluation and estimation of all that comes to the fore amongst ourselves. In this connection I hope you will not mind my mentioning something, without wishing to say anything unpleasant to anyone. The periodical Das Reich, produced by Alexander von Bernus, Note 16 ] makes every endeavour to move within our stream. So what does it matter if we agree or disagree with one or another of the articles it publishes? It is quite possible to disagree with a good deal. But many mistakes have been made on the part of our members with regard to this periodical. Seeing how it has been berated from all sides, I have to say that it is really not right to throw obstacles in the path of efforts which genuinely endeavour to work in harmony with our Movement. Of course everybody is entitled to his own opinion about the verses which Alexander von Bernus composed in connection with certain historical occult teachings which may be found amongst us. But I do consider things have been taken too far when floods of blatently rude letters start to arrive from our members. Where will it lead if we ill-treat those who are on our side while taking very little notice of those who insult us, just letting them go on doing so?

I wanted to bring up the matter of this periodical Das Reich, which strives to promote our endeavours, because I want to reply to the question that could be asked: What can we do? The very reason why these lectures have been given is to find a reply to this question: What can we do? What we can do is maintain an understanding attitude, in accordance with our anthroposophical spiritual science, towards everything going on at present! For what would be the significance of this spiritual science for us if we could really not transcend the attitude prevalent all over Europe today of people who speak of national aspirations and the like, and shape events in accordance with these national aspirations. Within the Society which serves anthroposophical spiritual science no one need become a faithless son of his nation, or deny anything he ought not to deny because he is firmly united with a particular nation as a result of his karma. But no one can be a true anthroposophist if he turns a blind eye towards the enormity of what is going on just now and allows himself to be deafened by all those means which some of those in power use today to stun us in order to avoid having to state what they are really playing at. So let me point out those things that are easily believed when they come towards us in a sentimental form, whereas what has always been hidden by the screens behind which occult events take place still has to remain hidden away behind these screens.

It must become clear to us that a time could come again — I am choosing my words very warily today, so I say could come again — in which the battle grows extremely terrible because peace is definitely not wanted. It could grow even more terrible than it has hitherto been if something is not introduced from one side or the other which can prevent this terror. Then there will once again be an opportunity to speak about the atrocities of Central Europe; then under the rubble and ashes will be buried the fact that these atrocities could have been prevented if people had not roared like a bull against moves towards peace. It was within the power of countries of the periphery to bring about peace. Yet the time will come — it is by no means unlikely that the time will come — when it will be said once again: The Germans are doing this or that and flouting every international law.

Indeed, my dear friends, it is once again fashionable for the encircling powers, having failed to bring about what could have held such actions in check, to accuse those who are encircled of protecting themselves on all sides. We must come to see this clearly in all its enormity. Beside all that may very well have happened, for instance in Belgium, must be placed the fact that the British Empire could have prevented all that has happened in Belgium.

Harsh though it might sound, it has to be said that it is untruthful to speak about the atrocities in Belgium without taking into account how easily they could have been prevented by the English. And it goes without saying that we feel the tragic destiny of France. Yet France was truly in a position which could have enabled her not to participate in the war.

The Central Powers were not in a position to avoid waging a defensive war once it became obvious that France would take part in any case. It is all very well to say the two could have faced each other, frontier to frontier. This is the very thing that was not possible, because Franco-Russian militarism so greatly outweighs what is called Prussian militarism.

However strongly we feel we belong to one group or another, we can surely resolve to look at these things squarely — I say ‘can’, not ‘must’. Then, when we work through this and make it a part of our lives, each in his own way will be able to do whatever he wants to do, in answer to the question: What can the individual do? Unless ever more and more people come to nurture the idea of making a united European stand against the belligerence of powers now at work invisibly, the collapse of European culture will indeed be inevitable. Even now a belligerent wave from the East is threatening to engulf us — from Japan, where a form of imperialism is in preparation which might turn out to be far mightier than any imperialism the world has so far known. The will to conquer is expressed in the cry of the new national anthem Note 17 ] which, reminiscent of the English hymn, ‘Rule Britannia’, now resounds in ‘Rule Nippon’. To show you that the powers of Europe would have good reason not to mock the word ‘peace’, not to mock the content of the peace idea, let me read to you this hymn, now quoted in Japanese newspapers:

When Nippon, at the Lord's command,
Rose from the sea at dawn,
There sounded throughout all the world
A call from heaven's blue dome:
Born, Japan, are you to rule.
Rise proudly with the morning sun:
You I choose to rule the world.
Torn by hate and blinding rage
Europe drowns in her own blood,
But you, devoid of blame or fault,
Shall be the guardian of the earth.
Born, Japan, are you to rule.
Rise proudly with the morning sun:
You I choose to rule my world.

This is what is now booming across the world from the East. This is the Orient's answer to Europe, bathed in blood. Yet despite this, there are people in Europe who want to scorn the call for peace! This is a fact to which we cannot give too much thought.


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eople in Europe who want to scorn the call for peace! This is a fact to which we cannot give too much thought.


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We are a small nonprofit with the expenses of a large website. Your generous financial gifts make this venture possible. If you can't contribute now, please visit our Help Out page for additional ways to support our work in the future. Thank you!

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