Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, May 1, 1917:
I am sufficient unto myselfI owe allegiance to none,And I laugh at every masterWho cannot laugh at himself.
“What I am about to relate is the history of the next two centuries. I shall describe what is foreshadowed and from which there is no escape — the triumph of nihilism. This history can be written now, for necessity is already at work here. This future is already presaged by a hundred different omens; this destiny announces its presence everywhere; for the music of tomorrow all ears are pricked. The whole of European culture is slowly moving towards catastrophe in an agony of suspense which increases from decade to decade — restless, violent, precipitate like a river in spate hastening to its ocean bed, and which refuses to reflect and even dreads reflection.”
“My friends, we had a hard time in our youth; we even suffered from youth as if it were a serious disease. This is owing to the age in which we are born — an age of great internal decay and disintegration which, with all its weakness and even with the best of its strength is opposed to the spirit of youth. Disintegration, that is to say a sense of insecurity, is peculiar to our age; nothing stands on solid ground or on sound faith or belief. People live for the morrow, because the day after tomorrow is uncertain. Our path is slippery and dangerous and the ice that still bears us has become precariously thin: we all feel the mild and ominous breath of the thaw-wind. Within a short space of time the path we are treading will never be able to know the footsteps of man again.”
“Perhaps nations and individuals would then have learned what is most difficult for them to learn — to grant to others the right to individuality that each individual claims for himself, for, in the final analysis, the individuality of others is the precondition of one's own. If we were all alike there would be no distinguishing features. And they would have learned that just as each individual with his distinctive gifts in his own particular field is necessary to the nation, in order through his self-fulfilment to sustain the nation and thus at the same time to be self-sufficient and also to serve the nation, so too the universality of mankind, the common membership of all mankind that reaches to the Divine grows out of nations and transcends nations.”
“Scheler attracts attention because he does not gesticulate or raise his voice. Involuntarily people ask who can it be who appears to be so sure of his influence that he does not feel it necessary to raise his voice. It is a favourite device of seasoned orators to open on a quiet note and thus command the silent attention of the audience; the orator must also have the power to hold them spellbound. Scheler can do this in masterly fashion. He so captivates his listener that the listener is unaware whither he is being led and suddenly finds himself at a destination that was wholly unforeseen. Starting from unexpected propositions which the listener innocently accepts, Scheler forces him imperceptibly to conclusions which he would have actively resisted had he been in any way forewarned. In this respect Scheler's art of persuasion is unrivalled. He is a born educator; I know of no one who can lead us so easily but firmly to the truth.”
“The question now is whether the average German can grasp the magnitude of the moment and all that it portends. He is animated by the best of intentions, but still fondly imagines that belief is no longer possible for modern man since it has been scientifically refuted. He does not suspect that this `science or dogma of unbelief’ has itself long been refuted scientifically. He knows nothing of the quiet preparatory work in this direction of the outstanding German philosophers of our time — Lotze, Franz Brentano, Dilthey, Eucken, and Husserl.” (note 7).
“The ordinary person still hears in the last faint echo of the Münchausen posthorn, the latest aberration which, unbeknown to him, has already been refuted. Amidst this confusion a calm clear voice will soon be heard which gives no suspicion of the sentimental day dreaming, romanticism or mysticism which fills the ordinary person with unholy dread. And precisely because Scheler pleads the cause of a recovery of faith straightforwardly and unemotionally and in the customary jargon of the ’cultivated man of our time’, he is the man we need today.”
NOTES BY TRANSLATORNote 1. Rudolf Kjellen (1864–1922), Swedish historian, professor at Upsala. Belonged to the school of “geopolitics”, the doctrine of the interaction of geographical and political factors in the constitution and development of States.Note 2. Theophilus. Patriarch of Alexandria 385–412. He condemned Origen at the Synod of Alexandria 408. “He deprived the pagans of Alexandria of a temple ... and apparently destroyed other temples. A riot ensued and a number of Christians were slain. With Theophilus at their head the Christians retaliated by destroying the celebrated temple of Serapis on the ruins of which the patriarch erected a church.” (Quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIV, 1913.)Note 3. Mithras Initiation. According to R. J. Vermaseren, in Mithras, the Secret God (Chatto & Windus, 1963) he who had acquired sufficient knowledge “could gain successively the title of Raven (Corax), Bride (Nymphus), Soldier (Miles), Lion (Leo), Persian (Perses), Courier of the Sun (Heliodromus) and Father (Pater)”. This book is a classic in the study of Mithraism. There are figures in the text and illustrations.Note 4. Nietzsche. “The Will to Power and the Transvaluation of all Values.” According to P. Tillich “will” here means “the universal dynamics of all life processes and ‘power’ the affirmation of one's own individual existence. It is the power of the best.” The transvaluation of all values implies that since “God is dead”, i.e. that traditional and ethical values no longer stem from belief in a transcendent authority, man himself must re-create them. The “Übermensch” must be developed. He is the “superior” man physically, mentally and spiritually, the man of self-discipline who has learned to command and obey, to accept responsibility, whose watchword is duty and honour. It is an aristocratic ideal. According to Nietzsche his antitype is mass man, the “herd man” who has succumbed to ideologies that promise happiness and well-being. He is timid, bored, conformist, opposed to tradition and culture. This “slave morality” is utilitarian and keeps only its own advantage in view and prepares the ochlocracy, the “nihilism” towards which we are moving (p. 13 in the English text).Note 5. Hermann Bahr (1863–1934). Austrian dramatist, novelist and essayist. In his later years he returned to the Church and represented the Catholic school of thought, cf. his novel Himmelfahrt.Note 6. Max Scheler (1874–1928). Professor of Philosophy at Cologne, 1920–21. His writings have a strong theistic flavour and he was a subtle advocate of Catholicism.Note 7. Lotze (1817–81), Dilthey (1833–1911), R. Eucken (1846–1929), Husserl (1859–1938) were philosophers of idealism. They were opposed to the mechanistic scientific philosophy of the age and pleaded the cause of ethical idealism.