Sunday, August 6, 2017
Sleepers, Awake! Abstraction and Reality
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 13, 1917:
You will have gathered from what I said yesterday that at the present time we must come to realize the distinction between abstract and purely intellectual thinking, and thinking which is based on reality, in order to relate our thinking to the reality. The natural tendency is to make our thinking incontrovertible, as free from contradictions as we can make it. But the world is full of contradictions, and if we really want to grasp reality, we cannot throw a general, standard form of thinking like a net over everything in order to understand it. We have to consider everything on an individual basis.
The greatest defect and deficiency in our time is that people are literally inclined to think in abstractions. This takes them further away from reality.
We now come to the application of this to reality itself. Please, consider this carefully! I am going to say something rather strange, for I have to apply unrealistic thinking to reality. Unrealistic thinking is, of course, also part of reality. The unrealistic thinking which has developed over the last three or four centuries, and the fact that as such it has become part of reality in human life, has resulted in an unreal structure which is always self-contradictory. People are doing all right, one might say, with regard to the physical and material world, for the physical world ignores them, and they can therefore have as many wrong ideas as they like. This makes them — forgive the paradoxical way of putting this — into billy-goats who keep butting against the brick wall of reality with their horns in their insistence on thinking about the physical world in abstract terms. We can see this with many ideologies; they keep coming up against the brick wall of reality. And they are sometimes just as stubborn as goats, these ideologies.
The situation is different, however, when it comes to social and political life. Here the human thoughts of every individual enter into the social structure. We do not come up against a reality that will not yield; in this case we create the reality. And if this goes on for a few hundred years the reality will be what you may expect it to be: it will be full of contradictions. Reality itself comes to realization in structures which do not have the power of reality in them; as a result there are upheavals such as the present catastrophic war.
Here you have the connection between the inner life of people who lived in a particular age and the outer physical events of a time which comes a little later. It is always the situation that anything which emerges in the physical world has first lived in the spirit, and this also applies where humanity is concerned, with things living first in human thoughts and then in human actions. And we can see how abstract thinking has penetrated into reality if we look at the present time where this shows itself in its true form — that is, in this case in its untrue form, which is its true form. The reality is in many ways seen in an abstract way. People look at it as if they were watching the conjuror I spoke of yesterday and the weights which have no weight, with the conjuror behaving as if they weighed many kilograms.
The most significant characteristic of many of the concepts held today is their poverty. People like to take things easy today — as I have said so many times — and they want their concepts to be as straightforward as possible. This, however, makes them rather limited. Now, limited concepts do prove adequate when one is dealing with the superficial aspects of the physical world, the mere surface of that world, which is the only thing modern people want to consider, in spite of all the advances. Magnificent discoveries have been made in recent times about physical phenomena, but the concepts used to explore them are relatively limited. The desire for limited concepts, or concepts of limited content, has also crept into all philosophical and ideological thinking. We see philosophers today who are literally craving such limited concepts. The most limited concepts, with practically no content, are tossed about over and over again. They are often quite pretentious, but they do not contain anything which has real weight. Widely used ideas today are ‘the eternal’, ‘infinity’, ‘unity’, the ‘significant’ compared to the ‘insignificant’, ‘general’, ‘particular’, and so on. People like bandying these about — the more abstract the better.
This creates a peculiar situation with regard to reality. People no longer see the living reality in anything and lose all feeling for what reality really has to offer. Merely observe the present situation and you will find this everywhere.
Let me tell you about something that is really worrying. A present-day philosopher [ Note 1 ] has been considering the question as to whether it is possible to have an opinion regarding the length of time for which this war will continue. It is a vital question, I think you will agree, but it is a question which needs to be decided by using real concepts which have content and are full of life; it cannot be decided by using generalized abstract ideas of world and temporality, general and particular, and so on. This kind of generalized philosophizing will get us nowhere with regard to the concrete issues. The philosopher concerned found, as many people find, that it does not matter if the war continues for any length of time, for this will be the only way of achieving ‘permanent peace’, as they call it, and let us have paradise on earth. You will remember, I compared this with the idea that the best way of making sure no more crockery is broken in the home is to break all the crockery in the first place. This is more or less the conclusion reached by people who say the war must continue until there is a prospect of permanent peace.
The philosopher therefore applied his ideology to the question, an ideology which in his opinion deals with the most sublime — which in our time means the most abstract — ideas. And what did he say? Believe it or not, he said: ‘Compared to the eternity it takes to create satisfactory conditions for humanity, what does it matter if a few more tons of organic matter perish in the fields of battle! What are a few tons of organic matter compared to life eternal, to human evolution!’
Those are the achievements of abstract thinking when it is addressing itself to reality. And we have to draw people's attention to how horrific this is, for they do not feel it on their own. We can only be in constant amazement at how these things escape attention and fail to give much cause for thought. Fundamentally speaking, such ideas are part of the present-day desire for ideologies. This has given rise to the most abstract of abstract ideas, which, however, can only be applied to the dead, inorganic mineral world. If philosophers apply such ideas not only to the sphere of life but also to that of the soul and spirit, it is only to be expected that they come to this kind of conclusion. In the realm of dead matter, human beings do, of course, have to apply the principle: ‘What are so and so many hundredweight of material compared to what will be the end result?’ It would be impossible to do any building, for instance, if we were obliged to leave everything untouched. Yet we must not apply to human life what applies only in the lifeless, inorganic world. The concepts developed in modern science apply only to the inorganic world, but people are all the time applying them elsewhere, and the problem is that no one notices. Opinions of the kind that the war should not be brought to an end until the above-mentioned prospect is there, are saying exactly what the philosopher put so brutally, although it would seem to him that he put it in a very superior way. Others simply feel embarrassed about saying such things, but the philosopher hides the brutality behind beautiful words. Yes, he puts things in a very superior way, juggling with ideas like eternity and temporality, the human being forever evolving, the transient, temporal reality of so and so many tons of organic matter; but he ignores the fact that eternity, infinity, lives in every human being, and that every single human being is worth as much as the whole inorganic world taken together!
These things also provide the background to the forms we are now seeking to develop here on this hill. For art, too, has gradually been caught up in an ideology which is without weight and without reality. We have to come to the true nature of things again, and this is only possible if we come to the spirit. We therefore need different forms from those one generally sees in the world of art today. In other words, our age must once again become creative and do so out of the spirit. This goes against the grain with many people today. But try and understand the enormous extent to which our whole ideology has gradually entered more and more into the lifeless sphere, because it has only been considering that sphere. Look at the buildings and at the other works of art produced in the nineteenth century. Really, all one gets is old styles rehashed over and over again. People have built in the classical style, the Renaissance and the Gothic styles — always something which is no longer alive. They have not been able to work with the elements which live in the present. This is what we must achieve; it will create a completely new spirit. It will involve many sacrifices. But something like the house which has been built outside, [ Note 2 ] which has new forms created out of the concrete itself, is a pioneering effort. And it matters not only that these forms have been thought, but also that the opportunity was made to produce such a building. These things must be considered and given their full weight, otherwise there can be no comprehension of what we intend to create on this hill. The nature of the whole is such that the forms now coming into existence here contradict and are in utter conflict with the forms created in the rest of the world today.
‘To understand the present time’ — this phrase has been like a thread running through everything I have been saying to you since my return. It does, however, mean that rather than take it easy, we have to put in a lot of effort — effort of thought, effort of feeling, effort of will to experiment, in the desire to understand the present time. And we must have the courage to make a complete break with some of the things that belong to the past. Fundamentally speaking, the people who are considered to be most enlightened today are often working with old ideas, without really knowing how to use them to good purpose.
Let me give you an example. I am sure that here in Switzerland, too, you will have heard and read a lot about a book which was no doubt also given pride of place in local bookshop windows, for it has made a profound impression in the present time. I am especially pleased to be able to speak of something that comes from our friends and not only our enemies, so that no one should think there is a personal bias. The book, on the State as a life form, was written by the Scandinavian writer Rudolf Kjellen, [ Note 3 ] one of the few who have shown an interest in my writings and commented on them in a positive way. So I think it will be obvious that there is no personal bias in what I am going to say about this book, but I believe it is something which has to be said.
The book is a good example of the inappropriate ideas people have in the present time. An attempt is made to see the State as an organism. This is the kind of thing people do when they use the ideas current in our time to grasp anything that needs to be grasped in mind and spirit. It is good to be able to say this is an erudite, scholarly, and truly profound individual, someone we really cannot praise enough, but at the same time we are going to show the true nature of the completely inappropriate idea on which the book is based. This is the kind of contradiction in which we find ourselves all the time. Life is full of contradictions. Abstract and incontrovertible ideas will not do if we want to take hold of life. We should not immediately think that someone whom we have to fight is an idiot; it is also possible to see someone whom we have to fight as a most erudite and thoroughgoing scholar, as indeed is the case with the author about whose work I am speaking.
What Kjellen is doing is rather similar to what the Swabian — now I do not know what to call him, the Swabian scholar or the Austrian Minister of State, for he was both — Schaeffle. [ Note 4 ] Schaeffle in his day made a thorough attempt to see the State as an organism and individual citizens as the cells in this organism. Hermann Bahr — I have spoken of him before [ Note 5 ] — wrote a refutation of Schaeffle's book. The title of the book was: Die Aussichtslosigkeit der Sozialdemokratie (translates as ‘Social democracy — Outlook nil’); the refutation was entitled: Die Einsichtslosigkeit des Herrn Schaeffle (translates as ‘Mr. Schaeffle — Insight nil’), a brilliant little book. He called it a bit of naughtiness in a recent lecture. It is still quite a brilliant piece of work, written in his youth.
Schaeffle, therefore, did something rather like Kjellen is doing now. Kjellen, too, is trying to present every State as an organism, with the individual citizens as its cells. We do, of course, know quite a few things about the way in which cells function in an organism, and about the laws which pertain in an organism, and this transfers quite prettily to a State. People like to use such comparisons in areas which their minds are unable to penetrate. Well, the method of comparison can be applied to anything. If you like, I can easily develop a complete little science based on the comparison between a swarm of locusts and a double bass. You can compare anything to anything in the world, and comparisons will always prove fruitful. But the fact that we are able to make comparisons certainly does not mean that we are dealing with reality in making them. It is especially important to have a tremendous sense of reality when creating analogies, otherwise they will not work. When we create an analogy we are apt to find ourselves in the situation which some people experience as a harsh destiny in the days of their youth, when — forgive me — we instantly fall in love with the analogy we have created. Analogies which come to mind and really are obvious do have the drawback that we fall in love with them. This has its consequence, however, for we grow blind to any argument against the conclusions which may be drawn from the analogy.
And I must say, when I had read Kjellen's book I realized, as soon as I considered it in the light of reality, that it has been written right now, during this war. To write such a book about the State as an organism did seem entirely unrealistic to me. You only need to look around you a little and you realize — even if it may not be literally so — that wars are fought in such a way that bits are cut off from the States which are in combat, and one bit is put here and another there; bits are cut off and put somewhere else. This aspect of war does matter, at least to a lot of people.
Now, if we were to compare States to organisms, we should at least try and take the analogy so far that one would also be able to cut bits off one organism and give them to a neighboring organism. This is something people should realize, but they do not, because they have fallen in love with the analogy. There are many other examples I could give, and these would probably amuse you a great deal and make you laugh heartily, and you would then no longer consider the individual concerned to be as erudite as I do consider him to be. I do indeed consider him to be most erudite and truly profound.
How can it happen that someone may be erudite and a real scholar and nevertheless build a whole system on a completely inappropriate idea? Well, you see, the reason is that the analogy created by Kjellen is correct. You will now say that you no longer know which way to turn; first I tell you the analogy is utterly inappropriate and then I tell you it is correct. Well, in saying that it is correct I meant that it can certainly be made; what matters, however, is what we are comparing. You always have two things in an analogy, in Kjellen's case the State and the organism. Things must always be presented in accord with their true nature. The State exists, and the organism, too, exists. Neither of them can be wrong — only the way they are brought together is wrong. The point is that what is happening on Earth can certainly be compared to an organism. The political events on Earth can be compared to an organism; but we must not compare the State to an organism. If we compare the State to an organism, this makes individual human beings into cells, which is simply nonsense, for it will get us nowhere. It is, however, possible to compare political and social life on Earth to an organism, but it is the whole Earth which must be compared to the organism. As soon as we compare the whole Earth, that is human events all over the Earth, to an organism, and the different States — not the people — to different kinds of cells, the analogy is true and it is valid.
If you take this as your basis and then observe how individual States relate to each other, you will have something similar to the cells which make up the different systems in the organism. What matters, therefore, is that we apply any analogy we have chosen to create at the right level. Kjellen's — and also Schaeffle's — mistake was to compare an individual State to the whole organism, when in fact it can only be compared to a cell, a fully developed cell. Life on the Earth as a whole can be compared to an organism, and then the comparison will prove fruitful. I think you will agree that the cells of the organism do not walk past each other in the way individual people do in a country. Cells adjoin, they are neighbors, and this also holds true for individual States, which are indeed like cells in the total organism of life on Earth.
You may well feel that something is missing in what I have been saying. If your sense for pedantic accuracy — and this, too, has its justification — begins to stir in your hearts as I say these things, you will no doubt say I ought to give you proof that the life of the whole Earth must be compared to the organism and an individual State to a cell. Well, the proof of the pudding lies in the eating; it does not lie in the abstract deliberations which we can always go into, but in taking the thought to its conclusion. If you do so with regard to Kjellen's idea, you will always find that it cannot be taken to its conclusion. You will keep running into a brick wall, and you will have to turn into a goat; otherwise you cannot take it to its conclusion. Yet if you take the thought to its conclusion for the life of the whole Earth, you will find that it works, that you gain useful insights and it makes a good regulative principle. You will come to understand many things, even more than I have already indicated.
People are abstractionists today, and one feels like saying that if you have a dozen people, thirteen of them would think as follows — I know the figures do not fit, but the real situation is such today that it is practically true. If you take the case where Kjellen compares the individual State to an organism — and if we are countering this by saying that in reality one must compare political and social life all over the globe to an organism — these thirteen people out of a dozen will believe the analogy to be valid for all times. For if someone establishes a theory about the State, then this theory must apply in the present time, in Roman times, and even in Egyptian and Babylonian times; for a State is a State. People base themselves on concepts today, not on the reality.
But truly this is not how things are. In this respect, too, humanity is going through a process of evolution. The analogy I have given is only valid from the sixteenth century onwards; before then the globe was not a coherent whole; it has only come to be a coherent political whole from then onwards. America, the western hemisphere, simply did not exist for any political life which might have been a coherent whole. By creating a proper analogy, you immediately also see the tremendous break that exists between more recent life and life in the past. Insights based on reality always bear fruit, compared to concepts not based on reality, which are sterile and do not bear fruit. Every insight based on reality takes us a step further. We gain more than its immediate content and it takes us forward in the real world. This is what is so important; it is what we must concentrate on. Abstract concepts are like this: we have them, but the reality is outside and does not care a hoot about this abstract concept. Concepts based on reality hold within them the whole active inner life which is also there outside, life that chumbles and churns [ Note 6 ] in every part of the real world out there. People are made uncomfortable by this. They want their concepts to be as quiet and colorless as possible and are afraid they will get giddy if their concepts have inner life.
Concepts without inner life do, however, have the disadvantage that the reality can be there in front of our eyes and yet we do not see the most important element in it. Reality is also full of concepts and ideas. It is really true what I said here a few days ago: elemental life goes on out there, and it is full of concepts and ideas. I also said that abstract ideas are mere corpses of ideas. It can happen that people who only like corpses of ideas will speak and think in them, whereas reality comes to quite different conclusions; it lets events take quite a different course from anything human minds are liable to come up with.
For three years now we have been caught up in terrible events which can teach us a great deal; we must be awake in following events, however, and not asleep. It is really something to marvel at, negatively speaking, that so many people are still asleep to the reality of these terrible events and still have not come to the realization that events which have never happened before in the world evolution of humanity demand that we develop new ideas which also have not existed before. Let me put this more accurately in symbolic form. We may certainly say that some individuals had a notion that this war was coming and they may have had it for many years. Generally speaking, it can be said, however, that with the exception of certain groups in the Anglo-American world, the war was completely unexpected. With those who had an idea of its coming, the idea sometimes took a very odd form. One idea, which could be found again and again, came from economists and politicians who were deep thinkers — I assure you, I am not being ironical, I am completely serious about this — and was based on careful deductions made with reference to certain events. These people proceeded in a very scientific way, combining, abstracting, and making all kinds of syntheses, and finally arrived at an idea which one really did come across for a long time, even at the time when war broke out. It was that in the light of the present world situation, of economic factors and the trade situation, this war could not possibly go on for more than four or six months. This was a truth fully supported by factual evidence. And the reasons given were far from stupid; they were perfectly good reasons.
But how does reality compare to the whole tissue of reasons put together by those clever economists? Well, you can see what is happening in reality! What is the point, I ask you, when such a situation arises? The point is that we must draw the right conclusions from such a situation, so that the war actually teaches us something. What is the only possible conclusion from what I have given as a symbol? You see, I have merely given one glaringly obvious instance; I could tell you of many other and similar views which have also fallen foul — to put it mildly — of the real events which have occurred in the last three years. What, then, is the only real conclusion? It is that everything from which the wrong conclusions were drawn must be thrown overboard and we must say to ourselves: Our thinking has been divorced from reality; we have developed a system of ideas and then applied this abstract, unrealistic system to reality, which made reality become untrue. We must therefore break with the premises on which our apparent conclusion was based, for this conclusion destroys the real world!
One can make a strong point of saying these things to people today, but whether they will also take it as a strong point is another question. Something that was just as intelligent as the politicians' idea of the potential duration of the war — again I am not being ironical — were the reasons given by an enlightened group of medical men when the first railways were being built in Central Europe. Speaking on the basis of medical knowledge at the time, not just a single eccentric but a whole group of medical men — I have spoken of this before — said that the railways should not be built because the human nervous system would not be able to cope with them. This is on historical record; it happened in 1838. Not so long ago, therefore, the professional opinion was that railways should not be built. If, however, people were to build railways after all — so the document says — high board fences should be put on either side of the tracks, so that the farmers would not see the trains passing by and suffer concussion as a result. Yes, it is easy to laugh afterwards, when reality has ignored such arguments. People laugh about it afterwards, but there are some elemental spirits who laugh about human folly when it is being committed, or indeed even before scientists come up with such foolish notions.
We must break with anything where the opposite has proved true. Reality is contradicting theory, and the life of the last three years, as it has been all over the world, is contradiction come to realization. We must take a new look at events, for the present time is challenging us to make a radical revision of our views. It is actually difficult to take such a train of thought through to its conclusion once it has been started. Humanity is not sufficiently free-thinking today to allow these thoughts to reach their conclusion. Anyone who has a sense for reality, for what really happens all around us, can of course see that the conclusions are being drawn in the real world outside. It is just that people will not get this into their heads.
There is an enormous difference in this respect between the West and the East. Last year I discussed the profound difference between West and East with you from all kinds of different points of view, [ Note 7 ] pointing out, for example, that the West is mainly talking of birth and of claiming rights. Look at Western views: birth and origin is the principal idea in science. It has given rise to Darwin's theory on the origin of species. We might also say: in ideological terms the theory of birth and origin, in practical terms the idea of human rights.
In the East, in Russian life, which is little known to us, we find reflections on death, on the human goal extending into the world of the Spirit, and on the concept of guilt and of sin in terms of practical ethics — read Soloviev, [ Note 8 ]his works are now readily available. Such contrasts may be found in most areas, and we do not grasp reality unless we take full note of them. Emotions, sympathies and antipathies prevent people from considering the things which matter. As soon as sympathies and antipathies are aroused, people will not even let the truth get near them; in the same way people who have fallen in love with a particular analogy fail to see the contradictions. People hold anything they love for the absolute truth; they cannot even imagine that the opposite may also be true, though from a different point of view.
Let us consider the West, and specifically the Anglo-American West, for the rest are mostly repeating what they are saying. Which point of view — or ideal, as people also like to call it — is all-pervading, particularly in Wilsonianism? It is that the whole world should be the same as these Western nations have been in recent centuries. They developed their own ideal system — calling it by different names, such as ‘democracy’ and the like — and other nations are very much at fault because they have not developed the same system! It is only right and proper that the whole world should adopt their system. The Anglo-American view is this: ‘What we have developed, what we have become, is right for all nations, great and small; it creates the right political situation and makes the people happy. This is how things should be everywhere.’
We hear it being proclaimed; it is the gospel of the West. No one even considers that such things are only relative and that they develop mainly on the basis of emotions and not, as people believe, of pure sense and reason.
Take care, of course, not to squeeze these words too much, for squeezing the last out of a word is something which often leads to misunderstanding today. People might think, for instance, that I want to hit out at the American people, or the Anglo-American peoples, when I speak of Wilsonianism or Lloyd-Georgianism. This is not at all the case. I am deliberately calling it ‘Wilsonianism’ because I mean something quite specific. But far be it from me to mean something which you could simply call ‘Americanism’. This is another case where one has to concentrate on the real situation. Some of the tirades to have come from Mr Wilson [ Note 9 ] in recent times did not even originate on American soil. We cannot even do Mr Wilson the honor of calling his tirades original. They are worthless and untrue and they are not even entirely original. The strange thing is that a writer in Berlin, someone with considerable acumen, has written articles which were Wilsonian without being Wilson's. They did rather well, these articles, though not in Germany. They did well in the American Congress and you find them included, page by page, in the Proceedings of Congress, because they were read out at Congress meetings. Some of Wilson's more recent tirades may be found in those pages. Some of the fabrications Wilson produces against Central Europe have their origin there. So they are not even original. It should be rather interesting, quite a joke in fact, when future historians look at the Proceedings of the American Congress and find there was a time when those gentlemen decided not to present their own brilliant ideas but to read out the articles by the writer in Berlin, and those pages were then included in their Proceedings, with ‘Proceedings of the American Congress’ written on the cover.
What really interests us, however, is the reason why the Americans liked those articles. Well, it is because they really say that one can feel perfectly comfortable on a chair which one has occupied for centuries and where one is now able to sit and tell the world: ‘You should all sit on chairs like this, and everything will be fine.’ This is what you get in the West.
The East, Russia, has also come to a conclusion, but not by way of a concept; the people there are not yet theorists, for they have their reality. The conclusion they have drawn is a different one. They never dreamt of saying: ‘What we have been doing for centuries must now be the salvation of the whole world. We want people to be the same as we have been.’ It would have been possible to find a pretty word for what has been going on for centuries in Russia. Pretty words can always be found, even if the reality is about as horrible as you can imagine. If you pay for it with American money, it will just cost so and so many dollars and you can reinterpret the most golden of ideas as ethical ideals. This, however, is not what happened in the East, for there a real conclusion was reached. People did not say: ‘The world should now accept what we have had so far.’ Instead, the real conclusion which I touched on earlier was drawn: that the premises do not have to be correct. Something has been set in motion, though it is as yet far from what it will be one day. But this does not concern us; I do not want to express an opinion on the one or the other, I merely want to show how great the contrast is. If you consider the contrast, you get a colossal picture of the reality between the West, where people swear on anything which has to do with their past, and the East, where people have broken with everything that was their past.
If you consider this, you are not at all far away from the real causes of the present conflict; neither will you be far away from something else to which I have drawn attention before: [ Note 10 ] The war is actually a war between West and East. The middle is simply being ground to dust between the two, merely because West and East cannot come to terms; the middle is suffering because of disagreement between West and East.
But does anyone want to pay heed to such a colossal truth? Did the events of March 1917 [ Note 11 ] cast a light on the enormous contrast between West and East? Last year we had the ideologies of the West and the East written up on this blackboard. [ Note 12 ] World history has been teaching us from March this year. And humanity will have to learn, and come to understand; if they do not, quite different, even harder, times will come. It is not a question of knowing things in an abstract sense but above all of calling for a changing of ways, for an effort to be made; the old easy ways must go, and a spiritual approach must be seen to be the right way. And the effort must be made to find energies through spiritual science, not the kind of mere satisfaction where people say: 'Wasn't that nice! I feel really good!’ — and float around in Cloud-cuckoo-land where they gradually go to sleep in their satisfaction at the harmony which exists in the world and the love of humanity which is so widespread. This was very much to the fore in the society endeavor headed by Mrs Besant. [ Note 13 ] Many of you will remember the many protests I made against the precious sweetness and light that was particularly to be found in the Theosophical Society. High ideals were dished up liberally and internationally in the sweetest tones. All you heard was ‘general brotherhood’, ‘love of humanity’. I could not go along with this. We were seeking real, concrete knowledge about what went on in the world. You will remember the analogy I have often used, that this sweetness and general love seemed to me like someone who keeps on encouraging the stove which is supposed to heat the room: ‘Dear stove, it is your general stove duty to get the room warm; so please make it warm.’ All the male and female aunts, it seemed to me, were presenting the sum total of theosophy in those days in sweet words of love for humanity. My answer at the time was: ‘You have to put coal in the stove, and put in wood and light the fire.’ And if you are involved in a spiritual movement you must bring in real, concrete ideas; otherwise you will go on year after year with sweet nothings about general love of humanity. This ‘general love of humanity’ has really shown itself in a very pretty light in Mrs Besant, the leading figure in the theosophical movement.
It is, of course, more of an effort to deal with reality than to waffle in general terms about world harmony, about the individual soul being in harmony with the world, about harmony in the general love of humanity.
Anthroposophy does not exist to send people off to sleep, but to make them really wide awake. We are living at a time when it is necessary for people to wake up.