Thursday, March 11, 2021
What the world needs now is anthroposophy
Rudolf Steiner, Vienna, June 10, 1922:
If you are seeking, within the present social system, forces that inspire confidence, you will have to look in hidden places. Social distresses and deficiencies are only too evident; prospects, genuine ones at any rate, rather less so.
There are, of course, self-deceivers, on a greater or lesser scale, who even in face of the grave difficulties of the present seek salvation in this or that recipe; they devise all kinds of social institutions in which they claim that mankind, or at any rate a section of mankind, would prosper better than it ever has before. It seems to me, however, that nowadays we have become so clever, if I may so express it, that it is relatively easy to work out, on a would-be national basis, any kind of social system. It is possible today to be familiar with quite a lot of social systems advocated by the various shades of party opinion, wthout finding anything really bad about them; and yet, we do not expect anything very much from them, either. Certainly, anyone who considers the society of today, not simply as raw material for sociological theories, but from the standpoint of a knowledge of man, can only talk of the emergence of social prospects when man is able once again to come close to his real self.
The most important thing at this stage is not the excogitation of institutions, but the possibility of discovering man and including him in the social institutions we inhabit. And at this point it must even be admitted that, when it does become possible to discover man within the social order — or, at the present day, within the social chaos — then any given institution can serve the same purpose, more or less. The fact is that mankind can prosper socially in all kinds of different ways, within the most varied institutions.
What matters today is human beings, not just institutions. For this reason, I evoked a certain amount of satisfaction, particularly in circles where they feel the social problem more than they think about it, with my book The Threefold Commonwealth, by not merely showing how a given institution might be different. Instead, I argued that a great deal nowadays depends on whether the man who has to run a business, for instance, is able to bring his whole personality to bear, either directly or through assistants, on his work-people, so that he comes close to them by really discussing with them, as man to man, everything that goes on in the business, from the purchase of the raw material to the marketing of the finished product and the means by which it reaches the consumer. If you repeatedly discuss this chain of production with your employees, in a way that is attuned to human considerations, you establish a basis on which you can build the other things that are socially desirable and worth striving for today.
Yet it is still not enough to talk to people technically, in this way; something further is needed. What is needed, if we are to have hope in the prospects of society once more, is what I want to talk about today.
For a long time, the view has been widespread that the man who is a leader in the social sphere must first and foremost establish contact with the masses. Efforts in this direction were made throughout the nineteenth century. And as the social problem became more and more of a burning question, you could see people working in factories for months on end, in an attempt to get to know the life of the workers. There have been senior civil servants who, after reaching the retiring age and so completing their work in society, have gone among the working people and been astonished to discover what it is really like there. In short, there have long been efforts to get to know the common man, and in particular the proletariat. We may say, too, that the achievements of our literature and art in this respect have been considerable. The mode of existence of the workers and the masses in general, often impressively presented through works of art and literature, certainly deserves full recognition. With the major problems of the present, however, the most important point is not really that the leaders should know what goes on among the workers or the masses in general. Fundamentally, very little depends on our artistic depiction, from the inside, of the life of the masses: the miseries and cares that beset them, their struggles, their ideas and goals, and so on. I would say:
What we need today is not so much a way of understanding the masses, as a way of being understood by them; of going into the factory and business, whatever its kind, and being able to speak in such a way that we are not felt to be academic or “educated” or theoretical, but are taken as men who have something to say that appeals to men's souls.
For a long time now there have been laudable attempts to establish institutions for adult education, up to university level. What is made available to the people in this way does, it is true, interest them for a while by virtue of the piquancy of many scientific results; there is some excitement if the lecture is illustrated by lantern slides, or if we take people to zoos and the like. But we ought not to be under any illusion that this really appeals to their souls or touches their hearts. To do this, we must have something to say about man's relation to existence as a whole. On this point, it is true, leading personalities today still have rather odd opinions. They consider that the masses are not really interested in “philosophical questions,” as they call them. But they are! If you can only find the right language to express it, then eyes light up and hearts unfold. For example, if you start with quite simple scientific facts, and know how to handle them in such a way that, out of your reflections, human essence and human destiny ultimately emerge; and if you show people that what you say is well founded, and at the same time that it is not fragmentary knowledge that at best can occupy us in our moments of leisure, but something a man can absorb as nourishment for his soul — only if you succeed in doing this will you have made a start on the creation of confidence between the people, as they are called, and the leaders. It is possible today to speak from a party viewpoint, to provide the people with concepts such as “capitalism,” “labour,” “surplus value” and the like: the people will gradually assimilate these concepts, and then you can talk on party lines. But by doing so you will not provide men with systems in which they can participate with all their humanity, or enable them to co-operate in the creation of the society we must hope for if the forces of advancement, and not those of decline, are to prevail.
If you want to, you can soon see what the real situation is today, and where the real obstacles and restrictions occur. I was for some years a teacher at a workers' educational college, where I had to teach all kinds of subjects. I never kowtowed to any party dogma; at the same time, I never encountered any resistance on the part of a worker to understanding, when I presented history, for example, in such a way as to reveal at every point that it is not something that can be comprehended by a historical materialist interpretation, but something in which spiritual forces and spiritual impulses are operative. I was even able to evoke some understanding of why it was that Marx, whose ideas were thoroughly familiar to the members of my audiences, arrived at the view that is called “historical materialism,” the view that regards all spiritual phenomena as merely the effect of mechanistic and economic factors and the like. I was able to show them that this is because in fact, from about the sixteenth century onwards, there have increasingly come into play the forces that have made economic life dominant and decisive. In consequence, art and science and the rest really seem like — and in a sense even are — the results of economic life, mechanistic life. Marx made the mistake he did because he was only familiar with modern history.
It is not my wish to argue for one view or the other, however, but simply to observe that even this point was understood. It was not a lack of confidence on the part of the audiences that made my kind of popular instruction impossible, but the fact that one day the authorities noticed: the teaching here is not in accord with party dogma; instead, what is presented by way of illustration is drawn, to the best of the teacher's knowledge and judgment, from what appeals to human nature. And they grew anxious lest the audience should increase. One day, their emissary appeared at a meeting that was summoned for the purpose, to investigate whether I was fit to be a teacher at the workers' educational college. One of the workers' leaders appeared. And when I commented that, if the principle of progress was to be established in these circles, then the teacher must at least have freedom to teach as he wished, the representative replied: “Freedom is something we don't recognize! We recognize only a proper compulsion.”
This was the attitude that led to my expulsion from the teaching staff of that workers' educational college. From my point of view, however, it was really an illuminating experience. Not so much the expulsion itself, as the preceding acquaintance with the wide variety of people that make up the modern proletariat. An illuminating experience, because you could see that, if only you will speak out of your full humanity, so that your hearers
feel you are saying something to them that reaches into their hearts and affects their human and earthly being, they will regard thinking, when it springs from a philosophy of life, as the most important thing they can be offered. There exists today a feeling that enlightenment — not in any party sense, but in a general human sense — must spread among the masses. People long, more or less unconsciously, for something that springs from a really far-reaching philosophy of life.
And how should it be otherwise? For, after all, vast sections of mankind today are employed in such a way that their work cannot conceivably interest them. They perform it as if faced with something that has no relationship whatever with their humanity. Hence, although the clubs, guilds and unions that tend to be formed in these circles are indeed organized on the basis of the various trades — there are metal workers' unions, printers' unions, and so on — fundamentally they have surprisingly little to do with the business of production. They are primarily concerned with the element in the material sphere of life which is of general human interest — with consumption and the satisfaction of human needs. Mankind has had to become resigned about production, but not to anything like the same extent about consumption. And so large numbers of people are faced at present with work that turns them back upon themselves. Their environment cannot interest them, nor what they do from morning till night, unless it be so presented to them that they can find it interesting; what interests them first and foremost — and this is where we must begin — is what confronts a man when he is alone with himself after work and can simply concentrate his attention on his own humanity. We must also admit that, when we examine the social chaos of our time, we can see quite clearly that there are also many people in executive positions who are cut off from a direct interest in and relationship with what they are doing. It should be, not just an open secret, but something known to the widest possible circles, that even people whose work is intellectual often have so little interest in their profession that they too are reduced to waiting until after working hours in order to pursue their genuine and human interests. For that very reason it is obvious that we must provide human beings with things of human significance, if we wish to establish a basis for social optimism.
In the intellectual sector of civilization, we have accomplished an extraordinary amount. Today, we can point to all the things that human intelligence has achieved. And undoubtedly, people can learn an enormous amount when we acquaint them with the results of man's achievements in science and art. But that is not the point; the point is that we should be capable not only of disseminating intellectual culture, as a foundation for social structures, but also of exciting people, of inspiring them — not by producing grandiose utterances or well-rounded periods, but by having something to say, something that makes men feel: This touches my humanity.
If, on the other hand, we go to people with a philosophy of life derived from what is now popular and from what is recognized as true by our excellent natural sciences, you can see at once how impossible it is really to grip men's hearts with it and give them something that touches their humanity. Men will always regard the sort of thing they are usually given, as something superficial. In particular, what a man will say if he is willing to speak freely — because you have gained his confidence in other ways — is: “That's all very well: but in the first place we can't really understand what you say, because so much of it needs special preparation; and secondly it isn't straightforward enough for us; there is something that says to us: No thoroughfare!” I have heard many people talk like this about adult education colleges, public libraries and the like, as they are today. If now we seek to base on this experience an approach to society, we must look more deeply for the causes of the difficulty. And here once more I am compelled to introduce — in parenthesis, so to speak — part of a philosophy of life.
When, as we have often done during the last few days, we look at the Asiatic civilizations, so many legacies from which survive in our schools (even our secondary schools and universities), we find there, at any rate where the culture was at its height, something that must still be of inestimable value to us today. Its characteristic feature is that the knowledge of the world and philosophy of life discovered there were apprehended by the human spirit; and this in turn developed into the intellect, which I have described as the specific force of modern times. Our modern highly-developed intellect is, fundamentally, a late development of what, in the East, was dream-like clairvoyance. This dream-like clairvoyance has cast off its direct insight into the outside world and evolved into our inner logical order — into the great modern means of acquiring knowledge of nature.
And in the last analysis we must recognize, in the medium of philosophical communication in Europe today, yet another legacy from the Orient. It is not only the medieval schoolmen who still made use of words and concepts and ideas imbued with powers of the soul which derived from the East; we ourselves, however much we may deny it, speak, even in chemistry and physics, in language that we should not use if our education, right up to university level, were not conditioned by something derived from the Orient.
But in becoming intellect, this early clairvoyance has thrown off at the same time another shoot, which has affected the outlook on life of the masses in many ways. It has given rise to views which for the most part have already died out in Europe today, views which have been eradicated by modern elementary school education, and of which only vestiges survive among the most uneducated classes. While on the one hand the intellect has been developing to amazing heights, there has also developed deep down among the people (and far more than present-day psychology has yet revealed) something that projected certain subjective experiences, quite involuntarily, on to the outside world. These assumed the most varied forms, but they can all be covered by the single word “superstition.” Superstition, which signifies the projection of subjective experiences outwards into space and time, played a much greater rôle in mankind's development than is thought today. Even people who are only half-educated can now recognize the belief in ghosts as a superstition; yet there still persist in us, atavistically, many of the feelings that developed under the influence of this belief. In so far as we are the descendants of Oriental humanity in this respect too, we operate in our art and in other branches of life with at least the feelings that spring from this current in human development.
It is possible to examine what is emerging from the depths of social humanity, so to speak, at the present time; to look at the man who has developed out of the technical and mechanical world of modern times; to look into his heart and his quality of soul. And anyone who does so will see that this man — who has not gone through the process that makes the intellect supremely valuable to us today, the process of secondary and university education — has no genuine personal interest in all that can be achieved within the sphere of intelligence; what he has is something quite different. I would say: Something elemental reveals itself in such a man, welling up from depths that are rising to the surface in our social order — something elemental which, in Europe today, is quite inadequately understood, because fundamentally it is something new. But, when it is understood, it can show us the right way to bring a philosophy of life to the masses.
Anyone today who, growing up within mankind, has no contact with our inheritance from the Orient and is thus thrown back upon himself, as the working-man is and very many members of the upper classes too, is not interested first and foremost in the intellect. For him, it is above all the will that he is interested in — and will is something which rises up into the soul from deep below, something which emerges exclusively from man himself. Since this fact has, of course, been noticed in a superficial way, there exists today a certain longing to regard man as a being of will. Many people, indeed, believe that they can speak to the masses in terms of philosophy only if they deal primarily with the element of will in man. As a result of hankerings of this kind, it has come about — as frequently happens — that people have described to the masses “primitive culture,” in which man is still a creature of instinct. They describe to the working-man how these primitive people lived in simple circumstances, and then attempt to draw inferences about what the social order should be like today. In primary education today, a great deal of time is spent in describing the living conditions of these primitive, instinctive people. And there is a good deal of other evidence for the existence of a certain instinctive tendency to put forward the element of will, when people are called upon to expound a philosophy of life.
Out of a certain appetite for the sensational, the man of today does, it is true, accept these descriptions; to some extent, too, he feels in his own being, which has not advanced to a higher level of education, something akin to this instinctive element in human nature. But if you want to warm people, if you want to preserve their souls from desiccation, if you want to make contact with the whole man, then accounts of this kind will not help you.
Why is this? It is because, when you have scaled the peaks of science and acquired what science currently accepts as true, you develop, simply by doing so, something that really constitutes a modern superstition. Admittedly, it is not yet recognized as such; but just as the educated man of more recent times has learnt to regard the old belief in ghosts as a superstition, so to some extent the masses today — as it were prophetically, looking into the future — regard as a kind of superstition the ideas and concepts and notions that we assert about these primitive conditions of humanity.
What do we assert? We assert that mankind was originally governed by instinctive drives. These are something quite obscure, operating in unconscious regions that people are unwilling to define more precisely; they include the instincts, which are also found in animals, and all that is indefinite in man's feelings and expressions of will. People point to the element of natural creature active in man. Many thinkers today regard it as an ideal to depict man in such a way that what is inside him is presented as far as possible in terms of material processes, only elevated into those indefinite concepts that we call drives or instincts.
Let us, however, remember the view of man's inner make-up that I have developed in the last few days. I have shown how the exercises of spiritual science, by developing man, enable him to really see inside himself. He thereby reaches the stage of contemplating his inner organism, not as does the modern physiologist or anatomist from without, but in such a way that the parts of the organism can be inwardly experienced. When you have broken through the reflector of memory, you can look down upon the lungs, heart, etc., as something whose physical structure is merely the outward expression or manifestation of the spiritual — of that spiritual element which I have been able to represent as a world-memory linked with the great cosmos.
This can be sensed by the very man who today is thrown back by his work on to himself. Everywhere he longs to attain an understanding of it. But we achieve this understanding only when we clearly perceive what we are actually doing, when we perceive in its spiritual essence the element of spirit and soul which lies within us — which is not even our property and does not belong to our human personality, but which is the gulf, so to speak, that the cosmos sends into us as human beings. Man can come to know man only when, looking into himself, he finds as the basic substance of his physical being a spiritual element. Once we realize this, however, we also know that to speak of drives, instincts, and all the other things that people are always speaking of nowadays, is to interpose something in front of our real inner nature, just as superstition formerly interposed ghosts in front of external nature. When we speak of drives, instincts and the like in man, we mean only the psyche obscured, so to speak, by our own outlook. In speaking of our human make-up as it really is, we must ignore these spectres that we call instinctive drives, passions and the like, and see through them to reality. We must leave behind the spectres within us, represented by all these definitions of drives, lusts, passions, will and the like, in the same way as we have left behind the ghosts in the sphere of the external, natural order. With those ghosts, we interposed something from within us in front of external nature, and so projected what was subjective on to the objective sphere. Nowadays, we are setting up something that is, objectively, of a spiritual nature, as if it were something material; our drives and instincts, as usually defined, are materialized and internalized ghosts that obscure the true spiritual sphere. This is something which, as a matter of cognitive fact, is little understood nowadays, although it is feltwhen, with a true knowledge of man, we seek to approach anyone who, from the depths of his unconscious — and in the depths of this unconscious lies the spiritual sphere — instinctively feels: Don't talk to me about your materialized ghosts! You ought to be telling me something about the way in which man and the cosmos have grown up together.
If you have a feeling for society, you will rejoice over experiences like the one I had a few weeks ago, when I was lecturing to a group of working-men. I was originally supposed to speak about political economy. But I always arrange for the audience to choose the subject themselves; before the lecture begins, I let them hand it up to me or tell me, so that the knowledge imparted to them is of a kind that they themselves determine. On this occasion, a working-man took out a copy of our periodical The Three. He said he had read an article of mine in it, but couldn't quite understand what the planet was actually like which preceded the earth, subsequently went over into darkness, and eventually gave rise to the earth. I was able to lay before this man, in a straightforward and simple manner, an explanation in terms of spiritual science. And you could see that, whereas if you speak drily, in abstract concepts, they may feel: There's nothing much for us here! Yet when you speak of this kind of thing, their eyes light up, because they feel that here is something their souls can feed on, just as their bodies feed on what they eat. How their eyes light up when you give them something that grips their whole personality, their heart and soul — something that is not simply a concept of life, but an outlook, a philosophy of life in the sense that it really contains life and can excite enthusiasm, even when the worker comes straight from the machine.
And I certainly believe that social influence of this kind must be exerted first, before we can win men over in any other way — and they must be won over — to establish the appropriate social structures. How long this will take depends on men's determination. I know that many people say: “Oh, you are fobbing us off with something that will only be realized in four or five hundred years time.” To this I always reply: “Quite true, if not enough people want it; but in affairs of this kind, the important thing is not to calculate how long it may take for men to reach these social structures, but to forsake calculation and put our trust in the will.” If the will is present in a sufficiently large number of men, we may hope to attain, in not too great a length of time, what we might otherwise intellectually suppose would take centuries. Nothing is more of an obstacle to our reaching these social configurations than the hesitation that derives from such calculations. You should start, not by worrying about the results of intellectual calculation, but by attempting to come close to man. Then, you will see that, with a philosophy of life that does not interpose materialized ghosts before people's souls, but reveals to them man's link with the cosmos, you will soon meet with an appreciative reception.
Today, the usual reception you will get is as follows: If you take this kind of philosophy of life to those who are professionally qualified to judge it, they will compare it with what is already in existence, and will then take the view that it is amateurish, dilettante and so forth. Or the converse will happen: You wish to speak about these things, which so affect man's innermost self that drives, instincts and the like become spiritualized, and you feel obliged to adopt the scientific forms of expression customary today; otherwise what you have to say will be rejected before you start. But if you do adopt them, you are then told that you are speaking a language that is not for the people. You already knew this. That was why, when speaking to people who expect a great deal from those with scientific education, you set it in quite different contexts of ideas. What is said, however, is exactly the same. And that is how you come to realize that the man whose intellect has not been taught to run along a few particular lines by his specific intellectual training, will understand it. We shall, it is true, first have to leave behind an age in which, for doing this, a man can be thrown out of workers' educational colleges by those who regard themselves as the authentic leaders of the people.
I have had to demonstrate to you, then, that because of the very nature of the masses of humanity, there must exist today a philosophy of life in the form of an anthroposophically orientated spiritual science. For only out of such a philosophy, which can really talk about the spiritual sphere in speaking of man, can there arise any hope of attaining a social understanding. And then, from this social understanding, with people understanding one another, we can go forward to other things.
We can hope for this. This hope is native to us in Central Europe where, throughout the nineteenth century, the best minds sought a method of education by which it would be possible to lay hold of the child, so to speak, in the sphere of the will. They had perceived that a modern human being must be taken hold of in his will. They had not, of course, seen this as clearly as it can be seen with the aid of the philosophy of life I am propounding. But they had a notion of it. That is why they exerted themselves to find intellectual methods which would enable them to reach the child's will by way of his ideas, to lay hold of his will through his thought-forces. And an enormous amount of good was achieved in Central Europe, as a result of the German spirit — this is fully acknowledged in the West, or was at least until the Great War. Attention has always been drawn, in England, to the way in which, in Central Europe, people tried to take hold of the will indirectly, via a pedagogic method, and how this has been transplanted to England. This has always been recognized and described.
When we go still further West, to America, however, we find that, by the circumstances of spiritual geography, they have developed over there a distinct form of primitive philosophy of life — if I may so put it without offence — which yet carries within itself striking potentialities for the future. We find, for example, that in America, when educated people sum up what they think about human beings, they will say: What a man works out intellectually depends on the political party into which circumstances have led him, and on the church he belongs to. In reflecting the opinions of his church, his class, or his party, he does of course make use of his intellect; the real source, however, is not the intellect but the will. Again and again we can see American writers pointing to man's will as his primary substance. Present-day Americans like to quote writers who say: The intellect is nowadays nothing but a minister of state, and the will is the ruler — even though, as Carlyle said, the intellect may be an expensive minister.
This view, moreover, is not an invented abstraction, but something that is in the bones of educated Americans. Even the physiologists there talk in these terms. Anyone who has an ear for such things can perceive a marked difference between the language of physiologists in Europe and that of physiologists in America. Over there, people explicitly discuss how a man's brain is shaped by his situation in the world. They consider the brain to be a mechanism which is dependent, even down to its speech-centres, on the company a man keeps, the extent to which he gets on in life, and so forth. They therefore see the development of the will within the world as the primary aspect of man, and regard all the products of the brain as subordinate, as something which, fundamentally, has very little to do with a man's individuality. These people say: If you want to discover a man's individuality, you must examine his will and see how it developed in his childhood, in the context of his family, his church, his political allegiance, etc.; and then consider how he acquires an intellect which — as an American has said — has about as much to do with his essential being as the horse you ride has to do with the rider.
Although the legacy of the East has also extended as far as America, then, we have there, emerging directly from educated circles, something that in Europe lies in the subterranean depths of human existence. Our own America so to speak, the America that is within Europe, is the instinctive direction of humanity towards the will, and thus towards a very large class of people here. This also gives us the ground on which Europe must in fact reach an understanding with America, if a world-wide social rapprochement is to come about.
We do indeed find that a good deal of what the Americans have developed represents a primitive form of the exercises by which a spiritual vision is attained. Thus, we find Americans repeatedly commending self-control, self-discipline, self-education as all-important: what matters is not having learned something, but implanting it in your will by the constant repetition of a given exercise. We know the effect of rhythmically repeating concepts, and we know how the influence thus brought to bear on man's true centre in turn affects the will. It sometimes takes curious forms, this conscious direction to what, for modern man, must represent the innermost kernel of his being.
And precisely from a rapprochement of this kind we shall be able to develop the further recognition that we must pass through contemplation of the will to reach the spiritual element of man. There follows the prospect of a philosophy of life which (even though the working man cannot help being materialistic at present) can yet be such as I have expounded here — a power that can be developed from the social conditions themselves, so to speak, precisely through a rapprochement between Europe and America.
It was in Central Europe that the finest minds sought for intellectual topics that would be capable of taking hold of the temperament, the volitional side of children. Central European educators in the nineteenth century tried to discover the art of capturing the will by starting from the intellect. But they did not get beyond abstract thinking, which had not then advanced to the living thought. They were still caught up in the Oriental world and its legacy, and on the basis of this early Oriental heritage they sought to take hold of the will.
Then came a great mass of humanity who made will sovereign everywhere. And today we live in a period that contrasts with an earlier age when forces existed to uphold the social order. Even those of us whose outlook is not reactionary cannot help understanding that, in earlier times, a prince attended the same sermon as the lowest peasant in the district; and the man who spoke from within the spiritual life, on behalf of all, had something to say that affected everyone. A perfectly clear public image of the consolidation of the social orders by means of the spirit was definitely there in those earlier periods. It was a definite legacy from the Orient, this image which is apprehended by the head and only later sinks down into the heart. Now something else, something that springs from the will, has appeared. We must find once more a way of speaking philosophically out of a spirit that embraces us all, from the most uneducated to the most educated. Only in this way can we work together, think, feel and will together, so as to establish, in the present, social prospects for the future.
This will come about if we can create a rapprochement between the embryonic beginnings in Europe, as they have been described in the last few days, and what has emerged in America, at a higher level of civilization, so to speak, among educated people in general. A rapprochement aimed at moving westwards will create a basis for an understanding of the development of spirit in the West.
Only if we as Western men show that we are able, out of what we can apprehend within ourselves, to summon up something spiritual and to counter the Oriental spirit, which today is in a state of decadence, with a European-American spirit, will a world economy and a world commerce, such as exists only externally today, be possible, in a framework of genuine confidence between men. Today, even though the Asiatic trades in one form or another with us Western men, in his heart there is still the feeling: Your machines do not impress us! With them, you are turning yourselves into intellectualized machines; that is the kind of men you are, inside. Even X-rays do not impress them. The Oriental will say: With their aid, you can look inside man physically; but what is really important requires no apparatus, it arises from our clairvoyant inner self. Whether legitimate or not, this is the attitude of the Orient. They have a profound belief in the spirit in human nature, and look down with contempt on anything that accepts the constraint, as it seems to them, of technology and the machine, in such a way that man himself operates, in society, like a cog in a machine.
The gap between us and the Orient will be bridged only when we ourselves create a spiritual dimension in our philosophy of life, on foundations such as I have described, combining the spirit of Europe and America. This, however, will require the world to look more closely at Central Europe, which has gone furthest in the evolution of the intellect towards living thought. It is the men of the early part of the nineteenth century — Hegel, Fichte, Schelling — who have gone furthest in the evolution of thought towards life. At least they believed that in what they experienced as the substance of the world, albeit in thoughts that were still abstract, they had something vital and spiritual. What they had, of course, was only the germ of vital thought. That is why Central Europe itself forsook the paths it had been following. They need to be rediscovered by making thought genuinely vital. A rapprochement with Central Europe can bring this about.
When the West has brought forth spirit once again, and when the East not only sees its own spirit, but can also see, even in the trader and merchant, the representative of a spiritual philosophy of life, then the Oriental will no longer look down on us in arrogance; he will be able to reach an understanding. This is what we must seek if we are to have hopes for society. We cannot have them at all unless we realize what has to disappear.
There existed in Central Europe a spirit which proclaimed that everything ultimately collapses but that a new life springs up from the ruins. This is a hope we shall realize only when we look past the externals of society to its inner being. But then we must cease to try to maintain the old order at all costs, and instead have the courage to regard as expendable the things that must be overthrown. The old saying remains true: Nothing can come to fruition which has not first been cast into the earth as a seed, so that it may decay. Well, the word “decay” is not quite accurate here, but the image still holds. In discerning what we need to abandon as decayed, we must move forward to new impulses and to the new life that must blossom out of the ruins. Only in this way can we, in this age, have social hopes for the future.