Sunday, February 24, 2013
Social progress: know yourself, and love your neighbor
Notes of an esoteric class lesson given by Rudolf Steiner in Hamburg on March 3, 1906:
Anyone who wants to become an esotericist in the theosophical sense must train his thought life so that every thought is thought through sufficiently. Short thinking is the sign of a materialist. Theosophical esotericists must not fall into comfortable thinking.
Take the thought of social democracy: Change the circumstances and a man will have better living and working conditions — that's a belief of materialism, short and deceiving. This belief is very paralyzing for every study of social life. Now, how can a theosophist free himself from this materialistic belief that existence and even morality would improve if one would just improve outer conditions? Let's begin with the reflection that every change has to be made by human beings and that therefore every condition that's brought about for the social order arises from human thoughts and feelings. Once one has this thought firmly in mind one can free oneself from the materialistic view that everything is brought about by external conditions.
A budding esotericist should gather proofs that no improvement of the world occurs through the creation of better outer conditions. Theosophy tells us that the social order is created by men and that it's the result of human thoughts and feelings. So one should cultivate thoughts and feelings and not change the social order.
An esotericist asks: Where does this condition that's worthy of being changed come from? And if the condition is not veiled by nature he sees that the condition was brought about by the thoughts and will impulses of men who lived before him. So conditions are the way they are now because men made them that way through their inadequate thoughts and feelings.
Spiritual science wants to implement a mighty education of our innermost soul forces so that the social life will shape itself out of other thoughts and feelings. What this means is that spiritual science has no patented recipe about how this or that is supposed to be done on this or that post, it doesn't judge anyone, but it's very confident that everyone will arrive at a right judgment if he's permeated by the fundamental truths.
One such truth is that poverty, misery, and suffering are nothing but the result of egoism. One should look upon this as a law of nature. A man is egotistical as soon as he lives in accordance with the principle: I must be remunerated personally, I must be paid for the work that I do. An esotericist must ask himself whether work is really what sustains life. Work is of no importance if it isn't directed wisely. What serves men can only be produced and made through the wisdom that men put into it. One who doesn't understand this and who sins against it, even slightly, sins against the social thinking of the present time.
Reflection on this in all of its possible phases strengthens thinking. A social democrat who reflects on how to create work to get rid of joblessness is thinking antisocially in the highest degree. Instead the main thing is that work should only be used for human beings, to create valuable produce. In a social community the work impulse must lie in devotion for the whole, and never in a man's personality. It follows from this that real social progress is only possible if I work for the good of the whole. In other words: The work I do mustn't be for myself. Social progress is completely dependent on the acceptance of this statement, that one doesn't want to get paid personally for one's work. A man owes work to the social community. Conversely, a man must restrict his existence to what the social community gives him.
The counterpart to such social thinking must also be followed exactly. You know the example that a seamstress works for little pay and that social democrats tell the workers: You're being exploited. But now the seamstress goes out and buys a cheap dress to go dancing on Sunday. She asks for a cheap dress. But why is the dress cheap? Because another worker was exploited. So in the end, who's exploiting the worker? Certainly the seamstress who wears a cheap dress to go dancing on Sunday. One who can think clearly here already gets away from the distinction between rich and poor, for this has nothing to do with wealth and poverty. Therefore the foundations must first be created so that in future men will work hard and devotedly without thinking of personal advantage.
Suppose that someone invents a remedy and wants to patent it right away. This shows that he was thinking of a personal advantage and that he isn't filled with love for all mankind. For if men's health was the most important thing for him he would be anxious to report what's in the remedy and how it's made. And something else would happen — he'd be convinced that the remedy that was made with his sentiments was the better one.
Here we've come to a statement that's very important in esotericism: Ways of ennobling the soul must be arrived at. One who uses his thinking to attain beneficial progress must first see to it that human souls are ennobled.
Therewith we'll place the Rosicrucian verse at the end:
From that power that all beings binds
The man frees himself who self-mastery finds.