Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Wall of Materialism


Rudolf Steiner:

How could individuals who have received the materialistic education of today still affirm from the depths of their souls: ‘Thought is my boundless realm and my winged instrument is the word?’ [Schiller] For men of culture today thought is by no means a ‘boundless realm’ but a strictly circumscribed realm, embracing only the material objects to be seen in the environment. And the word is no ‘winged instrument’ but an instrument by means of which we stammer from mouth to ear utterances of a vague soul-life, but in such a way that there is little supersensible significance in what is said. And whereas through a spiritual world-conception speech could be an ocean into which a man's inner being sinks and which could then lift his soul to greater and greater heights, it becomes instead the means of chaining him to the Earth, chaining him to rigidly limited conditions of earthly existence.

Today this state of things takes effect in the destiny of the whole human race. We see how modern civilization is based upon the differences among men all over the Earth as expressed in their languages. Attempts are made to create new cultural divisions according to language. But because of what language has become it is evident at once that these cultural divisions and ideas are concerned with purely material life, that they form as it were the covering spread in the guise of civilization over the peoples of the Earth, in order to shut them off from the spiritual world. Everywhere today we see this wall of materialism being built around man's life of soul, and it is this that inculcates the materialism of mental attitudes, of thinking and of feeling, into external life as well. It is this that gradually causes man to forget that within the human race conditions are determined from the supersensible spheres, but when humanity is divided into nations, races and so forth, men are more and more strongly imbued with a blind belief that they must persist in a purely materialistic existence.

And so we see entering into earthly life in the form of civilization and culture, the element of materialism which has laid hold of the spheres of knowledge, of art, of religion. In the national groups that have come into being on the Earth we can recognize how the forces from the cosmic expanse which once worked creatively and formatively in life on Earth, no longer do so; the forces now in Operation issue from the depths of the Earth itself. We see man, as a member of a nation or people too, uniting more and more closely with the purely material side of earthly existence.

If people could resolve to pay attention to what in many ways sounds paradoxical in our times, namely that the human ego and astral body also have a biography, the individual phases of which become manifest from the time of going to sleep until the time of waking, just as the external physical life in its evolution from birth to death becomes manifest during waking hours, they would perceive the source of a great deal in our modern civilization that must not be allowed to continue ! But if we stop short at the findings of purely external sense-observation, we shall fail to perceive the most important, indeed the all-important things that must be done in order to change the present decline into an ascent leading into the future.

If this view of life is to have practical effects, a spiritual knowledge of man's existence is essential, and for this the worldview of Spiritual Science is necessary. This worldview must therefore permeate the whole of education, in such a way that instead of acquiring a store of words from which all wings have been removed, the child absorbs and is guided by the spirit and receives, together with the words, the power that raises him into the spiritual worlds in which man's being is rooted.

Source: March 11, 1923The Driving Force of Spiritual Powers in World History, lecture 1

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