Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, January 22, 1921:
My dear friends,
On the basis of those things which we discussed here in the last lecture, I should now like to bring forward various details which may perhaps be of use to you as members of the Anthroposophical Movement for purposes of defense, whenever from some corner or other attacks are made against our Anthroposophical Movement, and what must now appear in its train. In recent times, one sees these attacks appearing everywhere. Today I will confine myself simply to attacks of a certain kind, but at the present moment attacks are being specially directed against our practical undertaking, against what has to come forth as such from the Anthroposophical Movement. Far and wide one can hear it said: “Well, these people are now founding a ‘Kommende Tag,’ a ‘Futurum’; — what do they mean to do with these things? They only want to establish such practical things for the use of those who confess themselves as belonging to the Anthroposophical view of the world. Economic undertakings are therefore set on foot, in order that those who confess to an Anthroposophical worldview may acquire a certain power, and in the first place an economic power.”
If those who make this reproach were to enter more closely into what lies at the basis of such undertakings and see how they proceed out of the whole spirit of the Anthroposophical Movement, such a reproach could not be made; but, on the other hand, one cannot deny that, even among those human beings who stand within our Anthroposophical Movement, often things are said which contribute richly to the arising of such misunderstandings. It is quite impossible, according to the whole ways and methods by means of which what is here called Anthroposophy seeks to relate itself to the world, it is absolutely impossible that such a judgment can be in any way justified, but that will only be clear to those who can grasp the spirit of our whole Anthroposophical Movement. This Anthroposophical Movement reckons with all the forces present in the evolution of humanity. How often has it been emphasized that the development of humanity has to undergo certain points of transition, and that these turning points should be observed. I should just like to point to one such turning point, in order to show how little justified is the opinion that we may have any definite dogma or theory which we seek to bring to humanity.
It may of course occur, as a kind of anomaly, a kind of outgrowth of fanaticism among a few members, that they should think they have to advocate a definite dogma; and indeed, this may be considered right by many, but it does not lie in the spirit of the Anthroposophical Movement. For if, in the spirit of this Movement, we look back into human evolution, then we find that in olden times, those ancient times in which an instinctive clairvoyance was prevalent, the whole disposition of man's soul was different; man assumed a quite different place in the world. What was striven for in those places which we often designate as the Mysteries, in those ancient epochs of human evolution? Let us for the present leave all details aside, and just try to grasp the meaning of the Mysteries.
Those who wore considered ripe and were found suitable for being received into the Mysteries during their earth-life — that means in the time between birth and death — participated in a certain instruction given them by the guides in those Mysteries, and that instruction came from what the leaders of the Mysteries had to impart concerning the supersensible worlds. No Mystery leader made any secret of the fact that, in his opinion, the teachings in the Mysteries did not proceed only from human beings, but that, through the special rites carried on in those Mysteries, supersensible beings, divine spiritual beings, were present during the celebration of the Mysteries and, with the assistance of those gods present therein, everything connected with it was given out. The essential point was this: all the arrangements made in the Mysteries were of such a nature that they attracted, so to speak, divine spiritual beings, who, through the mouths of those who were the leaders of the Mysteries, gave instruction to those who were the pupils therein.
In those olden times everything was so organized socially that not only were the arrangements made accepted by the guides and pupils of the Mysteries, but even by those who stood outside the Mysteries and who were not able to share in the life of the Mysteries. The whole arrangements made as social arrangements for humanity were thus accepted.
One need merely think of old Egypt, and of how those who were the leaders in the State received their directions from the Mysteries. The Mysteries were regarded as the self-understood place of direction for everything which had to occur within the social life.
Today, my dear friends, one can also impart instruction, esoteric instruction, which can run in forms similar to those old Mystery arrangements — but all that has quite another meaning today. That is because between our epoch and that ancient epoch, in reference to such things, a significant turning point has occurred in the development of mankind. In those ancient times man was, as it were, destined to receive the instruction given through the Mysteries and through which he approached those divine spiritual beings during his life here, between birth and death. Now things are different. We are living after that turning point in human evolution, between birth and death. When these things altered, that which man then had to learn through the Mysteries between birth and death — that, my dear friends, he now learns today before he descends through conception or through birth into a physical body. He learns it according to his karma and according to the preparations he had gone through in a former life on Earth. What man undergoes now in the spiritual world between the great Midnight Hour of Existence and his next birth is something which also includes that spiritual instruction.
You will find what had to be said in another connection concerning these things in a cycle which I gave in Vienna in 1914, on the life between death and a new birth; but that was only indicated there, was only touched upon with a few strokes. I will now try to characterize it more closely.
Man today experiences something akin to the old Mystery instruction, before he descends from the pre-existence condition into his physical body. That is a factor with which anyone must reckon, who through spiritual knowledge stands in reality today. We must not think of a man born today as he was thought of in olden times. In olden times he was so considered that one could say: “He descends on to the Earth and is destined to be initiated through the Mysteries into the knowledge of what he really is as a human being.”
The case is not like that today. That arrangement was made for human beings who had gone through a smaller number of earthly lives than has the man of today, who has, of course, taken far more into his soul in his many incarnations, which made it possible for him to receive certain instruction on the part of the divine spiritual beings in his pre-existent condition.
My dear friends, we have to presuppose something of this nature today when we see a child. When we meet a child today we must realize that we no longer have the task of pouring into that child that which had to be poured in, in olden times. Today it is our task to say: “This child has been taught; he has only laid a physical body around his already-instructed-soul; that which was his pre-birthly instruction from the gods must make its way through the veils around that soul; it must be brought out.” That is how we should think today in the sense of pedagogy, if we are to think in the sense of true Anthroposophical spiritual science. It will then be clear to us that, fundamentally, all our instruction shall tend to remove those hindrances which lie around that which the child brings with him into this world from his pre-birthly existence. It is for that reason that, in our Waldorf teaching, such significance is laid on the fact that the teacher should really regard the child before him as something like a riddle that he has to solve — in whom he must seek that which the child is concealing in himself; he must not lay the chief importance on anything which he has undertaken to put into the child. He must never proceed in any dogmatic way, but all the time he has to consider the child itself as his teacher, and see how the child, through its special behavior, betrays the very way in which those veils are to be broken through; so that, from out of the child itself, that divine instruction can come forth. So the Waldorf pedagogy and didactic consist in eliminating those veils which are around the child, so that the child can come to itself, and discover within itself its own divine instruction. Therefore we say we have no need to inoculate into the child anything we have conceived as a theory — no matter how beautifully it may be put in our books; we leave that to those who are still rooted in the ancient traditional religious confessions. We leave that to those who want to make children Catholics or Evangelists or to those who want to make them Jews. That is not our way — we do not even want to inoculate Anthroposophical pedagogy into the children. We simply want to use what we have learned as Anthroposophy to make ourselves capable of evoking into being that living spirit which lives in the child from its pre-existence. We want through Anthroposophy to acquire a dexterity in teaching, and not a number of dogmas which we teach the children. We want to become more dexterous ourselves; we want to evolve a didactic art, so as to make of the child what it has to become. We ourselves are quite clear that all the other knowledge which is today brought from the most diverse sides may indeed instruct the head, but cannot make a person an artist in pedagogy; it does not affect the whole man, but simply the head. Anthroposophy grasps the whole human being and makes him a manipulator of that artistic dexterity (as I might call it) which should be displayed to the pupils. Therefore we use Anthroposophy in order to become more dexterous teachers, but not to bring it to the child. We are quite clear as to this: the spirit does not consist of a number of ideas, of concepts; it is a living thing, and it appears in each individual child in a quite special and individual way, if only we ourselves are able to bring to its consciousness what each child brings to the Earth with its birth here. My dear friends, we would impoverish this Earth if we only sought to bring to the children things which can be comprised in a sum of dogmas; while on the contrary we make the Earth richer if we cultivate and cherish that which the gods have given to the child and which it brings with it to the Earth. That which is the living spirit then appears in ever so many human individualities — not that which some wish to bring as Anthroposophy to these human children in order to make them uniform, but that which brings to life that living spirit which dwells in them. That is our object, and for that reason we have absolutely no interest in bringing Anthroposophical dogma to the children. That is one of the practical outcomes of Anthroposophical spiritual science.
This special didactic, this special pedagogic art, is quite different from anything which human beings have thought of till now, for they have only been able to think, for instance, “I believe in a certain dogma; that therefore is the best which we can give to our children.” It does not interest us at all to bring any dogmas to the children, for we know that each child brings his own message when he appears on the Earth through the gate of birth, and we should destroy that message if we tried to meet it with dogma of any kind. The spirit does not need to be cultivated in an abstract way; when one is able to get it free and bring it to life, the living spirit itself is then there, instead of a series of dogmas.
All our opinions are only there as a means of awakening the living spirit in humanity and to keep it quite in a state of continual development; that is why it is quite a wrong idea spread abroad that in the Waldorf School or in anything else which we cultivate pedagogically, we wish to carry on Anthroposophy in a dogmatic way. We do not wish to do so in the Waldorf School, nor do we want to impress Anthroposophy dogmatically on any science. On the contrary, in every single science we want to bring out the individual nature of that science. We are quite convinced that it is essential to create something in the world through Anthroposophy which will extinguish all dogma and bring out the individual nature of each particular sphere. From this point of view it was needful that those attacks springing up from all corners should be repelled whenever they turn on our bringing Anthroposophy as dogma into any science, or pedagogy.
And now, in what concerns our practical undertakings we find people saying, with remarkable unanimity during the last few weeks in Germany, as also in Switzerland and many other places — because of the recent publications of the “Kommenden Tag” and the “Futurum” — “Well, these undertakings are all conducted by Anthroposophists combining together so that they can have their own economic undertakings, and so on. Other people perhaps may be admitted to these undertakings and concerns, but they will certainly have no voice in the administration,” and so on and so on. Now if we wanted to do things of this kind, it would contradict the very principle on which we stand, i.e. we have to keep the development of humanity in all its details clearly before our minds, and not ask for something absolutely complete and correct, but just ask ourselves: “What ought to take place today?” Then we must pay attention to the second turning point in the evolution of humanity. Today various affairs, but especially economic affairs, are developed among humanity from a certain principle of inertia. Formerly these arrangements were born in a tiny circle, usually in a tiny territory. Today, because they are as a rule State economic concerns, we find, in the place of the individual undertakings of the past, that we have imperial concerns, which have consequently become gigantic, although we find them now springing up from inertia. Today one speaks of national economy, thereby welding two things together, the peculiar Group Spirit which holds a race together, a Group Spirit externally, I might say, embodied in the blood. Now the world relationships have for a long time been of such a nature that, with every kind of Group Community which expresses itself in the blood, modern economics can have nothing whatever to do — that is, if they are to be based on sound relationships. So today something is strongly expressed in an economic relationship when the Rhine boundaries are discussed, because it is desired to have on one side of the Rhine a different economic arrangement to what exists on the other side, because of the different racial and national considerations. These national considerations have all arisen from different forces, and today have nothing whatever to do with that which constitutes world-economy (Weltwirtschaft). These things have reached a certain crisis in the course of the last third of the 19th century. Then only did these turning points in evolution, in the evolution of humanity, become so obvious.
As we have just tried to explain, in olden times man entered physical existence uninstructed by the gods, and he had to be taught through the Mysteries. Today he enters already taught, and that which is in his soul has only to be brought to his consciousness. In ancient times, as regards the social and economic life of mankind, things were so arranged that a man was born into a definite social connection, into a certain group, according to just those forces which worked in him before his birth. It was not only the principle of physical heredity which lay at the basis of the oldest forms of inequality, which we find, for instance, in the oldest caste divisions — in the old caste division the leaders of the social orderings operated things according to the way in which man, before his birth or conception, was destined for a certain group of his fellow human beings. In those times, when fewer earthly incarnations lay behind the earthly soul, then, because of his fewer earthly incarnations on Earth, a man was born into a quite definite group, and in that one definite group alone could he develop socially. A man who, for instance, belonged to a certain caste in Old India, belonged to it because of what his soul had gone through in the spiritual world; and, because of the small number of his incarnations, if he had been transferred to another caste he would have degenerated in his soul. It was not only the blood-inheritance which lay at the basis of the caste system, but something which I must call spiritual pre-determination. Man has long grown out of that. Between our age and that old epoch there is in this respect another turning point. People today still bear within them marks of a group-nature, but that if simply a phantom-image. People are born into certain nations, and also into a certain class of society, but in the great number of people growing up in a certain epoch one can already see, even in childhood, that such a predetermination from a pre-earthly existence no longer prevails today. Today human beings are instructed by the gods in their pre-natal existence, and the stamp of a definite group is no longer impressed upon them. The last relic of this still lingers in physical heredity. In a sense, one might say that to belong with one's consciousness to a nationality is a piece of inherited sin and is something which should no longer play a part in the soul of man.
On the other hand, there is the fact, which does play a definite role in our modern epoch, that man, as he grows up, grows away from all the group-forms; yet within the economic life he cannot remain without a group education because, with reference to the economic life, the individual can never be dominant. That which constitutes the spiritual life springs from the deepest part of man's inner being, within which he can acquire not only a certain harmony of his capacities, but should perfect and maintain them through a certain schooling. But that which constitutes a judgment in the sphere of economics can never proceed from a single human being. I have given you instances of this, and I have shown you how an economic judgment must always fall into error when it proceeds from one single man. I will give another example, taken from the second half of the 19th century.
I have told you that at a definite time, in the middle and second half of the 19th century, in parliaments and other corporate bodies the discussions everywhere centered around the Gold Standard. Those speakers who at that time spoke in favor of a Gold Standard — you could have heard them everywhere — were really clever people. I do a not say that ironically, because the people who at that time appeared as practical and theoretical speakers in parliaments and other assemblies really were very clever, and what they said really belongs to the best utterances of parliament concerning the Gold Standard in the various countries. But almost everywhere they pointed to one thing with great sagacity: to the fact that the Gold Standard will set free trade on its feet again, and do away with all customs duties. If one reads today what was then said about the beneficial effects of the Gold Standard on free trade, one has real joy in seeing how clever those people were; but, my dear friends, the very opposite appeared of what all the cleverest people said. As a consequence of the Gold Standard prohibitive tariffs appeared everywhere. You see that the cleverness in the economic life which proceeded out of single personalities was not able to help man. That could be proved in the most diverse spheres; because the fact is, that although what a man knows about nature or about another man makes him competent to judge as a single individual, no man is competent to judge as a single individual when it comes to the sphere of economics. A man cannot have a judgment on economic things in the concrete, as a single individual. An economic judgment can only arise when human beings unite together, associate together, and support each other mutually, when there is cooperation in their associations. It is not possible for a single man to have a sound judgment which can pass into economic activity.
Just the contrary happens when a man has a scientific judgment. In a scientific judgment, if it proceeds out of the whole man, he can give a comprehensive judgment; but in concrete economics and in economic trade the point is that one man knows one part, the second knows another part, the third knows something else. The producer in one department knows something, the consumer in the same department knows something else; what they each know must flow together, and then can arise a group judgment in the sphere of economics. In other words, the old forms are done away with, and a group judgment, a collective judgment, must arise. Human beings must form themselves into groups of their own accord, and these must comprise associations of the economic life. From the understanding of a necessary evolving force in evolution it comes about that this associative life of economics must be taken up by humanity, and take the place of the old group-connections which are still propagated today in humanity as an inherited sin. When we consider this we must indeed say: As regards knowledge, in ancient times humanity came untaught to Earth, but in the Mysteries they then received their wisdom. Now human beings descend to Earth instructed, and we have so to arrange our didactics that we can draw out of them that which the gods have taught them.
In reference to the economic arrangements, formerly human beings were pre-determined, as it were; a stamp from the Gods was imprinted on them, and so they were born into a certain caste, or into one group or another. That is also past. Today human beings are born without that stamp; they are in a sense put as single isolated individuals into humanity, and now they must bring ahout their own group forms by means of their spirituality. It is really not a case of bringing such human beings as profess Anthroposophy; that simply depends upon what the gods have taught them before their birth, and whether in their former incarnations they have been found ripe for that divine instruction so that now we can draw forth Anthroposophy from them, — Anthroposophy is in far more people today than one thinks, but so many are too lazy to draw forth from themselves that which is in them, or perhaps their school instruction was so organized that the veils cannot be dissolved, and so they cannot attain their consciousness.
In the practical sphere, and especially in the economic sphere, it would be absurd to bring human beings together simply because they are Anthroposophists. We study Anthroposophy in order to obtain insight into the way in which human beings are seeking, from out of their group consciousness, the group formation which they must seek as a result of their former incarnations. They must be given the opportunity of forming groups and of carrying out what lies in germ in the development of humanity. So you see it can never be a question of grouping together human beings because they live in a definite dogma, but those human beings who, through their previous life on Earth, are called upon to find themselves in groups, to those should be given the possibility of associating themselves in these groups. In these things, as soon as we pass from the abstract into the concrete, we find an extraordinary number of riddles — I might almost say mysterious things; because, whether a man belongs to one group or another is by no means a simple matter. The longing people now have for simplicity shows itself in extraordinary ways. I have been informed of something concerning a lecture which the worthy Frohmeyer has just held, “Theosophy and Anthroposophy,” in which he says at the end that his own personal relationship to Christianity reminds him of the well-known fact that it unfortunately always annoys these people [Anthroposophists] that what is so great can yet be so simple.
He means apparently that the Anthroposophists are annoyed that the great is so simple. That is, as simple as the laziness of the Rev. Frohmeyer would like to have it, for he will not endeavor to realize the greatness in all its differentiation. One always has to translate these things into their proper language. That is something which is our especial task: we must translate things into their true speech.
Of course, there can be no question of throwing at anyone's head this doctrine of the instruction of man before his birth, of his being born into groups in ancient times and no longer being born into groups nowadays; but we can permeate ourselves with these truths, and we shall then find a possibility of showing our methods as time goes on, of showing how far removed we are from introducing any dogma into our schools, or of bringing people into economic associations because they admit among themselves the truth of certain dogmas.
How strongly that is made a point of in our Waldorf school at Stuttgart you can see from the simple fact that we have no interest in bringing Anthroposophy to the children. We want to have a method of instruction which can only be gained through Anthroposophy; but that is a purely objective affair. Those children, or rather their parents, who wish them to have instruction from a Catholic priest in the Catholic religion — for them a Catholic priest can come to the Waldorf school; — and for those who want to he taught the Evangelical religious instruction, the Evangelical minister can come to the school. We place no hindrance whatever in the way of these men. But it became necessary in recent times, when so many parents, especially those from the proletariat, do not want their children instructed either in the Catholic or Evangelical views, to ask whether they perhaps would like their children to have a free religious instruction born of an Anthroposophical education. It then at once became evident that those who would otherwise have been educated without any religion whatever, and would not have entered any religious confession, were very numerous; but these came to a so-called Anthroposophical religious class, which did not teach Anthroposophy but was simply born of Anthroposophy. These children proved to be more industrious in their religious instruction than was the case with the others taught by the Catholic or Evangelistical clergy; but that we could not help; that was the business of the Catholic or Evangelical priests. Gradually a number of children passed over from the one religious instruction to the other. I believe it was the Evangelical teacher who finally said: "In the near future I shall have no one left in my class: they are all running away from me!” But that again was most certainly not our fault; there was never any question of teaching dogma of any kind to those children. We have no interest in doing that. We knew that if our method succeeded in removing the veils around the children, they would then have the best instruction: that which was given to them in the spiritual world before their descent on to the Earth. Of course certain confessions are strongly interested in darkening this instruction, not to let it appear. Whoever e.g. can compare the extraordinary relation between what stands in the Papal Encyclical and what transpires in the spiritual world knows that the divine religious instruction which children enjoy before their descent is absolutely not what many religious confessions would like them to have today. This is especially to be noticed in the Catholic Church; because the Catholic Church, as compared with the Evangelical, has always preserved a more supersensible influence through its ritual and ceremonies. But supersensible influence can appear in various ways, and one can say: It may be an error when it deviates from the truth — it may also be an error when it is the direct opposite of the truth.
Regarding now what concerns the practical undertakings: naturally I cannot betray here what is discussed in our business meetings, which often last till 3:30. But I can give you the assurance that in the meetings of the Futurum and Kommenden Tag, Anthroposophy is not discussed, but things of quite another nature. There are things which must be treated only in the most practical manner; how one should manage things in this or that sphere, etc. Here theoretic Anthroposophy plays no role, except that what is discussed should grasp the economic life in as clever a manner as one does when one makes one's thoughts mobile so that they can contact the reality, as happens through a living grasp of the Spirit of Anthroposophy.
One need therefore merely point out that neither in the statutes of the “Kommenden Tag” nor of the “Futurum” are there any Anthroposophical dogmas — merely economic things; the only question is how to make these undertakings better than similar undertakings today. That is one of the points which must be defended, because it is one of the attacks which now crop up from every corner, and will do so more and more unless we put our affairs clearly and energetically before the world. What I had to say recently in Stuttgart is true; it has not yet been learnt in the Anthroposophical Movement how to be attentive to realities. Our opponents are different. They organize and will prove their organization. We must unconditionally fail unless we are conscious of this, and can make as strong efforts for the good as are now being made for the bad.
Thus today I wanted to bring up one of the points in reference to which you will hear definite attacks against our practical undertakings. If you open your ears, and this is necessary (figuratively, I mean), you will hear; and many things will have to be defended in this direction. I wanted today to say what could enthuse the soul when it becomes necessary to defend in this direction. This enthusing-of-the-soul can come, when we know what it meant in olden times that man came to Earth uninstructed by the gods; he now comes instructed before birth and his whole life must be ordered thereto. Also what it means that man was formerly determined by the will of the gods into castes, classes, peoples, tribes, etc. That disappeared after the turning point which lies behind us. Man is now destined from economic necessities to form groups in Earth-life. That happens in economic associations. A right knowledge of the Earth-development of the spiritual evolution of man, and their connections, shows how what we call the “Threefold Commonwealth” is not merely a political program, but the result of what flows from a real knowledge of human evolution as a necessity for the present and the immediate future.
Of these things, more tomorrow.
Source: January 22, 1921. GA 203
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