In practice things are different from what they seem to be in theory – 1 of 4

The science of spirit sharpens our understanding of the demands which social life makes just because it leads the spirit into the luminous heights of the supersensible. However paradoxical this may appear, it is nevertheless true.

An example will show what is meant. An extremely interesting book has recently appeared called As a Worker in America (Berlin, K. Siegismund). The author is a certain government councilor named Kolb who took it upon himself to spend several months as an ordinary worker in America. Through doing this he acquired a judgment about human beings and life which apparently neither the education which led to his councillorship had been able to give him, nor the experiences he had had in his post and in the other positions one occupies before becoming a councilor. Therefore for years he held a relatively responsible position, and it was only after he had left this and lived for a short time in a distant country that he got to know life in such a way that he was able to write the following noteworthy sentence in his book: “How often had I asked with moral indignation when I saw a healthy man begging: Why doesn’t the scoundrel work? Now I knew. Yes, in practice things are different from what they seem to be in theory, and even the most unpleasant aspects of political economy can be managed quite bearably at one’s desk.”

Now there is not slightest intention here of creating a misunderstanding. The fullest possible recognition must be given to a man who persuades himself to leave his comfortable position in life and to undertake hard work in a brewery and a bicycle factory. The high esteem accorded to this deed is strongly emphasized in order to avoid the impression that we are about to indulge in negative criticism of him. — But to everyone who wants to see, it is absolutely clear that all the education and knowledge that he had gained had failed to give him the means of judging life. Let us try to understand what is implied in this admission: We can learn everything that makes us capable of taking a relatively important position, and at the same time we can be quite isolated from the life which we are supposed to influence.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – Reincarnation and ImmortalityThe science of spirit and the social question – 1905

Previously posted on February 5, 2014