Interest and understanding instead of criticism

Only a genuine concern of each man for his neighbour can bring salvation to mankind in the future — I mean to his community life. The characteristic feature of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul is man’s isolation. That he is inwardly isolated from his neighbour is the consequence of individuality, of the development of personality. But this separative tendency must have a reciprocal pole and this counterpole must consist in the cultivation of an active concern of every man for his neighbour.

This awakening of an active concern for others must be developed ever more consciously in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul. Amongst the fundamental impulses indicated in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. How is it achieved? you will find mentioned the impulse which, when applied to social life, aims at enhancing understanding for others. You will find frequent mention of ‘positiveness,’ the need to develop a positive attitude. The majority of men today will certainly have to foreswear their present ways if they wish to develop this positive attitude, for at the moment they have not the slightest notion what it means. When they perceive something in their neighbour which displeases them — I do not mean something to which they have given careful consideration, but something which from a superficial angle meets with their disapproval — they immediately begin to criticize, without attempting to put themselves in their neighbour’s skin. It is highly anti-social from the point of view of the future evolution of mankind — this may perhaps seem paradoxical, but it is none the less true — to harbour these tendencies and to approach one’s neighbour with undisguised sympathy or antipathy. On the other hand the finest and most important social attribute in the future will be the development of a scientific objective understanding of the shortcomings of others, when we are more interested in their shortcomings than in our concern to criticize them.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 185 – From Symptom to Reality in Modern History – Lecture IV – Dornach, 25th October 1918

Translated by A.H. Parker

Previously posted on March 7, 2014

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