That terrible evil of our times

If a person looks back in a more unselfish way to what he has experienced in childhood, youth, etc. — according to the age he has reached — there emerges as if out of the gray depths of the spirit various persons who have had something to do with his life in all sorts of relationships.

Look back into your life and pay less attention to what interests you in your own respectable person and much more to those figures that have come into contact with you, educating you, befriending you, assisting you, perhaps also injuring you — often injuring you in a helpful way.

One thing will then become evident to you and that is how little reason a person really has to ascribe to himself what he has become. Often something important in us is due to the fact that one person or another came into contact with us at a certain age, and — perhaps, without knowing it himself, or perhaps, being fully aware of the fact — drew our attention to something or other. In a comprehensive sense, a really unselfishly conducted survey of our lives is made up of all sorts of things that do not give us occasion to immerse ourselves selfishly in our own being, to brood over ourselves egotistically, but lead us to broaden our views to include those figures who came into contact with us. Let us immerse ourselves with real love in what has come into our life. 

We shall often discover that what evoked an antipathy in us at a certain period is no longer so disagreeable to us when a sufficient length of time has passed because we begin to see an inner connection. The fact that we had to be affected in an unpleasant way at a certain time by one person or another might have been useful to us. We often gain more from the harm that a person does to us than from the furtherance afforded us by another. It would be advantageous to a person if he more frequently exercised such a survey of his life, and should permeate his life with the convictions flowing from his self observation. “How little occasion I really have to occupy myself with myself! How immeasurably richer my life becomes when I look back to all those who have entered my life!”

In this way we free ourselves from ourselves when we carry out such an unselfish survey. We then escape from that terrible evil of our times, to which so many fall victims, of brooding over ourselves. It is so extremely necessary that we should free ourselves from this brooding over ourselves. Anyone who has once felt the power of such self-observation as I have just described will find himself far too uninteresting to spend much time brooding over his own life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 186 – The Challenge of the Times – Lecture 5 – Dornach, 7th December 1918

Translated by Olin D. Wannamaker

Previously posted on March 7, 2018