A devastated Europe

Those people today who receive impulses from the spiritual world, who know about the truths and the knowledge that must enter into human evolution, know the following also: If what we call science, and especially what we call art, is not fructified by the science of initiation practiced by such people, humanity will face a quick decline, a fearful decline. Let the kind of teaching that prevails in our universities continue for another three decades, let social questions be treated as they are now for thirty years more, and you will have a devastated Europe. You can set up ideals in this field or that as much as you please, you can talk yourselves hoarse about individual demands coming from one group or another, you can talk in the belief that with such urgent demands something will be done for humanity’s future — it will all be in vain unless the transformation comes from the depths of human souls, from the thought of the relation of this world to the spiritual world. If in this regard there is not a change in learning, a change in thinking, then the moral deluge will overwhelm Europe!

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 194 – The Mysteries of Light, of Space, and of the Earth: Lecture III – Dornach, December 14, 1919

Translated by Frances E. Dawson

In his latest book, Savage Continent, Keith Lowe takes a look at Europe in the years directly following World War II.

Previously posted on April 12, 2018

A Working-man in America

An uncommonly interesting book has recently appeared, A Working-man in America (Als Arbeiter in Amerika, pub. Sigismund, Berlin). The author is State-Councillor Kolb, who had the enterprise to spend several months as a common worker in America. In this way he acquired a discrimination of men and of life which was obviously neither to be obtained along the educational paths that led to councillorship, nor from the mass of experience which he was able to accumulate in such a position and in all the other posts that a man fills before he becomes a Councillor of State. He was thus for years in a position of considerable responsibility; and yet, not until he had left this, and lived — just a short while — in a foreign land, did he learn the knowledge of life that enabled him to write the following memorable sentence in his book: “How often, in old days, when I saw a sound, sturdy man begging, had I not asked, in righteous indignation: Why doesn’t the lazy rascal work? I knew now, why. The fact is, it looks quite different in theory from what it does in practice; and at the study table one can deal quite comfortably with even the most unsavory chapters of political economy.”

To prevent any possible misunderstanding, let it be said at once, that no one can feel anything but the warmest appreciation for a man who could bring himself to leave a comfortable position in life, in order to go and do hard labor in a brewery and a bicycle factory. It is a deed worthy of all respect, and it must be duly emphasized, lest it should be imagined that any disparagement is intended of the man who did it. Nevertheless, for anyone who will face the facts, it is unmistakably evident that all this man’s book-learning, all the schooling he had been through, had not given him the ability to read life.

Just try and realize all that is involved in such an admission! One may learn everything which, in these days, qualifies one to hold posts of considerable influence; and yet, with it all, one may be quite remote and aloof from that life where one’s sphere of action lies. Is it not much the same, as though a man were to go through a course of training in bridge construction, and then, when called upon actually to build a bridge, had no notion how to set about it? And yet, no! — it is not quite the same. Anyone who is not properly trained for bridge building will soon be enlightened as to his deficiencies when he comes to actual practice. He will soon show himself to be a bungler and find his services generally declined. But when a man is not properly trained for his work in social life, his deficiencies are not so readily demonstrated. A badly built bridge breaks down; and then even the most prejudiced can see that he who built it was a bungler. But the bungling that goes on in social work is not so directly apparent. It only shows itself in the suffering of one’s fellow-men. And the connection between this suffering and bungling is not one that people recognize as readily as the connection between the breakdown of a bridge and the incompetent bridge builder.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – Anthroposophy and the Social Question – Part 1 (essay which first appeared in the journal “Lucifer-Gnosis”, October 1905/1906 – translated by Harry Collison)


Previously posted on april 8, 2018

The characteristic stamp of the modern anthroposophist (part 6 of 6)

In characterising this state of civilisation we can only say that it is complex in the highest degree. It must also be said that the connection between what man does, what he carries out, and what he loves, is weakening all the time. And if we were to count those people who in their positions in external life to-day are obliged to engage in some activity that goes much against the grain, their number would by far exceed the number of those who affirm: I can only say that I love my external occupation, that it brings me happiness and contentment.

Only recently I heard of a strange statement made by someone to a friend. He said: ‘When I look back over my life in all its details I confess that if I had to live through it again from childhood to the present moment, I should do exactly the same things I have done up to now.’ — The friend replied: ‘Then you are one of those most rarely to be found at the present time!’ — The friend was probably right, as far as most men of the modern age are concerned. Not many of our contemporaries would assert that, if it depended on them, they would without hesitation begin life all over again, together with everything it has brought in the way of happiness, sorrow, blows of fate, obstacles, and would be quite content if everything were exactly the same again.

It cannot be said that the fact just mentioned — namely that there are so few people nowadays who would be willing to recapitulate the karma of their present life together with all its details — it cannot be said that this is unconnected with what the prevailing cultural state of humanity has brought in its train. Our life has become more complex but it has been made so by the different karmas of the personalities living on the earth to-day. Of that there can be no doubt at all. Nor will those who have the slightest insight into the course taken by human evolution be able to speak of any possibility of a less complicated life in the future. On the contrary, the complexity of external life will steadily increase and however many activities are taken over from man in the future by machines, there can be very few lives of happiness in this present incarnation unless conditions quite different from those now prevailing are brought about. And these different conditions must be the result of the human soul being convinced of the truth of reincarnation and karma.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 135 – REINCARNATION AND KARMA THEIR SIGNIFICANCE IN MODERN CULTURE 4. Examples of the working of karma between two incarnations – Stuttgart, 21 February 1912 

Translated from shorthand reports unrevised by the lecturer, by D.S. Osmond, C. Davy and S. and E. F. Derry.


The characteristic stamp of the modern anthroposophist (part 3 of 6)  

But all external life as it presents itself to-day is the picture of a social condition which, in its development, has excluded, has indeed refuted, the idea of reincarnation and karma. External life to-day is organised almost as if there were a deliberate desire to quash any possibility of men being able, through their own inner development, to discover the reality of reincarnation and karma. 

In point of fact there is, for example, nothing more hostile to a real conviction of reincarnation and karma than the principle that a man must be remunerated, must receive wages corresponding to his actual labour. To speak like this seems utterly eccentric! Do not, however, take this example to imply that Anthroposophy would wish to throw to the winds the principles of an established practice and to introduce a new social order overnight! That cannot be. But men must become alive to the thought that no fundamental conviction of reincarnation can ever flourish in a world-order in which it is held that there must be a direct correspondence between wages and labour, in which man is obliged, through the labour he performs, to obtain the necessities of life. 

Naturally the prevailing conditions must remain, to begin with, for it will be clear, above all to anthroposophists, that what exists is in turn the outcome of karmic law and in this sense is justified and inevitable. But it is absolutely essential for men to be able to realise that what can, nay must, ensue from recognition of the idea of reincarnation and karma, unfolds as a new seed in the organism of our world-order.

To be continued

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 135 – REINCARNATION AND KARMA THEIR SIGNIFICANCE IN MODERN CULTURE 4. Examples of the working of karma between two incarnations – Stuttgart, 21 February 1912 

Translated from shorthand reports unrevised by the lecturer, by D.S. Osmond, C. Davy and S. and E. F. Derry.


Three Destructive Currents 

There are three currents which through their inward relationship had the greatest power of destruction in human evolution, […]

[1ST Current]

First among them is what I call Americanism, which tends to produce greater and greater fear of the spirit, making the world a mere opportunity for living in the physical. [earlier on Steiner refers to “Americanism” as being a collective concept, not applying to individual Americans.] It is quite different when Britain wants to make the world into a kind of commercial mart. Americanism would make it a physical dwelling equipped with all possible comfort, in which man can lead an agreeable and wealthy life. That is the political creed of Americanism, and whoever does not detect it is blind to the facts and merely shuts his eyes and ears. Man’s connection with the Spiritual is bound to die out under such an influence. In these forces of Americanism lies what must actually bring the earth to an end destruction dooming it at last to death, because the Spirit will be shut out from it.

[2nd Current]

The second destructive element is not only that of Catholicism, but all Jesuitism, which in essence is virtually allied to Americanism. If the latter is the cultivation of the impulse to build up fear of the spirit, so the former seeks to awaken the belief that one should not seek contact with the spirit, which it deems impossible; it wishes Spiritual blessings to be dispensed by those who are called into the teaching office of the Catholic Church. This influence seeks to atrophy forces in human nature which incline to the super-sensible.

[3rd Current]

The particular indications of the third stream can be seen arising in a terrible form in the East: a social state based on a purely animal, physical socialism. Without plastering it with dogmas, we call it “Bolshevism”, and it will not easily be overcome by mankind.

These are the three distinctive elements in the modern development of humanity. To bring knowledge to bear upon them, so that the events of the present day may be met in the right way, it is possible only through Spiritual Science.

Source: Rudolf Steiner -GA 181 – A Sound Outlook for To-day and a Genuine Hope for the Future – Lecture 6: Problems of the Time (I) – Berlin, July 30, 1918

Rudolf Steiner-1