We are now in a period when a significant change must come about: People must become thinking people instead of thinking machines. It is terrible, is it not, when you say something like that, because people of our time take it for granted that they are thinking people, and if you ask them to become thinking people, they actually find it an insult. But that is how it is.
Since the middle of the 15th century, people have become more and more like thinking machines. People surrender themselves to thoughts, as it were; they do not control them. Imagine what it would be like if you did the same with your limbs as most people do with their thinking organs today. Ask yourself if the modern human being can be inclined – I say can be – to randomly take in a thought and randomly shut down a thought. Thoughts are bubbling up in people’s heads today. People cannot resist them; they automatically surrender to them. A thought arises, the previous one disappears, it flies and flashes through the mind, and people think in such a way that one could best say: it thinks in the human being.
Imagine that your arms and legs would behave similarly, that you would be able to control them as little as you can control your thinking. Imagine a person walking down the street, his arms moving in the same uncontrolled way as his thinking organ moves! You know how much goes through a person’s head when he walks down the street, and now imagine how he would continually gesture with his arms and hands in the same way that he does with the thoughts in his head!
And yet, we are facing the age when people have to learn to control their thoughts in the same way they control their arms and legs. We are entering that era. A particular inner discipline of our thinking is what has to occur now and from which people today are still exceedingly far away.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 190 – Vergangenheits- und Zukunftsimpulsen im sozialen Geschehen – Dornach, March 23, 1919 (page 48-49)
Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger