Prosperity/Labour/Egotism

The well-being of a community of people working together will be the greater, where there is less egotism. To realize this, one is therefore dependent on finding people who are able to leave behind all selfishness. However, this is practically impossible as long as people’s welfare is determined by their work situation. Whosoever works for himself or herself, must eventually fall into selfishness. Only the person who labours solely for others can slowly become more and more selfless. There is one condition however. When a human being works for others, he must find the motive for his labour in the other; and when someone works for the human community as a whole, he must feel and experience the value, the essential importance, and the idea behind all this.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 34 – LUCIFER – GNOSIS 1903-1908 Geisteswissenschaft und soziale Frage – October 1905 (p. 214)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Previously posted on 8 september 2018

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Letter to Hermann Olpp   

In the book Letters by Rudolf Steiner, there is a letter to a certain Hermann Olpp. But unfortunately, who he was is not known. At the back of the book, it only says that he lived from 1897 to 1955, was an economic and fiscal consultant in Stuttgart and became a member of the Anthroposophical Association in 1916. What exactly he wrote to Steiner is also unknown because that letter is not in the book and probably was not preserved. From Steiner’s reply letter, however, one can see that Olpp worked in some occupation that he felt very unhappy about and did not like.   

On July 24, 1916, Steiner wrote to him:   

Dear Sir,  

It isn’t easy to advise on matters such as yours. If you stay in the position you have now for some time, you will be able to stand on your own two feet and move in a direction that better suits your talents and preferences later on. I cannot share the view that one should feel uneasy with such a livelihood. On the contrary, it is precisely from such a position that someone can develop further. If you look at your current work in a broader sense, you can say that you are not only doing something to develop your capabilities but also something that benefits other people. And it is precisely this realization that gives gratification. Many duties do not directly bring satisfaction through their content; their purpose is to perform something in the service of humanity. If you later acquire some savings with this occupation, you will indeed find an opportunity to find something that suits you. In these challenging times, it does not seem right to me to prepare for the future with borrowed money. I hope you will forgive me for saying this so bluntly. It seems to me that your father’s feelings about the matter are accurate. I can speak from my own experience. I had to stand on my own two feet early on and have done so for a long time as a private teacher. I can say that your current position would not have been less pleasant to me at the time than the job I had, whereby, after all, the concern remains whether one finds something again in due course. I must travel now; therefore, I can summarize my judgment only in these few lines.   

With warm regards,

Dr Rudolf Steiner

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 39 – BRIEFE BAND II 1890-1925 – number 631 (page 465-466)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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No one can live on money

How many people there are today who have an abstract and confused conception of their own personal lives! If they ask themselves, for example, “What do I live on?” — for the most part, they do not do this, but if they did it once, they would say to themselves, “Why, on my money.” Among those who say to themselves, “I live on my money,” there are many who have inherited this money from their parents. They suppose they live on their money, inherited from their fathers, but we cannot live on money. Money is not something on which we can live. Here it is necessary at last to begin to reflect.

This question is intimately connected with the real interest that one individual has in another. Anyone who thinks he lives on the money he has inherited, for example, or has acquired in any way whatever except by receiving money for work, as is the custom today — whoever lives in this way and supposes that he can live on money has no interest in his fellow men because no one can live on money. We must eat, and what we eat has been produced by a human being. We must have clothing. What we wear must be made through the labor of people. In order that I may put on a coat or a pair of trousers, human beings must expend their strength in labor for hours. They work for me. It is on this labor that I live, not on my money. My money has no value other than that of giving me the power to make use of the labor of others. Under the social conditions of the present time, we do not begin to have an interest in our fellow men until we answer that question in the proper way, until we hold the picture in our minds of a certain number of persons working for a certain number of hours in order that I may live within the social structure. It is of no importance to give ourselves a comfortable feeling by saying, “I love people.” No one loves people if he supposes that he is living on his money and does not in the least conceive how people work for him in order to produce even the minimum necessary for his life.

But the thought that a certain number of persons labor in order that we may possess the minimum necessities of life is inseparable from another. It is the thought that we must recompense society, not with money but with work in exchange for the work that has been done for us. We feel an interest in our fellow men only when we are led to feel obligated to recompense in some form of labor the amount of labor that has been performed for us. To give our money to our fellow men only signifies that we are able to hold our fellow men on a leash as bound slaves and that we can compel them to labor for us.


Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 186 – The Challenge of the Times – Lecture II – Dornach, 30th November 1918

Translated by Olin D. Wannamaker

Previously posted on March 5, 2018

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Muddled, fantastic speculations

Many of our contemporaries have received the idea more or less superficially that spiritual science is something that lies far away from all practical life and cannot at all intervene anyhow in this practical life of the daily routine. You do not find the idea as seldom as it expresses itself in the words: oh, this spiritual science, it is something for single people who are tired of life who do not deal with anything practical and have time enough to deal with all sorts of muddled, fantastic speculations as the spiritual-scientific ideas are.

I do not deny from the outset that strictly speaking such a reproach is even justified with many theosophical/anthroposophical phenomena that it is often true that those who deal with theosophical/anthroposophical matters and ideas really face the everyday life as strangely as possible. However, even among those who have hard to fight and to work in the everyday life and bring themselves through only with pain and misery, those are found who are driven from inner sympathy, from the yearning of their hearts to spiritual science. Among them many a man will be for whom this duality — the everyday occupation, the everyday work from morning to night and then the merging in the great ideas has something marvellous. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 56 – Knowledge of Soul and Spirit: Lecture XI: Occupation and Earnings – Berlin, 12 March 1908

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How can joy and love become impulses of the daily work again?

A human being who works on a small part in the factory will never have the abandon for the product that the former craftsman had; this is past retrieval. It is never possible in future with our complex conditions that a merry song penetrates the field of work. The song has faded away, the song that joins the product!

We ask, is there another impulse, which can replace it? Let us look at the time when more and more factories were built and more and more human beings were herded together in the sites of modern misery. If we let all that pass by, we realise — even if many things have changed — that one means to attach the future development simply to the past, when joy and love were still the impulses of work. However, humanity could create no substitute that attaches the human being again to the product. This can also not brought back. However, something else can be done. What can replace it? How can joy and love become impulses of the daily work again? How can one create them?

Of course, some people will argue, create impulses for a work that is dirty, bad, and hideous! — There are such impulses. Remember only what mothers do if they do the work because of love for the child. Remember what the human being is able to do if he does anything because of love for other human beings. There is no love for the product of the work necessary; there it needs a tie between human being and human being. You cannot bring back the love for the product within humanity, because it was bound to primitive, simple relations. However, what the future must bring back is the big, all-embracing understanding and love from human being to human being. Not before any human being finds the impulse for his activity from the deepest impulses which only a spiritual world movement can give, not before he is able to do the work because of love for his fellow men, it is not possible to create real impulses for a future development in the sense of the human welfare.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 56 – Knowledge of Soul and Spirit: Lecture XI: Occupation and Earnings – Berlin, 12 March 1908

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