The Spiritual Background of the Social Question
14 April 1919, Dornach
Today, first of all, I have the urge in my soul to say something to you with regard to what wills, out of the impulses and need of our time, to be spoken to mankind in general through my booklet about the Social Question which will be appearing in the near future. It will be called The Key Points of the Social Question in the Vital Necessities of the Present and the Future (GA 23). It will have become evident to you from the lectures which we have held here for many weeks that what I now have to say just with regard to the Social Question is, perhaps, not only a sort of secondary stream by the side of what is pulsing in our whole spiritual-scientific striving, but that, in fact, matters must be so considered that this spiritual-scientific striving develops, in a way peculiar to itself, understanding for the needs and demands of our time and of the near future. The basic character of our time can really only be radically helped as a result of spiritual impulses. Everything else could at best be a substitute. Even the external activity which has to take place will have to be of such a kind that — I will not say a particular form of Spiritual Science, but that a spiritual life, penetrating to the real Spirit, becomes possible within the Social Order.
This is necessary for the reason that, as a result of human development, the man of the present day is in a quite definite position, which I have described to you from the most diverse sides. Today I shall only refer once more to the fact that, basically speaking, all considerations have led us to realise how the man of the present day is, as a result of his organisation, in a certain state of disunion at the present point of time. You see, one can easily be inclined to look on man as a unity in his whole being. But he is not a unity. We know that he is a three-membered being. And these three members of the human entity stand in different relationships to the physical-, soul- and spiritual outer world, and to his own inner part, in the various epochs of the post-Atlantean period.
We can now consider the three-membered man in two different ways. (We will make this schematic and simply place the three members of man one above the other — see diagram). Whether we now give names to these three members according to their physical aspect and say: nerves-senses system, rhythmic or breathing-and-heart system, and metabolic system, or whether we give them names according to their spiritual aspect and say the Intuitive-spiritual, the Inspirational-psychic and the Imaginative-bodily, or whether we proceed with other words as I have represented in my book Theosophy regarding this three-membered man from the spiritual aspect, or whether we fix our attention on the physical projection of the three-membered man, to which I have drawn attention in my last book, Riddles of the Soul, from every point of view it appears to us that man is a three-membered being. But this three-membered being, man, is, if I may say so, on the other hand not at all so "simply three-membered". We can say: Man is, in a certain sense, a double being, a twofold being, and the boundary really goes midway through the rhythmic system, right through the breathing-and-heart system.
In our present phase of development, the inner part of man really only lives in the metabolic system and the lower part of the heart-lungs system, of the rhythmic system. There, man is inward in reality in today's age. On the other had, with regard to the upper part of the heart-breathing system and similarly with regard to the nerves-senses system, man is to a great extent external today. You will at once understand what I mean. Man perceives the external world through the senses: he then works it up by means of his understandings. He also breathes in the outer world by means of his lungs. From outside, man takes what comes from perceptions, from the working of his understanding, from breathing-in. But man is, as it were, a sort of dwelling-house with respect to what comes to him from outside (see diagram). The whole of external nature is really contained in this upper part of man: colours, tones, stars, clouds, the air even as far as the breathing process — and you yourselves are really only the dwelling-house for this external matter. In olden times, men have found something else which was related to this upper part: elementary spirits and also divine-spiritual beings of the higher Hierarchies. They have spoken of these nature-beings in their mythologies, which were wiser than the natural-scientific knowledge of today. Now they have fallen out of human perceptions.
Today, Man only perceives the sensible and works it up. Here, he is really carrying only the external world into himself. We are hardly sufficiently aware of how little of ourselves there really is in what we carry into ourselves as perceptions of the outer world, or even as what the memory retains of the outer world. If you go up this hill in the morning or at midday and see the Goetheanum, then go down and carry in yourself the picture of the Goetheanum and all that has happened, you apparently have something in you, but yet something which is only a mirror-image in you, for the Goetheanum is standing here on this hill. You are only its dwelling-place — with the upper part of Man which I have separated off (see diagram). And Man is so poor in spirit today because he no longer finds the Spirit in the external world.
Yes, my dear friends, there were times in the development of the Earth in which, after people had gone down again, what had been seen would have worked in those who had come up the hill here and thus had seen something such as the Goetheanum, not only as a fantasy, as an inner mystery but as a world of facts. From what they had seen people would have received — just as they carry down colours and forms now — those spiritual beings which had slipped out of every corner and which had taken part in what man did here. But this is over for men, just as though the elementary and spiritual beings had fled out of external nature. External nature is emptied of Spirit, and as a result so is this part of the human interior. And all that really is left for what is inward is the lower part of the chest, and the metabolic system with the limbs.
For the externalised man of today, this is what he calls his "inner part" if he does not really begin to interest himself in true spirituality. Man has arrived at the point where he speaks, it is true, of his "inner part", but, basically speaking, he means nothing beyond his metabolic system and, at most, the connection which the breathing and the rhythm of the heart enter into with the metabolic system. We should not be deceived about it, and should be clear with ourselves: when men declare that they are out of order in their "inner part", that they have inner difficulties, this is only a verbal expression for some lack of regularity in the metabolic system.
One man is cheerful, another ill-tempered owing to his "inner part", one is passionate, another full of humour. Basically speaking, all this is a result of the metabolic system and at most the reaction of the breathing and heart-circulation on the metabolic system. When one says that the soul is out of order in this or that person, it is, in reality, his stomach and intestines which are out of order. All that people call "soul-life" is, basically speaking, only a verbal expression for events in the metabolic system. Naturally, no one wants to confess, in accordance with reality: my stomach, my intestines, spleen or liver or such things are not in order within me, but we say: my soul has this or that difficulty. This sounds better, more elegant, to many people; they consider it to be less materialistic. To anyone who looks at things according to reality, it is merely more untruthful. For we stand today in that phase of development in which human nature already separates itself into these two members.
You may ask: by what means can this be corrected? There is only one help for the man of today, namely to get loose from himself, by means of an interest in the affairs of mankind, through real interest in what concerns all men today, and to turn the attention as little as possible to these irregularities of the metabolic system in the wider sense, which are, nevertheless, almost universally present today. If men could get loose from themselves through a far-reaching interest, which is to be reached only by taking Spiritual Science seriously — then alone can health pour itself out over the human race today.
Today, you see, one has really characteristic experiences. I was recently at the League of Nations Congress at Berne 17-13 March 1919: see also The Real Foundation of a League of Nations. Troxler Press, Berne, where they spoke about all the things about which it is unnecessary to speak today, because they just lead to nothing, and where they did not speak about all that is most necessary today. But I do not at all wish to mention this as the main point. I should like to mention, as the main point, something about the manor of speaking which cropped up in what almost all the speakers said. In at least every third sentence uttered by these speakers is found the little word "I". "I am of the opinion", "I think", "It seems to me that this or that is necessary", "I am in favour of this or that" — you can hear this in almost every sentence. And the men were quite angry if one did not join in in the same strain! If one speaks more from an objective standpoint, if one puts one's sentences in such a way that one gives priority to the inner, objective contents of the matter, without personal opinion, they say that one is speaking authoritatively, that one is speaking arrogantly. But surely the highest arrogance is when one brings the word "I" into one's mouth every third sentence.
But people have certainly forgotten, today, to feel this arrogance. They find it more sensible if someone is always talking of himself, and they find it in the highest degree immodest and arrogant if someone tries to speak from an objective standpoint, for, you see, they have this dim feeling: he is asserting that he knows something beyond what is his personal opinion. And it is a great sin today if anyone asserts that he does know something beyond what is his personal opinion. And as to those personal opinions — !
To those who are versed in Spiritual Science I should frequently like to describe this kind of conference more accurately, just from its spiritual-scientific standpoint! One hears a speaker of the kind who utters the little word "I" with every third sentence — "I think", " I am of the opinion", "this is sympathetic to me", "I ask you to enter into this": when this speaker is speaking about the super-State, the super-parliament, the spiritual scientist says to himself: the man surely has something wrong with his liver, something is out of order in his liver and the metabolic system is speaking out of the man. A second speaker gets up and talks in a similar way. As he goes away, the spiritual scientist says to himself: probably he has a gall stone. The third is inclined to stomach trouble.
These things are important only in an age in which materialism is pulsating, where the free soul, independent of what is material, does not speak, where, in fact, it is the body which speaks. And very often indeed, today, it is the body which speaks. Really, people are only accustomed to make use of old words of their bodily indispositions. To one who looks into things in a spiritual-scientific way it would be preferable if, instead of talking about the Superman (naturally, I do not mean Nietzsche, but the others who have spoken about the "Superman" after Nietzsche's time) were to talk about the "sub-stomach". For in this way they would better catch the likeness of the reality which is, in fact, speaking out of them.
This is not pessimism, my dear friends: it is quite simply the world of present day facts. And in the present time men are impelled to become untruthful for the simple reason that they are ashamed to call the facts by the right name. There is even a longing in them to give themselves up to that "man" which is, in fact, only the physical man. In our time it is certainly the case that perhaps the only reason why we have no Molière to write a new Malade imaginaire is that we should need too many Molières, for today there is a genuine enthusiasm for being ill in people who have time to be ill. Such people as have no time for it do not, for the most part, turn their attention to those conditions which are sufficient causes for making others, who have time to be ill, feel that they are ill.
One must look for the destructive workings of materialism not only where people talk of materialism or where they talk materialistically: these working show themselves in numerous other examples as well. And sometimes even talk about the Spirit today as nothing else than the purest materialism, for this talk about the Spirit is, for very many people, nothing else than an anaesthetic for their otherwise cosy materiality. The will to activity is lacking in men today, the will to real inner activity. This is the reason why the bourgeoisie has remained in a state of ineffectiveness in face of the Social Question which has been rising up for 70 years. It is a monstrous materialism which has taken hold of men in the most diverse forms — and especially the circles on whom, in recent times, was set the task of turning to the Spiritual.
One must know this about the basic impulses of our time, about what is living in our time. Not to know it implies that one is giving oneself up to illusions. Spiritual Science is of such great importance for present day men because it takes them away from themselves, but it must be truly comprehended in this sense. An illusion can easily arise regarding Spiritual Science: a quality can assert itself, which is so thoroughly propagated at the present time just as a result of materialism — namely, superficiality. If people grasp in a superficial way what Spiritual Science wishes to arouse in the way of interests, they can be all the more hardened in themselves, can be all the more pressed into themselves. Then nothing else at all is of assistance than to return again and again to what does not in any way concern us personally, but what represents the content of our Spiritual Science and the things which are found in its content, to take them as objectively as possible and, when one speaks about the most subjective things, not to take them in a subjective way! Only think how important it is to resist, in this point, temptations which lie near.
When I recently depicted how Man is really capable of development from outside only up to the 28th year today, and how development comes to an end at that point of time when he is standing just before the mind-soul and the Ego but does not come to them, and thereby goes to meet a certain inner emptiness — this, then, is an important truth for the present time. It is important to know this: it is important to receive it into oneself as an inner experience. But it would be dangerous to think afterwards: am I, perhaps, one of those who have not developed to the mind-soul in the right way from the 28th year forward? Just the most subjective things, which refer to what is most important of all, should be taken up objectively: we should not look into whether we are among those in whom something can happen in this way: we should just be able to look away from ourselves in the most important human truths, and look at the age, at humanity, and not always think of ourselves in an egotistical way.
It is this which is characteristic of the time, which is coming forth from the deep impulses of our time and which makes it so difficult today to propagate ideas which refer to the very most important impulses of the development of the time. Man can develop no interest from this basic disposition which I have described. Their ideas remain sensations for them, do not sufficiently take hold of them, do not sufficiently spur them on to activity.
This must now be said at a time when a kind of transition has occurred for all people who are genuinely interesting themselves in our Spiritual Science. Until now you have had a spiritual-scientific literature which refers to the inner development of man and to knowledge about the Spiritual World, and which spoke to a man in such a way that he could take hold of the world, his relationship with the world, his relationship with other men, so far as it is soul-spiritual, from the most varied points of view. Now this Spiritual Science is running, with a branch — it is proceeding as the main body of Spiritual Science, for just this main body of Spiritual Science is the most necessary thing of all for really making all relationships healthy — into a stream which speaks of the Social Question, of the making healthy of the Social Organism, and which may no longer be taken inactively, no longer just passively, because otherwise it would miss its goal. And just now it will appear how many of us have made themselves ripe, during the many preceding years in which they were taking Spiritual Science into themselves, for a clear grasp of what is now to be understood as the Social Question. For what matters is a clear, unprejudiced, unsentimental grasp of what is to be uttered particularly in my forthcoming book The Basic Issues of the Social Question — it will be something on account of which we shall now have to undergo a certain trial.
Up to now, one could certainly be a good spiritual scientist if one studied Spiritual Science without troubling oneself about what was going on in life outside. And we have, you see, just two phenomena within out anthroposophical movement about which we really should reflect. We have the one phenomena that we have quite good anthroposophists who, though they know a great deal about cosmic development, the membering of Man, reincarnation, destiny and karma, nonetheless have no inkling of the reality of life, but who have sought something just in Anthroposophy, which has enabled them to hold themselves aloof from this reality of life. Those whom what I have just said specially concerns do not realise at all that it does concern them. For every one of them considers himself in naive fashion to be a practical man with regard to his life. This is the one phenomena which we have among us.
The other phenomena is sectarianism in some form or other. There is a deep inclination present, you see, to produce sectarianism just in movements which have to do with the Spiritual. It does not depend on whether this sectarianism is now developing from little cliques which appear with a sectarian character, even in very minor matters, or whether direct sectarianism is produced. For the main point is to realise that objectivity, an impersonal point of view, must permeate this anthroposophically-oriented spiritual-scientific movement which is here referred to.
This, you see, was always the difficult thing about our movement, that the personal was interchanged with what is objectively-factual, mostly without our being aware of it. When people gather into a clique which is larger of smaller, they are in full belief that they have a quite factual interest. Certainly they fully believe this, for they do not notice at all that they in reality they are generally doing what they wish for, just because this person stands near them spiritual-scientifically, because he is connected with them is such and such a way, because they wish to have just this or that relationship with him, or the like.
People are not aware of this. They live in the full belief that they are being objective. But just this sectarianism, this gathering in cliques, has brought forth the dreadful consequence that the promulgation of Spiritual Science, in whatever sphere it may be, is not judged today according to what it is but according to what a society, the Anthroposophical Society, is making and has made out of it. While I point to the most mischievous shortcomings and the most horrible "marsh-plants", of the type of an S------, it may not at all be overlooked, if one goes to the root of the matter, that this kind of "marsh-plant" has been coaxed on, raised up and cultivated by the cliquishness and sectarianism which have developed widely in the last 17 or 18 years in the anthroposophical movement. But what is going on in this anthroposophical movement very often projects itself into Anthroposophy because, you see, sins are committed by very many members against what is the most significant impulse of the time today, against individualism in the spiritual sphere. How frequently do we hear: we Anthroposophists, we Theosophists, want this or that! It is dreadful that we have as many as three basic principles! — We need no basic principles at all, for it is not these which matter: we need truths, not summarising-principles, and these truths are only for single human beings, for the individual. The Society — how often I have said it — should be something outward, but the thing itself does not concern the Society.
We must now be able to take this in a really and truly serious way. If what is now to flow into the world as a result of efforts with regard to the Social Question is to be borne along by sectarianism or clique-spirit or the various narrow-mindednesses which I have described today, quite terrible injury will be done to the matter! Here we must really develop to a more broad-minded way of thinking: we must seek for access into real, practical life. This is the main point.
Do take what I am saying about these things only in a friendly spirit. Do not take it as though I should like to say anything derogatory on the one side or the other. But now I really am compelled to utter a fundamental warning before this social side of our activities becomes the concern of all members, as it is to become — a warning not to mix into this social thinking any sectarianism, any pettiness, anything which has no wide horizon, which does not arise from clear thinking. But try, to an ever greater extent, to think from the experience and reality of life! I was, indeed, highly astonished when, a short time ago, the slogan (Devise) reached by ears, which I suppose must be uttered here from the one side or the other: one should carry practically into life the things which I am now putting forward as social ideas. What was meant was the carrying over of those practical ideas into the most unpractical measures that could be! We ought not to let that arise which has just led into the most terrible chaos and mischief in our time, the confusing of real with illusory practicality in life. What has been expressed there is so unpractical, has been thought out in so sectarian a way that I do not want to go into it further: it has to so small an extent the will really to step into practical life that I beg you before everything to look on what is going on in real life today, to know how to learn from what the various statements which I make have arisen.
For do you believe that it is a light-hearted theory when one says that labour-power has the character of a commodity? This may only be said if one has got to know it to an ever-greater extent as the most characteristic thing in life. Thus I should like, for example, to say the following — without anger, for these things are not to be taken in a personal way: I have been asked whether the three-membering — economic life, rights-life, spiritual life, could not be realised within our Society.
Certainly, one can utter something in this way with words, if one stands very well within our movement, if one feels for it quite honestly and deeply. But yet, if one say this, it is as though one had not at all grasped the basic nature of our movement. One has understood nothing at all about what I have said about the Social Question if one thinks that we can split our Society here into three, like a sect! For what are the three branches of the healthy Social Organism? First, take economic life. Do you, perhaps, wish to carry on some sort of communal economy in this Society — I do not know at all how it is to be externally realised — within the rest of the economic sphere outside? Do you wish, then, not to understand at all that one cannot cut oneself off in an egotistical way — even if it be in a group-egotistical way — and leave everything else out of consideration? You carry on economic life, in fact, together with the rest of the economy of the surrounding territory. You take, in fact, milk, cheese, vegetables, all that you need, from an economic body from which you cannot isolate yourselves. You cannot, in fact, reform the times by cutting yourselves adrift from the times. If someone wants to make a Society like this into an economic corporation, it appears to me just as though someone has a large family and says: I shall now begin threefolding in my family!
These ideas are too serious, too comprehensive. They ought not to be dragged into the petty-bourgeois field of various sectarianism which has always been there. They must be thought of in connection with the whole of mankind. They would, you see, cut themselves completely off from practical thinking about the economic circulation of the world if they wished to set up a group-economy for a sect. So much for economic life.
And rights-life! Just found the Rights-state within our Society! If you steal something, it will be entirely without importance if three people come together and pass judgement about this theft. The external court will certainly take you in charge and pass judgement. You just cannot draw yourself out of the external organisation with regard to the Rights-state.
Finally, consider spiritual life. Since there has been an Anthroposophical Society or since, with its anthroposophical content, it has belonged to the Theosophical Society, where has there been anything carried on here within this spiritual community which is dependent in even the smallest degree on any state- or political organisation? From the first day of this Society forward, our ideal has been fulfilled with regard to spiritual life, which, above all, is our task! Do you believe that it is only today that this is be achieved in this Anthroposophical Society? Is not everything fulfilled, just in this Anthroposophical Society, which is to be desired from the external spiritual organisation? Is it not the most practical ideal just with regard to this? Do you wish, now, to reform the Anthroposophical Society according to this aim? To be sure, you must have entirely failed to grasp what sort of a society you have been for so many years if it is only now that you wish to realise the Spiritual Third in this society!
Therefore, look upon just what we have been able to preserve by the skin of our teeth — freedom of spiritual investigation and teaching, at least in those people who long for no state-appointment for what they teach here — as a kind of starting-point for the rest. Just see what really is so, and do not let your thinking miss it. In my book about the Social Question it is stated again and again to be an inherited evil of the present age that the so-called practical people of today have let their thinking and speaking miss the things which matter. Is this evil also to establish itself in us, so that we no longer speak about the things which matter? It cannot be our task to carry free spiritual life into this place, but to carry out into the world what has always existed here as free spiritual life, to make it clear to men that all spiritual life must be of this kind.
What matters is, at least in the first place, to see the nearest reality. In this direction, what I have brought forward about the Social Question must, in the first place, be understood by Anthroposophists. Within the Anthroposophical Society at least, one should avoid propagating odd ideas with expressed intention of making practical what is represented here. Take seriously what has been gone through as a principal feature of the lectures of the last weeks — perhaps, indeed, of the last months: before everything, regard it quite seriously that the present time makes necessary a new adjustment of Man with regard to life, that it is not enough that we only take in now thoughts but that we should find the possibility to adjust ourselves in a new way in face of life, and that we should avoid everything which tends to isolation and to shutting ourselves off. Regard it seriously, before everything, that mankind has come to a real cul-de-sac in all three spheres with their so-called culture. How can this cul-de-sac show itself more clearly than in its chaotic, destructive effects in East- and Middle-Europe? The conditions in Russia do not arise only from the war. The war is only the culmination. What men have thought, perceived and felt for a long, long time, and what one was compelled to describe as a kind of social cancer 2see Inner Being of Man and Life Between Death and a New Birth, cycle 32, Lecture 6, p.12 has brought this chaos to a head in East- and Middle-Europe.
But what is most lacking at the present time? Judgement is lacking most of all! In the present time, social enlightenment is most of all lacking! It is this which the bourgeoisie has neglected most of all — the right kind of social enlightenment. There is, you see, no social sense in men. Every man knows only himself! This is why judgement is so short-sighted. If one speaks like this today, that economic life is to be brought into the Anthroposophical Society, then this is how I should be able to represent something real to myself — if we were to buy a cow, take care of it and milk it, and thereby produce something and deal in the right way with what had been produced. Then this would not be any sectarianism within our Society, for an ordered economic life what matters before everything is to take measures to raise productivity, taking account of necessary needs.
Here a beginning was actually made, which only, in the first place, partly failed because of the personage by whom it was made. Remember, we made a beginning with our bread through Herr von R., producing bread not according to the principle of production but according to that of consumption, which can be the only really sound principle. We wished, first of all, to provide consumers, which should gave been possible through a Society. Then production would have been put in hand according to the number of these. This was a real, practical beginning. It has only failed because Herr von R. was or is a quite unpractical man. Thus this was a practical idea, but one which only had to do with the Anthroposophical Society so far as the Society represented, in the first place, a body of consumers. What matters is to turn one's glance to the thing, not to the Anthroposophical Society, certainly no to make this into an isolated sect.
With referenced to these external things which lie at the basis of production, and to many another thing, you will not come far if you do not grasp on a large scale the ideas which are in my book about the Social Question. For, in the last resort, economic practical experience is necessary for the reform of economic life; one must even know how to milk cows, and it is more important to understand the milking of cows than to put in hand some economic understanding in a little sect and then, nevertheless, to obtain milk from outside.
In our case, what matters would be to realize in just what the impulse of the present time must lie, what is the most important thing at the present time. You can engage in all the undertakings that you wish today. Go, if you can, to Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, etc. Put in hand there the best, most idealistic things; do what you wish! At the latest, all these undertakings will be bankrupt within ten years — that is how things are today. With the thoughts which men have today, you can put in hand the most idealistic undertakings; in ten years they will be bankrupt — of that you can be quite sure. It will not always be as quick as it was just now in Munich, where one workers' and soldiers' council was set aside by another, and this again by another yet more radical, and so on but everything which you put in hand today in the way of such undertakings, which appear very good and sound to you, will in their turn be overthrown so long as the same ideas remain in people's heads as have been there for centuries and are still wandering about there like ghosts.
Nothing more is to be done with these ideas! One must therefore certainly accustom oneself to think and learn the other way round, and to take in new ideas as a constituent part of the inner being of one's soul. You cannot at once, from one day to another, apply new ideas to undertakings, but you can work out in detail the ideas which are in my book, down to the most extreme specialization, because they are practical. You can try to put this or that in hand. But you will also need people, you see, for everything which you put in hand. And, so long as the old thoughts are haunting the heads of those people, your undertakings will soon become bankrupt or else will take on the earlier forms, so that everything will remain in the old manner. Therefore it is not the most important thing today to put this or that in hand. Naturally, you can put good things in hand for yourselves. I do not at all want to tempt you to put bad things in hand. But I am only drawing your attention to the fact that even if you put the best things in hand you will not change the times by doing so. In order really to work in any sphere in the new style, one can undertake something in the manner which I previously indicated to you with regard to bread, or one can do it in some such way as we are doing in the sphere of our literature.
How did we start? In the first place, I spoke to a very small circle in Berlin. Then the circles became ever larger. While they were becoming larger the need arose to have in books what was spoken. The readers were there before the books were printed. Follow up the theories about social ideas today; one of the fundamental evils of our social order consists of the continual crises and the danger of crises which arise as a result of sporadic overproduction, when people produce things without deliberation. It is worst of all in the book-trade. If you only knew what is produced in the book-trade in the way of books, editions of which are often produced of 500 copies, sometimes still more, of which not fifty copies are sold! You have employed the setter-up, you have employed the printer, you have used up paper, all for nothing! All this is thrown to the winds; a misuse of human labor-power has taken place! In the moment when you produce things without deliberation, you must be aware that you are using up human labor-power without the consumption being there to justify this using up of human labor-power, for this using-up of human labor-power is only justified by the existing need. Not the content, but the demand must be there. The spending of human labor power is only justified when one can foresee that the product of human labor is for the benefit of human beings.
Thus, in the single sphere into which we could step in a certain way as reformers, we have done so. We have even had to take refuge in under-production, not over-production. The world could by no means think otherwise than that the magazine Lucifer-Gnosis came to an end for want of readers, as other magazines have done. Just when it had to come to an end because other demands came upon me, the moment had to come when it would first have had half as many readers again as it had before, then twice as many, then three times as many. We have even had to resolve on underproduction, not overproduction. But thus crises were avoided in a sound way.
The book-trade lives in a continual crisis. If one makes statistics of books which are not bought, one sees that books are produced which are not bought today because care cannot be taken to see that they are bought. Many people have a certain insight into these things. I once spoke with Eduard von Hartmann in the eighties about the literature of the Theory of Knowledge. It was at the time when I wrote my booklet Truth and Science which is now out of print, of which no copy was printed uselessly, no copy went for waste-paper with a resulting waste of human labor-power. Eduard von Hartmann said to me: people have all their works on the Theory of Knowledge printed in editions of 500; we know that we have at the most sixty readers in Germany; in this case one should have them hectographed and send the books to the small number of readers who are really interested. It is known that works on Theory of Knowledge have had no more readers at that time.
Do not find fault with the fact that I have just spoken here about this purely economic question of anthroposophical literature. These things have nothing to do with the content of the books, you see, nothing to do with spiritual value. They can, however, illustrate what is really meant and what really matters at the present time — that first of all a sound association of consumers should be created and that production should not take place "into the blue". Not even Truth, my dear friends, should be produced from mere human predilection!
It is to this that the answer refers which I once gave to two Catholic priests in Colmar after a lecture on "The Bible and Knowledge", and which I recently touched on again. After the lecture, the two priests came to me and said: as regards to the content of the lecture they really had nothing special to object to, but they had a lot against the manner of speaking, for the way in which they spoke down from the pulpit was suitable for all men. The way in which I spoke was not suitable for all men, but only for educated people. I could only reply to them what matters in not what opinions you hold, and I hold, about the way in which one should speak to all men; no doubt we can have all sorts of interesting ideas about that, but what matters is not how one should speak but what the facts demand. And now I ask you do all the people go to you in the church? You cannot assert this. Thus I am speaking for those who remain outside and who yet also have a right to hear of Christ, and there area quite enough of them today.
These are facts which cannot be denied. But the old bourgeois education, which is wholly shut up in itself, does still deny it. It imagines something is right if done in this way: it must be so; it must be done like this. But, for life, it is not at all necessary that it be done in this way! What matters, for life, is that one observes: this is there and that is there, that one lets the facts which are there demand of one what one has to do. There are only apparently trivialities, for life today is continually sinning against these trivialities.
What is thus necessary before everything is another adjustment, and also the insight that we must see how this culture, which has been so praised, has carried death in itself, has dissolved itself. You must not believe that culture has been ruined as a result of the Radical-socialist movements of today. It has ruined itself. What the upper classes had in the way of culture has led itself into negation, is perishing by its own qualities. This upper class has simply not taken care that the lower, proletarian classes who are coming after them know anything rational about social arrangements, and thus it is astonished when they come to the fore in their social ignorance and bring really nothing about except chaos.
The position is quite serious, and it is out of this realization of the serious situation of the whole world today that the ideas flow which I have had to utter in my book about the Social Question. People will only understand this book aright if they grasp that one can put the best arrangements in hand today but that just nothing is to be done with the men who have the ideas of our time in their heads. Before everything, their heads must be filled with other ideas. What, then is the true, the real, the truly practical task? To spread enlightenment, my dear friends, before everything, to spread enlightenment and teach people to think differently! This is the task which is laid on every one of you, to bring enlightenment into people's heads, not to think of sundry reformations in details, but to give enlightenment about what is necessary in the most universal way. For, before everything, men must become different today; that is to say, the thoughts, the feelings in men's souls must become different. It is a question of carrying these ideas out there wherever one can. That is the practical thing, to put these ideas into practice. Something is achieved with every quarter of a man — pardon my speaking in such a way — when you win for these ideas. And it is achieved in the greatest degree if you win over people who have practical standing. In the matter of the signatures under the Manifesto, I recently said: it is really quite a cause for joy that there are writers' signatures under the Manifesto, but one bank director who really understands the Manifesto and works in its sense is of more value than ten writers who set their names under it.
Today, what matters is to take hold of life where it is to be taken hold of. And today this cannot be done except while one is spreading enlightenment before all else, is working in an enlightening way. For what people need as the most necessary thing of all is knowledge of the conditions for the life of the healthy Social Organism. If they do not learn to know the conditions for the life of the healthy Social Organism, they will continue to destroy the old Social Organism so long as destruction is possible. It is natural, you see, only up to a certain point. Everything which is done just now without these ideas is an exhaustion of the forces of the old order, a pulling down of the old order. This has begun in Russia and will go on further from there. What matters is to build up. But you can only build up today if people understand how the building-up must be done. For we are living in the age of the development of the consciousness-soul, that is to say in the age of conscious individualities, in the age when people must know what they are doing.
My book is written out of this spirit, and I should like it understood in this spirit. I should like you to lay it in your hearts in this spirit. It will simply serve the time; it will utter what must be uttered out of the spirit of the time. Cliques, sectarian trends within the body of our own Society, have taken care enough that, basically speaking, people presume all sorts of ghost-hunting and the like when there is talk about Anthroposophy. But one does not seek the Spirit here by always merely talking about the Spirit — one can leave that to other gentlemen — but the important thing is that the Spirit shall be in the position really to plunge down into practical life, to understand how practical life must be handled. Anyone has a poor kind of belief in the Spirit who wishes to grasp it only in a shadowy form which is floating above life. Therefore, to an ever greater extent, you must really avoid turning away from life, must to an ever greater extent seek really to understand life, to look into life; otherwise the same phenomena of which I have spoken will happen again and again. Examples can be given by hundreds and thousands. A lady came to me and said: a man has come to me to ask me to lend him money, but he is a brewer who brews beer for this money. I really cannot support this — a brewery! Now, you see, this is quite nice; in this narrow circle, the lady did not wish to support the brewery because she was an abstainer and not only wished to be an abstainer on her own account but wished also to make propaganda for temperance. I had to reply to her: "I suppose you have money in the bank, by which you live. Have you an inkling how many breweries the bank helps with your money? Have you an inkling of all that is done there? Do you believe that all this is in the sense of the idea which you have just followed with regard to the sum which you were asked to lend to the brewer? But are you not doing the same thing when your money, which you have deposited in the bank, is carried over into economic life?" For do you really believe that it means that you are turning yourself towards life if you do no more than judge this life in the narrowest circles, if you do not at all set about fixing your attention on the broad aspect of life?
But the important thing is this: our Anthroposophical Society is no field for experimenting, but it is to be the germ for everything good which is to come over mankind. With regard to the Social Question, what matters is above all that a wider stream of enlightenment about social necessities shall stream out from it. For you are certainly behaving practically, conforming with life, if you spread these things, but you must also really take trouble to spread them conformably with life, and not remain in a narrow interpretation. I hope that not one of you comes to the strange idea that we are dealing in the old national-economic ideas, by which people learn National-economy. For God's sake don't bring in anything pertaining to "export national-economics" here today, for this, you see, consists of ideas from the oldest lumber-room of all! Do not believe that you are learning to think in a national-economic way if, today, you take practicable concepts into yourselves in a scholastic way, as they are perhaps taught at universities. Do not make any programs which appear to put into practice what I have given in lectures but which, rather, mean nothing more than the terribly-grinning old bourgeois masks! Let us set ourselves on the solid ground of the great demands of our time; let us consider social life before everything in these demands of our time!
I could not but say this before you just now, when we are about to make a journey to Germany and many a task will come to meet me; and though we hope that our absence will this time be much less long than on other occasions, we are yet living in a time when one should really never make plans and projects covering a long time. One can only say people who have found one another as the members of the Anthroposophical Society have done remain together wherever they are, stand in the matter with steadfast courage and inner boldness and stick to their course, whatever the terrible billows of the present time may bring. For the most part, they will not bring anything easy. We shall most likely experience many a thing which will raise the question in us: how should things go further just among us? Stick to your course even when this happens; do what is your part in order to carry something further in the world, and you will be doing what is right.
I could only remain here at this time until this book was completed, for this book is to be of service to the time. Our friends will undertake it here, will take care of its distribution in Switzerland, and I hope for many a reason that I can be here again quite soon to take part in this work. Partly for a reason which is very much misunderstood just here in Switzerland. One can certainly hear from someone on the other side: "but what does the foreigner want just here in Switzerland? He should leave us in peace. Our democracy has lasted for 600 years; it is healthy, it is proof against what is going on outside among the crazy eastern and middle-European peoples."
I have now the conviction that the best could be done today where it could still be brought about from free-will. If such social ideas as are recorded in my book were to blossom in Russia today, this would come to pass because the most external need compelled it, and if the most external need compels it — the same in Middle-Europe, the same in Germany — then the right impulse is no longer there. The right impulse just for these ideas, which will bring social healing to mankind, would be present if they would come to pass out of freedom on a ground of which one can say the Bolshevists have not come to us, we still have something of the old conditions. Oh, if understanding for it were developed to bring forth these ideas from free-will, just on the ground here, before the water runs into the mouths of the people here as well, then Switzerland could be the blossoming land of Europe, for it is equipped for this by its geographical position! It is equipped with a gigantic mission in spite of its small size. But it will only be able to fulfill this mission if it brings to completion, from free-will, what neither the eastern nor the middle states can bring to fulfillment from free-will today — they would have had to take it in hand before now — and what the western states will not do because they have not sufficient disposition to do so. Here there are dispositions, the geographical presuppositions; everything is present here. All that is needed here is good-will towards free human resolve. To this belongs just activity of thinking. To this belongs thought-will.
Thought-will is what the mankind of today most lack. Thought-will develops very well, even geographically, among those men whom souls come because they wish to go into the mountains. (I drew your attention to this yesterday: souls no longer set very much value on race, they go to a geographical situation). Thought-will does not develop in regions such as that in which The Three Gypsies (poem by Lenau) was composed. This is a very beautiful poem, but it is composed in the plain. Man does not need a plain-disposition today; he certainly needs a mountain-disposition. Therefore, much could come out of the Swiss mountains; therefore one would like to have certain foundations here also, a point from which something could proceed. And therefore it seems important to me not to be silent just here but to speak as long as possible of the great needs of the time. And I call especially to our friends here in Switzerland to understand the demand for enlightenment, to take care that the demands of the time pass over into the consciousness just of those who live in this place. The more Swiss heads and Swiss hearts are won just for these social ideas, the better it will be for Europe and for the world. I say this quite particularly to the Swiss. You can, you see, my dear Swiss who are among us, make the foreign thing into a Swiss thing — then it is a Swiss thing! All these distinctions, really have only a passing value.
I could not but say this to you today, and I hope that you have understood me quite aright with regard to these things. I hope that the spirit which should fill and envelop this building may be further maintained as a result of the disposition of our members, and that we may at some time find ourselves together again here, held together by this spirit which, from the beginning forward, was such that it could now live itself out and which cannot be any different, for from the beginning forward it has willed to realize itself in what lies in the demands of our time.
With this I should like to take leave of you for the present. But this place here should have such a spiritual importance that if it should at any time be necessary and if the only way for me to come to work here would be to ride here on a wasted, half-dead nag, I should not shrink from even this. But tasks can come in other places which may delay my return. But in spite of everything, good-bye in our spirit, particularly in the spirit which I have slightly depicted in this last gathering and presented to your hearts.