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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Younger Generation
GA 217

Lecture II

4 October 1922, Dornach

In speaking of a movement among the youth, a clear distinction can be made between the youth movement in the wider sense and those young people who are particularly concerned with schools, with the sphere of education in general. I do not wish to accentuate either the one or the other, but our aim will be most readily attained if we consider the main difficulties of the inner life among the youth at Universities and Colleges.

We shall often have to start from details and then quickly soar to a wider outlook. Allow me to say a few words about the inner experiences undergone by young people at Universities. As a matter of fact, this situation has been preparing for many decades, but recently it has reached a climax making it more clearly perceptible.

Young people at the Universities are seeking for something. This is not surprising, for their purpose in going to college is to seek for something. They have been looking in those who taught them, for real leaders, for those who were both teachers and leaders or—as would be equally correct—teachers endowed with leadership, and they did not find them. And this was the really terrible thing clothed in all kinds of different words—one man speaking conservatively, the other radically, one saying something very wise and another something very stupid. What was said amounted to this: We can no longer find any teachers.

What, then, did youth find when they came to the Universities? Well, they met men in whom they did not find what they were looking for. These men prided themselves on not being teachers any longer, but investigators, researchers. The Universities established themselves as institutes for research. They were no longer there for human beings, but only for science. And science led an existence among men which it defined as “objective.” It drummed into people, in every possible key, that it was to be respected as “objective” science. It is sometimes necessary to express such things pictorially. And so this objective science was now going about among human beings but it most certainly was not a human being! Something non-human was going about among men, calling itself “Objective Science.”

This could be perceived in detail, over and over again. How often is it not said: This or that has been discovered; it already belongs to science. And then other things are added to science and these so-called treasures of science become an accumulation, something which has acquired, step by step, this dreadful objective existence among mankind. But human beings do not really fit in with this objective creature who is strutting around in their midst, for true and genuine manhood has no kinship with this cold, objective, bolstered-up creature. True, as time has gone on, libraries and research institutes have been established. But the young, especially, are not looking for libraries or research institutes. They are looking in libraries for—it is almost beyond one to say the word—they are looking for human beings—and they find, well, they find librarians! They are looking in the scientific institutes for men filled with enthusiasm for wisdom, for real knowledge, and they find, well, those who are usually to be found in laboratories, scientific institutes, hospitals and the like. The old have accustomed themselves to being so easy-going and phlegmatic that they really do not want to be there at all in person—only their institutes and libraries must be there. But the human being cannot bring this about. Even if he tries not to be there, he is there nevertheless, working not through the reality that lives in him as a human being, but through a leaden heaviness in him.

One could express this in other ways too: Human beings strive toward Nature. But—to take a significant point—you cannot help saying: Nature is round the young child too, for example. But in its life of soul-and-spirit the little child derives nothing from Nature. The little child has to get something from Nature by coming into relation with human beings with whom it can experience Nature in common. In a certain respect this holds good right up to very late years of youth. We must come together with human beings with whom we can experience Nature in common. This was not possible during the last decades because there was no language in which people, both young and old, could come to an understanding with one another about Nature. When the old speak of Nature it is as though they were darkening her, as though the names they give to the plants no longer fit them. Nothing fits! On the one side there is the riddle “plant” and we hear the names from the old, but they do not tally because the human reality is expelled; “objective” science is wandering about on the earth. This state of things came gradually but it reached a climax during recent decades.

In the nineteenth century it showed itself through a particular phenomenon in a significant way. When anyone with a little imagination cast an eye over the higher forms of culture in recent centuries, he made acquaintance at every turn with this objective creature “Science,” which came upon the scene in many different guises but claimed always to be the one and only genuine, objective science. And having made its acquaintance, having this objective science continually introduced to one, one perceived that another being had stolen away bashfully, because she felt that she was no longer tolerated. And if one were spurred on to speak with this being, secretly in the corner, she said: “I have a name which may not be uttered in the presence of objective science. I am called Philosophy, Sophia—Wisdom. But having the ignominious prefix ‘love’ I have attached to me something that through its very name is connected with human inwardness, with love. I no longer dare to show myself. I have to go about bashfully. Objective science prides itself on having nothing of the ‘philo’ in its makeup. It has also lost, as a token, the real Sophia. But I go about nevertheless, for I still bear something of the sublime within me, connected with feeling and with a genuinely human quality.”

This is a picture that often came before the soul, and it expressed an undefined feeling in countless young people during the last twenty or thirty years.

People have been trying to find forms of expression—for as there are forms of expression for the life of thought, so too for the life of feeling—they have always been trying to find expressions for what they were seeking. Possibly the most zealous, who felt the greatest warmth of youth, broke out into the vaguest expressions because all they really knew was: We are seeking for something. But when they came to express what it was that they were seeking, it was nothing, a Nothingness. In reality, the Nothingness was, as in the words of Faust, the “All,” but it presented itself as a Nothingness. It was a question of crossing an abyss. Such was the feeling, and it still is the feeling today. It can only be understood as part of history, but history in a new, not old sense.

And now I want to speak of something quite different, but gradually things will link themselves together. Human beings who lived at the beginning of our era were able to feel quite differently from the human being of today. This was so because in the life of feeling and human perception there still lived a great deal of what was old. Human beings had a heritage in their souls. Heritage was not there only at the beginning of our era; it continued far into the Middle Ages. But nowadays souls are placed into the world without it. The fact that souls come into the world without this heritage is very noticeable in the new century. That is one aspect. The other—well, my dear friends, suppose you were to ask anybody who lived at the beginning of our era if they spoke much about “education”. The farther back we go, the less we find that education is spoken about. Education, of course, may be spoken about in different ways, for instance: Through education the young should gradually be brought up to be what they want to be when they are old. For after all we must grow old in earthly life—however young we may still be.

In olden times human beings were young and grew old in a more natural way. Today people cannot be old and young in a way that is true to nature. People do not know any longer what it means to be young and what it means to be old. Nothing is known about it and that is why there is such endless talk about education, because there is a longing to know how to teach young people to be young in order that they may grow old respectably. But nobody knows how to direct things so that human beings should be truly young and how, in youth, they can decently assimilate what will enable them to become old in a worthy manner.

Centuries ago all this was quite a matter of course. Today a great deal is said about education. Mostly we do not realize the absurdity of what is said on this subject. Nowadays almost everyone is talking about education. And why? Usually he has but the vaguest realization of having been badly educated and yet difficulties in life are attributed to this cause. People talk about it because they find that they are uneducated. This they admit. But they do not experience anything real in this domain. Nonetheless conclusions are formed. The usual cry is: “We should have this program in education”—merely because people feel so insecure in themselves. One could also show that a strong will is present on all sides, but without any real content. And that is exactly what the young are feeling, that there is no content in this will. Why is there no content? Because only lately something genuinely new has arisen in earth-evolution.

The following can only be indicated in broad outline, but if you care to look at my book, Occult Science, it will be brought home to you. There you will find that the earth is shown as a heritage of other world-existences. The names are immaterial. I have called them the Saturn, Sun and Moon existences. But the first earth-epoch was only the repetition of earlier world-existences. On the earth there have been three periods of repetition: a Saturn, a Sun, and a Moon period. Then came the earth period proper. But this earth period proper, this Atlantean epoch, was again only a repetition at a higher level of earlier conditions.

And then came the post-Atlantean epoch—a still higher stage. But this again was a repetition. The post-Atlantean epoch was a repetition of a repetition. Until the fifteenth century A.D. mankind actually lived on nothing but repetitions, on nothing but a heritage. Up to the fifteenth century the human being, in his soul, was by no means an unwritten page. Before then, many things rose up of themselves in the soul. But from the fifteenth century onwards souls were really unwritten pages. Now the earth was new—new for the first time. Since the fifteenth century the earth has been new. Before then human beings lived on the earth with much they inherited. As a rule no heed is paid to the fact that since the fifteenth century the earth has become new for the first time. Before then human beings were fed on the past. Since the fifteenth century they have been standing face to face with Nothingness. The soul is an unwritten page. And how have human beings been living since the fifteenth century? Since then, the son has inherited from the father rough tradition what had once been inherited in a different way, so that from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century tradition was still always there. But as you can see, tradition has fared worse and worse.

Think for example of the Sphere of Rights. It would never have occurred to a man like Scotus Erigena to speak of Rights as modern people speak, because at that time there was still something in the souls which led human beings to speak as man to man. This is no longer so, because there is nothing in the soul that leads to the human reality; man has found nothing yet that leads out of the Nothingness. At one time the father could at least speak to the son. But at the end of the eighteenth century things had gone so far that the father had really nothing to say to his son any more. Then people began to seek, convulsively to begin with, for the so-called “Rights of Reason.” Ideas and feelings on the subject of Rights were supposed to be pressed out of reason. Then Savigny and others discovered that nothing more could be pressed out of reason. People began to establish Rights according to history, where it was a question of studying earlier conditions and cramming themselves with the feelings of men long since dead, because there was nothing left in themselves. Rights of reason were a convulsive clinging to what had already been lost. Rights according to history were a confession that nothing more was to be got out of the men of the day. Such was the situation at the onset of the nineteenth century: The feeling grew keener and keener that mankind was facing a Nothingness and that something must be got out of the human being himself.

In ancient Greece nobody would have known how to speak about objective science. How did man express his relation to the world? By reference to spiritual vision he spoke of Melpomene, of Urania, and so on; of the “Liberal Arts”. These Liberal Arts were not beings who went about on the earth, but for all that they were real. Even in the age of philosophy, the Greek's experience of his connection with the spiritual world was concrete. The Muses were genuinely loved; they were real beings with whom man was related and had intercourse. Homer's words: “Sing, O Muse, of the wrath of Peleus' son, Achilles” were not the mere phraseology they are thought to be by modern scholars. Homer felt himself a kind of chalice and the Muse spoke out of him as a higher manhood enfilled him.

Klopstock was unwilling to speak in the phrases which were already prevalent in the world into which he was born; he said: “Sing, immortal Soul, of sinful man's redemption.” But this “immortal soul” too has disappeared little by little. It was a slow and gradual process. In the first centuries of Christendom we find that the once concrete Muses had become dreadfully withered ladies! Grammar, Dialectic, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astrology, Music—they had lost all concrete reality. Boethius makes them appear almost without distinct features. It is impossible to love them any longer. But even so they are buxom figures in comparison with the objective science that goes about as a being among men today. Little by little the human being has lost the connection he had in olden times with the spiritual world. This was inevitable because he had to develop to full freedom in order to shape all that is human out of himself. This has been the challenge since the fifteenth century, but it was not really felt until the end of the nineteenth and particularly in the twentieth century. For now, not only was the inheritance lost but the traditions too. Fathers had nothing to tell their sons. And now the feeling was: We are facing a Nothingness. People began to sense: The earth has in fact become new.

What I have said here can be put in another way, by considering what would have become of the earth without the Christ Event.—Suppose there had been no Christ Event. The earth as it lives in man's life of soul and spirit would gradually have withered. The Christ Event could not have been delayed until the modern age. It had to occur somewhat earlier than the time when the old inheritance had gone, in order that the Christ Event could at least be experienced through the old inherited qualities of soul. Just imagine what it would have been like if the Christ Event at the beginning of our era had come about at the end of the nineteenth or in the twentieth century. How our contemporaries would laugh to scorn the pretension that an event could be of such significance! Quite a different kind of feeling was necessary. The feeling of standing before a Nothingness could not, at the time of that Event, have been there. The Christ Event came during the first third of the fourth Post-Atlantean epoch of civilization. And in the same epoch, in the first third of which there fell the Christ Event, the old era came to an end.

A new era begins in the fifteenth century, with the fifth Post-Atlantean epoch of civilization in which we are now living. In this epoch there were only traditions. They have gradually faded out. In this epoch, as regards the Christ Event, as regards the deeper, more intimate religious questions, men are clearly facing a Nothingness. It has even become impossible for theologians to understand the Christ Event. Try to get from contemporary theology an intelligible conception of the Christ Event. Those who argue the Christ away from Jesus pass as the greatest theologians today. Quite obviously, people are facing the Abyss.

I am only describing symptoms. For these things take place in the deeper layers of man's life of soul. These layers of soul conjure into those who were born on earth to become the young of recent decades, something that makes them feel cut off from the stream of world happenings. It is as though a terrible jerk had been given to the evolution of the soul.

Suppose my hand were capable of feeling and were chopped off. What would it feel? It would feel cut off, dried up; it would no longer feel itself to be what it actually is. This is what the human soul has been feeling since the last third of the nineteenth century in regard to the stream of world happenings. The soul feels cut off, chopped off, and the anxious question is: How can I once again become alive in my soul?

But then, when one strives to speak out of what can bring this life back again, those who want to muddle along on the lines of the old spiritual life simply show no understanding. Just think how little is understood about the essence of the founding of the Waldorf School, for example. For the most part people hear about the Waldorf School something quite different from what they ought to hear. They hear things that were also said decades ago. The mere words that are spoken today about the Waldorf School can be found by them in books. They find every single word in earlier books. But when one wants to use different words, or perhaps only different ways of putting the sentences together, then people say: That is bad style. They have not the remotest notion of what must be done now, when human beings who still have a soul in their bodies must inevitably face the Nothingness.

Waldorf School education must be listened to with other ears than those with which one hears about other kinds of education or educational reform. For the Waldorf School gives no answer to the questions people want to have answered today and which are ostensibly answered by other systems of education. What is the aim of such questions? Their usual aim is intelligence, much intelligence—and of intelligence the present time has an incalculable amount. Intelligence, intellect, cleverness—these are widespread commodities at the present time. One can give terribly intelligent answers to questions like: What should we make out of the child? How should we inculcate this or that into him? The ultimate result is that people answer for themselves the question: What pleases me in the child, and how can I get the child to be what I like? But such questions have no significance in the deeper evolutionary course of humanity. And to such questions Waldorf pedagogy gives no reply at all.

To give a picture of what Waldorf Education is, we must say that it speaks quite differently from the way in which people speak elsewhere in the sphere of education: Waldorf School Education is not a pedagogical system but an Art—the Art of awakening what is actually there within the human being. Fundamentally, the Waldorf School does not want to educate, but to awaken. For an awakening is needed today. First of all, the teachers must be awakened, and then the teachers must awaken the children and the young people.

An awakening is needed, now that mankind has been cut off from the stream of world-evolution in general. In this moment humanity fell asleep—you will not be surprised that I use this expression. They fell asleep, just as a hand goes to sleep when it is cut off from the circulation of the body. But you might say: But human beings have made such progress since the fifteenth century, they have developed such colossal cleverness, and, moreover, are aware of the colossal cleverness they have developed If the War had not come—which, by the way, was not the experience that it might have been, although people did realize to a slight extent that they were not so very clever after all—heaven knows to what point the phrase, “We have made such splendid progress” would have got. It would have been unendurable! Certainly in the sphere of the intellect tremendous progress has been made since the fifteenth century. But this intellect has something dreadfully deceptive about it.

You see, people think that in their intellects they are awake. But the intellect tells us nothing about the world. It is really nothing but a dream of the world. In the intellect, more emphatically than anywhere else, man dreams and because objective science works mostly with the intellect that is applied to observation and experiment, it too dreams about the world. It all remains a dreaming. Through the intellect man no longer has an objective relation with the world. The intellect is the automatic momentum of thinking which continues long after man has been cut off from the world. That is why human beings of the present day, when they feel a soul within them, are seeking again for a real link with the world, a re-entrance into the world. If up till the fifteenth century men had positive inheritances, so now they are confronting a “reversed” inheritance, a negative inheritance. And here a strange discovery can be made.

Up to the fifteenth century, men could welcome with joy what they had inherited from the evolution of the world. The world had not been unrolled and human beings were not altogether cut off from it. Today, after the switching off has occurred, one can again ponder what is to be got from the world without personal activity. But then a strange discovery is made, like a man who is left a legacy and forgets to inform himself about it accurately. A calculation is made and it is discovered that the debits exceed the assets. The opportunity of refusing the legacy has been missed. But this means a definite amount of debts which have to be paid. It is a negative inheritance. There are such cases. And so a negative inheritance comes to the soul, even concerning the greatest Event that has ever happened in evolution.

Before the time of Golgotha it was not necessary for human beings to understand the Mystery of Golgotha, because it had not taken place. Then it happened, and with the remains of ancient inheritance it could still be dimly understood in the age that followed. Then came the fifteenth century when these inherited remains were no longer there, although it was still possible for father to pass on to son the story of what took place in the Mystery of Golgotha.

None of this helps any longer. People are dreadfully clever. But even in the seventh and eighth centuries they would have been clever enough to perceive the contradictions in the four Gospels. The contradictions were, after all, very easy to discover. They began to be investigated for the first time in the nineteenth century. And so it is in every domain of life. The value of the intellect was too highly assessed and a consciousness, a feeling, for the Event of Golgotha was lost. Religious consciousness was lost in the deepest sense. But in its innermost essence the soul has not lost this consciousness, and the young are asking: “What was the Mystery of Golgotha in reality?” The elders were unable to say anything about it. I am not implying that the young are capable of this either, or that anything is known at the Universities. What I am saying is that something ought to be known about it.

To sum up, what is taking place chaotically in the depths of human souls: a striving to understand once again the Mystery of Golgotha. What must be sought for is a new experience of Christ. We are standing inevitably before a new experience of the Christ Event. In its first form it was experienced with the remains of old inherited qualities of soul; they have vanished since the fifteenth century, and the experiences have been carried on simply by tradition. For the first time, in the last third of the nineteenth century it became evident that the darkness was now complete. There was no heritage any longer. Out of the darkness in the human soul, a light must be found once again. The spiritual world must be experienced in a new way.

This is the significant experience that is living in the souls of profounder natures in the modern youth movement. By no means superficially but in a deeper sense, it is clear that for the first time in the historical evolution of mankind there must be an experience which comes wholly from out of the human being himself. As long as this is not realized it is impossible to speak of education. The fundamental question is: How can original, firsthand experience, spiritual experience, be generated in the soul?

Original spiritual experience in man's soul is something that is standing before the awakening of human beings in the new century as the all-embracing, unexpressed riddle of man and of the world. The real question is: How is man to awaken the deepest nature within him, how can he awaken himself? Zealous spirits among growing humanity—I can only express it in a picture—are like one who only half wakes in the morning with his limbs heavy, unable to come fully out of sleep. That is how the human being feels today—as if he cannot completely emerge from the state of sleep.

This lies at the root of a striving in many different forms during the last twenty or thirty years and is still shining with a positive light today into the souls of the young. It expresses itself in the striving for community among young people. People are looking for something. I said yesterday: Man has lost man, and is seeking him again. Until the fifteenth century, human beings had not lost one another. Naturally evolution cannot be turned back to an earlier condition and it would be dreadful to attempt it. We do not wish to become reactionaries. Nevertheless it is a fact that up to the fifteenth century man could still find man. Since that century dim thought-pictures were to be found in tradition and in what the father was still able to hand on, saying: “The other person over there is really a human being.” Dimly it was realized that this form going about was also a human being. In the twentieth century this has altogether vanished. Even tradition has gone, and yet the quest is still for the human being. Man is really seeking for man. And why? Because in reality he is seeking for something quite different.

If things continue as they were at the turn of the century, then no one will wake up. For the others too are in the state where they are incapable of awakening anybody. In short, human beings, in community life, must mean something to one another. It is this that has from the beginning radiated through Waldorf School Education, which does not aim at being a system of principles but an impulse to awaken. It aims at being life, not science, not cleverness but art, vital action, awakening deed. That is, what matters is a question of awakening, for evolution has made human beings fall into a sleep that is filled with intellectualistic dreams. Even in the ordinary dream—which is nothing compared with the intellectual dreaming that goes on—man is often a megalomaniac. But, ordinary dreaming is a mere nothing compared with intellectualistic dreaming.

An awakening is at stake and it will simply not do to go any further with intellectualism. This objective science which goes about and has discarded all its old clothes because it fears that something genuinely human might be found in them, has surrounded itself with a thick fog, with the mantle of objectivity, and so nobody notices what is going about in this objectivity of science. People need something human again: human beings must be awakened.

Yes, my dear friends, if an awakening is to take place, the Mystery of Golgotha must become a living experience again. In the Mystery of Golgotha a Spirit-Being came into the earth from realms beyond the earth. In earlier times this was grasped with ancient powers of the soul. The twentieth century is challenged to understand it with new powers. Modern youth, when it understands itself, is demanding to be awakened in its consciousness, not in the ancient and slumbering powers of the soul. And this can only happen through the Spirit, can only happen if the Spirit actually sends its sparks into the communities people are seeking for today. The Spirit must be the Awakener. We can only make progress by realizing the tragic state of world-happenings in our day, namely, that we are facing the Nothingness we necessarily had to face in order to establish human freedom in earth-evolution. And in face of the Nothingness we need an awakening in the Spirit.

Only the Spirit can open the shutters, for otherwise they will remain tightly shut. Objective science—I cast no reproaches, for I am not overlooking its great merits—will, in spite of everything, leave these shutters tightly closed. Science is only willing to concern itself with the earthly. But since the fifteenth century the forces which can awaken human beings have disappeared. The awakening must be sought within the human being himself, in the super-earthly. This is indeed the deepest quest, in whatever forms it may appear. Those who speak of something new and are inwardly earnest and sincere should ask themselves: “How can we find the unearthly, the super-sensible, the spiritual, within our own beings?” This need not again be clothed in intellectualistic forms. Truly it can be sought in concrete forms, indeed it must be sought in such forms. Most certainly it cannot be sought in intellectualistic forms. For if you ask me why you have come here, it is because there is living within you this question: How can we find the Spirit? If you see what has impelled you to come in the right light, you will find that it is simply this question: “How can we find the Spirit which, out of the forces of the present time, is working in us? How can we find this Spirit?”

In the next few days, my dear friends, we will try to find this Spirit.