Anthroposophic Movement (1938)
VII. Third Stage: The Present Day. — Life-conditions of the Anthroposophical Society
Dornach, 16 June, 1923
Having now given you a picture of certain prominent features in the spiritual movements of the modern age, as well as of the tendencies underlying them, — modern spiritual movements, for which the anthroposophic movement should afford, as it were, a channel suited to the demands of these times, — I should like to go on to-day and to-morrow to certain phenomena that made their appearance in the third period of the anthroposophic movement, and try from these to construe for you what are, truly speaking, the life-conditions of the Anthroposophical Society.
Let us be clear as to how we stood at the time when the second period of the anthroposophie movement was drawing to a close, — about, that is, the year 1918 or '14, — and as to how we stand to-day; and let us try to examine more closely what these two stages signify for us, — I mean the beginning of the third period and the end of the third period.
During the past few days I have been trying more to go into the inner depths of the picture; but to-day and to-morrow I would like to put before you what is, for Anthroposophists, so to speak, of actual moment, and of a kind to enter directly into the impulses of the will.
Let us just look back again for a minute and see how, in the first and second periods, by keeping in the main to the rule of going step by step with the concrete facts and carrying forward the movement, so to speak, in pace with the developments of the inner anthroposophic life, ... how far we had actually got in this way? We will turn our eyes to this for a minute.
As I said: in the first period to begin with, — down to the years 1907 — 8 — 9, — the work was one of slow and steady acquisition, a laborious acquisition of inner, spiritual material. The foundations were laid of an actual, modern science of the spirit, and pursued into their various consequences. Down to the end of this period one may say, too, that the paper continued to appear, Lucifer-Gnosis; which periodically brought out things by myself and others, that, step by step, built up a certain solid substance of Anthroposophy.
And then, with the second period, came the time when in lecture-cycles and lectures, — and in a way, too, for the general public, — new ground was acquired. from those writings which have their very special importance for the spiritual evolution of the West; namely, from the Bible: the Gospels and Genesis.
Here, again, they were real steps that took place. One started with the Gospel of John; and then went on to the other gospels. And, led thus by the gospels, certain definite truths and treasures of knowledge came to light one after another; so that, from stage to stage, one piece of spiritual acquisition was added on to another. And everything recorded on the other side again, in the outward expansion of the Society, had its origin mainly in these inner progressive steps of spiritual acquisition.
Of course the external arrangements involved making all sorts of programmes and things of the kind. But that was not the essential feature. The essential feature was, that positive work was achieved, stage by stage; and then, of course, in proportion, the spiritual ground thus achieved could be worked out esoterically to further depths.
And so, with all this, it came to pass, by just about the end of the second period, that Anthroposophy, and all that Anthroposophy is, was widened out over the general field of human culture and civilization, — as we attempted in Munich with our performances of the Mystery Dramas.
And by the end of the second period we had got so far that it was possible to think of building our Bau, which has now met here with this disaster. One must reflect that this marked an exceedingly important stage in the development of the Anthroposophical Society. For, to put up such a building, presupposed the existence of quite a considerable number of people, who were sufficiently interested in what Anthroposophy had already produced of substantial reality, to wish to build such a home of their own.
At the same time, however, it meant taking the first essential step beyond the step-by-step work that had simply kept pace with the whole evolution of the Anthroposophical Society. It was the first step that went beyond this. For, obviously, a building like the Goetheanum was bound to attract the attention of the outside world to what was now the ‘Anthroposophical Society’, in a very different way from anything that had been there before.
Take opponents, for instance; they had existed, of course, before, opponents of every conceivable camp. Even in those days they had not only written, but printed their writings. But these opponents found really no particular public. For, assuming even that before the year 1914 an opponent of so indescribable a kind as Max Seiling had come on the scene, a certain sensational interest might possibly have induced some of the members of the Anthroposophical Society itself to read the thing; but people outside would not have bothered about it; there would have been no public. The building of the Bau first made it possible for opponents to come forward and find a public.
Things of this kind, when one is dealing with a reality like the anthroposophic movement, must by no means be regarded as matters merely of theoretic interest; they must be taken with the most intense and serious earnest; for all these things give rise day by day to ever growing problems and responsibilities.
And so we were at any rate able to put up our building, the Bau. But the fact that we could do so, my dear friends, presupposed, as I said, that there was something already there, for which the building could be put up. It was there. It was felt by really a large number of people to be something that was actually there and presented a sort of inner vitality. And there was plenty of practical experience, too, that had been collected through quite a long time. Experience was there in plenty; and there was no need to disregard it. And since a society was also there, such past experience might have been turned to very profitable use, — night to this day be turned to very profitable use. Everything I have been saying during these days was with the purpose of calling attention to certain past occurrences that imply so many pieces of practical experience.
And now this period has expired. And the terrible event, to which we may point as marking the expiration of this period, is the Burning of the Goetheanum.
And now to-day we have to ask ourselves ... you will remember that I said these lectures were intended at the same time as an aid to self-recollection for Anthroposophists . to-day we must look back in self-recollection and recall how, in those days, we were able to think with a certain security about the further course of Anthroposophy and how we purposed to carry it on; yet that nevertheless we were bound to foresee, and foresee, too, in our purposes, that directly Anthroposophy came before the open public, the opposition too would undoubtedly set in. And now, let us just note what was the starting-point of that period, and what was its end. The starting-point I have already characterized. It lay in the fact that we could venture to put up the Goetheanum. And now let us see what shape things have assumed to-day, and what the result is of Anthroposophy's being thus exposed, laid open by the Goetheanum to the judgment henceforth of a whole indeterminable number of people. Well, of this, my dear friends, I would like to show you the latest example, — in order that we may keep up-to-date, so to speak. The very latest example is contained in a leaflet recently published, and entitled The Secret Machinery of Revolution. On p.13 of this leaflet you will find the following account. (I will translate from the English.)
‘At this stage of my inquiry, I may refer briefly to the existence of an offshoot of the Theosophical Society, known as the Anthroposophical Society. This was formed as the result of a schism in the ranks of the Theosophists by a man of Jewish birth who was connected with one of the modern branches of the Carbonari. Not only so, but in association with another Theosophist he is engaged in organizing certain singular commercial undertakings not unconnected with Communist propaganda; almost precisely in the manner in which “Count St. Germain” organized his dyeworks and other commercial ventures with a like purpose. And this queer business group has its connections with the Irish Republican movement, with the German groups already mentioned’ (amongst the groups mentioned is, as an instance, the ‘Consul’ organization!) ‘and also with another mysterious group which was founded by Jewish “ Intellectuals ” in France about four years ago, and. which includes in its membership many well-known politicians, scientists, university professors, and literary men in France, Germany, America and England. It is a secret society, but some idea of its real aims may be gathered from the fact that it sponsored the “Ligue des Ancient Combatants ”, whose aim appears to be to undermine the discipline of the armies in the Allied countries. Although nominally a “Right Wing” society, it is in direct touch with members of the Soviet Government of Russia; in Britain it is also connected with certain Fabians and with the Union of Democratic Control, which opposes “secret diplomacy ”!’
Well, my dear friends, to this I need only add, that, as you know, my visit to England is planned for August, and that you may therefore see that the things of which I have many times spoken are to be taken with all seriousness; that the opponents are exceedingly well organized; and moreover, that in all circumstances and situations they very well know what they are doing. You will remember what I said some time ago to the effect that — as I said — one must never imagine that the last thing is the worst to come.
As you see, we have to-day an opposition; that is the other, final end of the third period. We have to-day an opposition, and one that shrinks from no sort of falsehood, and very well knows how to manipulate the effects of a falsehood. You must by no means imagine that it will do to pass over such things lightly and merely to say: ‘Well, with a thing like that, not only is not a single word of it true, but it is such clumsy lying that not a soul will believe it!’ — Anybody who talks in that way, my dear friends, simply shows that he is going about asleep in the midst of this present-day Western civilization, and simply does not know the power of those impulses of false-hood, which the very best people, one might say, take for true, simply out of easy-goingness and sleepy-headedness.
What lies between these two dates is a matter now of peculiar importance for us to consider. For, to put it in this way: in the year 1914 the anthroposophical movement was unquestionably so far that it possessed a store of spiritual wealth, of spiritual material, with which it could have made its way through the world. As circumstances actually were, however, it was necessary to go on working very actively after 1914. — If you look back over what has taken place since that time, you will come to the conclusion that the work done since then was mainly one of deepening on the spiritual side. And in this respect again, the road taken was the straight one; this deepening in the spiritual direction was steadily pursued step by step, unconcerned indeed even with the events going on externally in the world; because, as a fact, the most urgent matter was then — and is still to-day — that that spiritual inner treasure, which is now seeking revelation for the progress of mankind, should, first and foremost, be incorporated in some actual form in the life of the civilized world. There can never be any question, in communicating or working up this spiritual store of wealth, of doing anything else than do everything direct from this spiritual store itself.
With regard to this, there came again an extension, as you know, in this third period, through the introduction of the eurhythmy. Of this eurhythmy at any rate it can never be said that it draws from anything else than straight from the sources of Anthroposophy itself. Everything in it is taken direct from anthroposophic sources. Are there not at the present day, my dear friends, all manner of schools of artistic movement, — all manner of attempts in one way or another to arrive at something, which perhaps on the outside looks a little like our eurythmy. But, if you go back through all that has happened, from the moment when Frau Dr. Steiner first took the eurhythmy in hand, and eurhythmy began to develop, so that from being carried on more, I might say, in a private circle during the war-time, it then was able to come out in public, and has aroused ever-increasing interest. If you take everything that has gone to the building-up of this eurhythmy, why! don't you think that there were numbers of people from one quarter or another continually hinting to one, ‘Here is something quite similar,’ ‘There is something quite similar,’ ‘This should be considered,’ ‘That should be adopted!’ The only way in which the thing could be carried forward successfully, was by looking neither to right nor left and troubling about nothing round one, but drawing simply and solely from the sources of the thing itself. The moment anything whatever in the nature of a compromise had been introduced, the thing would no longer have been what it is, — could never have become what it is. It is part of the life-conditions of a movement like this, that there should he absolute security: Everything can be drawn from the sources themselves, in ever-wider extension as it comes to be needed.
This practice of working solely from the central source, which was comparatively easy, because there could be no question about it, down to 1914, — this and this alone makes it possible to carry anything like Anthroposophy forwards in the right way.
Well, this third period, after 1914, witnessed a great many things of all kinds, in which of course, — like every other person and movement, — the anthroposophic movement too was involved. And now, of course, on the one hand for instance, it must emphatically be pointed out again and again, that during the world-war, whilst the different nations were tearing each other in pieces, there were here members of some sixteen or seventeen nationalities working together side by side, and that the Anthroposophical Society went through this whole time without deviating in the slightest from its true, original character. Rut still, one must not forget, that all the things which were surging in men's minds in those days, and therefore in the minds of Anthroposophists, were just of the sort to create divisions in the Anthroposophical Society, and to split it up. This is a fact which must be admitted.
You will understand, that in pointing out these things quite objectively I am not by any means belittling all the many good qualities of the Anthroposophists, not in any way denying them. They shall all be taken for granted. And certainly it is quite true that to a certain degree we managed to get over the things that were — let us say, ‘splitting-up’ mankind so disastrously, outside the Anthroposophical Society, between the years 1914 and 1918. Rut still, those who look a little closer will recognize, that waves of this kind, though in a different form perhaps from else-where, did nevertheless break in upon the anthroposophic movement; and in connection with this, there began to show itself somewhat markedly, my dear friends, something which I have frequently indicated before in these words: namely, that in this third period something began to take shape which I might call an internal opposition to what I myself am called upon to do in the Anthroposophical Society, — a sort of internal opposition.
Most of you, of course, are very much surprised when I speak of this internal opposition; because they themselves are not aware of it — many of them at least. But so much the worse! I could almost say; for this internal opposition came out very strongly in people's feelings, particularly during this third period. And there were external signa too in which it showed itself. When a movement like this has passed through two such periods as I have described, there by no means requires to be a blind confidence, if, in the third period, (seeing what has gone before, and that there are antecedents to go upon) something or other is then done for reasons of which the whole connection is not immediately obvious to everybody. Just reflect for a moment: — reasons, of which the whole connection could not possibly at that time be obvious to everybody, which required a great number of things to be taken together, and where, before all, it was a question of setting the anthroposophic movement permanently on the right lines! And these were the things, in which what one might call this ‘internal opposition’ showed itself.
I know, of course, that, directly I touch upon these things, a number of people will say: Aren't we expected then to have opinions of our own! — Of course one is expected to have one's own opinion as to what one does oneself: but when something is done by another person with whom one is in some way associated in life, it necessarily then becomes a question of confidence playing a part on occasions, — especially when there already are antecedents to go upon, of the kind I mentioned.
Now, at a certain moment in the third period, during the Great War, I wrote the little book called Thoughts in War-time. And thereupon this internal opposition made itself peculiarly manifest, in a quite remarkable way. Not only did people come to me and say: We thought Anthroposophy never meddled with politics! — as if this little book had meddled with politics in any way! — and more things of the kind; but it was also quite plain to see from the whole attitude, that many a heart had taken a certain tinge of something that should never be allowed to grow on anthroposophic soil, — that has its growth in very different soil! Well, it has been my lot to meet with a great many objections that were made especially to these ‘Thoughts during the Wartime’; but I never yet met, I really never yet have met with anyone who said ... and now I am going to say something dreadfully presumptuous, my dear friends; but it is quite objective ... I never found anyone say, ‘We don't rightly know what to make of the thing; but we'll wait a year or two, till 1985, and then perhaps we shall know, why this little book was written.’ — And there have been a good many other things besides, all showing how very strongly the kind of thing was at work that simply tended direct towards the undermining of all natural freedom and independence of action inside the Anthroposophical Society. For one would think that the writing of the book might naturally have been left to me, as being my concern; instead of which, there had come to be a sort of notion: ‘If he means to be the person with whom we are to carry on the Anthroposophical Society, then he must only write what we please!’
These things have to be said somewhat drastically, or else, as you know, they are not understood. They are symptoms, and show the rise at that time of a certain temper of mind which is contrary to the life-conditions of the anthroposophic movement, — that within the society there arose a temper of mind contrary to the life-conditions of the anthroposophic movement!
One thing there was, however, in this third period, that cannot but be of quite peculiar importance: the consciousness namely, in founding this society, of having taken the first, leading step in a matter where a large part of the human race is bound to follow. Reflect upon it, my dear friends: a comparatively small body of people associated together, with the claim of doing something, in which they shall be followed by a large part of the human race! It imposes not only those obligations that the other people will have later, who follow after; it imposes obligations of a far higher kind, obligations that are many times, a hundredfold higher in degree, than any duties incumbent on the great mass of people who hereafter may take Anthroposophy as their guide in life.
The Anthroposophists of to-day must not suppose that they have simply the same obligations as those people will one day have, who believe in Anthroposophy, when Anthroposophists are reckoned by millions, and not by thousands. When a few thousands are forerunners in a movement, these thousands are under a far greater, a multiple degree of obligation. They are under the obligation namely, in all and every detail to exercise greater courage, greater energy, greater patience, greater tolerance and, above all things, greater truthfulness. And in this third period the test was laid in particular on truthfulness and on earnestness. What in a way was necessary, was that the thing should grow up, which formed the theme of discussion on one occasion during the course delivered to the Theologians. It was spoken of then. That was what there should have been amongst the little band of Anthroposophists, and that is what must come: namely, a feeling, a kind of sense, that Anthroposophy, — quite apart from the existence of Anthroposophists, — must be looked upon as an independent living Being in itself; as something, so to speak, that goes about amongst us, and to which we are responsible at every moment of our lives. It was said in this lecture to the theologians in so many words: Anthroposophy is herself an invisible person, going about amongst visible people, and to whom, so long as they are only a little number, they owe the very greatest responsibility, — something, that must really be treated as an invisible person, actually living amongst us, who must be consulted in every single action of life, as to what she says to it.
Whenever, therefore, so long as there is only a little band of Anthroposophists, anything is formed in the way of human associations, — friendships, or fellowships, or any sort of clique, — it becomes all the more necessary that this Invisible Being should be asked, and that everything should be so, that it can be justified before this Invisible Being.
Of course this will be, to the same extent, ever less and less the case, the more wide-spread Anthroposophy becomes. Rut so long as it is only the possession of a little band, it remains absolutely necessary that everything that is done should be done, so to speak, in consultation with this person, Anthroposophy. It is one of the essential life-conditions, that Anthroposophy should be regarded as a living Being. And this Being must only die, when the multitude of its adherents has grown past numbering. This, then, is the necessary condition: sincere and genuine earnestness in following after that Invisible Person of whom I spoke; — profound earnestness, which must grow day by day. If this profound and growing earnestness is there, then my dear friends, there can be no doubt but that everything, whatever is done, will be begun and will be carried on in the right way.
There is one fact to which I should like, in the next place, to call your attention. — Whereas the second period — from the years 1907, 8, 9, down to 1914 — was more essentially the period that helped to develop Anthroposophy on the side of sentiment, of religious knowledge, in the third period there came in again something that had been there before in the first period, as I described yesterday. It came about, that Anthroposophy was again brought into a certain relation, for instance, to the scientific world, to the different branches of science and learning followed by a large part of the human race! It imposes not only those obligations that the other people will have later, who follow after; it imposes obligations of a far higher kind, obligations that are many times, a hundredfold higher in degree, than any duties incumbent on the great mass of people who hereafter may take Anthroposophy as their guide in life.
Already during the war, one might see some scientist or man of learning from one corner or another beginning to draw in to Anthroposophy. This gave the Anthroposophic Society helpers upon scientific ground. At first these men of science did not come much to the front. The scientific department, down to the year 1919 or 20 remained more of a hope, with the exception of what Dr. Unger extracted and turned to account for Anthroposophy from the Philosophy of freedom and other writings of the pre-anthroposophic time. Otherwise, apart from what was done in this respect in the further elaboration of the science of knowledge, — work which afforded valuable, substantial material for the future movement, — apart from this, one may say that at first, at the beginning of the third period, the scientific element was a hope. For this scientific element began now, in the third period, by making itself felt in precisely the reverse direction, to what it had done before, in the first period. In the first period, as I told you, the main point with the people I spoke of yesterday was, how to justify Anthroposophy in the eyes of Science. Anthroposophy was required to get her pass viséd by Science. That was the tendency in the first period. And since Anthroposophy could not do this, the scientific branch of the business gradually died out. In the second period it had ceased to exist, and towards the end of the time the whole thing leaned more towards the artistic side; interests of a general human kind came into the ascendant.
And then in the third period these scientific aspirations again crept out of their corners, but in the reverse way. Now it was no longer a question — not explicitly at least — of justifying Anthroposophy in the eyes of Science; but of refertilizing Science from Anthroposophy.
And now every kind of person began to turn up, all complaining: We can get no further with our particular science; it wants a new seed of life. It was no longer now a question, as before, in the first period, of inventing atomic constructions, because this was the customary thing, and borrowing atomic theories from physics and astronomics for the ether and the astral bodies too. Now, having experimented long enough in the hope of reducing it to Science, it was now a question of precisely the reverse tendency.
Well, this new tendency ... I will discuss it to-day only from the positive aspect ... will only work out to any-thing, will only be of any use or benefit to the anthroposophic movement, if it finds the way to work solely and purely from anthroposophic sources — much in the same way as we work in the artistic branches, in eurhythmy, for instance; and if this again is done with all the seriousness and earnestness of which I was speaking just now. So long as, after all, a good deal still of that style of thinking, which is nowadays ‘scientific’, is unconsciously introduced into the anthroposophic movement, so long nothing will profitably come of it. And, in particular, nothing will profitably come of it, so long as the idea prevails, that the people, who are to-day official representatives of science and learning, can possibly be convinced of anything whatever by argument, without finding their way themselves into anthroposophic lines of thought. They must erst find their way into the anthroposophic lines of thought; and then one can talk to them. With regard to the people to-day who are opposing Anthroposophy, our only business is to point out clearly where they are making false statements. That is a point one can discuss. But for matters more of debate, of actual substance, one obviously cannot discuss these with people, who are not only not willing to be convinced, but really indeed are not able to be convinced, because they lack the erst foundations! — This is the first thing that everyone must work at: to lay for himself the first foundations in each of the different fields of work; but to lay these foundations really from the centre of Anthroposophy, to work direct from the central sources.
And then, after the war, when the attempt was made to grapple with all manner of practical problems of life, with actual world-problems, here again it was a question of guiding everything, of letting everything take shape, from the central anthroposophic core, and of recognizing, that with these practical problems of life one can least of all deal in any sort of compromise. There can be no question of anything but simply and solely saying to the world what has to be said from the anthroposophic centre itself, and then of waiting, and seeing how many people have an understanding for it. But never in any case must anything whatever that is drawn from the anthroposophic central source be advocated in such a way before the world that one says, ‘There is some party, which perhaps one might win over’! ‘There is some person, whom perhaps we might get hold of’! — That won't do! All that is absolutely out of the question; all that is contrary to the innermost life-conditions of the anthroposophic movement!
And if, here, there is some Woman's Movement, and there some Social Movement, and somebody thinks that we ought to ‘get in’ here, or come to terms there, ‘for the people are quite close to Anthroposophy’ on the one side or other, ... all that won't do! it absolutely won't do! What is needed is to have such a firm inner security in Anthroposophy, that one manages really, wherever one may be placed, to stand for Anthroposophy and what is Anthroposophic.
I could tell you an amusing example again of this. — As you know, when people quarrel with my having taken the theosophic movement for my field of activity, I always reply, that I shall advocate Anthroposophy everywhere, wherever people ask for it; no matter where they ask for it, I shall always do so. I have done it in many places, where I was only able to do it once, for the simple reason that the people wouldn't hear any more from me a second time; but I didn't speak in any such way as to give them an external inducement, in their existing state of soul, to hear it over again a second time. And this is the thing to be avoided. If people desire to hear anything from one, then one must give them Anthroposophy, — Anthroposophy pure and simple, drawn boldly from its innermost core.
These things have all been gone through already, by way of illustration, as I might say — really just as though simply to illustrate them! — during the course of the anthroposophic movement. For instance, we once received an invitation from a spiritualistic society in Berlin; I was to speak on Anthroposophy. It never entered my head to say No; — why shouldn't these people have a right to hear something of the sort? I delivered my lecture; and directly the lecture was over, I saw how unsuitable the people were, and that in actual truth they didn't want to hear any more from me. For, after the lecture, something quite delicious occurred: namely, I was with one voice elected president of the society! Frau Doctor Steiner and her sister, who were with me, simply didn't know where they were! — ‘Whatever is to be done now!’ — said they — ‘President of a society like this! Whatever is to be done!’ — I merely replied: ‘Not come back again!’ For that, of course, was the obvious thing; the people had sufficiently shown by their whole idiotic procedure in electing a man, whom they had just heard for the first time, ... by the mere fact of electing him as president, they had shown, that what they wanted was something entirely different from Anthroposophy. What they wanted, in fact, was to make Anthroposophy spiritualistic, and they imagined that they could do so in this way. — But similar experiences maybe met with in abundant variety.
As you see therefore, there can really be never any question of not advocating Anthroposophy in whatever company. I was once, for instance, invited to speak on Anthroposophy in the Gottached Society in Berlin. And what reason could there be for my not speaking there? The only point was, that nothing should be sacrificed of Anthroposophy.
This was the problem of peculiar difficulty at the time after the Appeal to the German People and the Civilized World was written, and the Threefold Commonwealth had appeared. Then, it was really a question of doing nothing on any side whatever, except plainly urging what can be urged direct from this source, and then waiting and seeing, who will join in. And I must still express it as my conviction to-day, that, had we done this, — had we simply taken our stand on the positive ground contained in the Appeal and in the book, without seeking contact either with this party or that (a thing which I, for my part, was always for declining), — that we should then, to-day, not have been tripped up by the obstacles put in our way from those quarters; and we might very probably even have a few fruits to record; — whereas, as it is, we are so absolutely without any fruits to record in that field, my dear friends!
For in truth, it is one of the life-conditions of a society like this, that the way should always be found to work straight from the spirit itself. — One needn't, of course, imagine that one is required to do anything so senseless as to rush in everywhere in and out of season, and never on all occasions be able to fit in with actual life, — that one should behave altogether unpractically. What is necessary to-day is just the opposite! What is necessary to-day is to bring a little real practicality into what is termed practical life! For, to anyone who knows anything at all of the real conditions of life, the modern life of to-day seems ... well, very much like that of the ‘really practical people’, who take such a really practical stand in life, that they tumble down directly they try to stand on their two feet. That is what is commonly termed to-day, ‘practical life’! And when these experts in practical life make their way into a spiritual movement, then it is a bad look-out for the spiritual movement!
As I said, I want to-day to deal rather with the positive aspect of the matter; I do not want, as often before, to criticize the mistakes in what has been done, but merely to indicate how things ought to go on. The point, then, in going the straight road, is not to go it in the way of saying: I go my own straight road, — and then, if a post happens to be there, to run one's head against it! One naturally avoids posts; one naturally makes use of anything that may help one forwards. But the point is, in all one does, to put into it unreservedly that impulse which comes from the very centre.
If people took this way of going forwards, then we should soon see that the Anthroposophical Society would then in actual fact, and not just superficially or conventionally, but justifiably, at last get beyond being treated by the rest of the world as a mere sect.
What is the use of our telling people over and over again that we are not a sect, when we behave as though we were a sect! For the first thing of all, you see, that needs to be understood by the members of the Anthroposophical Society, is this condition of existence for any society what-ever in modern times: A Society cannot possibly be a Sect. And accordingly there can never really — if the Anthroposophical Society is to stand on its own true ground — there never really can be any we, where it is a question of views and ideas.
Over and over again one hears Anthroposophists saying, when addressing the outer world: ‘We (the society) hold this or that view. Amongst us,’ this or that is done. ‘We aim’ at this or that. — This kind of thing was possible in old days; then, societies could confront the world with this kind of solid uniformity. In our day, it is no longer possible. In our day, more especially with a society like this, every single person in it must be a really free individual. Views, ideas, opinions, are the property of the private individual only. The society has no opinion. And this must find expression even in the very terms in which the individual speaks of the society. The ‘we’, strictly speaking, must vanish.
1 The really practical people, a humorous poem by Christian Morgenstern, frequently performed in Eurhythmy.
And with this there is involved something else besides. When this ‘we’ has vanished, then each person will not feel himself in the society as though it were a water-barrel that holds him up and carries him, and that he can fall back upon in case of need. Instead of which, when each person in the society has to stand for his own opinion and above all for himself, he will then also feel the full responsibility for everything that he himself says as a private individual.
This sense of responsibility, — this is what must grow continually greater and greater, so long as the society is still a little band only. And therefore it might be well to consider, — seeing that the Anthroposophical Society has not hitherto succeeded, through its habits and customs of life, in figuring before the outer world as an eminently modern society, and that these habits and customs of life have brought along with them the continual use of terms such as: ‘We believe’ this! ‘We think’ that! ‘We hold this view’! ‘Our world-conception is ...’ and so forth; until the world outside has come to believe that it is a collective mass with certain opinions, and that anyone, who wants to join, is obliged to subscribe to this collective opinion, — which naturally repels every soul with any self-respect. ... Now however, that this has happened, it becomes necessary to-day to consider a measure, which need not have been considered perhaps a year ago; because things had not then gone so far, because one had not yet been confounded with Carbonari and Soviet Governments and Irish Republicanism (all, of course, to certain non-ostensible ends). So that to-day it really looks as though we must very seriously consider the necessity of doing away with the three Points that are continually being quoted: Fraternity without distinction of races, etc.; and the comparative study of religions and study of spiritual worlds and spiritual methods. The fact that these three Points are always quoted makes the impression in the eyes of the world as though one were required to swear to these three Points. One must find a quite different form: above all one must put it into such a form, that everybody who is not willing to subscribe to an opinion, but who is interested in the pursuit of a spiritual life, doesn't need to think that he is subscribing himself body and soul to a fixed set of opinions. — This is the thing we have to consider to-day; for it is one of the life-conditions of the society, now that we have experienced the third stage and its peculiar features.
I have often been asked by different people, whether they could join the Anthroposophical Society, or not, since they were not yet prepared to subscribe to the anthroposophic doctrines. My reply was, that it would be a poor sort of society in these days, which thought of recruiting its members from the people who subscribe to its particular doc-trines. That would be something dreadful! — I invariably replied, that, for honest membership, there can be no question of anything but what can be expressed in the words: One is interested simply in the existence of a society that is looking for the way to the spiritual world. One has an interest in such a thing. How it is then done, is the concern of those who have entered the society; one person contributes one thing, another another.
I can very well understand anyone being unwilling to join a society for which he is required to pledge himself to articles of faith. But when one says, ‘Whoever is interested in the pursuit of spiritual life can be a member of this society’, then the different people will come together, who have this kind of interest; and the others, ... well, they may stay outside, — but they will be led ever further and further into the ad absurdum of life.
When we begin to reflect upon the conditions, like these, which are necessary for the life of the Anthroposophical Society; when we are no longer willing to vegetate on for ever in the old groove, — then first do we really fulfil the life-conditions of the society.
When this society, therefore, finds its way in actual fact to handling things in a perfectly free fashion, — with no sort of narrowness, but only broad-heartedly and generously, — then, and then only, will it be possible for this society to become in actual fact, what it can and should become in as much as the anthroposophic movement runs through it. — For the anthroposophic movement links on everywhere quite positively, — without compromise, but quite positively, — to all that can be found existing at the present day, and that can bear any sort of good fruit for the future.
These things mean acquiring a certain delicacy of under-standing. And it is necessary that this delicacy of under-standing should be acquired by the Anthroposophists within, I might say, the next few weeks. And then the further ways and means will be found.: that will all come in the course of actual practice.
But no one will be able to think along these lines, who does not come radically out of the more narrow circle of his private personality, and begin really to care for the cause itself, — really to recognize Anthroposophy as an invisible Being with a life of her own.
I was, in the nature of things, obliged, as you see, to speak of this third period in a different way from the two first. For the two first are really history. The third, although we are now at the end of it, belongs to the present day; and everybody ought really to know what are the necessary conditions of the day. Even in the smallest details we must work through to guiding principles like these. Such guiding principles are not dogmas; they result quite obviously, as matters of course.
What still remains to be said, I will leave over till to-morrow; and we will see if we can then bring these lectures to a conclusion.