Rudolf Steiner on democracy, capitalism, and history
- On democracy and capitalism:
"You will no doubt have heard that certain people are over and over again proclaiming to the world that democracy must spread to the whole civilized world. Salvation lies in making the whole of humanity democratic; everything will have to be smashed to pieces so that democracy may spread in the world. Well, if people go on to accept ideas presented to them as they are, with wholesale acceptance of the term democracy, for instance, their idea of democracy will be like the definition of the human being which I gave you: A human being is a creature with two legs and without feathers: a plucked cockerel. The people who are glorifying democracy today know about as much about it as someone who is shown a plucked cockerel knows about the human being. Concepts are taken for reality, and as a result illusion may take the place of reality where human life is concerned by lulling people to sleep with concepts. They believe the fruits of their endeavours will be that every individual will be able to express their will in the different democratic institutions, and they fail to see that these institutions are such that it is always just a few people who pull the wires, whilst the rest are pulled along. They are persuaded, however, that they are part of democracy and so they do not notice they are being pulled and that some individuals are pulling the strings. Those individuals will find it all the easier to do the pulling if the others all believe they are doing it themselves, instead of being pulled along. It is quite easy to lull people to sleep with abstract concepts and make them believe the opposite of what is really true. This gives the powers of darkness the best opportunity to do what they want. And if anyone should wake up they are simply ignored.
"It is interesting to note that in 1910 someone wrote that large scale capitalism had succeeded in making democracy into the most marvellous, flexible and effective tool for exploiting the whole population. Financiers were usually imagined to be the enemies of democracy, the individual concerned wrote, but this was a fundamental error. On the contrary, they run democracy and encourage it, for it provides a screen behind which they can hide their method of exploitation, and they find it their best defence against any objections which the populace may raise.
"For once, therefore, a man woke up and saw that what mattered was not to proclaim democracy but to see the full reality, not to follow slogans, but to see things as they are. This would be particularly important today, for people would then realize that the events which reign with such blood and terror over the whole of humanity are guided and directed from just a few centres. People will never realize this if they persist in the delusion that nation is fighting nation, and allow the European and American Press to lull them to sleep over the kinds of relations that are said to exist between nations. Everything said about antagonism and opposition between nations only exists to cast a veil over the true reasons. For we shall never arrive at the real truth if we feed on words in order to explain these events, but only if we point to actual people. The problem is that this tends to be unpalatable today. And the man who woke up and wrote these statements in 1910 also presented some highly unwelcome accounts in his book. He produced a list of fifty-five individuals who are the real rulers and exploiters of France. The list can be found in Francis Delaisi's La Democratie et les Financiers, [ Note 11 ] written in 1910; the same man has also written La Guerre qui vient, a book which has become famous. In his La Democratie et les Financiers you will find statements of fundamental significance. There you have someone who has woken up to reality. The book contains impulses which allow one to see through much of what we should see through today, and also to cut through much of the fog which is made to wash over human brains today. Here again, we must resolve to look to reality.
"The book has, of course, been ignored. It does, however, raise issues which should be raised all over the world today, for they would teach people much about the reality which others intend to bury under all their declamations on democracy and autocracy and whatever the slogans may be. The book also gives an excellent exposition on the extremely difficult position in which members of parliament find themselves. People think they can vote according to their convictions. But you would have to know all the different threads which tie them to reality if you wanted to know why they vote for one thing and against another. Certain issues really must be raised. Delaisi does so. Thus, for example, he considers a member of parliament and asks the question: Which side should the poor man support? The people pay him three thousand francs a year and the shareholders pay him thirty thousand francs!' To pose the question is to answer it. So the poor dear man gets his three-thousand-franc allowance from the people, and thirty thousand francs from the shareholders! I think you will agree it is a good piece of proof, a sign of real acumen, to say: How nice that a socialist, a man of the people like Millerand [ Note 12 ] has gained a seat in parliament! Delaisi's question goes in another direction. He asks: How far can someone like Millerand, who was earning thirty thousands francs a year for representing insurance companies, be independent?
"So for once someone did wake up. He is well aware of the threads which run from the actions of such an individual to the different insurance companies. But such things, reported by someone who is awake and sees the truth, are ignored. It is, of course, only too easy to talk about democracy in the Western world. Yet if you wanted to tell people the truth you would have to say: `The man called so and so is doing this, and the one called so and so is doing that.' Delaisi has found fifty-five men not a democracy but fifty-five specific individuals who, he says, govern and exploit France. There, someone has discovered the real facts, for in ordinary life, too, a feeling must awaken for the real facts.
"Here is something else from Delaisi: There was once a lawyer who had all kinds of connections, not just insurance companies, but centres of finance, financial worlds. But this lawyer wanted to aim even higher; he wanted sponsorship not only from the worlds of finance, industry and trade, but also from the academic world of the French Academy. This is a place where the academic world can raise one to the sphere of immortality. There were two `Immortals' within the Academy, however, who were involved in illegal trust dealings. They found it perfectly possible to combine their work for immortality with trust dealings which the law of the land did not permit. Then our sharp-witted lawyer defended the two Immortals in court and managed to get them off, to whitewash them so that no sentence was passed. They then had him admitted to the ranks of the `Immortals'. Science, responsible not for the temporal things of the world but for things eternal and immortal, made itself the advocate of this selfless lawyer. His name is Raymond Poincar. [ Note 12 ] Delaisi tells the story in his La Democratie et les Financiers."It is not a bad thing to know these things, which are ingredients of reality. They must be seriously considered. And one is guided to develop something of a nose for reality when one takes up anthroposophy, whilst the materialistic education people have today, with innumerable channels opening into it from the Press, is designed to point not to the realities but to something which is cloaked in all kinds of slogans. And if someone does wake up, as Delaisi did, and writes about how things really are, how many people get to know about it? How many people will listen? They cannot listen, for it is buried by well, by a life that again is ruled by the Press. Delaisi shows himself to be a bright person, someone who has gone to a lot of trouble to gain real insight. He is no blind follower of parliamentarianism, nor of democracy. He predicts that the things people think are so clever today will come to an end. He says so expressly, also with reference to the `voting machine' which is approximately how he puts it. He is entirely scientific and serious in his discourse on this parliamentary voting machine, for he understands the whole system which leads to these `voting machines', where people are made to believe that a convinced majority is voting against a mentally unhinged minority. He knows that something else will have to take the place of this if there is to be healthy development."This is not yet possible, for people would be deeply shocked if you were to tell them what will take its place. Only people initiated into spiritual science can really know this today. Forms which belong to the past will definitely not take its place. You need not be afraid that someone speaking out of anthroposophy will promote some kind of reactionary or conservative ideas; no, these will not be things of the past, but they will be so different from the `voting machine' which exists today that people will be shocked and consider this madness. Nevertheless it will enter into the impulses of evolution in time. Delaisi, too, says: In organic development certain parts lose their original function and become useless but still persist for some time; in the same way, these parliaments will continue to vote for quite some time, but all real life will have departed from them.
"You know that human beings have parts of the body which are like this. Some people can move their ears because the muscles for this existed in the past. We still have those muscles, but they have become atavistic and have lost their function. This is how Delaisi sees the parliament of the future; parliaments will be such atavistic remnants which have died and will drop off, and something quite different will come into human evolution."
Note 11: Francis Delaisi (b. 1873), French social scientist and writer.
Note 12: Alexandre Millerand (18591943), the first socialist to hold ministerial Position in a French government. Minister of Commerce 18991902, of Works 19091910, of War 19121913.
( -- Rudolf Steiner: Fall of the Spirits of Darkness, GA 177, lecture 24, Dornach, 28 October 1917. Translated by Anna R. Meuss)
On history and historians:
"Ask anyone who does not take much interest in these matters how old history is, and for how long humanity has been engaged in the discipline known as `history' today. They will say that it goes a long way back. But `history', as we know it today, is not much more than a hundred years old. Before that, memorable events and `histories' were recorded `world history', as it is called, where a thread is followed through human evolution, is just slightly over a hundred years old. Look at the stories or histories which preceded this. Why did modern history come up? Because it is a product of transition. Are there any special reasons why history, in the way it is handled today, should be regarded as a science? Well, we can give a number of reasons, the main one being that several hundred professors are employed as professors of history at all the universities on earth. This reminds me of an individual who taught criminal law and who tends to come to mind whenever we speak of the reasons for developments. This individual taught criminal law at a university. He always started his lectures with what he considered to be proof of human freedom. Well, he did not produce much by way of real reasons: `Gentlemen, freedom has to exist, for if there were no freedom there would be no criminal law. The fact is that I am a professor of criminal law; therefore criminal law must exist; it follows that human freedom also exists.'
"Whenever you hear opinions expressed on what are said to be developments in the course of human evolution, you will hear the fine words: `History has shown.' Look at the things that are being written on current events. Again and again you will see the phrase `history has shown this,' when someone wants to present his nonsense about what will happen once peace is made. They will say: `It was like this after the Thirty Years War,' and so on. These truths are of the kind of which I have spoken before when I said that, according to people's calculations, a war cannot take more than four months today. In reality, history does not teach us anything. In materialistic thinking, sciences can only be called such if one has repeated instances which allow one to draw conclusions as to future developments. When a chemist does an experiment, he knows that if he combines certain substances certain processes will occur; combining the same substances again will result in the same processes, and the third time it will be the same again. Or one gets a certain cloud combination which generates lightning; a similar combination will again generate lightning. Modern thinking is based on premises according to which a science cannot be a science unless it rests on this type of repetition. Do think this through. History cannot be a science for people who take the materialistic point of view, for things do not repeat themselves in history, the combinations are always new. It is therefore not possible to draw conclusions by using the method employed in other sciences. History is merely a product of transition. It only became a science in the nineteenth century. Before then, memorable events were described. You see, writing your family history is not considered to be `history' either. Even the German word for history, Geschichte, is far from old. Other languages do not even have this word, for the word `history' has quite a different origin. In the past, the singular was das Geschicht, as in das Geschicht der Apostel, and so on, `what has come to pass'. [Note 7] Then the plural die Geschichten came to be used, which is the straightforward plural of das Geschicht. Today we have to say die Geschichte. Yet in Switzerland die Geschichten was still the plural of das Geschicht 150 years ago. Then the article was changed and one said die Geschichte singular which had been the plural when the word had the article das. This is the origin of the word; you can read it up in works on etymology.
"The term `history' will only have real meaning when spiritual impulses are taken into account. There we can speak of what really has come to pass and, within limits, of what happens behind the scenes. Limits are set in so far as we compare this with what can be predicted to apply in the physical world in future the position of the sun next summer, for example, and so on, but not every detail of the weather. The world of the spirit also has elements which are like the weather of the future in relation to the future position of the sun. Generally speaking, however, the course of human evolution can only be known on the basis of its spiritual impulses. History is therefore embryonic and not what it is supposed to be; it will only finally be something when it makes the transition from its 100 years of existence to consideration of the spiritual life which is behind the scenes of what comes to pass at the surface level for humanity.
"It means that people must really wake up in many respects. We merely need to take up a theme which is not without significance for the present time, such as the theme I have just taken up: How old is history? Many people and this is not to blame individuals but merely the system used in schools have never had the least idea that history is still so young and cannot yet be in accord with reality. Imagine what it would be like if natural science were only 100 years old and you wanted to compare it with earlier stages in natural science! These things only move gradually from being something which is merely learned, to becoming real life. It is only when this is seriously considered and these issues become issues in education that people will come to understand the reality of life."
Note 7: Das Geschicht, or die Geschichte, derives from the past participle of the verb geschehen, to have come to pass; die Geschichte nowadays translates into English as `history', or `story', `account', depending on the context. (Translator)
( -- ibid)
I guess remarks like these about history and historians have angered Mr. PS to such an extent that he keeps insisting that anthroposophists are ignorant of history and incapable of being academics. This may also explain why he seems to have abandoned his serious historical pursuits in favor of hunting for Nazis among German anthroposophists in the thirties and collecting anthro-wackos to his liking as trophies. His academic ambitions must suffer from such a onesided obsession, obviously, but he apparently feels some kind of personal satisfaction. Healthier than hard drugs on the physical level, I guess, but positively not so on the soul-spiritual level.
PS I´m having a hardware breakdown on my computer and have to borrow others once in while with no access to my own disks and bookmarks, so my responses can´t be counted on until I´m back up.