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Menschheit und Gemeinschaft (Man and Community)
|Date||November 02, 1921|
Man and Community
[Arnold, Eberhard and Emmy papers – M.S.]
[Draft Translation by Bruderhof Historical Archive]
Frankfurt on Main 1921
Man and Community
Man is a living soul. The soul is the organic cohesion of the body. The soul is life in the blood. Man is called in his physical existence to a life [with others: he is called] to a life of community. There is no life without community. All life is community. Where life is, there is the urge to community and to unity.
Ancient and profound [sagas, rooted] in the human race, tell us that when man received his task on Earth, he was told, "You are here to cultivate Earth with the work of your hands, and to guard it from destructive and dividing influences". Man was called to be an image of the Spirit, who is unity: to be an image of the living God. It was just in this, his likeness to the divine, that God intended him to rule over the Earth in unity, purity, work and [love.] It is very interesting to compare this ancient account of the primeval origin of the human race with modern sciences [such as Archaeology].
We feel moved to the depth of our hearts when we follow our investigators as they dig through layers of the Earth's crust, as they search thoroughly in ancient caves in the rocks, and as they encounter the traces of the first men everywhere. It moves us deeply when they compare these first men with other periods of the Earth's history, during which, as far as we can know, there were no men. But the period to which man also belonged was dominated by animals.
Before this time [there was an epoch] when our Earth [brought forth] enormous shapes : gigantic creatures, forests and mountains. It was the period of dragons and serpents, of reptiles. Creatures as big as houses, and of incredible length and height, moved their enormous limbs slowly or swiftly over the Earth. No tree was too big for them to devour. The uncanny thing about this time was that not only planteating mammals, ninety meters long and ten meters high, hurried over our Earth and through its forests, but that there were also beasts of prey among them. They were somewhat smaller than the planteating mammals, fourteen meters long and .... high. It is difficult for a human being to imagine such dimensions, and to visualize such a beast of prey hunting a mammal, biting it to death and devouring it.
Old sagas tell us (and they are not just sagas) [for] we [get] the [impression that something in the] sinister [character] of these creatures was a question [or at least a premonition] to mankind. The question we mean is: had men separated from unity with God, from the community of the Spirit who gives birth to community? Had they separated from [one another and become] like these reptiles? We do not know today whether men [struggled with this question, but] there is proof that they still lived together. The legends of the most different peoples tell us of encounters of young heroes with terrible flying, firespewing dragons. [It seems to one as though they felt] the mystery of a power in this dragon, a power of fire and poison that seemed to be stronger than men, and that drew them into a decisive life anddeath struggle. It is thought that the fear of a small snake is a final residue [of the fear] of reptiles, dragons and mammals, as the real enemy of man and of human community.
It was the serpent that tempted man [in Paradise] to rebel against God and to put his own importance in the place of the image and likeness of God. The purpose of a picture is not to glorify and embellish itself, but to reveal to us what the artist had perceived, to represent what had driven the artist to give us the picture. In all of us there is an unquenchable urge toward God, to have a share in God, to partake of His divine nature. This urge drives [us] either [to raise] ourselves and our buildings to tremendous heights to reach Heaven. It drives us to be greater, more powerful and dominant than the greatest mammal, to place our own ego on the throne instead of God, to be ourselves God.
It drives us to cry out with Nietzsche, "If there were a God, how could I endure not to be God not to be that God!"
Or, this unquenchable urge toward God and what is divine, toward sharing fellowship with God, drives us to wait, conscious of our smallness, narrowness and limited intelligence, so that He, the Spirit of God, may come over us. It drives us to wait for the Spirit, who is the mystery of life, of all the harmony of the creation; who is the Spirit of unity, the uniting Spirit of love, strength itself.
Ever since primeval times the human race has been torn between the selfassertion of the struggle for existence and the will to community of the uniting, dedicated Spirit of love. Both are latent in us: the serpent and dragon, and the Son of man. The decisive thing is which nature we choose; whether the old nature or the new.
It moves us strangely when, with the archaeologist, we seek to penetrate the most hidden ages by discovering the secrets of solid layers of earth. It shakes and moves us to the depths to come upon traces of human society in caves and rivers, in the south of France, America and Australia. There we come upon units of humanity, which are so infinitely remote from us in time, that it is not possible for us to estimate how long ago [they lived]. It moves us deeply to [find] the residue of meals as areas of shells in Denmark, [or to find] stone tools. . . . or to observe in the French caves how wonderfully peacefully the first men lived together. Shell remains of their meals, stone implements for their simple work, and at first only gradually, then more and more frequently, signs of fighting and even of cannibalism are found. Right back to the most ancient times we [find] signs of common meals . . . of common sacrifice, of cult for the dead and of burial. Everywhere we find the picture of a very wonderful fellowship. It is not by chance that an important investigator of this branch of knowledge (Klatsch of Breslau) had to say, "According to all the research into the time of the very first men, there must have been a situation among them that resembled Paradise. There must have been a social common life, a state of affairs indicating that man's whole constitution and manner of life was one of peace and community, and not of contention."
This contradicts most sharply the idea Darwin has represented, that the first men were apelike, with long hair and the teeth of beasts of prey, and that they lived in a state of continual fighting and mauling one another. On the contrary, we have become more and more convinced that the first men were not meateating beings. We believe that it only became necessary for men to eat meat through the Ice Age. Before that time men lived in extremely favorable conditions for life, in a warm tropical climate. Their life was one of work, but without competition . . . .
It was only at the end of this period that the change came which brought the most bitter need. [This misery led] not only to eating meat, but even to cannibalism, [as we learn] from finds of human bones.
It would take us too far to dwell upon this idea, but it is necessary to mention it in order to show us that the human race, in accordance with its original way, is intended for a life of community. It is not true that man was originally a beast of prey, and that the struggle for existence and nothing else could [make him] gradually develop his powers.
What we know of the first men of this Ice Age is the opposite of this. The proof is that, in the strata of the Earth known to us, [man has not first been found individually] but [as a group] working, wandering, and [living together] in caves. This life together, with its own order of rank, its hordes and wandering bands, called for the greatest social mutual aid and consideration. If we [consider this, and] at the same time get to know [about those] living on the fringe of civilized humanity, then we come across two contradictory accounts. On the one hand we find accounts of the most horrible cannibalism, . . .
[We find] the same division everywhere on our Earth and in our human nature. We see once more that what matters is how we look at things. They are as we see them. It is the same with all of us. There are some people who hate and despise their fellow men. They see in them only what is hateful, mean, distasteful, despicable and detestable. There are others who always see in their brothers and sisters only what is true, genuine, sincere, living and given by the Spirit: the deepest destiny and calling, awakening, growth and rebirth in the Spirit. There is no doubt, both see something aright. The question is, on whose side is there the deeper truth?
We all feel certain that we cannot remain in this torn state, nor may we. When the world of today calls for dualism, for a view of life that sees two opposing powers before it, our spirit calls for the overcoming of this dualism. It calls for its final conclusion, for its one and only solution and redemption. We cannot deny this dualism, but we can believe that this dualism will be defeated. That is the vital question for us today, and for the time which we are now experiencing. The terrific need in which we find ourselves, brings the question to our hearts more strongly than ever before. Can we believe that the division that is ruining us [will be overcome], solved monistically in the ultimate homogeneous victory of the Spirit, who is unity?.......
I confess and maintain that this faith is the deepest mystery of men, and this certainty awakes again and again in all men and nothing can kill it. Nothing can stifle and nothing can eradicate it, for it is the truth. But the more truthful we become in the light of this truth, the more clearly do we see what opposes this final victory of the Spirit and of unity. It is the degeneracy of the human race. Mankind is diseased, and what mastery over the Earth remains to man has become in reality his domination by things and outward circumstances. And the terrific pride which made the men of the nineteenth century sure that they master nature more than past ages had done, has changed today into a bitter conspiracy [against them].
We have seen in the World War how the mastery of the powers of gas, electricity and steam has avenged itself upon us. They were for us like the American Indians' [weapon], which returns upon us, poisoned and deadly. The World War has shown us that the human race has made a great mistake in this socalled technical mastery of the Earth. It has in truth destroyed the spirit of humanity and made man a suicide and ruthless murderer of the first brother man who comes along.
Other centuries attempted to conquer the Earth. Other centuries also had, as their watchword, the struggle for existence of the most different groups of humanity against each other..... In following the ideal of community, of idealism, of nationalism, of patriotism or of racial community, men [had to] become murderers of the community of man.
In other centuries, however, cabinets waged war. Monarchies followed the aims of their house and family. In the nineteenth century a gigantic murderer, enlightened national, middle class selfishness, caused the wars, and in comparison with these wars the horrors of those primeval ages of the Earth were as child's play. [Then the opponents were] dragons and serpents, not yet man. [Now] we see that the spirit of evil and of division has blossomed and brought forth fruit. Of such fruit we, who have come through from this death to life, must forever be ashamed.
There is no human society today, no community of man, nothing but talk of an international [league of nations] which has shown itself powerless against the tremendous hostility to unity of great allied human groupings. There are no men, for there are not yet men. A time will come when there will be men again. Then there will be a human race, and then the most varied types of character, of the most different descent and race, will live their lives to the full in joyful service of the whole, serving the unity of mankind.
We are not enjoying this, however, because we have drowned our joy in blood and filth. We have buried our joy in heaps of dirty bank notes, and all that is left to us is sickening boredom.
But hope cannot be killed and faith cannot die. Truth was Crucified, it is true; but it rose again and continues to rise again. Nothing can separate us from the love of God . . . , not even this death of our age, nothing can separate us. There is peace in the new nature, in the power that redeems and saves us from the corrupt, perverted age. For the cleansing Spirit, the Spirit of peace who comes from God, allows us to begin the new humanity.
We cannot consider too often that the death of humanity is due to our unrelatedness to one another and to our unrelatedness to the primeval Spirit of life. It is due to our unrelatedness to these powers of our inner life, and to the disintegration of all faculties. That is the death hanging over us. That is the degeneration of humanity. Man's place has been taken by [the domination] of these things.
There are linguists who say that the word "Gott" (God) must have been derived from "Geld" (money), or "Goetzen", the idol whom we serve. That is the god of this world, the Prince of this aeon who urged the son of disobedience to go astray. The purpose of the god of this world is to substitute restricted, conditional human relationships for the deepest relationships of the Holy Spirit and of the will to community. Money is a power. What things we can do with the power of money! We pay for our relationships with money. We judge men and women in terms of money. We evaluate [work] in money. We grade people everywhere according to what money they have or according to the power that they exercise through money. Yes, Mammon shows itself as the real lord of this world. The power that comes from this Mammon looks like the union of a glorious international agreement; in reality, however, it is a dreadful disunion, a mutual relationship of war. Here we must decide in good earnest which God, which spirit, we want to serve. We can belong only to the one or to the other. We cannot give divided service. Woe to the religions and the Christians who keep on trying to make a compromise between these great powers in the world, between love and hate, between what gives life and what kills, between oneness and enmity, between God and Mammon, between Christ and the Devil. Jesus dared to take this fight upon Himself and to speak the truth without compromise, and to live truth to the full. He was the first and the last to declare to us that mankind's will to community, as God's will to community, is the one and only principle of life; and He alone has demonstrated this in His life.
There have been other witnesses to Truth in every century and millennium. Jesus referred to these. He would not have proclaimed them if truth had not already [been in them]. This truth, which took form in Jesus, was not only in Socrates, not only in Buddha and Zoroaster, not only in this or that wise man of love and community, truth and sincerity, it is in the heart of each person . . . even [when] hidden by follies . . . lusts . . .
But neither Buddha nor Socrates, nor any other man gave proof of this ultimate truth of the community of mankind by giving it the utmost practical expression in his life: in his simple manner of living, and in sealing his life by his death.
I once spoke on this question in a youth gathering, and a young person cited the great Chinese, Laotse, as one who lived as pure a life as Jesus, or even purer. I was glad about his [frankness], but I had at once to answer that there was a great difference between Laotse and Jesus. For Laotse, in his search for what is pure, believed that ultimately in the fulfillment of purity everything else comes to an end love, too, which previously was a way or a means. With Jesus it is quite different.
I have also known many who were strongly influenced by Buddha.I love Buddha and enjoy studying his teachings. There, too, it is clear to me that Buddha expressed a profound truth. He saw clearly the suffering of this world, the disunion caused by the will to possess. Buddha showed us that man's instincts burden him, that he must die, that this life with its disunion, enmity, illness, pain, and guilt must be overcome. It must be brought to an end. It must enter a completely different life, about which we can only say that it has absolutely nothing of what we know in this life. It is the complete negation of our life. It is the nonexistence of what to us is existence. Buddha proclaims death, but Buddha did not know resurrection from death. He did not know the power of rebirth through the Holy Spirit. He did not know the new birth of Earth as the EarthCommunity of love and unity of all in the One God. This Jesus brought about.
Thus we can get to know all great, powerful minds. We would profit tremendously by going through the centuries and millennia in this way, visiting the greatest and most splendid minds, and sitting at their feet to learn what they have to say to us. The further we would go in this search from man to man, from heart to heart, the clearer we would become that Jesus is unique. He is the only one in whom the community of mankind has found complete fulfillment. He alone has conquered death and confirmed life.
It is of the greatest interest to compare how the monasteries and brotherhoods of the Buddhists . . . and Christians . . . . The difference is extraordinary. On the one hand, the intention is to support clarity, determination . . . [and] mortification [of the individual] through the community life.
The community of those who have been gripped by Christ is not occupied completely with the single individual, but individuals are there to live for fellowship, for unity, for the future of mankind. And those cloisters which called themselves Christian, but whose purpose is not that the individual give himself in service to the community, are not Christian. They may be Buddhist, but never Christian. They may not call themselves after Christ.
There are people who immerse themselves in themselves in religious egotism. Their tiny ego, like the light of a willothewisp flickers in the bog of [egoism]. They have not been laid hold of by Christ who has brought us the Kingdom of God. This religious contemplation of one's self, this being saved simply to go to Heaven, this becoming sanctified in one's own interest, is not being gripped by Christ. We never find this with Jesus. On the contrary, with Him we find that God and His future overwhelm us. The greatness of His Kingdom and the greatness of the future community of mankind amaze us. We have to be lifted out of emphasizing our ego, and lifted into the great community and into the life of fellowship. We must be so filled with the Spirit of God that we think as little of ourselves as a healthy heart or a healthy lung thinks of itself. We feel only sick organs; we are conscious of sick organs only. If we are poisoned, we ourselves become the center. As soon as we are well we live in community, in the strength that comes over us, in the Spirit who has set us free. We will come together as free and joyful people [to the fellowship which] is God's creation.
Of course, it is true that each of us, personally, is a small world, a microcosm. It is true that God, this almighty, universally ruling God, who has everything in His hand, is also fully present with His Spirit in the smallest living being. Where He is, there is life to the full.
It is remarkable that this way of the deepest meditation on one's self, on one's own deepest experiences, clearly leads into the depth of this little world. It leads into the roots of this solitary life, where we become aware in the final and deepest depth of our being that we are indeed living souls.
In the roots of our being the little ego stops being a little isolated ego, for there we meet the same universal central Reality who is in the great creation. There we experience that the deepest depth of our own innermost encounter is an encounter with the great "Thou", who fully, irrevocably sets us free from our little ego.
Encounter with God is redemption from your and my ego. It is transplantation into the comprehensive greatness of God, of His Kingdom, and of the Spirit of this unity.
Jesus [gave] this clear expression in His Sermon on the Mount at the beginning of His public activity. In it He proclaims the mystery of the Kingdom of God as the nature of comrades of the Kingdom. He shows that the deepest nature of those who are laid hold of by the message of God's Kingdom, is the fellowship of man. He shows that these people find their life in losing it for God's sake. They find their life in the life of community, for they are freed from worship of themselves. In their mind and spirit they have become as poor as beggars, for they have become people who hunger and thirst. They have become those who mourn, feeling the unbearable weight of the sorrow and suffering of the world. They have become compassionate, for they have experienced God's compassion in the depth of their hearts. They are men who are undivided and pure in their deepest being. They are men of love and of a quiet and gentle spirit. Through them we are enabled to see light and peace at work. They are people who are persecuted and are targets of the arrows of division and hostility. They are hated, but do not hate. [Their influence] has a stronger effect than that of those who throw bombs... for light is stronger than darkness.
These are the people of the Sermon on the Mount, the people of the future. They form the community of man. They are the light of this world, the salt of the Earth. They are the light which is kindled by God, the Source, from His own shining being. They are trees, planted by the streams of water which flow from the throne of God. They are trees that bring forth fruit, plants full of strength and new life that bloom most gloriously. They have nothing of the nature of the Pharisees and scribes about them. They are different.... [They live] as the Holy Spirit prompts them, set free from greed for possession, free from slavery to sexual lust, free from drowning in lying and falsehood, free from the horrors of murder, Mammon and impurity. These people are men of a kind whom we all do not yet know. They are the men of the future, the men of the fellowship of mankind, of the community that is not here because such people are not yet here. But the Power creating community in these men of the future [is also at work in all those who] belong to the great hidden Gemeinde. Will it not have to come about that spirit conquers matter, that the division caused in us by the struggle for existence will be overcome. [Must not] the one will to community in spirit [draw men to] experience matter and spirit as one, [so that] they till the soil once more [in harmony] with the Spirit of true, divine life, and work together [as brothers] on Earth. Must it not come about that Ne give our lives in hard work [that Earth may yield] apples, pears, grapes, and all wonderful fruits? This new life in which land and sea [yield their harvests] will be built up [when] the Spirit rules the Earth.
Must it not be possible to reclaim the agricultural work of the century? Must it not be possible for the will to peace [and community] to radiate more and more strongly, and [to draw] a large band of seekers for truth and seekers for God [together?]
Must not the moment come at last when we go from words to deeds, from devout feelings to realization. Must not the hour come at last that gives birth to the dawn of day and the dawn of work: [Earth's] wedding with the sun, the life that comes from God and is in God alone?
The question is, "Do we believe in the power of this Spirit?" Do we believe He becomes Lord over bodies and vanquishes obstacles? Do we believe He pervades time and matter and brings the human race together? I am convinced that there is such a hidden society, such a secret band of brotherhood, of people born of one Spirit who work unobtrusively for Gemeinde. If all they learn, all they can do or want to bring about, is to be for the whole human race and not for themselves, I am convinced [there must be] new birth, anticipation of the coming Kingdom of God.
Man is a living soul, but Christ came as the lifegiving Spirit. Christ, the lifegiving Spirit, can do what the living soul of man cannot do. The man who is gripped by the Spirit of Christ can do what the emotional man cannot: he can overcome the dragon and the serpent. He can overcome the power of money, of untruthfulness, of warhatred, of revolution, of murder, impurity and lying. He can overcome the Devil's power of division and dissension. He has the power to overcome dualism, death and dissolution. But all this is given us only in the lifegiving Spirit.
We are all slaves of the flesh, slaves of circumstances, servants of Mammon, entangled in untruth and impurity. We are all slaves of murder and slaves of hate. But there is One, Christ, who was born of the Mother of God. He is pure and makes us pure. The man whom He makes free is free indeed. The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
John 8:36; 2 Cor.3:17