"If you own a machine, you are in turn owned by it, and spend your time serving it..."

(Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Forbidden Tower)

--| THE NATURE OF TECHNOLOGY |---------------- --| Rudolf Steiner, 1914 |-------------------------------------- Let us start by looking quite superficially at what happens in modern technology. In the first place this is just work carried out in two stages. The first consists of destroying the interrelationships of nature: we blast out quarries and take the stone away, maltreat the forests and take the wood away, and the list could go on- in short, we get our raw materials in the first instance by smashing and breaking down the interrelationships in nature. And the second stage consists of taking what we have extracted from nature and putting it together again as a machine, according to the laws we know as natural laws. These are the two stages, if we look at the matter on the surface. Looking at it from the inside, the matter is like this: When we take things from nature, mineral nature to begin with, this is linked with a certain feeling of well-being belonging to the elemental spiritual beings that are within it. This, however, does not concern us so much now. What is important here is that we cast out of nature the elemental spirits holding nature together, who belong to the sphere of the regular progressive hierarchies. In all natural existence there are elemental spiritual beings. When we plunder nature we squeeze out the nature spirits into the spheres of the spirit, and thus release these nature spirits, driving them from the sphere allotted them by the Jehovah gods into a realm where they can flit about freely and are no longer bound to their allotted dwelling places. Thus we can call the first stage the casting out of the nature spirits. The second stage is one where we put together what we have plundered from nature according to our knowledge of natural laws. Now when we construct a machine or complex of machines out of raw material, we put certain spiritual beings into the things we construct. The structure we make is by no means spiritless. We make a habitation for other spiritual beings, but these beings that we conjure into our machines belong to the Ahrimanic hierarchy. This means that by living in this technological milieu of modern times, we create an Ahrimanic setting for everything that goes on in us in a sleeping state, by night or day. So it is no wonder that a person at the first stages of initiation, bringing back into his waking life all that he has experienced outside in the way of noise and confusion, feels its destructive character. For he is bringing back into his organism the results of having been in the company of Ahrimanic spirits. Thus we could say that at the third stage, at the cultural level, we have technology around us, stuffed full of Ahrimanic spirits which we have put there. This is what things look like from inside... Only by penetrating into the depths of his own being will man find the connection with the divine spiritual beings who are beneficial and healing for him. This living connection in spirit, for which we were actually born, is made difficult to the highest degree by the increasing saturation of the world by modern technology. Man is being torn away, as it were, from his spiritual-cosmic connections, and the forces he should be developing within him to maintain his link with the spiritual-soul being of the cosmos are being weakened. A person who has already taken the first steps in initiation therefore notices how the mechanical things of life penetrate his spiritual-soul nature to such an extent that much of it is deadened and destroyed, making it particularly diffficult for him really to develop those inner forces which unite him with the 'rightful' spiritual beings of the hierarchies. When such a person tries to meditate in a train or on board ship, he notices the Ahrimanic world filling him with the kind of thing that opposes his devotion, and the struggle is enormous. You could call it an inner struggle experienced in the etheric body, which wears you out and crushes you. Other people also of course go through this struggle, the only difference is that the student of initiation experiences it consciously. It would be the worst possible mistake to say that we should resist what technology has brought into modern life, that we should protect ourselves from Ahriman, even cut ourselves off from modern life. In a certain sense this would be spiritual cowardice. The real remedy is to make the forces of the soul strong so that they can stand up to modern life. A courageous approach is necessitated by world karma, and that is why true spiritual science requires a really hard effort of soul. You so often hear people saying 'These books of spiritual science are difficult; they make you exert yourself in order to develop your soul forces so as really to penetrate into spiritual science'. They want to smooth out diffcult passages into something as trivial as can be. However it belongs to the essence of spiritual science that you do not accept spiritual-scientific truths lightly, as it were, for it is not just a matter of taking it in, but of how you take it in. You should take it in by dint of effort and soul activity. To make spiritual science your own you must work at it in the sweat of your soul-please forgive me for not being very polite. That belongs to the business of spiritual science. -- From Rudolf Steiner's last published communication: In the age of natural science, since about the middle of the nineteenth century, the civilized activities of mankind are gradually sliding downward, not only into the lowest regions of nature, but even beneath nature. Technical science and industry become sub-nature. This makes it urgent for man to find in conscious experience a knowledge of the spirit, wherein he will rise as high above nature as in his sub-natural technical activities he sinks beneath her. He will thus create within him the inner strength not to go under. --| References |---------------- (Exerpted from: Art as Seen in the Light of Mystery Wisdom, Lecture 1, Dornach, December 28, 1914, GA 275).


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this page last updated: april 29, 1999