Der Weg zur Zukunft (The Way Into the Future)

EA 29/06

Additional Information
Author Eberhard Arnold
Date November 22, 1929
Document Id 20125980_12_S
Available Transcriptions English

The Way Into the Future

[Arnold, Eberhard and Emmy papers – M.S.]

[Draft Translation by Bruderhof Historical Archive]

EA 29/6

The Way Into the Future

Eberhard Arnold:

One or the other among us may be staggered by such a topic as "The Way into the Future," but it shouldn't be like that. The very posture of man indicates that we must stride forward and look forward. We see man, upright, striding ahead, looking ahead, with an upright posture. We are not animals, who look at the ground and have eyes on the sides of their heads; we are not creatures who are fully occupied with the needs of the moment. We are not blind worms, crawling around; we are upright, forward-looking, forward-striding men. For one thing because we belong to reality, and for another thing because we belong to the future. And every deeper thinking man will consider these tasks to be the reasons for his existence: to grasp what is reality and the future, and to penetrate them.

Let us consider the great Persian Zoroaster who in his fight for purity and work, for land and spirit, prophesied that the victory of light over darkness would be the final picture of the future for the earth and mankind. Zoroaster is especially pertinent in more than one respect for what we are considering tonight. Work, according to Zoroaster, can only bear fruit when we are quickened with love, love to the Spirit and love to men, and when we are no longer robbed of our land by criminals who take away the arable land from the people, though it actually belongs to God and to all.

Zoroaster was in spirit very closely related to the Jewish prophets. For all discerning men the Jewish prophets belong to the mighty ones leading in the history of mankind from beginning to end. It was given to them to see mankind's future portrayed as justice and unity. With heart and soul they looked with eager expectation toward the future of men. They were burning with the belief that this future of men must be social justice. But they knew from the bottom of their hearts that this social justice can only come to men when it is revealed as God's justice. It is that justice, that righteousness, which is the noun corresponding to the adjective "good." It is the sum total of the Good, absolute in its essential nature. The future of men and mankind lies in this absolute Good, in the righteousness of God.

But how is this Good revealed? It is revealed as unity, as peace. Today we are still living in a time in which people in general have no concept of unity or peace. We still do not know what unity and peace are. We have not experienced how unity and peace come to expression. It is not included in our empirical knowledge. The prophet knows. To him it was revealed through divine inspiration.

Harmony is a concept known to many of us from music. And it is certainly clear to all of us that this harmony is not monotonous or limp, not lifeless or flabby. What is harmony? Harmony is an integrated whole in motion, a completeness in diversity: harmony is the power which works out as unity. Where there is completeness and integratedness but no diversity or motion, there is no harmony.

Harmony is the power inherent in unity, making its appearance with a tremendous richness of movement and diversity. That is the peace, that is the unity the prophets mean. The absolute unity which takes shape as a completeness through the power of movement and rich diversity. Actually joy is what characterizes mankind. And that is why we are so joyless--because we are far from justice and harmony, far from peace. We are torn and mangled beings, creatures of corruption, given over to death because we lack justice and peace.

This joy in its turn is the root of love. There is no love other than the love dipped from [the wellsprings of] joy. Whoever cannot be joyful cannot love. God's joy is power, the power of faith and of love.

The prophets foresaw the Kingdom of God as a paradise, like the beginning of our earth, as a paradise of work, of creative power. Then came John the Baptist and Jesus, men whom we cannot imagine without the Jewish prophets. And they cried out among the people, "The rulership of God is here, it draws near, it is close at hand." The great reversal of rulership in mankind's history has come. His Spirit breaks in and His Spirit is action. This was the particular characteristic of Jesus, that He was at work filled with the future and impelled by it. With Jesus nothing was like smoke and noise, with Jesus nothing was just words without results and that failed to hit the mark and penetrate; rather what He said was deed and had its effect.

Now one could think that this time lies behind us. Today we have entered a period in which we cannot believe in this religious background of the past and the future. Is this true? I confess openly, I do not believe there are atheists. I do not believe there are people who are really convinced that God cannot exist.

Even socialism is belief in the future held by men of God, only it is confined to economics. The socialists want justice, the justice which is a social application of the Good to commercial life, to economic questions such as division and distribution of goods, (the distribution of work). It is, as we have seen, the first among the three points of view of the Jewish prophets.

The revolution that preceded Karl Marx was likewise an intimation of the future. But now let us go back to those men who preceded modern socialism, those who were its original founders. Let us think of the men of the 19th century in Germany, France, and England. If we think of just a few of them we will immediately see clearly that here lives the old spirit of prophecy. Fourier, a remarkable man, brought up the idea of the future phalanx. By this he meant an army of workers. He wanted these groups of workers to find change and variety in their work. As a Christian he expected the spirit of friendship and community and joy to flood through these rotating groups of workers and determine their actions.

However, socialism and communism are no longer merely a goal for the future. This goal has already been realized; it was put into practice by the Hutterians and on Austrian soil at that. Here many thousands of people actually lived in community. They believed the Kingdom of God had come. These people dared to do what Fourier and others worked out only in theory. And what Fourier foresaw as the messianic Kingdom became reality among the Hutterians.

Now we must return to the basic conditions set by Jesus in order to get clear under what conditions this unity and this justice will come to us.

Modern socialism, too, must be freed from being deprived of God. This being deprived of God is frequently only theoretical. But Jesus has shown us the way out for that situation. Jesus has shown us that that which is demanded by socialism can be seen as identical with the love to God. For when we do not love God the proof is to be seen in the fact that we do not love our neighbor as ourselves. And the other way around. For if you do not love your brother whom you see, how can you love God, whom you do not see.

Jesus shows us the way for the future and says in His Sermon on the Mount: you hunger, you thirst, you perish, and just those who are lowest are those who go to rack and ruin. But be of good cheer, the hour has come, throw everything overboard, turn everything upside down, plan everything now according to the future of God, plan simply and solely according to the coming justice and unity, plan simply and solely according to the coming joy, gain a footing in God's future. Live from the powers of the future world; look and see what the comrades of the future will be like.

Jesus shows the better righteousness which must be better even than that of the theologians; He shows it as Good in its very roots, as Good in its very nature, as Good in its essence, in existential life, in the very substance of things. That is what makes it different from all theology and ethics. It depends on the heart, on the sinews, on the sap.

And Jesus speaks of light, of the tree, the heart, and of salt. The tree is alive and growing, substantial in its aliveness, the light is aflame and shines--not a cold light, but a light that consumes itself, that shines forth warmth and fire, a shining light. Light is by its very nature bright and shining and warmth-giving and gathering, all at the same time. Just as the first men gathered around their campfires and their hearths, and just as this light was the symbol of their community of house and camp, so Jesus says too:

Place the light on a stand! You must become a city-church on a hill. You should become a commune from which beams of light can shine out into the whole world. And only when such living communes are spread over the earth will the putrefying process of our ruin come to a halt. And if salt has lost its saltiness, it has lost its very nature. Just as light when it has been extinguished is no longer light, even if we still call it that. And the only reason we still continue to call it light is because we hope for that future moment when it will be lit again.

And so we do not give up even the big city, villainous and accursed as it is. The light of the big city has long since been knocked off its stand; the big city has long since ceased to be a living city on a hill. But the holy flame which can come down and light it again still lives. For we believe in God's miracle.

Everything that Jesus says is meant to apply to the heart of man. Everything depends on the heart. Our heart is the deepest depths of our consciousness, it is subconscious intimation, it is the innermost glow of the secret spark of our life, the hidden hope of faith seemingly long ago extinguished. That is the heart, your most hidden being, which you do not want to show to anyone. This heart is what Jesus seeks. Blessed are those who are pure in heart; blessed are those who have heart, who are compassionate. Love, the impulse of the heart, is the secret of the heart. Yes, if you have hearts you will become perfect men. For us there is only one goal, to become perfect men. But we can only become that if we live from our hearts and from God.

As in everything, Jesus' whole aim is that we should act with God as our starting point, and go out from Him, and in fact that we should treat everyone as we would wish to be treated. That is Jesus' solution for practical life. Become social, become communal. Live like Jesus and you will be living the future. We are put to shame by the solidarity of a colony of bees, by an ant hill. We must live like Jesus, for He called Himself God's son and indicated mankind's inheritance. He healed the sick, opposed greatness, rejected society, and went to His death. He founded the true commune of the future, full community of work and goods. Real community with one another, actual community in all things. Before we can even see this Kingdom of justice and joy, or even get a glimpse of it in our heart, we must turn around completely and be renewed just as radically as if you were to cross off your 40 or 50 years and start anew. God will give you strength to break with all the past. He is not satisfied with your enthusiasm for a future ideal; He expects you to place your limbs, the strength of your muscles, into the service of community. You must find a place to work where unity and love and joy are demanded. Here there is justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Hic Rhodus, hic salta. ["Here is Rhodes, jump here." In other words: if you say you can do it, do it here and now.]

If we believe in the future, we must take hold of it at this moment. The Spirit is the soul, the collective soul of the future. The norms of the future, the guide lines for the future, cannot possibly be acknowledged as normal today. Today they must seem abnormal.

And that is why Jesus calls to us: decide for the future! You should be ambassadors for the Messiah.

The way to the future consists simply and solely in this, that we become representatives of the future.