Moltke As Philosopher

Rudolf Steiner, Literary Mercury, XII. Jg., No. 15, April 9, 1892
Google translate: German to English


It is always of particular interest to hear important people, whose sphere of life and activity is far removed from the field of theoretical consideration of the world, to speak about the great riddles of our existence and the ultimate causes of world development. And even a man like Moltke, who was often able to see fate run for entire states determined by his personality. The meaning of such a relation is known only to those who understand it, what great, deeply affecting experiences have to mean for our whole being, as they suddenly spread out a different color over a large number of our ideas. How many people are suddenly changed in their whole character by an experience of overwhelming impact! And worthless are the doctrinal minds of those people whose lives have never been affected by fatalities, high joys and deep disappointments.

What might have happened in the soul of Chief of Staff Moltke in hours before the important decisive battles with Austria and later with France! In such moments something very special is spoken into the ear by the cosmic spirit; Words that are difficult to understand for people with workday experience. It is now printed in the German reader world, as Moltke thought about world context and human destiny.

Let us seek to clarify the main features of his worldview. Moltke is convinced of the consistent law of the whole universe. He also believes that he may claim that the laws that cause the smallest and greatest events here on our earth are valid in every part of the universe. What happens on Sirius should be no less subject to the same reasons as the phenomena which occur daily before our eyes. And Moltke thinks of all human activity as being within the circle of this lawfulness. But our reason must also have this world-law in it; for only under this condition can she find rationality everywhere in the world. Coincidence of reason and reality is for Moltke a postulate of his views. Ultimately, our philosophical general sees the whole world harmony as an outpouring of the divine Spirit, who has also established that world and human reason are in harmony. Although these views coincide exactly with the mathematical-mechanical world-view prevalent in the circles of contemporary natural scholars-Du Bois-Reymond must be delighted with this Federal Cooperative-the thought seems correct

Moltke must be sought in his profession as a military leader the reason for the emergence of the same. The commander's resolutions are, in the strictest sense of the word, the result of considerations based on mathematical and dynamic presuppositions. Just as the mathematician and mechanic only have an invoice result from given accounting approaches, so too only a very specific action can appear as the necessary consequence of given facts for the army commander. He implements this with a necessity, like that with which a stone falls to the ground. The activity of the human spirit appears here completely integrated into the mathematical-mechanical world event, as a mere continuation of it. And man proves to be the executor of eternal, universal laws of the world.

But what must necessarily suffer from such a view is the feeling for individuality and for the personal freedom of man. In the army leadership, without question, the individual must take a back seat, first against the laws of military knowledge, and secondly against the organization of a many-limbed body. Who draws a conclusion from such a field to the universal essence of all being, whose convictions must be one-sided. The psychologist, however, knows that every person who has a certain profession makes the latter the center of his world judgment. Everybody has the need to continually draw concrete examples from his experience to the general views which fill his mind. They are not merely meant to confirm the general, but to make it clear above all others.

It is now of course, that the general considered those laws as the general for which he finds examples within his world of experience. But these are the mathematical-mechanical ones. But what falls short in such a conclusion is the world of freedom. Within Moltke's views, space for the latter is as little a matter of space as it is of the mechanical world-view of contemporary natural science. What with the former the settling into military L? even and bustle, in the case of the latter, causes the one-sided view of the external event and the mathematical side of the nature of nature. Moltke regards the universe as a great troop body, the nature teachers of the present like a multi-unit machine. He generalizes the laws of martial art, these the rules of mechanics. In both ways a one-sidedness emerges in the fullest sense of the word, which can not be psychologically comprehensible, but can not exist before the forum of an all-encompassing view of life and the world. How necessary it is to measure every thing by its own measure, and not to bring in experiences from any other field, is one of the highest realizations of the human mind. To understand theoretically, to understand it, many people will, but from there to the transition into the innermost essence of our psychic organism is still a long way. Before you get to it, you have to have many experiences. Experiences that do not take place on the scene of world events, but in the depths of our interior. A philosopher is not the one who knows the sum of the existing philosophical doctrines and perhaps has multiplied them a few new ones, but only one who has undergone the heavy spiritual struggles, by which one does not learn truths, nor conceives, but experiences. What can least be learned and conceived, but what must be experienced, is the principle that every thing is to be regarded according to its indigenous individuality. This latter consideration is the necessary antithesis to Moltke's conception that a law goes through all world beings. Within this one lawfulness, however, innumerable kinds of law are possible, which are to be looked upon carefully in particular.

However interesting the views of the great general are for the psychologist, for they show how a strict integration into a sphere the basic characteristics of the latter as the leitmotifs of a whole Human life, and that the life of the reader can not be otherwise actuated than that of the thinker, who is not particularly dedicated to details, and who is equally warm and cool and contemplating.

© Tom Last 2017