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Schiller Showed the Way
To Cope with a Time of Crisis

by Helga Zepp-LaRouche

December 2011

This article appears in the December 9, 2011 issue of Executive Intelligence Review and is reprinted with permission.

EIRNS/Chris Lewis
Helga Zepp-LaRouche at the conference in Berlin, Nov. 27.

The Schiller Institute in Germany met on Nov. 27 in Frankfurt, with some 80 members and supporters gathering to discuss the dangerous world situation and what to do about it. The Institute’s chairwoman, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, began her keynote speech by saying that the main problem we face is the emotional underdevelopment of the majority of people today, which prevents them from understanding the existential threats confronting us. Too often, their response to a briefing is indifference and self-centeredness.

She went on to describe the build-up toward a possible global thermonuclear war, with the Western and Israeli threats against Syria and Iran, the deployment of Russian naval vessels off the coast of Syria in response; the Russian concern about NATO’s deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems on its borders, without assurances to Moscow that the systems are not aimed at weakening Russia’s defense capability; and other recent developments (which are also reported in International.)

She emphasized that the cause of this drive for war is the collapse of the global financial system, whereby the British-steered financial oligarchy views war as the only way to maintain its power—just as it did in the buildup to World Wars I and II. The other principal motivating factor, she said, is the malthusian mindset of the British imperialists, including notably such as Bertrand Russell and the current royal family.

We publish here a translation of the second half of her speech; the entire presentation is posted in German, both as a video and as a transcript, at

The question is, how do we deal with this situation? How can one find the strength in oneself to cope with such a terrifying reality, and to launch the mobilization that is absolutely necessary to prevent this danger?

I have thought about it, and naturally I cannot guarantee that we can stop it. But where does one find the moral support, in reality or in what one can think of doing about it, so as not to lose the inner fortitude required to cope with it? I thought about it some more, and then said to myself: Actually, such moral support is to be found in the very laws of the universe.

Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). His sublime concept of man in the image of the creative God can be a source of strength and courage for mankind’s battles today. Shown here: painting by Gerhard von Kügelgen..

I asked myself: What are our traditions; how have earlier thinkers grappled with this problem or a similar problem? And I came to the conclusion that the first thinker who really laid out the laws of the universe and their relationship to man and his creativity was—at least from what has come down to us—Plato. The Timaeus was the only work by Plato that was known in the West in the 1,700 years after the demise of Classical Greece and the takeover by the Roman Empire, until the Orthodox delegation, by the intervention of Nicolaus of Cusa, brought all of Plato’s works to the Council of Florence [1438-45]. Just imagine! Throughout these 1,700 years, Plato had almost completely disappeared, and his work existed only in a few copies of the Timaeus, behind some monastery walls, where no one could read it who did not know Greek. In any case, Plato had almost disappeared.

This Timaeus is thus very interesting, because there, for the first time—at least from the surviving documents that have come down to us—it presented the notion of a universe understood as a universal principle of development, with the idea of man as the aim and intent of this development.

In the introduction, the interlocutor Critias describes the history of mankind as the result of cultures that had collapsed from time to time—sometimes because of moral failings, sometimes due to physical catastrophes. And if these cultures went under, then a new culture always came along, built on the ruins of the old one.

And according to the Timaeus, man knows this part of the universe outside himself, and realizes that there is an ontological congruence with his own creativity.

The characteristic of this creativity is the change from lower to higher states of development, and this occurs in both the non-human domain and in the domain of human creativity. However, in the non-human domain, this development takes place without the willful and conscious aspect.

Thus here was expressed, for the first time, an idea of a developing universe, in which man is the driving force.

These are, of course, ideas that Nicolaus of Cusa, Leibniz, and naturally V.I. Vernadsky have developed further, and that today, with modern scientific methods, have been proven. That was the conception of the universe that actually exists, unlike all other false notions of the Earth as a disc, or a closed system, or a finite planet, or all these false doctrines that appeared over and over again.

The Biogenetic Law of Evolution

Nicolaus of Cusa described, in his Docta Ignorantia, what Prof. [Rudolf] Haubst has called the biogenetic law of evolution; it was Cusa who first made this distinction among the inorganic, the biological, and the domain of human reason. For Nicolaus, however, there is also a fourth level, and that is God, the Creator.

Nicolaus does not describe this process of evolution as a development from the lower to the higher, in Darwin’s sense—the survival of the fittest—but rather that it proceeds from the One, the Creator God, who practically has a law of development for the order of Creation, that each species can only reach its full development through these three stages, if it partakes at one point with the nature of the next higher species.

Nicolaus says that the development therefore means that the higher being drags the lower one up. Man is thus only fully human when he partakes in at least one point with the next higher entity, the Creator God. Thus the person is only fully human if he is creative, if he uses the vis creativa, the creative force, that God has given him. And, at one point, Nicolaus goes so far as to say that ever since man was created, development occurs only through man’s creativity.

This is quite correct, because if man, as so far the only intelligent form of life known to us, did not exist, then it would be of precious little use to us to know whether there are any other intelligent beings, because we would not be there to judge. So one can definitely say that even if we do discover other intelligent beings—which could happen soon, because the universe is so enormous, with billions of galaxies that are constantly evolving, and which we can only now begin to access for the first time with modern methods such as astronauts and probes—Nicolaus is still absolutely right: that man, if he uses his creativity, is a second God, in the sense of the pursuit of wisdom. That does not mean that he is equal to God, but that he can replicate the work of Creation through his own creative work.

The World and the Thinking Being

That is something which Vernadsky, as we know, developed further; and Schiller’s entire work is influenced by this conception. You probably all know Schiller’s little saying about nature: “Are you looking for the highest, the biggest? Plants can teach you. What they do by instinct, you do willfully. That’s it.”

That is a very simple thought, but it gets at the essence, and Schiller was very familiar with the works of Leibniz, through his teacher Jacob Friedrich Abel at the Karlsakademie. If you look, for example, at Schiller’s youthful work “The Theosophy of Julius,” you will see that Schiller absolutely thought in these terms. In the chapter “The World and the Thinking Being,” he writes:

The universe is a thought of God. After this ideal mental image became manifest, and the new-born world fulfilled the plan of its Creator—permit me this human representation—so it is the vocation of all thinking beings to retrace the original design in this great reality, to seek out the principle in the mechanism, the unity in the compound, the law in the phenomenon, and to proceed backwards from the structure to its original plan. Therefore, for me, there is but a single manifestation in nature: the thinking being. The great composition that we name the World is only remarkable to me now, because it indicates to me symbolically the manifold expressions of that being. Everything in me and outside me is only the hieroglyph of a power which is like me. The laws of nature are the ciphers which the thinking being pieces together to make itself understandable to the intellect—the alphabet by means of which all spirits communicate with the most perfect Spirit and with one another. Harmony, truth, order, beauty, excellence give me joy, because they transport me into the active state of their inventor, their possessor; because they betray the presence of a rational, feeling Being, and allow me to intuit my relationship with this Being. A new experience in this realm of truth—gravitation, the discovery of the circulation of the blood, the natural system of Linnaeus—correspond essentially in my mind, as an object from antiquity dug up at Herculaneum; both are only the reflection of one Spirit, a new acquaintance with a being like myself. I speak with the Eternal through the instrument of nature, through the history of the world; I read the soul of the artist in his Apollo.

This is the same theme, or the same idea, that Keats described in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” whereby the person who sees this Grecian urn suddenly experiences the mind of the artist who made it many thousands or hundreds of years ago.

We will have a presentation today on this subject, so I do not want to go into it more now; but I recently had that experience with a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, “Lady with an Ermine,” at the “Faces of the Renaissance” exhibition in Berlin. I was suddenly moved to tears, because looking at this incredible picture, the first of its kind in its mystery and ambiguity, I suddenly felt that I knew Leonardo, who was, so to speak, suddenly standing in the room next to the picture. This experience was so powerful that I was actually moved to tears.

This means that the universe is basically constructed such that we can recognize these truths.

EIRNS/Chris Lewis
The Schiller Institute chorus performs Bach’s cantata “Jesu, meine Freude,” Berlin, Nov. 27. Zepp-LaRouche called for reviving “absolute passion for the great ideas of Europe’s humanist tradition.”

Schiller goes on to say in the “Theosophy of Julius”:

All spirits are attracted by perfection. There may be deviations, but not a single exception—all strive for the highest and freest expression of their powers; all possess the common instinct of extending their sphere of action, of drawing all, and centering all in themselves, of appropriating all that is good, all that is charming and excellent. When the beautiful, the true, and the excellent are once seen, there is an instantaneous attempt to take possession of them. A condition once perceived by us, we enter into it immediately. At the moment when we think of them, we become possessors of a virtue, authors of an action, discoverers of a truth, possessors of happiness. We ourselves become the perceived object.

We Need Aesthetic Education!

Now of course everyone will say: Sure, if it were so easy, if all that people had to do was to surround themselves with beauty, and so on, and they would be creative, they would be duty-bound to the beautiful, the noble, and true—but that’s not how it is in real life.

Of course that is a problem, but I’ve thought about this problem for a long time. Schiller described this question of aesthetic education—that man actually is the only creature that can deliberately become a genius; in his Aesthetic Letters, Schiller responded to the downfall of the French Revolution and the Jacobin Reign of Terror, by saying, “A great moment has found a little people.” And from then on, he even said that the aesthetic education of man is the only way to get out of this brutality and barbarism. And he also had the idea of educating the emotions.

And it still seems to me to be the most absolutely urgent thing, to say most deliberately that man must not only develop his reason, but he must also, above all else, become a beautiful soul. And to become a beautiful soul means bringing one’s emotions to the level of reason; that you can trust them blindly, because they would never tell you something that reason does not mandate. And if this condition is reached, which can be achieved by concentrating on great art, on discoveries, on the creativity of man, then freedom and necessity, passion and duty, become one.

This is really the key, and I want to make this point once again at this grave moment in history, because there are many people who are highly intelligent, who can do all sorts of particular things very well, but if you see them in their human dimension, there are incredible shortcomings. And therefore, I think that Schiller’s ideal of the education of the capacity for profound emotions is really the key to this crisis.

Because it is never just the technology or even weapons that are the problem; there is always the subjective aspect of the people who use them.

Schiller goes on to say, in the Letters:

I am convinced that in the happy moment of their ideal conceptions, the artist, the philosopher, and the poet are really great and good men, in conceiving the image of the ideal—however, this ennobling of the spirit is for many only an unnatural condition, produced forcibly by more vigorous boiling of the blood, more rapid flight of fancy, which, for that very reason, disappears as fleetingly as any other enchantment, and delivers the heart, all the more exhausted, to the despotic caprice of base passions. All the more exhausted, I say, because common experience teaches that the recidivist criminal is always the more enraged; that the renegades from virtue recover all the more sweetly in the arms of vice from the burdensome obligation of repentance.

And unfortunately, this is also precisely the present situation. In other words, if a more developed nation goes into decline, it becomes even more barbaric than one that has not yet developed at all.

I think we have in German history an example of this, and we see it now in some other belligerent nations, which must also confront themselves; that America, which, as a great republic, brought together, in its founding and its Constitution, the best that Europe had to offer, today is about to start a war worse than the First and the Second World War.

Therefore all those who were dubious when Lyn [LaRouche] said that Obama was like Nero, and who were upset about a certain facial ornament [the “Obamastache”], should now kindly reflect again on that position, whether it was not absolutely right. Because if we do not stop this crisis, then it is in fact worse than everything that has happened so far.

Universal History

Otherwise, Schiller has included the same ideas which we have already seen in the Timaeus, in his “Universal History,” where he effectively describes how the human species has developed from debased circumstances to ever-higher conditions, and I want to only very briefly quote that:

The discoveries which our European mariners have made in distant oceans and on remote coastlines, present us a spectacle as constructive as it is entertaining. They show us tribes which surround us at the most diverse levels of culture, like children of different ages gathered around an adult, reminding him by their example of what he used to be, and where he started from. A wise hand seems to have preserved these raw tribes for us down to our times, where we would be advanced enough in our own culture to make fruitful application of this discovery to ourselves, and to restore from this mirror the forgotten origin of our species. But how shaming and sad is the picture these people give us of our childhood! And yet the level at which we see them is not even the first. Mankind began even more miserably. Those we study today we already find as nations, as political bodies; but mankind first had to elevate itself by an extraordinary effort to political society. Now what do these travellers tell us about these savages? They found some without any knowledge of the most indispensable skills, without iron, without the plow, some even without the possession of fire. Some still wrestled with wild beasts for food and dwelling; among many, language had been scarcely elevated from animal sounds to understandable signs. In some places, there was not even the simple bond of marriage, as yet no knowledge of property, and in others the flaccid soul was not even able to retain an experience which repeats itself every day; one saw the savage carelessly relinquish the bed on which he slept, because it did not occur to him that he would sleep again tomorrow. War, however, was with them all, and the flesh of the vanquished enemy was not seldom the prize of victory.

EIRNS/Chris Lewis
By concentrating on great art, on discoveries, on man’s creativity, Zepp- LaRouche stressed, one’s passion and one’s duty become inseparable. Here, Werner Hartmann (piano) and Kwame Cole (violin) play Brahms’ Op. 77, violin concerto in D major, at the Berlin conference.

Then Schiller contrasts that with the present, and says:

What are we now? Let me linger for a moment at this epoch in which we are now living, at this present shape of the world we inhabit.

Then he describes how man’s industriousness, his ingenuity, has reclaimed land from the sea, how it developed Germany’s forests, how it brought vines from Asia to Europe, filled the barns, and so forth.

How many creations of art, how many wonders of diligence, what light in all fields of knowledge, since man no longer consumes his energies in pitiful self-defense, since it has been placed at his discretion to reconcile himself with need, which he ought never fully to escape; since he has obtained the valuable privilege to command his capabilities freely, and to follow the call of his genius! What lively activity everywhere, since desires multiplied lent new wings to inventive genius and opened new areas to industriousness. The barriers are breached which isolated states and nations in hostile egoism. All thinking minds are now bound together by the bond of world-citizenry, and all the light of the century can now illuminate the spirit of a new Galileo and Erasmus.

Then at the end of the “Universal History” Schiller famously comes to the conclusion that the only way mankind can achieve his own immortality is, by tying “his own ephemeral fate to the long chain which winds through human generations,” and with a noble longing glowing within him, “to pass on that which he received from previous generations, multiplied, into the future and the coming generations.”

Reaching the Level of the Sublime

And that, in a certain way, is the only thing which can somehow stabilize one at this point in time, that one is totally conscious of the possibility of bringing himself to the level of the Sublime, that is, that he not find his identity in the here and now, in sensuous enjoyments, in the experience of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain, but that he actually thinks that we are historical individuals, that we have responsibility for everything that the human race has produced up to now, and that we must preserve it, because it is intolerable to any human being who has felt love for the ideas of a Beethoven or a Schiller, that these might perish in such a crisis.

Because if human civilization were now destroyed, there would perhaps be nothing left; a Beethoven would have composed in vain, and Bach would have written this wonderful piece [“Jesu, meine Freude”], and it would be only a wave in a huge ocean. And I think that we have now come to a point where we must revive the absolute passion for the great ideas of Europe’s humanist tradition, and let them strike a chord in us, so that we evoke those ideas we now need, because only that can give us strength.

That means that one cannot consider intellectual work as something which one does, so to speak, in Sunday school, or when it’s somehow convenient, but that we actually think of these ideas with passion, those of a Plato, a Nicolas, a Leibniz, or a Schiller, Schubert, or Beethoven—that we actually use them to create a new Renaissance.

Because this idea, that we are responsible for coming out of this crisis—even if you have to say that naturally it is not only our responsibility: This idea is what shifts us as people into the situation where we can cope with these hideous realities, and through which we do not permit our optimism to die.

I believe that it is very, very important that one in such a situation, even more so than previously, believes in the possibility of the aesthetical development of mankind, that man can bring about a Renaissance, and that one can say essentially: Perhaps precisely such an existential crisis of human civilization was necessary in order to do away with the axioms of a failed epoch, so that man supercedes them with better ideas, and thereby fundamentally ushers in a new chapter for the human race.

That is the task which the Schiller Institute actually posed for itself from the start; that is, that we, from the beginning, undertook to create a new just world economic order and a new cultural Renaissance. And that is the touchstone, more than ever before. And therefore, I urge all of you to apply yourselves in this situation to the idea that we must create that Renaissance—because the alternative is not acceptable.