Leo Tolstoy has sometimes been ascribed this saying. But whether it comes from him or from some other source, it carries a truth that can hardly be objected to. It could be ascribed as well to Swedenborg, or Goethe, or Herder, or St. John Chrysostom, or some of the Cambridge Platonists. And Thomas More most certainly was aware of this when he wrote his “Utopia”. If a major change to the conditions of the human society does not take place in the human soul in the first place, it will take place nowhere else.
In a period of constant dissolution and disintegration, like the one we are in now, this saying daily comes to my mind, over and over again.
Because dissolution and disintegration is what is taking place every day, before our eyes. The ongoing cracking of the European Dream is just a reflection of the cracking of all other dreams of unity, wherever across the world such dreams may have been dreamt. The fate of the USA is no exception. There we are witnessing an approaching tsunami of division and polarization, tending to become even worse than that of the Civil War.
And in the ongoing Armageddon of the Middle East, the evil fruits of the West’s colonialism in the past and its miscalculations in the present are reaped on a daily basis. No one ever heeded to the wise words of former President Matti Ahtissaari of Finland: “There are no problems whatsoever that could not be solved at the negotiation table” (until it be too late, that is).
As for Europe, the hearty chanting of Beethoven-Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” and the naming of ambitious academical programs after Erasmus of Rotterdam etc. remain just vain and empty gestures as long as there is no true spiritual and moral foundations of the European endeavours. It takes a spiritual movement, away from materialism and self-interest, away from greed and power-hunger, away from the evil and destructive forces of ethnicism, nationalist isolationism and racism, for unity, consolidation or reconciliation of peoples to be brought about. And, needless to say, this goes not only for Europe but for all humankind.
“We are all human beings.”
This was uttered by Michail Gorbachev, in one of his last press conferences as president of the former USSR.
How simple – and how insurmountably difficult! How many obstacles there are to this insight, in the depth of human hearts and minds, how much hatred, prejudice, egoism and destructiveness!
If the human spirit perishes under the impact of these poisons, the world, as we know it, will perish with it as well. Only a true spiritual revival could change the horrible direction.
Who are the bearers of hope today? If any, the young generations are. From the ranks of us, the old, there can come forth nothing good any more. We have got too much of the poison.