“The love of man must gradually widen to a love for all living creatures, yes, for all existence. Through failure to fulfill the condition here given, the student will lack the perfect love for everything that fashions and creates, and the inclination to refrain from all destruction as such. He must so train himself that not only in his actions but also in his words, feelings, and thoughts he will never destroy anything for the sake of destruction. His joy must be in growth and Life, and he must only lend his hand to destruction when he is also able, through and by means of destruction, to promote new life. This does not mean that the student must simply look on while evil runs riot, but rather that he must seek even in evil that side through which he may transform it into good.” ~Rudolf Steiner
Mr. Steiner is correct in saying that the spiritual student must move beyond love of other humans, to love of animals, plants, all of existence. This seems contrary to what many think. We have been told to love only the good guys and to hate the bad guys. The problems with that philosophy are many, but the most basic one is this: everyone things those who agree with her are the good guys, and those who disagree are the bad guys. The result of such a philosophy is the opposite of becoming a united whole, which is a primary goal of spiritual development.
You have to learn, for starters, to separate the person from the deed or the beliefs. You can hate the philosophy of hate, but not those who have been tricked into believing it. You can hate violence, but not those who, through trickery, mental illness, etc., have been engaging in violence.
The same is true for plants and animals. We may hate the fact that a child was killed by an alligator, but that does not mean we should hate the gator. By learning to love the gator, we are better able to understand it and deal with it rationally instead of attacking it with irrational anger. We may hate getting poison ivy (and believe me, I do), but we should not hate the plant for having a strong natural defense. Think about it. If a plant died after touching you would you blame yourself? I don’t think so.
The great botanist, Luther Burbank, is reputed to have developed thornless cactus by talking to the plants, sending them love, and telling them that didn’t need to fear. I don’t know if that story is true, but either way, it is true that Burbank turned many harmful plants into beneficial ones by showing them love and understanding. So love all of creation.
Creation and Destruction
Mr. Steiner advises us that as spiritual students, and as lovers of all creation, we must refrain from all destruction. This is a difficult thing that requires thought and subtlety. If every time you drive your car down an old dirt road you kill ants that have made hills in the road, are you guilty of destruction? I would say no. It is intentional destruction that Steiner is primarily talking about. There is a great difference between accidentally running over an animal crossing a street, and intentionally trying to hit it.
Steiner also points out that sometimes destruction is necessary in order to bring about new life, for example, pulling weeds in the vegetable garden. Here some good sense is needed also. One could claim that by killing a wolf they are protecting their children. That is true only if the wolf is actually after your children, and an advance spiritual student like St. Francis of Assisi could harmlessly turn the wolf away. And when we cut down thousands of acres of forest to make grazing fields for cattle, are we really benefiting anybody long term? The answer is no, so even though we destroyed the forest to save the cattle, the cattle are not more important than the forest.
It is unfortunate that the war between Light and Dark, Angels and Demons, is often depicted by well-meaning but misguided artists as a literal battle with swords or other weapons. Nothing could be further from the truth. As was clearly illustrated in the Star Wars movies, to kill the bad guy (Luke vs Darth) would make you no better than him. The angels don’t defeat the demons and devils by killing them, but by loving them. In doing so, they will eventually get those demons to change their ways and return to the fold. This is how we should all behave.
So how do we develop such love and creativity and end our destruction and hatred? We do it by developing our spiritual faculties. Only the spirit and soul can truly recognize and practice this philosophy. Only the soul can love all.