Forging freedom

By Henning Kullak-Ublick, January 2015

2045, so says Dmitry Itskov, Russian entrepreneur and founder of the international “2045 Initiative”, will be the year in which humanity achieves immortality.

It will happen in stages: first a humanoid robot (an “avatar”) with a brain interface will be built to which a brain will be connected which has been kept functioning through the corresponding technology. In a next step both “systems” will be combined to programme a cybernetic brain with all the content of the consciousness of the original organic brain. The former will then be linked with a “holographic” body which it will be able to control like a living organism. Ray Kurzweil, the director of engineering at Google, assumes that it will be possible to replace all organs of the human body with far superior artificial organs by the middle of the century.

If that gives you the creeps: me too – and it does so although I have nothing against a good prosthesis or, indeed, my glasses. But this is about the rigorous focus on an image of the human being which reduces what it means to be human wholly to physical and mechanical functions. Spirit, soul and life only exist any longer as cybernetic processes whose “optimisation” can in the short or long term also be ceded to electronic systems.

This cold, mechanistic picture of the world has as its polar opposite the fanatical fundamentalism which currently has its most evil form in the shape of “IS” – and yet the two are related in the sense that the latter, too, negates the individual uniqueness of each person, their inalienable dignity. Soulless, technical omnipotence goes hand in hand with destructive religious omnipotence. Both of them destroy what does not bend to their law.

We are in the middle of a spiritual battle in which the future of humankind, or at least of compassion is at stake. The latter is not some romantic sentimental idea from ages past but the vulnerable starting point of every development which recognises that making mistakes is an ally on the path to freedom.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, who wrote not just Nathan the Wise but also the booklet – well worth reading – The Education of the Human Race, said as long ago as 1777: “If God held hidden in his right all truth and in his left the sole, always active urge to find the truth, even with the adjunct of erring for ever and always, and he said to me: choose! I would in humility point to his left and say: Father, give it to me! The pure truth is for you alone!”

Let us apprehend our schools as forges of compassion in which human beings develop the skill to be free through encounters, experience and by making mistakes!

Henning Kullak-Ublick, class teacher from 1984 -2010 at the Flensburg Free Waldorf School; board member of the German Association of Waldorf Schools and the Friends of Waldorf Education as well as Aktion mündige Schule (


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