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  Book Review - Nelson Mandela and the Racial Question

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By: Friedwart Husemann, M.D.

Book Review - Nelson Mandela and the Racial Question (Original title: Nelson Mandela und das Rassenproblem. Merkwstab 1995; 48: 373-5. English by J. Collis.)

JAM Vol. 12, Nr. 4 Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk to Freedom, Little Brown, USA 1994, 630pp, hardback £20.00 (paperback due out by end of 1995)

Nelson Mandela (b. 18 July 1918) grew up among virtually intact ancient customs and rituals of the Thembu tribe in South Africa (part of the Xhosa nation). The first chapter of his book, describing the closeness to nature of this chief's son during childhood and youth, is enchanting and has an almost fairy-tale quality. Throughout life his origins have remained a source of refreshment for him.

Chosen to become adviser to the chief he was allowed to go to school. When he had finished high school the king chose a wife for him. According to the laws of the tribe he would have been obliged to marry her, but Mandela fled this obligation and went to Johannesburg. There he worked to earn money during the day and studied at night until, after 5 years of grueling privation, he qualified as one of Johannesburg's first black lawyers. As a well-educated lawyer and member of the black race he experienced South Africa's apartheid during the time when more and more oppressive legislation was being passed year by year and implemented with ever-increasing brutality. You can only understand what was really going on in South Africa between 1946 and 1990 by hearing in detail from someone's direct experience of how the differences between the races were brought out on the wider scale (e.g. no votes for blacks) as well as in minor daily irritations (e.g. white witnesses in court didn't have to reply to questions put to them by black lawyers).

Mandela soon joined the ANC (founded in 1912) which initially practiced passive resistance. But as the white government grew ever more restrictive the ANC decided, after careful consideration, to embark on acts of sabotage. After a short period under cover, Mandela and some of his comrades found themselves before a court that was about to sentence them to death or life imprisonment. Mandela openly admitted to having committed the sabotage, saying that it was not he but the unjust regime that was standing trial in the court before which he stood accused and that freedom would triumph in the end. He said this was an ideal which he hoped to live for and achieve, but that if necessary he was prepared to die for it. Having uttered such words at the end of a 4-hour speech he looked the judge straight in the eye. There was a deathly hush in the courtroom for many seconds, and then the sentence of life-imprison- ment was pronounced.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison, in the early years conditions were very strict. Family letters could only be exchanged once every 6 months, and they were heavily censored. Mandela's clear and sober descriptions of that time are a deeply moving document of human suffering. As the years passed the whole world began to hear about his imprisonment, and the government sought to get rid of him. The secret service planned an escape attempt for him during which he was to be murdered. But Mandela saw through their deception and refused to cooperate. Several times he was promised freedom if he would cut his ties with the ANC or his comrades. He resisted these temptations also. Wherever he was, including among his comrades in prison, he naturally assumed the leading role. He was finally released from prison in 1990 at the age of 71.

In 1994, he succeeded in bringing about the first secret ballot in which all inhabitants of South Africa were able to participate. Nelson Mandela is already being called South Africa's Gandhi. Together with de Klerk he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and in 1994 he became the first freely elected president of South Africa, collecting 62.6% of the votes. This autobiography, of which it is impossible to leave any of the over 800 pages unread, was for the most part written secretly in prison. Although the original was confiscated, a duplicate was fortunately smuggled out and saved.

Mandela occasionally refers to the trials set him by his journey through life. Once he even uses the expression "trial by fire," saying that prison puts a man's character through a kind of trial by fire. He came to realize that being locked up gives some people greater verve and impetus while it brings others down to size and shows them to be rather less than had been thought. In the spiritual scientific sense, too, the expression "trial by fire" can be applied to the life of Nelson Mandela:

For many human beings, everyday life is itself a more or less unconscious process of initiation through Trial by Fire. Such people have passed. through manifold experiences of such a kind that their self-confidence, courage and fortitude have been enhanced in a healthy way, and they learn to bear sorrow, disappointment and failure in undertakings with greatness of soul and, above all, with equanimity and unbroken strength. Whoever has undergone experiences of this kind is often an initiate without definitely knowing it.(1)

After his release Mandela showed no feelings of revenge towards his oppressors and always strove to achieve freedom for both blacks and whites.

Nowhere in Africa has racial discrimination been so obstinately upheld as in South Africa. Modern materialism is an invention of European whites; capitalism, mercantilism and a banking system are an integral part of it. For decades much of the world's gold, once a currency but now mostly stored in bank vaults, has come from South African mines, in South Africa especially, greed for gold seduced a white minority into wronging the black majority. As physicians we are accustomed to think of gold as the sunlike central point within the range of metal actions, with silver and lead, mercury and tin, copper and iron taking up their positions above or below the sun. In The Mission of Folk Souls Steiner described the origin of the races from an initially sunlike primeval humanity.(2) Differences among the races mirror certain planetary effects. Thus, the white European race came into being out of the way Jupiter forces worked on the senses, whereas the black skin pigmentation arose because of the way Mercury forces took hold of the glandular system. Sunlike gold occupies a central position between Jupiter and Mercury, tin and mercury, white race and black race. This throws some light on why it is possible for discrimination among races and racial hatred to arise at all. The problem is not solved by merely denying any differences between races. That would be as foolish as denying the difference between mercury and tin by maintaining that both are metals.

It will always be possible to find beautiful, humanly compassionate phrases that appear to dissolve any differences, but Lucifer lurks in such phrases. Ahriman, on the other hand, wants to intensify existing differences so that hate and struggle arise out of them. The key lies in the center, from the planetary point of view in the Sun, from the point of view of metals in gold. Humankind can overcome racial divisions by learning to understand the individual tasks of each race. From the sunlike substance of thinking arises the seed of a future human body. The life of Nelson Mandela allows us to perceive such a seed.

Friedwart Husemann, M.D.

Maria-Eich-Str. 57a

D-82166 Graefelfing


References 1 Steiner R. Knowledge of the Higher Worlds (GA 10). Tr. D. Osmond & C. Davy. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1985. 2 Steiner R. The Mission of Folk Souls (GA 121). Tr. A. H. Parker. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1970.

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