After Alfred Nobel’s passing in San Remo on December 10, 1896, the unexpected establishment of a special peace prize under his name sparked immense interest. Alfred Nobel rewrote his will to donate more than 90 percent of his life earnings to create the symbol of respect and honor for those who have made contributions to peace and the betterment of mankind, the symbol that is now known as the Nobel Peace Prize.
Meanwhile, Alfred Nobel’s reputation was closely tied to massive destruction—inventions designed for warfare, the most well-known of which was dynamite. In fact, in addition to developing rockets, cannons, and progressive powder, he wanted to create a machine so powerful that it would render war impossible due to its devastating effects. He believed that the destructive power of weapons could potentially end war faster than making peace.
Nobel did not live long enough to witness World Wars I and II, where his theories were disproved quite radically. Yet one cannot help but wonder what could have happened at the end of his life to cause him to invest so greatly in a peace-related cause.
Some argue that Nobel’s extensive correspondence over many years with Austrian peace advocate Bertha von Suttner, renowned for her anti-war novel Lay Down Your Arms, allowed Nobel to delve into his thoughts regarding war and peace, shaping his beliefs and influencing the establishment of the peace prize that bore his name. Others, like Albert Einstein, asserted that Nobel wanted to clear his name and alleviate his guilt by establishing the Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, Nobel rewrote his will directly after his brother Ludvig died in 1888, and a French newspaper accidentally published an obituary for Nobel that referred to him as the “merchant of death who made a fortune by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”
While we can only speculate about his motives, we see how public opinion can easily be bought in our world. Today, most people know Alfred Nobel only for his contributions to peace, and the darkness of his past is largely overlooked. Unfortunately, money speaks, and if one can afford to pay a few million dollars, public opinion can change for the better. In much the same way, mass media is bought as well.
I remember how in 2006, I spoke at the World Spirit Forum in Arosa, where some of the greatest peacemakers from around the world gathered in hope of creating positive change. I expressed then that public opinion has the power to dictate everything. If we create a public opinion that honors only those who engage in giving back to society and doing good deeds, the world will slowly begin to change. Everyone listened attentively and agreed. At that time, I still had hope that the world could change, but today these words seem naïve.
Since then, the world has further deteriorated. Humanity has become consumed by the massive overblown human ego. We are headed quickly to a dead end. The problems will continue to escalate. Will we have to face such terrible crises where we lose everything we have, even our children and grandchildren, for us to look for another way?
It is up to us.
People must realize the need for serious change. The change will still come from above our reasoning and intellect, but only when we are ready for it. When we see the dead end approaching and reach the decision to change our egoistic ways, salvation will come. I still hope that it can happen quickly and smoothly, and it is one of the key reasons why I invest so much into teaching and spreading the wisdom of connection. If Alfred Nobel had such a change of heart, others can too.