NOT LONG BEFORE
the conclusion of his full and active life, Rudolf Steiner
was asked which of his writings, in his opinion, would last the longest.
Without a moment's hesitation he replied, “The Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity will outlive all my other works.”
The significance of this statement becomes apparent when the extent of
Rudolf Steiner's literary estate is realized.
At the present time the Complete Edition in German of the Works of Rudolf
Steiner is being published in Switzerland. When completed, this edition will
be composed of approximately three hundred thirty volumes. These will
include some fifty volumes of his written works, and the balance will be
made up of the transcripts of his nearly six thousand lectures, most of them
delivered during the first quarter of the present century.
Therefore, in selecting The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity as the
most enduring of all his literary work, Rudolf Steiner was not limited in
the range of his possible choice.
Beyond this, however, as its author once wrote, “This book is based on an
experience consisting in the fact that man's consciousness comes to an
understanding with itself.” Therefore The Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity is designed to meet one of the most far-reaching and decisive
problems confronting each human being today.
If one reads this book simply for information, one will miss its main point.
For the work is intended— as Steiner intended all his writings—
to awaken in the reader a new experience of the world of ideas, to
arouse in him an inner activity, enabling him to come to grips with some
of the most fundamental questions anyone can ask. Therefore this book does
not offer ready-made answers to the queries it places before the reader.
More important, it points the way whereby the reader can build up these
answers within himself, for only then will they acquire that deep significance
which the reader instinctively seeks.
The architecture, the form of this book in contrast to its content, was
carefully worked out by its author, who once wrote, “In writing I subdue to
a dry mathematical style what has come out of warm and profound feeling. But
only such a style can be an awakener, for the reader must cause warmth and
feeling to awaken within himself. He cannot simply allow these to flow into
him from the one setting forth the truth, while he remains passively
In the present translation, therefore, careful effort has been made to
preserve as much as possible details of external form such as sentence and
paragraph arrangement, italics, and even some of the more characteristic
punctuation of the original, regardless of currently accepted English usage.
A word of appreciation is due the translator of this volume of the
Centennial Edition of the Major Writings of Rudolf Steiner. Mrs. Stebbing
has brought to the work an intimate knowledge of Rudolf Steiner's writings,
and a wide experience in presenting the fundamentals of his philosophical
ideas to English and German speaking groups over many years. Her translation
is the fruit of her earnest effort to render the precise meaning of the
original, a task fraught with extraordinary difficulty, which she has solved
with remarkable facility.
The introduction by Hugo S. Bergman, internationally known as an author and
philosopher, now a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is
certain to be appreciated for the light it sheds on Rudolf Steiner's
development of his philosophical point of view. Dr. Bergman heard Rudolf
Steiner lecture at the fourth International Philosophical Congress at
Bologna, 1944, and the present introduction reflects his life-long study and
appreciation of one of the really significant thinkers of this century.
When the first English translation of his
Die Philosophie der Freiheit
was in preparation, Rudolf Steiner suggested that the title should not be
translated literally as The Philosophy of Freedom, but should become
The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity for he felt that in English the
latter more accurately characterizes the fundamental theme of this book.
As one comes to a living experience of The Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity, one discovers a new basis for his daily activities and
a richer relationship with his fellow human beings. Far from estranging
him from others, his enhanced experience of thinking helps him to a deeper,
more profound comprehension of humanity, for he has entered the portals
leading to “the true communion of man.”
PAUL MARSHALL ALLEN
South Egremont, Massachusetts