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An Outline of Occult Science



OCCULT science, an ancient term, is used for the contents of this book. This term can arouse in various individuals of the present day feelings of the most contrary character. For many, it possesses something repellent; it arouses derision, pitying smiles, perhaps contempt. These people imagine that the kind of thinking thus designated can only be based upon idle, fantastic dreaming, that behind such “alleged” science there can lurk only the impulse to renew all sorts of superstitions that are properly avoided by those who understand “true scientific methods” and “pure intellectual endeavor.” The effect of this term upon others is to cause them to think that what is meant by it must bring them something that cannot be acquired in any other way and to which, according to their nature, they are attracted by a deep, inner longing for knowledge, or by the soul's sublimated curiosity. In between these sharply contrasting opinions there exists every possible kind of intermediate stage of conditional rejection or acceptance of what this or that person imagines when he hears the term, “occult science.” — It is not to be denied that for many the term, occult science, has a magical sound because it seems to satisfy their fatal passion for knowledge of an “unknown,” of a mysterious, even of an obscure something that is not to be acquired in a natural way. For many people do not wish to satisfy the deepest longings of their souls by means of something that can be clearly understood. Their convictions lead them to conclude that besides what can be known in the world there must be something that defies cognition. With extraordinary absurdity, which they do not observe, they reject, in regard to the deepest longing for knowledge, all that “is known” and only wish to give their approval to something that cannot be said to be known by means of ordinary research. He who speaks of “occult science” will do well to keep in mind the fact that he is confronted by misunderstandings caused by just such defenders of a science of this kind — defenders who are striving, in fact, not for knowledge, but for its antithesis.

This work is intended for readers who will not permit their impartiality to be taken away from them just because a word may arouse prejudice through various circumstances. It is not here a question of knowledge which, in any respect, can be considered to be “secret” and therefore only accessible to certain people through some special favor of fate. We shall do justice to the use of the term, occult science, employed here, if we consider what Goethe has in mind when he speaks of the “revealed secrets” in the phenomena of the universe. What remains “secret” — unrevealed — in these phenomena when grasped only by means of the senses and the intellect bound up with them will be considered as the content of a supersensible mode of knowledge.1 — What is meant here by “Occult Science” does not constitute science for anyone who only considers “scientific” what is revealed through the senses and the intellect serving them. If, however, such a person wishes to understand himself, he must acknowledge that he rejects occult science, not from well-substantiated insight, but from a mandate arising from his own personal feelings. In order to understand this, it is only necessary to consider how science comes into existence and what significance it has in human life. The origin of science, in its essential nature, is not recognized by means of the subject matter it is dealing with, but by means of the human soul-activity arising in scientific endeavor. We must consider the attitude of the soul when it elaborates science. If we acquire the habit of exercising this kind of activity only when we are concerned with the manifestation of the senses, we might easily be led to the opinion that this sense-manifestation is the essential thing, and we do not become aware that a certain attitude of the human soul has been employed only in regard to the manifestation of the senses. It is possible, however, to rise above this arbitrary self-limitation and, apart from special application, consider the characteristics of scientific activity. This is the basis for our designating as “scientific” the knowledge of a non-sensory world-content. The human power of thought wishes to occupy itself with this latter world-content just as it occupies itself, in the other case, with the world-content of natural science. Occult science desires to free the natural-scientific method and its principle of research from their special application that limits them, in their own sphere, to the relationship and process of sensory facts, but, at the same time, it wants to retain their way of thinking and other characteristics. It desires to speak about the non-sensory in the same way natural science speaks about the sensory. While natural science remains within the sense world with this method of research and way of thinking, occult science wishes to consider the employment of mental activity upon nature as a kind of self-education of the soul and to apply what it has thus acquired to the realms of the non-sensory. Its method does not speak about the sense phenomena as such, but speaks about the non-sensory world-content in the way the scientist talks a