[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib



Highlight Words

The Riddle of Man

Riddle of Man: A Forgotten Stream in German Spiritual Life

On-line since: 5th October, 2006

A Forgotten Stream in German Spiritual Life

Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel appear in their full significance quite especially to someone who considers the far-reaching impetus they gave to personalities possessed of far less spiritual vigor than they. Something is moving and working in the souls of this trio of thinkers that could not come fully to expression within themselves. And what is working as the basic undertone in the souls of these thinkers works on in a living way in their successors and brings them to world views — in accordance with the spirit — that even the three great original thinkers themselves could not achieve because they had to exhaust their soul vigor, so to speak in making the first beginnings.

Thus, in Immanuel Hermann Fichte, the son of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, there appears a thinker who tries to penetrate more deeply into the spiritual than his father, Schelling, or Hegel. Whoever dares to make such an attempt will not only hear from outside the opposition of all those who are fearful about questions of world views; if he is a careful thinker, he will clearly perceive this opposition coming also from his own soul. Is there then actually a possibility of delivering the human soul of cognitive powers that lead into regions of which the senses give no view? What can guarantee the reality of such regions; what can determine the difference between such reality and the creations of fantasy and daydreaming? Whoever does not always have the spirit of this opposition at his side, so to speak, as the true companion of his prudence will easily blunder in his spiritual-scientific attempts; whoever has this spirit will recognize in it something extremely valuable for life.

Whoever enters into the arguments of Immanuel Hermann Fichte will find that a certain spiritual demeanor has passed over to him from his great predecessors that both strengthens his steps into the spiritual region and endows him with prudence in the sense just indicated.

The standpoint of the Hegelian world view, which takes as its basic conviction the spiritual nature of the world of ideas, was also able to be the point of departure for Immanuel Hermann Fichte in the development of his thoughts. Nevertheless, he felt it to be a weakness in Hegel's world view that, from its supersensible vantage point, it still looks only at what is revealed in the sense world. Whoever lives into Immanuel Hermann Fichte's views can feel something like the following as its basic undertone. The soul experiences itself in a supersensible way when it lifts itself above sense perception to a weaving in the realm of ideas. Through this, the soul has not only enabled itself to see the sense world differently than the senses see it — which would correspond to the Hegelian world view — ; but also, the soul has an experience of itself through this that it cannot have through anything to be found within the sense world. From now on the soul knows of something that itself is supersensible about the soul. This “something” cannot be merely the idea of the soul's sense-perceptible body. Rather, this something must be a living, essential beingness that underlies the sense-perceptible body in such a way that this body is formed according to the idea of this something. Thus Immanuel Hermann Fichte is led up above and beyond the sense-perceptible body to a supersensible body, which, out of its life, forms the first body. Hegel advances from sense observation to thinking about sense observation. Fichte seeks in man the being that can experience thinking as something supersensible, Hegel, if he wants to see in thinking something supersensible, would have to ascribe to this thinking itself the ability to think. Fichte cannot go along with this. He has to say to himself: If one is not to regard the sense-perceptible body itself as the creator of thoughts, then one is compelled to assume that there is something supersensible above and beyond this body. Moved by this kind of a view, Fichte regards the human sense-perceptible body in a natural-scientific way (physiologically), and finds that such a study, if only it is unbiased enough, is compelled to take a supersensible body as the basis of the sense-perceptible one. In paragraphs 118 and 119 of his Anthropology (second edition 1860), he says about this: “Within the material elements, therefore, one cannot find what is truly enduring, that unifying form principle of the body which proves to be operative our whole life long.” “Thus we are directed toward a second, essentially different cause within the body.” “Insofar as this [unifying form principle] contains what is actually enduring in metabolism, it is the true, inner body-invisible, yet present in all visible materiality. That other entity, the outer manifestation of this form principle, shaped by continuous metabolism: let us call it ‘corporality’ from now on; it is truly not enduring and not whole; it is the mere effect or copy of that inner bodily nature that throws it into the changing world of matter in somewhat the same way a magnetic force puts together, out of metal filing dust, a seemingly dense body that is then blown away in all directions when the uniting force is withdrawn.” This opens for Fichte the perspective of getting outside the sense world, in which man works between birth and death, into a supersensible world with which he is connected through Ws invisible body in the same way he is connected with the sense world through his visible body, For, his knowledge of this invisible body brings him to the view he expresses in these words: “For one hardly need ask here how the human being, in and for himself, conducts himself in this process of death. Man, in and for himself — even after the last, to us invisible, act of his life processes — remains, in his essential being, completely the same one he was before with respect to his spirit and power of organization. His integrity is preserved; for he has lost absolutely nothing of what was his and belonged to his substance during his visible life, He only returns in death into the invisible world; or rather, since he has never left the invisible world, since the invisible world is what actually endures within everything visible, he has only stripped off a particular form of visibility. ‘To be dead’ simply means to remain no longer perceptible to ordinary sense apprehension, in exactly the same way that what is actually real, the ultimate foundations of bodily phenomena, are also imperceptible to the senses.” And with such a thought Fichte feels himself to be standing so surely in the supersensible world that he can say: “With this concept of the continued existence of the soul, therefore, we not only transcend outer experience and reach into an unknown region of merely illusory existences; we also find ourselves, with this concept, right in the midst of the graspable reality accessible to thinking. To assert the opposite, that the soul ceases to exist, would be against nature, would contradict all analogy to outer experience. The soul that has ‘died,’ i.e., has become invisible to the senses, continues to exist no less than before, and is unremoved from its original life conditions. ... Another means of incarnation need only present itself to the soul's power of organization for the soul to stand there again in new bodily activity ...” (Paragraphs 133 Anthropology)

Starting from such views there opens up for Immanuel Hermann Fichte the possibility of a self-knowledge that man attains when he observes himself from the point of view he gains through his experiences in his own supersensible entity. Man's sense-perceptible entity brings him to the point of thinking. But in thinking, after all, he grasps himself as a supersensible being, If he lifts mere thinking up into an inner experiencing — through which it is no longer mere thinking but rather a supersensible beholding, — he then gains a way of knowing through which he no longer looks only upon what is sense-perceptible, but also upon what is supersensible. If anthropology is the science of the human being by which he studies the part of himself to be found in the sense world, then, through his view of the supersensible, another science makes it appearance, about which Immanuel Hermann Fichte expresses himself in this way (paragraph 270): to “... anthropology ends up with the conclusion, established from the most varied sides, that man, in accordance with the true nature of his being, as though in the actual source of his consciousness, belongs to a supersensible world. Man's sense consciousness, on the other hand, and the phenomenal world (world of appearances) arising at the point of his eye, along with the whole life of the senses, including human senses: all this has no significance other than merely being the place in which that supersensible life of the human spirit occurs through the fact that the human spirit, by its own, free, conscious activity, leads the spiritual content of ideas from the beyond into the sense world ...” This fundamental apprehension of man's being now lifts “anthropology” in its final conclusions up to “anthroposophy.”

*    *    *

Through Immanuel Hermann Fichte the cognitive impulse manifesting in the idealism of German world views is brought to the point of undertaking the first of those steps which can lead human insight to a science of the spiritual world. Many other thinkers strove like Immanuel Hermann Fichte to carry further the ideas of their predecessors: Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. For, this German idealism points to the germinal power for a real development of those cognitive powers of man that behold the supersensible spiritual the way our senses behold the sense-perceptible material. Let us just look at several of these thinkers. One can see how fruitful the spiritual stream of German idealism proves to be in this direction if one does not refer merely to those thinkers who are discussed in the usual textbooks on the history of philosophy, but also to those whose spiritual work was enclosed within narrower boundaries. For example, there are the Little Writings (published 1869 in Leipzig) of Johann Heinrich Deinhardt, who died in Bromberg on August 16, 1867 as headmaster of a secondary school. His book contains essays on “the antithesis between pantheism and deism in pre-Christian religions,” on the “concept of religion,” on “Kepler, his life and character,” etc. The basic undertone of these treatises is altogether of a sort to show how the thought-life of their author is rooted in the idealism of German world views. One of these essays speaks about the “reasonable grounds for believing in the immortality of the human soul.” This essay defends immortality at first only with reasons that spring from our ordinary thinking. But at the end, the following significant note is added by the publisher: “According to a letter of August 14, 1866 to his publishers, the author intended to expand this essay for the complete edition of his collected ‘Little Writings’ with an observation about the new body that the soul is working to develop for itself already in this life. The author's death the following year prevented the carrying out of this plan.” How a remark like this spotlights the effect upon thinkers of the idealism of German world views, stimulating them to penetrate in a scientific way into the spiritual realm! How many such attempts a person would discover today, even by investigating only those thinkers still to be found in literature! How many there must be that bore no fruit in literature but a great deal in life! One is looking there really, in the scientific consciousness ruling in our day, at a more or less forgotten stream in German spiritual life.

One of those thinkers, hardly ever heard of today, is Ignaz Paul Vitalis Troxler. Let us mention only one of his numerous books, Lectures on Philosophy, published in 1835. A personality is expressing himself in this book who is absolutely conscious of how a person using merely his senses and the intellect that deals with the observations of his senses can know only a part of the world. Like Immanuel Hermann Fichte, Troxler also feels himself in his thinking to be standing within a supersensible world. But he also senses how the human being, when he removes himself from the power that binds him to the senses, can do more than place himself before a world that in the Hegelian sense is thought by him; through this removal he can experience within his inner being the blossoming of a purely spiritual means of knowledge through which he spiritually beholds a spiritual world, like the senses behold the sense world in sense perception. Troxler speaks of a “supra-spiritual sense:” And one can form a picture of what he means by this in the following way. The human being observes the things of the world through his senses. He thereby receives sense-perceptible pictures of these things. He then thinks about these pictures. Thoughts reveal themselves to him thereby that no longer bear the sensible pictorial element in themselves. Through the power of his spirit, therefore, man adds supersensible thoughts to the sense-perceptible pictures. If he now experiences himself in the entity that is thinking in him, in such a way that he ascends above mere thinking to spiritual experiencing, then, from out of this experiencing, an inner, purely spiritual power of picture making takes hold of him. He then beholds a world in pictures that can serve as a form of revelation for a supersensibly experienced reality. These pictures are not received by the senses; but they are full of life, just as sense-perceptible pictures are; they are not dreamed up; they are experiences in the supersensible world held fast by the soul in picture form. In ordinary cognitive activity, the sense-perceptible picture is present first and then, in the process of knowledge, the thought comes to join it — the thought, which is not a picture for the senses. In the spiritual process of knowledge, the supersensible experience is present; this experience as such could not be beheld if it did not, through a power in accordance with the nature of the spirit, pour itself into the picture that brings this power to spiritually perceptible embodiment. For Troxler, the cognitive activity of the “supra-spiritual sense” is of just such a kind. And the pictures of this supra-spiritual sense are grasped by the “supersensible spirit” of man in the same way that sense-perceptible pictures are grasped by human reason in knowledge of the sense world. In the working together of the supersensible spirit with the supra-spiritual sense, there evolved, in Troxler's view, our knowing of the spirit (see the sixth of his Lectures on Philosophy).

Taking his start from such presuppositions, Troxler has an inkling of a “higher man” within the man that experiences himself in the sense world; this “higher man” underlies the sense-perceptible man and belongs to the supersensible world; and in this view Troxler feels himself to be in harmony with what Friedrich Schlegel expressed. And thus, as was already the case earlier with Friedrich Schlegel, the highest qualities and activities manifested by the human being in the sense world become for Troxler the expression of what the supersensible human being can do. Through the fact that man stands within the sense world, his soul is possessed of the power of belief. But this power after all is only the manifestation, through the sense-perceptible body, of the supersensible soul. In the supersensible realm a certain faculty of the soul underlies our power of belief; if one wants to express it in a supersensibly pictorial way, one must call this a faculty of the supersensible man to hear. And it is the same with our power of hope. A faculty of the supersensible man to see underlies this power; corresponding with our activity of love, there is the faculty of the “higher man” to feel, to “touch,” in spirit, just as the sense of touch in the sense-perceptible world is the faculty to feel something. Troxler expresses himself on this subject (page 107 of his Lectures on Philosophy, Bern, 1835) in the following way: “Our departed friend Friedrich Schlegel has brought to light in a very beautiful and true way the relationship of the sense-perceptible to the spiritual man. In his lectures on the philosophy of language and the word, Schlegel says: ‘If one wants — in that alphabet of consciousness which provides the individual elements for the individual syllables and whole words — to refind the first beginnings of our higher consciousness, after God Himself constitutes the keystone of highest consciousness, then the feeling for the spirit must be accepted as the living center of our whole consciousness and as the point of union with the higher consciousness ... One is often used to calling these fundamental feelings for the eternal: ‘belief, hope, and love.’ If one is to regard these three fundamental feelings or characteristics or states of consciousness as just so many organs of knowledge and perception of the divine — or, if you will, at least organs that give inklings of the divine, — then one can very well compare them to the outer senses and instruments of sense perception, both in the above respect and in the characteristic form of apprehension that each of them has, Then love corresponds in a striking way — in the first stimulating soul touch, in the continuous attraction, and in the final perfect union — to the outer sense of touch; belief is the inner hearing of the spirit, uniting the given word to its higher message, grasping it, and inwardly preserving it; and hope is the eye, whose light can glimpse already in the distance the objects it craves deeply and longingly.’” That Troxler himself now goes above and beyond the meaning Schlegel gave these words and thinks them absolutely in the sense indicated above is shown by the words Troxler now adds: “Far loftier than intellect and will, and their interaction, far loftier than reason and spiritual activity (Freiheit), and their unity, are these ideas of our deeper heart (Gerrütsideen) that unite in a consciousness of spirit and of heart; and just as intellect and will, reason and spiritual activity — and all the soul capacities and abilities of a lower sort than they — represent an earthward directed reflection, so these three are a heavenward directed consciousness that is illuminated by a truly divine light.” The same thing is shown by the fact that Troxler also expresses himself about the supersensible soul body in exactly the same way one encounters in Immanuel Hermann Fichte: “Earlier philosophers have already distinguished a fine and noble soul body from the coarser body ... a soul that had about itself a picture of the body that they called a schema and that was for them the inner, higher man. ... In modern times even Kant, in The Dreams of a Spirit Seer, dreams up seriously as a joke a completely inward soul man that bears all the members of its outer man upon his spiritual body; Lavater also writes and thinks in this way; and even when Jean Paul jokes about Bonet's slip and Platner's soul girdle, which are supposed to be hidden inside the coarser outside skirt and martyr's smock, we also hear him asking again, after all: ‘to what end and from where were these extraordinary potentials and wishes laid in us, which, bare as swallowed diamonds, slowly cut our earthly covering to pieces? ... Within the stony members (of man) there grow and mature his living members according to a way of living unknown to us.’ We could,” Troxler continues, “present innumerable further examples of similar ways of thinking and writing that ultimately are only various views and pictures in which ... the one true teaching is contained of the individuality and immortality of man.”

Troxler too speaks of the fact that upon the path of knowledge sought by him a science of man is possible through which — to use his own expressions — the “supra-spiritual sense” together with the “supersensible spirit” apprehend the supersensible being of man in an “anthroposophy,” On page 101 of his Lectures there is the sentence: “While it is now highly encouraging that modern philosophy, which ... must reveal itself ... in any anthroposophy, is winding its way upward, still one must not overlook the fact that this idea cannot be the fruit of speculation, and that the true individuality of man must not be confused either with what philosophy sets up as subjective spirit or as finite ‘I,’ nor with what philosophy lets this ‘I’ be confronted by as absolute spirit or absolute personality.”

There is no doubt that Troxler sought the way out of and beyond Hegel's thought-world more in dim feeling than in clear perception. One can nevertheless observe in his cognitive life how the stimulus of the idealism in the German world views of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel works in a personality who cannot make the views of this trio of thinkers into his own, but who finds his own way through the fact that he receives this stimulus.

*    *    *

Karl Christian Planck belongs to those personalities in the evolution of German spiritual life who are forgotten now and were disregarded even during their own lifetimes. He was born in 1819 in Stuttgart and died in 1880; he was a professor in a secondary school in Ulm and later in a college in Blaubeuren. In 1877 he still hoped to be given the professorship in philosophy that became free then in Tübingen. This did not happen. In a series of writings he seeks to draw near to the world view that seems to him to express the spiritual approach of the German people. In his book Outline of a Science of Nature (1864) he states how he wants, in his own thoughts. to present the thoughts of the questing German folk soul: “The author is fully aware of the power of the deep-rooted preconceptions from past views that confront his book; nevertheless, just as the work itself has fought through to completion and into public view — in spite of all the adverse conditions confronting a work of this kind as a result of the whole situation and professional position of its author — so he is also certain that what must now fight for recognition will one day appear as the simplest and most obvious truth, and that through this, not merely its concerns but also the truly German view of things will triumph over any still unworthily external and un-German grasp of nature and spirit. — What, in unconscious profound inklings, has already been prefigured in our medieval literature will finally be fulfilled by our nation in the fullness of time. Impractical, afflicted by injury and scorn, the inwardness of the German spirit (as Wolfram von Eschenbach portrayed this inwardness in his Parzival), in the power of its ceaseless striving, finally attains the highest; this inwardness beholds the ultimate simple laws of the things of this world and of human existence itself, in their very foundations; and what literature has allegorized in a fanciful medieval way as the wonders of the grail, whose rulership its hero attains, receives, on the other hand, its purely natural fulfillment and reality in a lasting knowledge of nature and of the spirit itself.”

In the last period of his life Karl Christian Planck drew his thought-world together in a book published by the philosopher Karl Köstlin in 1881 under the title Testament of a German.

One can absolutely perceive in Planck's soul a similar kind of feeling for the riddle of knowledge as that revealed in the other thinker personalities characterized in this book. This riddle in its original form becomes for Planck the point of departure for his investigations. Within the circumference of the human thought-world can the strength be found by which man can apprehend true reality, the reality that gives his existence sense and meaning within world existence? Man sees himself placed into and over against nature. He can certainly form thoughts about what rules in nature's depths as powers of true being; but where is his guarantee that his thoughts have any significance at all other than that they are creations of his own soul, without kinship to those depths? If his thoughts were like this, then it would in fact remain unknown to man what he himself is and how he is rooted in the true world. Planck was just as far as Hegel from wanting to approach the world depths through any soul force other than thinking. He could hold no other view than that genuine reality must yield itself somehow to thinking. But no matter how far one reaches out with thinking, no matter how one seeks to strengthen its inner power: one still remains always only in thinking; in all the widths and depths of thinking one does not encounter being (Sein). By virtue of its own nature, thinking seems to exclude itself from any communion with being. Nevertheless, this insight into thinking's alienation from being now becomes for Planck precisely the ray of light that falls upon the world riddle and solves it. If thinking makes absolutely no claim of bearing within itself anything at all in the way of reality, if it actually is true that thinking reveals itself to be something unreal, then precisely through this fact it proves itself to be an instrument for expressing reality. If it were itself something real, then the soul could weave only in its reality, and could not leave it again; if thinking itself is unreal, then it will not disturb the soul through any reality of its own; by thinking, man is absolutely not within any thought-reality; he is within a thought-unreality that precisely therefore does not force itself upon him with its own reality but rather expresses that reality of which it speaks. Whoever sees in thinking itself something real must, in Planck's view, give up hope of arriving at reality; since, for him, thinking must place itself between the soul and reality. If thinking itself is nothing, it can therefore also not conceal reality from our activity of knowing; then reality must be able to reveal itself in thinking.

With this view Planck has, to begin with, attained only the starting point for his world view. For, in the thought-weaving immediately present in the soul during life, that thinking is by no means operative which is pure, self-renouncing, and even self-denying, There play into this ordinary thought weaving what lives in the mental picturing, feeling, willing, and wanting of the soul. Because this is so, the clouding of world views occurs. And Planck's striving is to attain a kind of world view in which everything it contains is the result of thinking, yet nothing stems from thinking itself, In everything that is made into a thought about the real world, one must look at what lives in thinking but without itself being thought by us, Planck paints his picture of the world with a thinking that gives itself up in order to allow the world to shine from it.

As an example of the way Planck wants to arrive at a picture of the world through such striving, let us characterize with a few strokes how he thinks about the being of the earth.

If someone pictures the earth in the way advocated by purely physical geology, then, for Planck's world view, there is no truth in this picture. To picture the earth in this way would be the same as speaking of a tree and fixing one's gaze only upon the trunk, without its leaves, blossoms, and fruit. To the sight of our physical eyes, such a tree trunk can be called reality. But in a higher sense it is no reality. For, as a mere trunk, it cannot occur as such anywhere in our world. It can be what it is only in so far as those growth forces arise in it at the same time which unfold the leaves, blossoms, and fruits. In the reality of the trunk one must think these forces in addition and must be aware that the bare trunk gives a picture of reality deceiving to the beholder, The fact that something or other is present to the senses is not yet proof that in this form it is also a reality, The earth, pictured as the totality of what it manifests in mineral configurations and in the facts occurring within these configurations, is no reality, Whoever wants to picture something real about the earth must picture it in such a way that its mineral realm already contains within itself the plant realm, Just as the trunk configuration of the tree includes its leaves and blossoms; yes, that within the “true earth” the animal realm and man are already present along with it. But do not say that all this is obvious and that Planck, basically, is only deceiving himself in thinking that not everyone sees it this way. Planck would have to reply to this: Where is the person who sees it this way? Certainly, everyone pictures the earth as a planetary body with plants, animals, and man. But they in fact picture the mineral earth, constituted of geological layers, with plants growing out of its surface, and with animals and human beings moving around on it. But this earth as a sum, added up out of minerals, plants. animals, and human beings, does not exist at all. It is only a delusion of the senses. On the other hand there is a true earth; it is a completely supersensible configuration, an invisible being, which provides the mineral foundation from out of itself; but it is not limited to this, for it manifests itself further in the plant realm, then in the animal realm, then in the human realm. Only that person has the right eye for the mineral, plant, animal, and human realm who beholds the entirety of the earth in its supersensible nature, and who feels, for example, how the picture of the material mineral realm by itself, without the picture of the soul evolution of mankind, is a delusion. Certainly, one can picture a material mineral realm to oneself; but one is living in a world-lie and not in the world-truth if, in doing so, one does not have the feeling that with a mental picture like this, one is caught in the same madness as a person who wanted to think that a man whose head has been struck off would calmly go on with his life.

It might be said: If true knowledge necessitates what is indicated here, then such knowledge, after all, could never be achieved; for, whoever asserts that the mineral earth is no reality because it must be viewed within the entirety of the earth should say too that the entirety of the earth must be viewed in the plant system and so on. Whoever raises this objection, however, has not grasped the significance of what underlies a world view that is in accordance with the spirit. In all human activity of knowing, in fact, the issue is not merely that one think correctly, but also that one think in accordance with reality. In speaking of a painting one can certainly say that one is not thinking in accordance with reality if one looks only at one person when there are three in the painting; but this assertion, within its rightful scope, cannot be refuted by the statement: No one understands this painting who also does not know all the preceding paintings of the same artist. A thinking both correct and in accordance with reality is in fact necessary for knowing reality. To consider, on their own, a mineral as a mineral, a plant as a plant, etc., can be in accordance with reality; the mineral earth is not a real configuration, however; it is a configuration of our imagination, even when one is aware of the fact that the mineral earth is only a part of everything earthly.

That is what is significant about a personality like Planck: he attains an inner state in which he does not reflect upon but rather experiences the truth of a thought; he unfolds a special power in his own soul by which to experience when not to think a particular thought because, through its own nature, it kills itself. To grasp the existence of a reality that bears within itself its own life and its own death, this belongs to the kind of soul attitude that does not depend upon the sense world to tell it: this is or this is not.

From this point of view Planck sought in thinking to grasp what lives in natural phenomena and in human existence in historical, artistic, and judicial life. In a brilliant book, he wrote on the Truth and Banality of Darwinism. He calls this work a “monument to the history of modern (1872) German science.” There are people who experience a personality like Planck as hovering in unworldly conceptual heights and lacking a sense for practical life. Practical life requires people who develop healthy judgment based on “real” life, as they call it. Now, with respect to this way of experiencing Planck, one can also hold the opinion: Many things would be different in real life if this easy-going view of life and of living life were less widespread in reality, and if on the other hand the opinion could grow somewhat that thinkers like Planck — because they acquire for themselves an attitude of soul through which they unite themselves with true reality — also have a truer judgment about the relationships of life than the people who call them “dreamers in concepts” (Begriffsschwärmer) and impractical philosophers. The opinion is also possible that those dullards who are averse to such supposed “dreaming in concepts” and who think themselves so very practical in life are losing their sense for the true relationships of life, whereas the impractical philosophers are developing it to the point that it can lead them right to their goal. One can arrive at such an opinion when one considers Planck and sees in him, combined with the acme of philosophical development of ideas, a far-sighted accurate judgment about the needs of a genuine conduct of life and about the events of outer life. Even if one holds a different view about much of what Planck has developed in the way of ideas about shaping outer life — which is also the case with the present writer, — still one can acknowledge that his views can provide, precisely in this area, a sound starting point in life for solving practical problems; even if in proceeding from there one arrives at something entirely different from one's starting point. And one should assert: People who are “dreamers in concepts” in this way and who, precisely because of this, can see what powers are at work in real life are more competent to meet the needs of this real life than many a person who believes himself to be imbued with practical skill precisely through the fact that, in his view, he has not let contact with any world of ideas “make him stupid.” (In his book, Nineteenth Century Views of the World and of Life, published in 1900, the present author has written about Karl Christian Planck's place in the evolution of modern world views. This book was published in a new edition in 1914 under the title Riddles of Philosophy.)

Someone might maintain that it is unjustified to regard Planck's thoughts as significant for the motive forces of the German people since these thoughts have not become widespread. Such an opinion misses the point when speaking about the influence of the being of a people upon the views of a thinker from that people. What is working there are the impersonal (of ten unconscious) powers of a people, living in their activities in the most varied realms of existence and shaping the ideas of a thinker like Planck. These powers were there before he appeared and will work on afterward; they live, even if they are not spoken of; they live, even if they are not recognized. And it can be the case that they work in a particularly strong way in an indigenous thinker like this, who is not spoken of, because less of what these powers contain streams into the opinions held about him than into his thoughts. A thinker like this can of ten stand there alone, and not only during his lifetime; even his thoughts can stand there alone in the opinion of posterity. But if one has apprehended the particular nature of his thoughts, then one has recognized an essential trait of the folk soul, a trait that has become a thought in him and will remain imperishably in his people, ready to reveal itself in ever new impulses. Independent of the question: What effectiveness was granted to his work? is the other question: What worked in him and will lead again and again to accomplishments in the same direction? The Testament of a German by Karl Christian Planck was republished in a second edition in 1912. It is a pity that many of those who were philosophically minded and fond of writing at that time mustered up more enthusiasm for the thoughts in Henri Bergson's world view — lightly woven and therefore more easily comprehensible to undemanding souls — than for the rigorously interrelated and far-reaching ideas of Planck. How much has indeed been written about the “new configurating” of world views by Bergson: written, particularly, by those who discover the newness of a world view so easily because they lack understanding, and of ten even knowledge, of what has already been there for a long time. Relative to the “newness” of one of Bergson's main ideas the present author has pointed in his book Riddles of Philosophy to the following significant situation. (And it should be mentioned, by the way, that this indication was written before the present war. See the foreword to the second volume of the above book.)

Bergson is led by his thoughts to a transformation of the widespread idea of the evolution of organic entities. He does not set at the beginning of this evolution the simplest organism and then think that, due to outer forces, more complicated organisms emerge from it all the way up to man; he pictures that, at the starting point of evolution, there stands a being that in some form or other already contains the impulse to become man. This being, however, can bring this impulse to realization only by first expelling from itself other impulses that also lie within it. By expelling the lower organisms, this being gains the strength to realize the higher ones. Thus man, in his actual being, is not what arose last, but rather what was at work first, before everything else. He first expels the other entities from his formative powers in order to gain by this preliminary work the strength to come forth himself into outer sense-perceptible reality. Of course many will object: But numbers of people have already thought that an inner evolutionary drive was working in the evolution of organisms. And one can refer to the long-present thought of purposefulness, or to views held by natural scientists like Nageli and others. But such objections do not pertain in a case like this one. For, with Bergson's thought it is not a matter of starting from the general idea of an inner evolutionary force, but rather from a specific mental picture of what man is in his full scope; and of seeing from this picture that this man, thought of as supersensible, has impulses within him to first set the other beings of nature into sense-perceptible reality and then also to place himself into this reality.

Now this is the point. What can be read in Bergson in a scintillating lightly draped configuration of ideas had already been expressed before that by the German thinker Wilhelm Heinrich Preuss in a powerful and strongly thought-through way. Preuss is also one of those personalities belonging to the presentation here of a more or less forgotten stream in the development of German world views that are in accordance with the spirit. With a powerful sense for reality, Preuss brings together natural-scientific views and world views — in his book Spirit and Matter (1882), for example. One finds the Bergsonian thought we cited expressed by Preuss in the following way: “It should ... be time ... to present a teaching about the origins of organic species that is founded not only upon principles set up in a one-sided way by descriptive natural science, but that is also in full harmony with the rest of natural laws (which are also the laws of human thinking). This teaching should also be free of any hypothesizing and should rest only upon rigorous conclusions drawn from scientific observation in the broadest sense. This teaching should rescue the concept of species as much as Is factually possible, but at the same time should take Darwin's concept of evolution into its domain and seek to make It fruitful. — The center of this new teaching is man, the species that recurs only once on our planet: homo sapiens. Strange that older observers started with objects of nature and then erred to such an extent that they did not find the path to man, in which effort even Darwin Indeed succeeded only in a most pitiful and utterly unsatisfying way by seeking the ancestor of the lord of creation among the animals. Actually, the natural scientist would have to start with himself as a human being and then, continuing on through the whole realm of existence and of thinking return to mankind ... It was not by chance that human nature arose out of earthly nature; It was by necessity. Man is the goal of tellurian processes, and every other form arising besides him has borrowed its traits from his. Man is the first-born being of the whole cosmos. ... When the germs of his being had arisen, the remaining organic element no longer had the necessary strength to engender further human germs. What arose then was animal or plant. ...”

The idea, as it lives in the philosophy of German idealism's picture of the being of man, also shines forth from the mental pictures of this little-known thinker of Elsfleth, Wilhelm Heinrich Preuss. Out of this view he knows how to make Darwinism — insofar as Darwinism looks only at the evolution occurring in the sense world — into a part of a world view that Is in accordance with the spirit and that wishes to know the being of man In Its development out of the depths of the world-all. As to how Bergson arrived at his thoughts — so glittering in his depletion, but so powerfully shining in Preuss's — let us emphasize that less here than the fact that in the writings of the little-known Preuss the most fruitful seeds can be found, able to give many a person a stronger impetus than that to be found in Bergson's glittering version of these same thoughts. To be sure, one must also meet Preuss with more ability to deepen one's thinking than was shown by those who waxed so enthusiastic about the “new life” instilled in our world view by Bergson. What is being said here about Bergson and Preuss has absolutely nothing to do with national sympathies and antipathies.

Recently, H. Bönke has investigated Bergson's “original new philosophical creation,” because Bergson has found it necessary in these fateful times to speak such hate-filled words and to shower such contempt upon German spiritual life (see Bönke's writing: Plagiarizer Bergson, Membre de l'Institut. Answer to the Disparagements of German Science by Edmond Perrier, President de l'Academie des Sciences. Charlottenburg, Huth, 1915). When one considers all that Bönke presents about the way Bergson reproduces what he has gotten from German thought-life, the statements will not seem exaggerated that the philosopher Wundt makes in the “Central Literary Paper of Germany,” number 46, of November 13, 1915: “... Bönke shows no lack ... of incriminating material. The greater part of his book consists of passages, taken from Bergson's and Schopenhauer's works, in which the younger author repeats the thoughts of the older, either verbatim or with slight variation. Even so, this alone is not the decisive point. Therefore, let us be a little bit clearer and more critical in ordering the examples advanced by Bönke. They then fall definitely into three categories. The first contains sentences from both authors that, except for minor differences, coincide exactly. ...” In the other categories the coincidence lies more in the way their thoughts are formed.

Now it is perhaps really not so important to show how much Bergson, who condemns German spiritual life so furiously, reveals himself to be a right willing proponent of this German spiritual life; more important is the fact that Bergson propounds this spiritual life in lightly woven, easily attainable reflections, and that many a critic would have done better to wait with his enthusiastic proclaiming of this “new enlivener” of world views until, through better understanding of those thinkers to whom Bergson owes his stimulus, the critic might have refrained from his proclamation.

That a person be stimulated by his predecessors is a natural thing in the evolution of mankind; what matters, however, is whether the stimulus leads to a process of further development or — and Bönke's presentation also makes this quite clear — leads to a process of regression as in Bergson's case.

A Side Glance

In 1912 The Lofty Goal of Knowledge by Omar al Raschid Bey was published in Munich. (Please note: The author is not Turkish; he is German; and the view he advocates has nothing to do with Mohammedanism, but is an ancient Indian world view appearing in modern dress.) The book appeared after the author's death. If the author had had the wish to produce in his soul the requirements needed for understanding the series of thinkers depicted in this present book, a book like his would not have appeared in our age, and its author would not have believed he should show to himself and others, by what he said in his book, a path of knowledge appropriate to the present day. But because of the way things appear to him, the author of The Lofty Goal could have only a pitying smile for the assertion just made here. He would not see that everything he presents to our soul experience in his final chapter “Awakening out of Appearances” on the basis of what preceded this chapter and with this chapter, was, in fact, a correct path of knowledge for the ancient Indian. One can understand this path completely as one belonging to the past. The author would not see that this path of knowledge, however, leads into another path if one does not stop prematurely on the first, but rather travels on upon the path of reality in accordance with the spirit as modern idealism has done.

The author would have to have recognized that his “Awakening out of Appearances” is only an apparent awakening; actually it is a drawing back of oneself — effected by one's own soul experiences — from the appearances, a kind of quaking when faced by the appearances, and therefore not an “awakening out of appearances,” but rather a falling asleep into delusion — a self-delusion that considers its world of delusion to be reality because it cannot get to the point of taking the path into a reality in accordance with the spirit. Planck's self-denying thinking is a soul experience into which al Raschid's deluded thinking cannot penetrate. In The Lofty Goal there is the statement: “Whoever seeks his salvation in this world has fallen prey to this world and remains so; for him there is no escape from unstilled desire; for him there is no escape from vain play; for him there is no escape from the tight fetters of the ‘I’. Whoever does not lift himself out of this world lives and dies with his world.” Before these sentences stand these: “Whoever seeks his salvation in the ‘I,’ for him egoism (Selbstsucht) is a commandment, for him egoism is God.” But whoever recognizes in a living way the motive soul forces that hold sway in the series of thinkers from Fichte up to Planck will see through the deception manifesting in these statements from The Lofty Goal. For he recognizes how the obsession (Sucht) with oneself — egoism — lies before the experience of the “I” in Fichte's sense, and how a fleeing from an acknowledgment of the “I” — in an ancient Indian sense — seemingly leads arrogant cognitive striving farther into the spiritual world, but actually throws one back into obsession with one's “I.” For only the finding of the “I” lets the “I” escape the fetters of obsession with the “I,” the fetters of egoism. The point, in fact, really is whether, in “awakening out of appearances,” one has experiences of The Lofty Goal that are produced by a falling back into an obsession with one's “I,” or whether one has the kind of experiences to which the following words can point. Whoever seeks his salvation in fleeing from the “I” falls prey to obsession with the “I”; whoever finds the “I” frees himself from obsession with the “I”; for, obsession with the “I” makes the “I” into its own idol; finding the “I” gives the “I” to the world. Whoever seeks his salvation in fleeing from the world will be thrown back from the world into his own delusions; he is deluded by an arrogant illusion of knowledge, which lets a vain playing with ideas appear to him as world truth; he looses the fetters of the “I” in front and does not notice how, from behind, the enemy of knowledge binds them all the faster. Whoever, scorning the phenomena of the world, wants to lift himself above the world leads himself into a delusion that holds him all the more securely because it reveals itself to him as wisdom; he leads himself into a delusion by which he holds himself and others back from the difficult awakening in the idealism of modern world views, and dreams into an “awakening out of appearances,” A supposed awakening, like that which The Lofty Goal wishes to indicate, is indeed a source of that experience which ever and again makes the “awakened person” speak of the sublimity of his knowledge; but it is also a hindrance for the experiencing of this idealism in world views. Please do not take these remarks as a wish on the author's part to disparage in any way al Raschid's kind of cognitive striving; what the present author is saying here is an objection that seems necessary for him to raise against a world view that seems to him to live in the worst possible self-delusion. Such an objection can certainly also be raised when one values, from a certain point of view, a manifestation of the spirit; it can seem most necessary precisely there, because that seriousness moves him to do so which must hold sway in dealing with questions of knowledge.




Last Modified: 29-Aug-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]