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Spiritual Soul Instructions and Observation of the World

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Course V - Lecture II

What Do Our Scholars Know about Theosophy?

GA 52

April 28th, 1904

If a school of thought should be successful in the course of human evolution, a school of thought, which does not find acceptance or may even not enjoy the knowledge of the so-called authoritative circles, of the ruling spiritual circles, then it has to fight with the reluctant powers all the time which distinguish themselves within the human civilisation.

We only need to remind of that which happened as Christianity had to assert itself against old ideas, against an old spiritual current in the world. We need only to remind that in the beginning of the new school of thought Galileo, Copernicus, Giordano Bruno had to fight against the so-called authoritative circles. We are allowed to suppose that the school of thought inaugurated by Giordano Bruno had to fight against traditions.

In a similar situation is today that school of thought that is represented under the name theosophy in the literature, in talks and the like since several years. If you remember of the destiny of such schools of thought more or less unknown at the moment of their appearance, you find that the way how the ruling circles, the so-called authoritative circles face them, indeed, changes with the fashions of civilisation that, however, the essential part, the lack of understanding, combined with a certain narrow-mindedness, appears over and over again. It is no longer standard today to burn heretics, and in particular liberal circles would protest to be lumped together with such people who burnt heretics. But it may less depend on that. Today the burning of heretics is no longer really trendy. But if we examine the attitude, from which the persecution of heretics arose, and the reasons of such a persecution and compare it with that which takes place in the soul of somebody who fights against the theosophical school of thought more or less today or opposes against it, then we find a similar attitude and similar inner soul processes with the adversaries.

We do not want to enter into discussion with the whole circle of the adversaries of the theosophical world view. We want to confine ourselves rather to that which is connected with our contemporary scholarship; we want to consider the relation of our contemporary scholarship to the theosophical or spiritual-scientific world view as I call it since some time.

Perhaps, it is not meaningless if one starts this consideration with small symptoms. I start with a very widespread small encyclopaedia, a so-called pocket encyclopaedia, which says on its title-page or at least in its preface that it is collated by the best scientific people. If we open it under the catchword “Theosophy,” we find as an explanation only two words: “God-seeker, dreamer.” Such a kind of learnt consideration of the theosophist is now no longer common in all similar reference books, of course. But somebody does probably not become cleverer from this short remark who wants to get to know something about theosophy also not from the other similar reference books.

I have tried to examine in the real philosophical reference books at least externally what is to be found there. I do not want to give an anthology of quotations from such reference books. I would like to give an example only what is to be found in the Dictionary of Philosophical Concepts and Terms, published in Berlin in 1900. In one of the newest works which lists the most of theosophical concepts the following you can read: [Gap in the shorthand notes.] ... these are about three lines with these names. Who wants to get an idea of theosophy from this short representation has to say to himself: also in such philosophical dictionaries we find nothing else than a not correct translation of the term and some names.

Also, otherwise, it does not look especially good if we want to orientate ourselves about that which is represented here as theosophy what the contemporary scholarship knows about that. But the easier this contemporary scholarship wants to condemn theosophy on account of a few little things which it has picked up from any theosophical brochure. We can make the strange experience: a shrug and the remark, “what the theosophical literature spreads is nothing else than warming up a few Buddhist concepts,” or: “it is nothing else than spiritistic superstition expressed somewhat differently.” You can hear such things in abundance. What you hardly hear, however, is a real answer to the question: what is, actually, theosophy? You will find — maybe not only in coffee parties — that which has really happened in a coffee party recently which is, however, not at all so untypical for the standpoint of our contemporaries to theosophy.

There a lady said to another: how is it that you have become a theosophist? This is something terrible, something awful. Take into account what you do to your family; consider how you are in contradiction to that which other people think. — She was silent for a few seconds and said then: what is really theosophy? This did not happen in learnt circles, but you could find something of that kind also in the learnt circles. You can find the judgement again and again that theosophy is nothing scientific at all that it is only enthusiasm of some fantastic people that they bring forward assertions which one cannot prove.

I want to criticise by no means where I want to characterise the relation of our scholarship to theosophy, not even our relation to the circles of scholars. Because nobody else than that who has an overview of our present bringing up of scholars from the theosophical point of view knows better that from this education, from the concepts and ideas of it nothing else can arise than a high-spirited and a somewhat snooty shrug about that which theosophy asserts and which can really appear to that scholarship — because it cannot understand it better — as rapture and as a completely unscientific gossip.

We really want to be fair towards this scholarship. The theosophist stands on a point of view and has to stand on one which I want to show at an example which has not taken place on theosophical ground which could have taken place, however, easily on theosophical ground. The theosophist is in a similar position to the contemporary scholarship rejecting the sneering and the reproach of rapture, as just in the example the recently deceased philosopher Eduard von Hartmann to the materialistic-Darwinist interpretation of nature. I do not want to take sides of the Philosophy of the Unconscious by Eduard von Hartmann.

But over and over again one would have to point to the way how he faced his adversaries. — In 1869, the Philosophy of the Unconscious appeared, a book of which the theosophist not needs to take sides exactly, a book which was, however, a courageous action at that time. Just the relation of this book to the scholarship of that time can give an example how today the spiritual scientist or theosophist faces his adversaries. This Philosophy of the Unconscious was a courageous action in a certain way. At that time, the waves of the materialistic science surged when the materialistic science had grown up into a kind of materialistic religion,

Books like Energy and Matter by Büchner, other books by Vogt, Moleschott and the like who considered energy and matter, the purely sensuous existence as the only one, they caused great sensation, have experienced many editions and conquered hearts and souls. In that time, everybody was regarded as being a poor devil and a fool who did not join in this choir of materialism who spoke about a self-creative spirit. In this time, when one was of the opinion that Darwin’s work delivered the scientific way of thinking for materialism, in this time, when philosophy itself was a word which one considered as something that was overcome, in this time, Eduard von Hartmann let his Philosophy of the Unconscious appear, a philosophy which has one advantage in spite of its big shortcomings that it attributes the world directly to something spiritual everywhere, looks for the basis of something spiritual in all phenomena, even if the spiritual is considered as something unconscious, even if it takes a particularly high rank.

One thing is certain: there the spirit offers sharp resistance to the materialistic attitude. While at that time the Darwinist school of thought explained nature completely from energy and matter, Eduard von Hartmann tried to understand it in such a way that the spirit should become evident as the inner effectiveness of a spiritual work. — Then those came who believed to be entitled to look down with a shrug on everything that spoke of spirit and judged: there was never anything dilettantish like this Philosophy of the Unconscious. A man speaks there, actually, who has learnt nothing about all the phenomena which Darwinism now explains so scientifically.

There was a lot of counter writings at that time. One also appeared by an unknown author. Its title was The Unconscious from the Standpoint of the Theory of Evolution and Darwinism. It was a thorough refutation of the Philosophy of the Unconscious. The author showed that he was familiar with the latest development of natural sciences. Ernst Haeckel said in a brochure that it would be a pity that the author did not call himself, because he himself could have presented nothing better against Eduard von Hartmann than what is in this writing. Oscar Schmidt wrote a brochure and said that no naturalist would have been able to say anything better against the limitless dilettantism of Eduard von Hartmann than the anonymous author of this brochure. “He may reveal his name to us and we consider him as one of ours.” — The brochure was soon out of stock and the second edition appeared with the name of the author. That was enough to silence the people. It was Eduard von Hartmann. Since that time the chorus was silent of those who had written about the dilettantism of the Philosophy of the Unconscious.

You can argue something against such a procedure, but you cannot deny that it was thoroughly effective. Somebody who was regarded at first as a man who knows nothing has shown to the scientific circles that he could be cleverer than they could ever be. Let me use this trivial expression, it would be good even if somewhat anachronistic to do the same. But that who is at the summit of the theosophical world view could also easily, very easily write together all that stuff which one can today produce against theosophy. This has to be emphasised above all: theosophy is nothing that is directed against the real, true science if it is properly understood. Theosophy is able to understand the true, real science any time as Eduard von Hartmann could understand his adversaries. The reverse is not so easy in the one and the other case. However, we have also to understand where from this could come that way.

If I held a lecture only about that which our scholars know about theosophy, then this lecture could have become rather short, and I would have hardly needed to stand before you longer than for a few seconds. But I would like to go deeper; I would like to speak of the reasons why our contemporary scholarship can know so little about theosophy which opens a new way of thinking about the matters of the world.

If we look around today in our contemporary scholarly literature, we find that these considerations differ, already externally, from all the literature about hundred years ago. If we take a book which has, for example, the title: “The Origin of the Human Being, the Human Being and His Position to the World,” we hardly find anything else than that once the human being did not live on earth that he began his existence on earth in a childish, half animal condition. Then we are made aware of the fact that animal ancestors lived before this time on earth and that these developed to the present-day human being. — If we take another book which should inform us about the secrets of the universe, then we find that it deals with that which you can see through the telescope and what you can achieve with mathematics. In other words: everywhere something that I have called factual fanaticism in my book Goethe’s World-View, that factual fanaticism which keeps to the sensuous facts — to the sense-perceptible facts, at most to that which the armed senses can perceive.

Everything belongs to that which is presented today in the most detailed way in any possible popular writing, and what the human being is solely able to provide of the riddles and secrets of the world on account of scientific facts. If we look around in the circles which draw their knowledge only from such books, then we find that there are, actually, all kinds of intermediate stages that, however, these intermediate stages are to be found between two extremes. The one extreme is the sober scholars. They only accept as scientific what they can see and infer with their reason from the seen. There the world is explored with instruments in all directions. There one searches for written documents, there the time and the development of humankind is investigated according to pure facts. The one is said to be natural sciences, the other is said to be history.

In history you find quite strange things sometimes. In particular if one deals with experiences of spiritual science. You find that there are people who write thick books about the old Gnostics, for example, or about any branch of ancient spiritual wisdom who do not want at all to know anything about this spiritual wisdom itself. They look at this purely historically; they only register the written documents and are contented with it. Today one does not need to be a gnostic to write about Gnosticism. Today scholarly circles regard this almost as a principle. And as the best principle is regarded to be possessed as little as possible from the matters about which one writes, actually. If you take this factual fanaticism on one side, you have nearly what induces such scholarly circles to say: we can notice these matters, we know these matters; what goes beyond them is the object of faith. Everybody can believe or not believe what he wants. — The result of this attitude is a certain indifference to all the objects, thoughts and beings which go beyond the only sensuous facts. Then one says: if anybody needs them for his faith, we leave them to him, but science has nothing to do with them.

A thick dividing wall is raised there between science and faith, and science should be nothing else than what can be perceived purely with the eye and with the ear, nothing else than the consideration of facts and what one abstracts from it. Anything else should not be investigated. — Then, however, something else appears which possibly says: it is not right that science stops anywhere, but this is right that the human being develops more and more and that he unfolds more and more forces in his works, so that he can know everything that there are no limits of knowledge. Indeed, the last objects of knowledge are to be attained only in infinite distance, but they are in such a way that we can approach them more and more. Limits must not be raised anywhere. It seems to be a summit of arrogance if such representatives appear who claim that this ability slumbers in every human being. Develop it and you will see that the objects which once were objects of your faith can become objects of your knowledge, of your wisdom. It is not different with the objects which refer to the immortality of the soul, to the spiritual world, to the big and to the small world in space and to the whole development of the human being; it is not different from the matters which we also meet in the usual natural sciences.

Or, what does a human being, who takes a popular book about astronomy, know from own experience about that which the book says to him? I ask you: how many knowing people are among those who believe in the materialistic history of creation? How many are among those who swear on the materialistic spirit who have seen through a microscope and know how to investigate these matters? How many are there who believe in Haeckel and how many who know in this field? Everybody can become a researcher if he has the time and the energy for it. This also applies to the spiritual matters.

It is brainless if one says that the matters come to an end. It is brainless as well if one says that you have to believe what is in Haeckel’s history of creation, that you yourselves cannot investigate this. In no other sense theosophy speaks of objects and matters of the higher world. One has been accustomed to use the term theosophy for this spiritual science. Not because it has God solely as the object of its consideration, but because it makes a distinction between the external sensuous human being who sees, hears, smells, tastes with his five senses, and combines the sense-perception with his reason — and the other human being who lives in this bodily human being who slumbers in it and can be woken and uses such spiritual organs, spiritual sensory tools, as the body has the physical sensory tools. As the body sees with the physical eye, the mind sees with the spiritual eye. Like the body hears with the physical ear, the mind hears with the spiritual ear.

If the human being takes care of his spiritual development himself, these spiritual organs of perception can be trained, so that the inner human being is able to look into a spiritual world. Because one calls such an inner human being the divine one, I make the difference. What the external sensuous human being beholds, gives sensuous wisdom, what the inner divine human being beholds is, in contrast to sensuous wisdom, theosophy, divine wisdom. Thus it is meant if one speaks of theosophy. One does not speak of theosophy, because God is the object of research, because God is something that becomes obvious to the occultist only at the end of the things, on the summit of perfection. The theosophist will dare least of all to investigate God, although we know that we live, work and exist in Him.

Just as little as somebody, who is sitting on the beach and dives his hand in the sea, believes that he can exhaust the whole sea, the theosophist believes just as little that he can embrace God. However, like somebody, who is sitting on the beach and gets out a handful of water, knows that the scooped water is of the same being as the whole big encompassing sea, the theosophist also knows that he carries a divine spark in himself that is of the same kind and being as God. The theosophist does not claim that his being can embrace God, he does also not claim that in his human soul the infinite God lives, or that the human being himself is God.

He will never come up with such a thing. However, what he says, what he can experience and get to know is something different, this is just this that in the human being a part of God lives, which is of the same kind and being as the whole godhead, as well as the handful of water is of the same kind as the whole encompassing ocean. As the water in the hand and the water in the sea are of the same kind and being, also that which lives in the soul is of the same kind and being as God. Therefore, we call heavenly what is inside of the human being, and we call the wisdom divine wisdom or theosophy which the human being can investigate in his innermost core.

This is a thought process which everybody would have to admit if he wanted to think only logically. Often someone objects to theosophy: you demand that the human being goes through a development. However, not everybody is able to verify everything the theosophy maintains. — Somebody who understands the matters will never maintain that any human being if he can have only the necessary patience, force and endurance cannot get to that condition which single human beings have got in the course of human development. But something else is in the so-called proofs of theosophical truths. Something is to be found in the theosophical literature and in theosophical talks or can be heard, otherwise, somewhere within the theosophical movement about which somebody who has a modern education says to himself: these are assertions. One can accept them, but no theosophist does prove them; he just maintains them. — This speaking of proofs is something that appears over and over again that one objects to theosophy over and over again. How is it? — It behaves as follows.

What theosophy spreads as a higher spiritual wisdom can be investigated if those forces which slumber in every human soul are woken. These forces and abilities, which we call the forces and abilities of the seer, of the spiritual beholding, are necessary to investigate the matters. If one wants to investigate, to discover the facts of the spiritual world, these abilities and forces are necessary. However, it is something different to understand what the spiritual researcher has found. Mind you, one needs the forces of the seer to find the spiritual truths, but that one only needs the clear, logical human mind going up to the last consequences to understand them.

That is essential. Someone who states that he cannot understand what theosophy maintains has not yet thought enough about it. On the contrary, we can better understand what science maintains today. Just what we understand, if we stop at true science, about the facts of nature, about the matters of the apparently lifeless and of the living nature — even if we take the facts of the history of civilisation — if we want to understand them, we can never understand them if we approach them only with the materialistic scholarship which is nothing else than materialistic fantasy. We can understand what true science delivers to us if we know the true science of the spiritual world. To somebody who sees deeper science as it is presented by Ernst Haeckel, for example, becomes only understandable if one has theosophy as a precondition, as a basis.

A comparison should make clear what I want to say. Imagine that you have a picture before yourselves which shows any scene, any saint’s legend. You can try to understand this picture in double way. Once you place yourselves before the picture and try to let revive in your soul what has lived in the soul of the painter. You try to rouse in your soul what the picture shows as spiritual contents. Something lives in it that raises your soul, makes it lofty, and invigorates it. However, you can still react differently to this picture. You can go and say that this does not interest you. Also what the painter has imagined does not interest you particularly. However, you want to get to know how he mixed the paints which substances are mixed in the paint which he painted on the canvas. You want to test how this is there on the canvas, how much of the red and green paints were used where straight and where crooked lines were applied.

These are two different approaches to a picture. It would be brainless to say about the one: you look at something that is false. — No, he looks at something that is absolutely true. He looks how the paint sticks to the canvas and how it is composed. He looks whether and how the paints have cracked et cetera. This can be real truth. Then there the other comes and says to the first: this is not the right thing what you think. This is only a thought. You can objectively find what I investigate.

I want to give an additional example, so that we understand each other precisely. Somebody plays a sonata on a piano. You listen to this sonata with musical ear; you indulge in the marvellous realm of sounds which this sonata delivers to you. This is a way how you can investigate what takes place here. However, another way could also be the following. Anybody comes there and says that this does not interest him which one hears with the musical ear. But there stands a piano, in it strings are stretched. These strings move. I want to hang up little paper tabs on these strings. They jump off if the string moves and thereby I can study where the strings move and where they are in rest. I want to completely refrain from that which you hear there with your ear. One cannot prove that objectively.

As well as this second viewer behaves to the first viewer; the characterised scholars behave to the theosophists. No theosophist thinks of denying scholarship. Just as little as that who goes into raptures about the spiritual contents of a picture says that that is not true which the other investigates about the paints, just as little that who has a musical ear will say that that is not true which the other investigates with the little paper tabs — because it is true, it is true what the naturalist investigates about his material. Nothing should be argued against it. But that escapes these natural sciences which is essential in the world process. Just as that which is essential escapes somebody who looks only at the little paper tabs and what also escapes somebody who only investigates the paint and maybe still the material, the canvas.

Then some people come and say: there is something subjective, this lives only in the soul and cannot be proven objectively. One has to investigate what can be really found. Outside only the oscillatory etheric matter, the oscillatory substance exists. Indeed. One answers as a theosophist to such people: if you only investigate the matter, you only find your matter outside, as well as that who blocked his ears can only find what one can see in the little paper tabs.

Still a few years ago one got up the objectivity of science to mischief. It is this the so-called atomistic theory where one calls that subjective which the human being perceives as sensory sensation what he perceives as sound, colour et cetera, and traces it back to objective processes. These processes should be oscillations of any substance. At that time — as an example — one called it always only red. Red, one said, is only in your eye. Outside in space is nothing else than an oscillation of the ether of so and so many millions oscillations. — This pseudoscience, which is no longer science but religion, transformed the world of perception into a huge sum of atoms which are in oscillatory movements.

This nonsense of transforming everything that we experience as colour-fresh and lively contents into abstract processes which are nothing else than calculated things, nothing else than results of brooding and speculation, this nonsense lately withdraws somewhat. We see that already the atom and its oscillatory movement is regarded by reasonable naturalists only as a calculation approach and in the better circles of thinkers one does no longer take care of the inaccuracy of the atomic hypotheses et cetera. But it has collected in the brains of the human beings to look at the world as an objective nothing, as only materialistic oscillation processes, so that it has penetrated the theosophical movement and theosophy itself in the first years. We had to experience that the most spiritual movement was severely infected by materialism. We had to experience that one could read in the most different theosophical books over and over again that this is this or that vibration. In particular the English books did not get tired to talk about vibrations.

It is a characteristic of our time that this materialistic tendency could come into the most spiritual movement. We still have much to do for long time to overcome this childhood disease of theosophy. However, only if the time has come when within theosophy one no longer speaks about moving atoms, then that cleverly thought-out construction of monads has disappeared which whirl down from the heights and take in everything — an absurd materialistic idea.

One has to realise that theosophy concerns the recognition of the spiritual as such and one has to be aware of the fact that one lets the materialistic science have the swinging little paper tabs and lets it investigate the paints and the canvas. Theosophy deals with the development of the higher senses, the knowledge of the higher senses, it includes what the human being sees, summarises, surveys with the higher soul forces, and what he hears with the musical ear — the swinging string expresses it spatially. If you have understood this, you know to some extent what theosophy is.

Hence, we have also to completely renounce to believe that a kind of harmony is possible between the modern scholarship and theosophy. It is not possible. — This harmony only comes if scholarship itself has progressed so far that it can understand theosophy. Indeed, we have to do it with the chemical investigation of the paints, with the investigation of the lines, with the investigation of the canvas, with the investigation of the little paper tabs on the moved strings, but this does not exclude that with the higher development of the spiritual forces the higher spiritual is revealed to us in that which we investigate externally. The modern scholarship is far away from understanding this matter.

One becomes mild towards this scholarship if one sees, for example, that somebody who has been born out of this scholarship cannot understand anything that is scholarly in the deepest sense and has originated from spiritual science at the same time. I know that I say something extremely offensive for many listeners who have learnt physics. But it is something symptomatic about which I have to speak. Which physicist would not disparage what one calls Goethe’s theory of colours. It is a matter of impossibility to speak about it, but times will come — and they are not far , when one recognises the objections against Goethe's theory of colours as outdated prejudices. You can read further details about Goethe’s theory of colours in my book about Goethe’s World View.

Goethe’s theory of colours was born out of a spiritual world view and for that who can understand this, this theory of colours is the proof of Goethe’s deep thinking. But it does not start from the prejudice that colour is an oscillatory ether. It stands rather on a ground which can be circumscribed as I try it now. I ask you to follow me in my subtle thought process. If anybody sees the red colour outside, his eye sees red at first. Now there comes the physicist and says: this red colour is only subjective. This is a process in space or in the brain. However, what is real outside is nothing but an oscillatory movement of the ether.

If now anybody comes who says: what you see there is only an oscillatory movement of the ether, then reply the following: try to imagine this oscillatory movement of the ether. Is this colourless? It must be colourless, because you want to explain the colour from the oscillations. Hence, what is outside must be colourless. Then I ask: does it still have maybe other qualities; does it maybe have the quality of heat? There the physicist answers: heat even comes from oscillatory movement. However, these people are funniest if they say: these oscillations do not have sensory qualities, but only those qualities which we can think.

If one regards now that which the senses say as subjective, one must also regard that which one thinks as subjective. Then one must also say: what you have calculated there as an oscillatory nebulous mass is subjective all the more, is never perceived, but is only calculated. Everything is calculated subjectively. Who realises that that which we experience in ourselves is objective and that the objective can become the most subjective has a right to speak about the fact that also the calculated has an objective existence. He also does not regard red and green, C sharp and G as only subjective phenomena.

Now I have said a number of matters which are dreadful heresies to scientifically thinking people. One talks a lot that times have changed. Yes, times have changed since Giordano Bruno. At his time the dogma of infallibility was not yet valid. Today the dogma of infallibility is valid, as you know, in certain Catholic circles. But this dogma of infallibility is not born only out of Catholicism. It came into being as an external law, as an external dogma. However, the infallibility dogma also lives as an attitude in the minds of the materialistically thinking, monistic freethinkers. They regard themselves — I do not say that everybody regards himself as a little pope — but as so infallible that they regard everything as superstitious that does not come from their circles. If one counters these infallible physicists and psychiatrists — they do not say that they are infallible, but one feels it , then he is dismissed. He is no longer burnt, but he is made a fool with the means which is trendy today.

The theosophist does not necessarily look for approval. Compared with truth approval is something indifferent. Who has understood the truth of a mathematical theorem does not care whether a million people agree or not. Truth is not decided by majority. Someone who has recognised a truth has recognised it and needs no approval. Thus the theosophical movement prefers the careful supporters. It does not want to have children but such human beings who form a judgement, with all care, after the most profound examination. The demand to be careful is something that gives me the deepest sympathy.

From that which I have tried to show you can infer that theosophy is far away to criticise the contemporary scholarship. Should the theosophist fight against it? He would do something very foolish, because it would be as if that who looks at a picture with displeasure wanted to fight against somebody who studies the chemical composition of the paints. If, for example, an appearance like Ernst Haeckel is defended from theosophical side, this does not need to be wrong. One can defend him if one recognises him from a higher point of view sees how he appears there and knows how to classify the matters in the world evolution. The theosophist is able to give the right position to the contemporary development in any field.

Thus the relation of the newly arising spiritual current is which tries to look at the world in such a way as single extraordinary spirits looked always at it. But it was not possible during the last centuries to give this spiritual science as it was given once. What one calls theosophy today is a small part of encompassing world wisdom, of occult science. This is something that has always existed with extraordinary human individualities since millennia, even since there are human beings. In the form, however, as single great spirits have owned it, it could not been given to the big mass. Nevertheless, it was not withheld from the big mass.

If you check the legends and myths of the nations impartially, you see that these legends and myths are the metaphorical expressions of a science which contains more wisdom than the present-day science offers. This science would regard it as fantasy if one said that wisdom is in these fairy tales. This world wisdom has been announced in the most different religions; depending on how the one or the other people needed it according to its temperament and the climate. If we have an overview of everything that was given to humankind in the most different forms, we are led to a common core, to encompassing world wisdom. Today not everything can be already handed over to the bigger part of humankind, because somebody who rises toward this world wisdom has to go through particular inner ordeals. This world wisdom can be handed over only to somebody who goes through these ordeals. In former times also the elementary part was handed over only in the closest circle to well prepared pupils with the corresponding intellectual, moral and mental qualities. There are even today persons who regard it as wrong to deliver the occult profundities by theosophy to the big mass of the human beings. However, the reproach is unfounded because there is no alternative today. Who understands the structure of the spirit of the present age knows that inner truth and wisdom of the religious world view feel alienated because one can no longer understand them.

This was different once. Then the wisdom which is announced today by theosophy was the property of the single human being. One gave the big mass the appropriate wisdom in pictures. The feeling nature of the big mass was suited to take it up in the pictures. The big mass could live with these pictures only. Truth was in the religions, truth was in the basic religious views. Theosophy only makes this clear again to us in the deepest way. The human being could understand it with his feeling in ancient times. Our time demands that he can also understand what is contained in the religions.

Thus occult science is forced to come out a little bit, to contribute something to the verification of the religions, to give the elementary part of spiritual truth at least. A time would be dreary and desolate if humankind were alienated from all knowledge of the spiritual worlds and from any relation to them. Only that who does not understand the case can believe that humankind could exist without relation to the spiritual, without belief in spirit and immortality. Like the plant needs food juices, the soul needs something spiritual that forms its basis. Theosophy does not want to found a new religion. But it wants to bring truth home to the human being again in a form which is suited to the modern human being, in the form of thinking comprehension. Thus theosophy brings the old truth in new form to our contemporaries, unperturbed by those who, going out from the materialistic superstition, turn against this spiritual current.

As well as the external natural science rests upon that which it investigates and calculates with the help of the microscope and telescope, theosophy uses the most significant instrument of which Goethe speaks: what the skilled ear of the musician is, this is the human soul compared with all tools , and further:

Nature, mysterious in day’s clear light,
lets none remove her veil,
and what she won’t discover to your understanding
you can’t extort from her with levers and with screws.

Faust I, verses 672–675

Who understands the world is the most perfect instrument, and supported on the spiritual beholding theosophy will produce such instruments more and more.

The answer to the question: what do our scholars know about the real basis of theosophy is: nothing. — They can know nothing because all their ways of thinking can bring them to nothing else than to look at theosophy as a fantastic stuff. Who has understood, however, that scholarship cannot get involved in theosophy, which has gone out from quite different bases, also understands that this scholarship will be in need to illuminate the structure of spirit more intensely. This scholarship provides such flowers. But a real comprehension of the soul only can make such things comprehensible, which the modern scholarship knows.

Or: what has somebody to think who regarded Goethe, Schopenhauer, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer and others as great spirits if this materialistic scholarship has brought it so far that you can find in a little book about Goethe’s illness, about Schopenhauer’s illness — also in other works — these illnesses considered from the point of view of the materialistic psychiatry? One calls a particular type of insanity manic depression, schizophrenia another, and paranoia a third one. These three forms of insanity are taken to show that one can also find symptoms of insanities with the great spirits who are regarded as leaders of humankind. One found the symptoms of manic depression with Schopenhauer, paranoia with Tasso, Rousseau and others. Indeed, the same author has called an even bigger number of people feeble-minded. He is the author of the book On the Physiological Idiocy of Women which concerns one half of the whole humankind. It would be easy to consider the author from his own viewpoint and to scrutinise him. — However, one must not laugh at these matters. The materialistic science must get to this because these are partial truths. But one can get only to the right insight if one sees the spirit working behind it. Then one sees that often a higher spiritual development must be purchased for the same symptoms, as on the other side health for other symptoms. One is able to do this only if one explains them from the theosophical standpoint.

I would like to tell something else. You know that I have pointed to ancient times of development when our civilisation did not yet exist when there has been a continent between this Europe and America, the continent of the old Atlantis. I have already pointed to the fact that this Atlantis has been found again by the naturalists. In the magazine Kosmos, 10th issue, a naturalist speaks of animals and plants which lived on this Atlantis. Indeed, such a naturalist admits this, but he does not admit that other human beings lived in those days. He does not admit that the old Atlantean land was covered by a wide nebulous sea that the ground was not covered by such an air as it forms our atmosphere today, that the expression which the old Central European peoples have in their myths: Niflheim, nebulous home, means something real that our Atlantean ancestors lived in a nebulous country. I have sometimes pointed to that.

Few days ago a lecture was held in a famous society of naturalists in which was pointed out to the fact that most probably in the time of our Atlantean ancestors on the earth very large land masses were covered with fog. One concludes this speculatively from different other phenomena. Above all, it is pointed out to the fact that the plants, which need sunshine which grow in the desert, are of a later date and did not yet exist at that time, while those, which need little sunshine which could exist at Niflheim, the nebulous home, are the older ones.

Here you see that natural science lagging behind says to you what theosophy has said before. We have a time ahead when also the other matters must be gradually admitted by these natural sciences. Theosophy does not have to get used to the fantastic, objective atomic theories, but the facts which theosophy announces from the higher standpoint will be proven by the external natural sciences. This is the course of the future development. Even if the modern scholars know nothing about it, their own progress leads them to it. — No thinker should doubt that one can see more, can behold more with a developed soul than with mere senses and mere intellect.

It is the recognition of the developed human being as the most perfect instrument to investigate the world — theosophy wants this to be accepted. Everything else results automatically. If you say that the human being has reached the highest levels and will not keep on developing, then you do not need theosophy. If you say, however, the laws which have held sway in the past, will also hold sway in the future, single human beings have always stood higher than others of their surroundings — if you admit this, then you have already a theosophical attitude, in principle. One does not become a theosophist because one uses the words theosophy, brotherliness, unity et cetera. Brotherliness is something that all good people understand.

If I see people always talking about brotherliness and then also behold them feeling an inner lust if they talk about brotherliness, harmony, unity, then I always think of the oven and the first principle of the Theosophical Society which demands to establish the core of a general human fraternisation. It is for nothing if one says to the oven: dear oven, heat the room and make it warm. — If one wants that the oven gives off heat, then one must put heating material into it and kindle it. One must put heating material into it. This is the spiritual force, the ability to behold on account of the development of the higher worlds. By the development of the spiritual world that truth and wisdom in the human souls take place which must lead as wisdom and knowledge automatically to the general human brotherhood. Then we arrive at that which is expressed in the first principle of the theosophical program if the human being can be an instrument to behold into the spiritual worlds. If the organs of perception concealed in the human being are got out of the soul, theosophy is a progress which one is able to pursue. If one compares this theosophical attitude with the attitude of theosophists, of great, lofty personalities who lived in prehistoric time, then we find it also in a sentence from Herder’s pen: our tender, feeling and sensitive nature has developed all senses which God has given it. It cannot do without them, because that which results from the whole use of the organs shines to all. These are the vowels of life and so on.

Even if we only take the external physical senses into consideration, we can say in the theosophical sense, nevertheless: the physical and spiritual senses must be developed, because by the harmony of the spiritual and physical organs of perception the vowels not only of life, but also those of the eternal, infinite, spiritual life are kindled.

You read in Goethe’s poem The Secrets:

From the power which ties all beings
escapes that human being
who overcomes himself.

The human being is neither free nor not free, he is developing.


Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann (1842–1906), German philosopher

Eduard Oscar Schmidt (1823–1886), German zoologist. Goethes Verhältnis zu den organischen Wissenschaften (1853), Descendenzlehre und Darwinismus — The Doctrine of Descent and Darwinism (1873)

Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (1825–1898)), Swiss poet and historical novelist

manic depression: Steiner uses the obsolete term “zirkuläres Irresein” (circular insanity, French: folie circulaire). This form of insanity is today called manic depression or bipolar disorder.

author of the book On the Physiological Idiocy of Women: Paul Julius Möbius (1853–1907), German neurologist. Über das Pathologische bei Goethe (1898). Über Schopenhauer (1899)

Atlantis: cf. R. Steiner CW 11 Cosmic Memory

Kosmos: Theodor Arldt (1878–1960), German geographer. Das Atlantisproblem


Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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