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The Position of Anthroposophy among the Sciences

A Lecture By
Rudolf Steiner
The Hague, April 8, 1922
GA 82

This lecture was given at The Hague in April of 1922, and is included in Volume 82 of the Bibliographic Survey, 1961. It is lecture 2 of 6 from the lecture series: The Significance of Anthroposophy in Contemporary Spiritual Life, published in German as: Damit der Mensch Ganz Mensch Werden. Die Bedeutung der Anthroposophie im Geistesleben der Gegenwart. It has been translated from notes unrevised by the lecturer, by V. C. Bennie.

This lecture has been authorized for the Western hemisphere by, and published here by kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

Copyright © 1961
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The Position of Anthroposophy
among the Sciences

R u d o l f   S t e i n e r

A Lecture, hitherto untranslated, given at The Hague
(as part of a course for university graduates)
on April 8, 1922

From a shorthand report unrevised by the lecturer. Published by permission of the Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

A

S Anthroposophy spreads to fields where men usually seek their religious and, maybe, their moral impulses also, it encounters many persons who feel drawn towards such a spiritual stream. The modern spirit, which yesterday I allowed myself to call “the scientific spirit”, has, in many respects, shaken old, traditional beliefs, and although many people approach the anthroposophical line of research somewhat sceptically, there are, nevertheless, very many to-day whose souls have at least an inclination towards it. But it is correct to say that, in one respect, Anthroposophy encounters difficulties when it would enter the fields of the various sciences. That is the particular aim of this course, and it will be my task to present here, in the main, the general, more comprehensive principles and results of our research, while the other lecturers will deal with special scientific fields.

But precisely such an arrangement must arouse all the antipathies — I use this word more in a theoretical than in a moral sense — which Anthroposophy encounters from scientific quarters. I can only assure you that one who is engaged in anthroposophical research fully understands how difficult it is for a man involved in scientific work to-day to pass from the scientific attitude into Anthroposophy. Although Anthroposophy has certainly much to correct in present-day science, and, at the same time, when organic and spiritual fields are included, very much to add to the present material for research, it does not of itself come into conflict with current science. It accepts the justified results of science and deals with them in the way I have just described. The reverse, however, does not occur; at least, not yet — as one may well understand. Anthroposophy is rejected; its results are not regarded as satisfying the strictly scientific criteria that one feels entitled to impose to-day.

In a short lecture I shall not, of course, be able to go into all that Anthroposophy can itself bring forward to serve as an effective foundation for its results. But I should like in to-day's lecture to attempt to characterise the position of Anthroposophy among the sciences, and to do this in a way that will enable you to understand that Anthroposophy, in laying its foundations, is as conscientious as any science with its own precise technique. For this, however, I shall have to inflict upon you somewhat remote discussions — things which in ordinary life may be called difficult but which are necessary in order to provide a certain basis for what I shall have to offer in an easier and, perhaps, more agreeable form in the next few days.

*

Many people to-day imagine that Anthroposophy starts somehow from the nebulous attitude of soul to be found in present-day movements that are really “mystical” or “occult”. But to ascribe to Anthroposophy such a very questionable foundation is a complete mistake. Only one who knows Anthroposophy only superficially, or, indeed, through its opponents, can do that.

The fundamental attitude of consciousness in Anthroposophy has been drawn from that branch of present-day science which is least of all attacked in respect to its scientific character and importance. I admit, however, that many of our adherents — and opponents too — fail to perceive correctly what I have now to characterise by way of introduction.

The position of mathematics among the sciences has already been mentioned. Kant's pronouncement, that in every science there is only as much real knowledge — real cognition — as there is mathematics, is widely known. Now I have not to deal here with mathematics itself, with its value for the other sciences and in human life, but rather with the mental attitude a man assumes when “mathematicising” — if I may use this word; that is, when actively engaged in mathematical thinking. His attitude of soul is then, indeed, quite distinctive. Perhaps we may best characterise it by speaking, first, of that branch of mathematics which is usually called geometry and, at least in those parts of it known to the majority of people, has to do with space, is the science of space.

We are accustomed to speak of three-dimensional space; we picture it so constituted that its three dimensions, as they are called, stand at right angles to one another. What we have before our mind's eye as space is, in the first place, quite independent of man and the rest of the world. And because man as an individual being orientates himself in accordance with spatial laws, he pictures space before his eyes, independent of himself. He can certainly say that he is at this or that distance from any selected point; thus he inserts himself into space, as a part of space. And by regarding himself as an earthly being and assigning to himself certain distances from this and that star, he inserts himself into cosmic space. In a word, man regards space as something objective, independent of his own being. It was this that led Kant to call space an a priori intuition (eine Anschauung a priori), a mode of intuition given to man prior to experience. He cannot ask how he comes to have space; he must simply accept it as something given; he must fit himself into it when he has attained full earthly consciousness.

But it is not so in reality. We human beings do actually build space out of our own being. More correctly: we build our idea (Vorstellung), our mental perception (Anschauung), of space from out of ourselves. Only, we do not do this consciously, because we do it at a time of life when we do not think about our own activities in the way that would be necessary if we were to come to a clear understanding of the nature of space in relation to our own being. Indeed, we should not have our intuition of space (Raumanschauung) if, in our earthly life, we did not first experience its three dimensions.

We do experience them. We experience one of them when, from out of our inability to walk upright from birth, we raise ourselves into the vertical position. We learn this dimension from the way in which we build it. And what we learn to know is not just any dimension, set at right angles to the other two. We learn to know this quite definite dimension of space — standing vertically, so to speak, upon the earth's surface — from the fact that we human beings are not born upright, but, in accord with the formative laws of our earthly life, must first raise ourselves into the vertical position.

We learn to know the second dimension of space in an equally unconscious manner. You will be well aware that man — to mention what pertains more to his inner than to his outer being — in developing the capacities which serve him in later life, learns to orientate himself from left to right, from right to left. One need only recall that we have our organised speech centre in a certain area of the brain, the so-called Broca convolutions, while the other side of the brain has no such organisation. One also knows to-day — and from accepted science — that the development of the speech centre on the left side of the human body is connected with the mobility, spontaneous at first, of the right hand. One knows, too, that an orientation from right to left develops, that this activity excited on the left by an activity on the right, or vice-versa, is experienced by us within the laws that form us — just as we experience our achievement of the upright position. It is in this co-ordinated orientation of right with left, or left with right, that we human beings experience the second dimension of space.

The third dimension of space is never really experienced by us completely. We first focus this so-called “depth-dimension” as we try to gauge it. We are constantly doing this, though deep down in the unconscious. When we make the lines of vision of our eyes intersect at a point and focus both eyes on this point, we expand space, which would otherwise have only two dimensions for us, into the third dimension. And with every estimate of spatial depth we build the third dimension unconsciously out of our own being and the laws that form us.

Thus one might say: we place, in a certain way, the three dimensions of space outside us. And what we conceive as space, the space we use in geometry — Euclidean geometry, at first — is nothing more than an abstraction from what we learn to know concretely, with our own organism, as the three dimensions linked to our own subjective being. In this abstraction the quite definite configuration of space is ignored; the definite directions — vertical, horizontal and depth — have equal value. (This is always done when we make abstractions.) And then, when we have constructed, by abstracting from the three-dimensional space experienced within, the external space we speak of in geometry, we extend our consciousness through this external space alone.

We now come to the important thing. What we have won from out of ourselves is now applicable to external nature; in the first place, to inorganic, lifeless forms, though it can also be applied to the spatial and kinetic relations between organic structures. Briefly, this fact largely determines the character of our external world. Having accomplished this transition (this metamorphosis of space) from one domain, which really lives in us, to space commonly so called, we now stand with our spatial concepts and spatial experiences within the outer world and are able to determine our position and motion by spatial measurements. We actually go out of ourselves when we construct space in this way. We lift out of our body what we have first experienced within ourselves, placing ourselves at a point of view from which we look back upon ourselves as filled with space. In thus objectifying space we are able to study the external movements and relative positions of objects with the help of ideas formed geometrically within space; we feel thereby that we are on firm scientific ground when we enter into objects with what we have formed so earnestly from out of ourselves. In these circumstances we cannot doubt that we can live within things with what has come from us in this way. When we judge the distance, or the changing distance, between two bodies in the outer world according to spatial relations, we believe we are determining something completely objective and independent of ourselves. It does not occur to us that this could be otherwise.

Now, however, a fundamental and important problem confronts us here. What we have experienced subjectively in ourselves, transforming it, in the case of space; simply by making from it a kind of abstraction, now becomes something permeating — to a certain extent — the outer world and appearing to belong there.

Anyone who considers impartially what confronts us here must say: In his subjective experience of space in its three dimensions and in his subsequent objectifying of this experience, man stands within the external world with his own experiences. Our subjective experiences, being experiences of space, are at the same time objective. After all, it is not at all difficult, but trivial and elementary, to see that this is so. For when we move ourselves through space, we accomplish something subjective, but at the same time an objective event occurs in the world. To put it another way, whether we see an automaton or a man move forwards, subjectivity does not come into consideration. What occurs when a human being lives spatially is, for the external disposition of the world, quite objective.

If we now focus attention on the human being as, in this way, he objectifies something of his subjective experience, moving himself in an objective domain by himself traversing space — for, in objectifying space, he really bears this space within himself also — we are led to say: If man could do with other experiences what he does when “mathematicising”, he would be able to transfer, to some extent, the mathematical attitude of soul to other experiences. Suppose we could shape other experiences — our mode of perceiving the qualities of colours and tones, for example — in the same way that we create and shape our experience of space from out of ourselves! When we look at a cube of salt we bring the cubical shape with us from our geometry, knowing that its shape is identical with the spatial concept we have formed. If we could create from out of ourselves, let us say, the world of colour, and then confront external coloured objects, we should then, in the same way, project (as it were) into the outer world what we first build up in ourselves. We should thus place ourselves outside our body and even look back upon ourselves. This has been accomplished in mathematics, although it remains unnoticed. (I have given a geometrical illustration; I could give others also.) Neither mathematicians nor philosophers have paid attention to this peculiar relationship that I have just put before you.

In regard to sense perceptions, however, science has become really confused. In the nineteenth century physiologists joined hands here even with epistemologists and philosophers, and many people think with them as follows:

When we see red, for example, the external event is some vibration which spreads itself out until it reaches our organ of vision, and then our brain. The specific sensation of red is then released. Or the tone C sharp is evoked by an external wave motion in the same way.

This confusion has arisen because we can no longer distinguish what lives in us — within the confines of our body — from what is outside. All sense qualities (colours, tones, qualities of warmth) are said to be actually only subjective, while what is external, objective is said to be something quite different.

If now, in the same way in which we build the three dimensions of space from out of ourselves and find them again in things (and things in them) — if we could, in the same way, draw from ourselves what appears in us as sensation, and then set it before us, we should likewise find in things what we had first found in ourselves. Indeed, looking back upon ourselves we should find it again — just as we find in the outer world what we have experienced within us as space, and, looking back at ourselves, find that we are a part of this space. As we have the space world around us, so we should have around us a world of intermingling colours and tones. We should speak of an objectified world of flowing colours and singing tones, as we speak of the space around us.

Man can certainly attain to this and learn to know as his own construction the world which otherwise only confronts him as the world of effects (Wirkungen). As we, albeit unconsciously, construct for ourselves the form of space out of our human constitution and then, having transformed it, find it again in the world, so we can train ourselves, this time by conscious effort, to draw from out of ourselves the whole gamut of qualities contained in the world, so as to find them again in things, and then again in looking back upon ourselves.

What I am here describing is the ascent to so-called “imaginative perception” (imaginative Anschauung). Every human being to-day has the same space-world — unless he be abnormally mathematical or unmathematical. What can live in us in like manner, and in such a way that we experience with it the world as well, can be acquired by exercises. “Imaginative perception” — a technical term that does not denote “fancy” or “imagination” in the usual sense — can be added to the ordinary objective perception of objects (in which mathematics is our sure guide), and will open up a new region of the world.

I said yesterday that I would have to expound to you a special method of training and research. I must describe what one has to do in order to attain to such “imaginative perception”. In this we come to perceive as a whole the qualitative element in the world — just as, in a sense, we come to perceive space (which has, at first, no reality that engages our higher interests) as a whole. When we are able to confront the world in this way, we are already at the first stage of super-sensible perception. Sense-perception may be compared to that perception of things in which we do not distinguish between triangular and rectangular shapes, do not see geometrical structures in things, but simply stare at them and only take in their forms externally. But the perception that is developed in “Imagination” is as much involved with the inner essence of things as mathematical perception is with mathematical relationships.

If we approach mathematics in the right frame of mind, we come to see precisely in the mathematician's attitude when “mathematicising” the pattern for all that one requires for super-sensible perception. For mathematics is simply the first stage of super-sensible perception. The mathematical structures we “perceive” in space are super-sensible perceptions — though we, accustomed to “perceive” them, do not admit this. But one who knows the intrinsic nature of “mathematicising” knows that although the structure of space has no special interest at first for our eternal human nature, mathematical thinking has all the characteristics that one can ask of clairvoyance in the anthroposophical sense: freedom from nebulous mysticism and confused occultism, and the sole aim of attaining to the super-sensible worlds in an exact, scientific way.

Everyone can learn from a study of “mathematicising” what clairvoyance is on a higher level. The most astonishing thing is that mathematicians, who of all people ought to know what takes place when a man is “mathematicising”, do not show a deeper understanding of what must be presented as a higher, qualitative “mathematicising” — if I may use this word — in clairvoyant research. For “imaginative” cognition, the first stage in this research, is only a perception that penetrates other domains of existence than those accessible to “mathematicising”; and it has been gained by exercises. In respect to human perception, however, much is understood differently once one is able to survey, in genuine self-knowledge, the whole inner nature of “mathematicising”. For example, one arrives at the following:

On looking back to the way in which we came to know in early childhood the structure of space — by walking and standing upright, by orientating ourselves to right and left, by learning to gauge the depth-dimension, by connecting all this with the abstractly perceived space of geometry (which the child learns to know from inner experience) — we realise the serious and important consequences that follow if we cannot look back to the living origin, within our own being, of space — of our conception and perception of space — but simply accept it in its already transformed shape, independent of ourselves. For example, in recent times we have come to regard this space (with its three dimensions) in such a way that we have gone on to postulate a fourth and higher dimensions. These spaces and their geometries are widely known to-day. Anyone who has once learnt to know the living structure of space finds it most interesting to follow such an extension of mathematical operations (applicable to three dimensions) and to arrive at a fourth dimension that cannot be visualised, and so on. These operations are logical (in the mathematical sense) and quite correct. But anyone who knows the genesis of our idea of space, as I have described it, will detect something quite special here. We could take a pendulum, for example, and watch it oscillate. Watching it purely externally, we might expect it to swing further and further out. But it does not. When it has reached a definite point, it swings back again to the opposite side. If we know the relation between the forces involved, we know that the pendulum oscillates and cannot go further because of the relation between the forces.

In respect to space, one learns to know (to some extent) such an interplay of forces in the constitution of our soul. Then one views these things differently. From the logical, mathematical standpoint one can certainly keep step with those who extend their calculations from three-dimensional to four-dimensional space. But there one must make a halt. One cannot pass on into an indefinite fourth dimension; one must turn back at a certain point, and the fourth dimension becomes simply the third with a minus sign before it. One returns through the third dimension. The mistake made in these geometrics of more than three dimensions is in going on abstractly from the second to the third, from the third to the fourth dimension, and so on. But what we have here, if I may express it in a comparison, is not simple progression but oscillation. Our perception of space must return into itself. By taking the third dimension negatively, we really annihilate it. The fourth dimension is the negative third and annihilates the third, making space two-dimensional. And in like manner we can find a quite real progression, even though, logically, mathematically, algebraically, these things can be carried further and further. When we think in accordance with reality, we must turn back at the fourth, fifth and sixth dimensions to the space that is simply given us. With the sixth dimension, we have abolished space and reach the point.

What really confronts us in the culture of our age? This — that its thinking has become abstract; that one simply continues along the line of thought that takes us from planimetry, stereometry, etc., whereas reality leads us back at the fourth dimension into space. But, in turning back then, we are by no means where we were when we found our way into the third dimension by gauging distances. We return spiritually enriched. If we can think of the fourth dimension (the negative third) in such a way that we return with it into space, then space becomes filled with spirit, whereas three-dimensional space is filled with matter. And we find space filled with ever loftier spiritual configurations when we pass along the negative third and second and first dimension and reach the point where we no longer have spatial extension but stand within the unextended — the spiritual.

What I am now describing is not formal mathematics, but the reality of spiritual perception. It is a path in real conformity with the spiritual and in contrast to the path that has adapted itself so closely to material appearances alone. This latter path, even though keeping close to mathematics — which does not, of course, work in a material way in the soul — leads nevertheless to an imperceptible world in which one can, at most, only calculate and construct imaginary mathematical spaces.

You see here that, by penetrating the mathematical domain completely, we are led to apprehend the inner nature of the spiritual present everywhere in the world. To understand the mathematical attitude of soul is to be led directly to the concept of clairvoyant experience. And then we raise ourselves to “Imagination” and, in the way I have still to describe, come thereby to a comprehensive survey of the spiritual that can be perceived, not in the ordinary way, but in the way I have put it here — that is: by going out of the third and into the fourth dimension, and so on, and coming to the domain of no-dimensions — that is, the point. This leads us spiritually to the highest if we apprehend it, not as an empty point, but as a “filled” point.

I was once — it made a great impression on me — regarded with astonishment by an elderly author who had written much on spiritual matters. Seeing me for the first time, he asked: “How did you first become aware of this difference between perceiving the sense-world and perceiving the super-sensible world?” Because I always like to express myself about these things with radical honesty, I replied: “In the moment when I learnt to know the inner meaning of what is called modern or synthetic geometry.” You see, when one passes from analytic to synthetic geometry — which enables us, not only to approach forms externally, but to grasp them in their mutual relationships — one starts from forms, not from external co-ordinates. When we work with spatial coordinates, we do not apprehend forms but only the ends of the co-ordinates; we join up these ends and obtain the curves. In analytical geometry we do not lay hold of the forms, whereas in synthetic geometry we live within them. This induces us to study the attitude of soul which, developed further, leads us to press on into the super-sensible world.

*

I have now described the extent to which Anthroposophy can be sure that it proceeds from “mathematicising” as strictly as the natural science of to-day — though from another point of view. Natural science applies mathematics as it has been elaborated to date. But anyone who wishes to understand clairvoyant activity must seek it where it is present in its most primitive form: in the construction of mathematical forms. If he can then raise this activity to higher domains, he will be developing something related to elementary, primitive “mathematicising” as the more developed branches of mathematics are related to their axioms. The primary axioms of clairvoyance are living ones. And if we succeed in developing our “mathematicising” by exercises, we shall not only see spatial relationships in the world around us, but learn to know spiritual beings revealing themselves to us, even with spiritual inwardness — as we learn to know the “cubicity” of a salt crystal. We learn to know spiritual beings when, in this way, we raise to higher domains what we develop by “mathematicising”.

This is what I wished to say, at the outset, about the basis of what must receive recognition as “clairvoyant research” in Anthroposophy. We shall go on to see how, with such clairvoyant research, one can enter different fields of knowledge — the natural sciences as well as therapy, medicine, history, etc. We shall see that the sciences are not to be attacked; they are to be enriched by the introduction of what can be known by super-sensible perception.

A consideration of the course of human evolution over a certain period — how it developed and led at last to the elaboration of our present scientific thinking — can help to a right understanding of what our aims here are.

Let us focus our attention upon scientific thinking to-day. It is able to see clearly the formalism of mathematics, while it nevertheless learns from mathematics inner certainty and exact observation, regarding natural laws as valid only if they can be formulated mathematically. This is, at least, a kind of ideal for scientific method to-day. But it was not always so. The scientific spirit, as acknowledged to-day, has been elaborated in the course of human evolution. I should like to draw your attention to three stages only — of which the present is the third — in this development, and I shall do so in a more narrative form. I shall also touch on some of the things that can be said in support of what I shall relate.

*

As we look back on human evolution, we do not, in fact, always find the same disposition of soul that man has to-day. He cultivates the scientific spirit as, in a sense, a most lofty thing. If we look back at the ancient Orient — not necessarily so far back as the most ancient Indian times, but to times more recent — we found much of what had been handed down as cognitive principles still retained. The path to knowledge was named quite differently then. In those ancient times — even the history of language can support this — man did not think of himself as he does to-day. Modern man has, on the one hand, his consciousness of self firmly established within him, and, on the other hand, a grasp, through observation, of what is mechanistic. But the man of the Orient, for example, could not have this feeling of himself. (As I have said, the history of language can prove this.) He felt himself, in the first place, as a breathing human being. To him, man was a breather. In self-contemplation he focussed his attention chiefly upon the respiratory process. He even related immortality to the respiratory process: death came to him as a kind of expiration of his soul.

Man a breather! Why did man in this former disposition of soul feel the human being as a breathing being? Because he did actually feel life in the respiratory process (which did not proceed so unconsciously as it does to-day). He felt the vibrations of life, life's rhythm, in his breathing; he felt breathing as one feels hunger and thirst to-day. But this was a continuous feeling in the waking state. When he looked with his eyes, he knew: the process of breathing now enters right into my head and into my eyes. He felt his perceptions permeated by the flow of the breath. It was just the same when the will stirred. He stretched out his hand and felt this movement as if it were something linked up with the respiratory movements. An expansion of the breath through the whole body was felt as an inner life-process. He even felt the more theoretical perception of the outer world through the senses to be ensouled with breath, just as he felt the breath ensouling the movements of the will.

Man felt himself a breathing being, and because he could have said: “My breath is modified in this and that way when I see through my eyes, hear through my ears and receive through the effects of heat” — because in his sensations of all kinds he “saw” differentiated, modified, refined respiratory processes — because of all this the path of knowledge was for him a systematic training of the respiratory process. And this systematic training was for those earlier epochs in the evolution of man's cognition what university study is for us to-day.

We study in a different way now. But in those times, when one sought religious satisfaction or wished to acquire knowledge, one “studied” by systematically modifying the respiratory process; in other words, by developing what was later called Yoga Breathing, Yoga Training. And what did one develop? If we investigate what was attained by one who practised Yoga Breathing in order to reach higher stages of cognition, we find something striking. Those who came to be “savants” through Yoga exercises — the word “savant” is not quite appropriate to these earlier conditions, but perhaps one can use it — required as long for this as we do for a university course. In the knowledge so acquired they had grasped in the disposition of their souls what, in a later age — the Graeco-Roman, for example — was regarded as a world of ideas and present of itself in the soul, thus making Yoga unnecessary.

*

This is really a very interesting thing — that what men had to strive for in earlier epochs through all kinds of exercises is present of itself in later epochs of evolution. It has then no longer the same significance as before. When Socrates, when Plato were alive, their philosophies had no longer the same significance as they would have had for the ancient pupils or teachers of Yoga, had they reached Socratic or Platonic truths. By this Yoga-breathing the pupil did not acquire exactly the same inner organisation as Plato, Aristotle or Scotus Erigena, but he came to the same disposition of soul [Seelenverfassung]. Thus we find systematic breathing exercises practised in ancient times, and we see that this cognitive path led to a certain vivid world of ideas.

One really gains a correct idea of what lived later in Parmenides and Anaxagoras if one says to oneself: What was given to men in this age as something self-understood, had been achieved in still earlier times through Yoga. It was always through exercises that men strove for the higher knowledge required by their own age. Thus in the perception of the world in later epochs, men were no longer aware of their breathing in self-contemplation, but they perceived as the Greeks perceived (I have given more details of this in my Riddles of Philosophy). At that time one did not construct for oneself isolated thoughts about the world, for ideas and sense-experiences were one. One saw one's thoughts outside, as one saw red or blue and heard C sharp, G or B natural. Thoughts were in the world outside. Without knowing this, nobody understands the Greek view of the world. But the Greeks perceived only spirit permeated with sense-perceptions, or sense-perceptions permeated by spirit, and no longer differentiations in the process of breathing.

*

Then once again men sought to attain a higher stage of cognition in all domains in which they were seeking higher knowledge. This stage was also gained through exercises. To-day we have rather vague ideas about the early Middle Ages and their spiritual life. A mediæval student did not learn so abstractedly as we do to-day. He, too, had to do exercises, and ordinary study was also combined with the doing of exercises. Inward exercises had to be carried out, though not so strenuously as with Yoga breathing; they were more inward, but still a set of exercises.

From this there remains a kind of deposit, little understood now, in what were called then the Seven Liberal Arts. They had to have been mastered by everyone who claimed to have received a higher education. Grammar meant the practical use of language. Rhetoric meant more: the artistic use of language. Dialectic was the use of language as a tool of thought. And when the student had practised these inwardly, as exercises, Arithmetic followed; but this, again, was not our abstract arithmetic, but an arithmetic which entered into things and was clearly aware that man shapes all things inwardly. In this way the student learnt Geometry through inward exercises, and this geometry, as something involving the human being, was the pupil's possession — a tool he could use.

All this then passed over into what was called Astronomy: the student integrated his being with the cosmos, learnt to know how his head was related to the cosmos, and how his lungs and heart resulted from the cosmos. It was not an astronomy abstracted from man, but an astronomy in which man had his place. And then, at the seventh stage, the pupil learnt to know how the Divine Being weaves and rules throughout the world. This was called Music; it was not our present music but a higher, living elaboration of what had been elaborated in thought-forms in Astronomy.

It was in this way that men of a later epoch trained themselves inwardly. The breathing exercises of earlier times had been replaced by a more inward training of the soul.

And what did one attain? In the course of the history of civilisation men came gradually to have thoughts apart from sense-perceptions. This was something that had to be acquired. The Greeks still saw thought in the world, as we see colours and perceive tones. We grasp thought as something we produce, not located within things. The fact that men came to feel this in the constitution of their souls, that we can feel this to-day — that is the result of the training in Grammar, Rhetoric and so on to Music. Thought was thereby released. Men learnt to move freely in thoughts. In this way was achieved what we take for granted to-day, possessing it without these exercises — what we find when we go to school, what is offered in the separate sciences (as described yesterday). And precisely as man in different epochs had to advance by means of exercises — in ancient times by breathing exercises (Yoga) which gave him the Graeco-Latin conception of the world as something he took for granted; in later times by exercises that went from Grammar to Music and gave him the scientific standpoint we have to-day — so to-day he can again advance. He can best advance by setting out from what is most certain: namely, mathematics, recognised as certain to-day.

My reply to that author was true, although it so astonished him. It was mainly through synthetic geometry that I became clear about the clairvoyant's procedure. Naturally, not everyone who has studied synthetic geometry is a clairvoyant, but the procedure can be clearly presented in this way. Though that author was so astonished at not being told the sort of thing that people who “prophesy” are wont to relate, it is nevertheless true that Anthroposophy, setting out from the firm base on which science stands to-day, seeks to extend this base; and from this base, which science itself has laid, to carry further, into super-sensible domains, what reliable science brings before us.

From here we must proceed more inwardly. And a still more inward procedure is the path to clairvoyant research which I had to describe in my books Geheimwissenschaft (“Occult Science”) and Wie erlangt man Erkenntnisse der Höheren Welten (“How to Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds”). But precisely such an historical survey as I have given can show you that anyone who stands to-day with full consciousness within Anthroposophy derives this consciousness from standing within the course of human evolution. My historical survey can also show you that I do not speak from personal predilection or subjective partiality when I assert that we need to undertake exercises in order to carry further the historical movement that has brought humanity to its present standpoint. Anyone who knows the course of history up to the present, and knows how it must continue, stands consciously within the whole historical process, and to this consciousness he adds the insight acquired by taking — inwardly, not outwardly — the spirit of modern science into the constitution of his soul.

Thus one may well say: Anthroposophy knows its position in respect to the science of to-day. It knows this in an absolute sense, because it knows the special character of contemporary science and rejects all that is dilettantish and amateurish. It builds further on genuine science. On the other hand, Anthroposophy knows the historical necessities; knows that man's path must go beyond present achievements — if we do not wish to stand still, unlike all our forerunners, who wanted to advance beyond the stage of civilisation in which they shared. We, too, must go forward. And we must know what steps to take from the present standpoint of the scientific spirit.

In the next few days I shall have to depict what this actually involves. The foundations I have laid to-day will then appear, perhaps, in a more understandable form. But I may have been able to show that Anthroposophy knows from its scientific attitude — from an attitude as scientific as that of science — what its aims are in face of the contemporary world, of human evolution as a whole, and of the separate sciences. It will get to work because it knows how it has to work. Perhaps its path will be very long. If, on the other hand, one sees, in the subconscious depths of human souls, the deep longings for the heights that Anthroposophy would climb, one may surmise that it is necessary for the welfare of humanity that the path Anthroposophy has to take should not be too slow. But whether the pace be slow or fast may be less important for Anthroposophy than for human progress. In many domains we speak of being caught up in the “rapid tempo” of our time. May all that mankind is intended to attain by cognition of the super-sensible be attained as rapidly as the welfare of mankind requires.

Translated by V. C. Bennie.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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