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On The Art of Lecturing

Schmidt Number: S-4630

On-line since: 15th April, 2010

ON THE ART OF LECTURING

by RUDOLF STEINER

Historical viewpoints concerning the Threefold Order and the development of speech. Beautiful speaking, correct speaking, and good speaking.

LECTURE II:

When we set out today to speak about Anthroposophy and the Threefold Movement with its various consequences — which indeed arise out of Anthroposophy, and must really be thought of as arising out of it, — then we must first of all hold before our souls that it is difficult to make oneself understood. And, without this feeling — that it is difficult to make oneself understood — we shall hardly be able to succeed as lecturers for anthroposophical Spiritual Science and all that is connected with it, in a way satisfying to ourselves. For if there is to be speaking about Anthroposophy which is appropriate, then this speaking must be entirely different from what one is accustomed to in accordance with the traditions of speaking. One has often fallen into the habit of speaking also about anthroposophical matters in the way one has become used to speaking in the age of materialism; but one is more apt thereby to obstruct the understanding for Anthroposophy, rather than to open up an approach to it.

We shall first of all have to make quite clear to ourselves what the content of the matter is that comes towards us in Anthroposophy and its consequences. And in these lectures I shall deal as I said yesterday, with the practice of lecturing, but only for anthroposophical and related matters, so that what I have to say applies only to these.

We must now make clear to ourselves that primarily it is the feeling for the central issue of the threefold order that must at first be stirred in our present humanity. It must after all be assumed that an audience of today does not begin to know what to do with the concept of the threefold order. Our speaking must slowly lead to the imparting first of a feeling for this threefold order in the audience.

During the time in which materialism has held sway, one has become accustomed to give expression to the things of the outer world through description. In this one had a kind of guidance in the outer world itself. Moreover, objects in the outer world are, I would say, too fixed for one to believe that, in the end, it makes much difference how one speaks about the things of the outer world; one need only give people some guidance on the way for perceiving this outer world. Then, in the end it comes to this: if, let us say, one delivers somewhere a popular lecture with experiments, and thereby demonstrates to people how this or that substance reacts in a retort, then they see how the substance reacts in the retort. And whether one then lectures this way or that way — a bit better, a bit less well, a hit more relevantly, a hit less relevantly — in the end makes no difference. And gradually it has tended to come to the point that such lectures and such talks are attended in order to see the experimenting, and what is spoken is just taken along as a kind of more or less agreeable or disagreeable side noise. One must express these things somewhat radically, just in order to show the exact direction in which civilization is moving in regard to these things.

When it is a matter of what to stimulate in people for doing, for willing, one is of the opinion that one must just “set up ideals”. People would have to accustom themselves to “apprehend ideals”, and thus one gradually glides more and more over into the utopian, when it is a matter of such things as the threefold order of the social organism.

So it has also happened in many an instance that many people who lecture about the threefold idea today absolutely call forth the opinion, through the manner in which they speak, that it is some utopia or other that should be striven for. And, since one is always of the opinion that what should be striven for in most cases cannot be expected to come in less than fifty or a hundred years — or many extend the time even further — so one also allows oneself, quite unconsciously, to approach speaking about things as if they would first ripen in fifty or a hundred years. One glides away from the reality very soon, and then talks about it thus: How will a small shop be set up in the threefold social organism? What will be the relation of the single person to the sewing machine in the threefold social organism? — and so on. Such questions are really put in abundance to any endeavor such as the threefolding of the social organism. As regards such an endeavor, which with all of its roots comes out of reality, one should not at all speak in this utopian fashion. For one should always evoke at least this feeling: the threefold order of the social organism is nothing which can be "made" in the sense that state constitutions can be made in a parliament — of the kind for example, that the Weimar National Assembly was. These are made! But one cannot speak in the same sense of making the threefold social organism.

Just as little can one speak of "organizing" in order to produce the threefold order. That which is an organism, this one does not organize; this grows. It is just in the nature of an organism that one does not have to organize it, that it organizes itself. That which can be organized is no organism. We must approach things from the start with these feelings, otherwise we shall not have the possibility of finding the appropriate expression.

The threefold order is something which indeed simply follows from the natural living together of people. One can falsify this natural living together of people — as has been the case, for example, in recent history — by extending the characteristic features of one member, the states-rights member, to both others. Then these two other members will simply become corrupted because they cannot prosper, just as someone cannot get on well in an unsuitable garment, that is too heavy, or the like.

It is in the natural relation of people that the threefold order of the social organism lives, that the independent spiritual life lives, that the rights or states life, regulated by the people's majority, lives, that the economic life, shaped solely out of itself, also lives. One can put strait jackets on the spiritual life, on the economic life, although one does not need them; but then its own life asserts itself continually nevertheless, and what we then experience outwardly is just this self-assertion. It is hence necessary to show that the threefolding of the social organism is implicit in the very nature of both the human being and the social life.

We see that the spiritual life in Europe was entirely independent and free until the 13th or 14th centuries, when, what was the free, independent spiritual life was first pushed into the universities. In this time you find the founding of the universities, and the universities then in turn slip by and by into the life of state. So that one can say: From about the 13th to the 16th or 17th century, the universities slip into the states-life, and with the universities, also the remaining educational institutions, without people really noticing it. These other institutions simply followed. This we have on the one hand.

On the other hand, until about the same period, we have free economic rule that found its true, middle-European expression in the free economic village communities. As the free spiritual life slipped into the universities, which are localized at first, and which later find shelter in the state, so does that which is the economic organization first receive a certain administration in the “rights” sense, when the cities emerge more and more. Then the cities, in the first place, organize this economic life, while earlier, when the village communities were setting the pace, it had grown freely. And then we see how increasingly, that which was centralized in the cities seeks protection in the larger territories of the states. Thus we see how the tendency of modern times ends in letting the spiritual life on the one hand, the economic life on the other, seek the protection of states which increasingly take on the character of domains constituted according to Roman law. This was actually the development in modern times.

We have reached that point in historical development where things can go no further like this, where a sense and a feeling for free spiritual life must once again be developed. When in a strait jacket, the spirit simply does not advance; because it only apparently advances, but in truth still remains behind — can never celebrate real births, but at most renaissances. It is just the same with the economic life.

Today we simply stand in the age in which we must absolutely reverse the movement which has developed in the civilized world of Europe with its American annex, the age in which the opposite direction must set in. For what has gone on developing for a time must reach a point at which something new must set in. Otherwise one runs into the danger of doing as one would when, with a growing plant, one were to say it should not be allowed to come to fruition, it should grow further, it should keep blooming on and on. — Then it would grow thus: bring forth a flower; then no seed, but again a flower, again a flower, and so on. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to familiarize oneself inwardly with these things, and to develop a feeling for the historical turning point at which we stand today.

But, just as in an organism every detail is necessarily formed as it is, so is everything in the world in which we live and which we help to shape, to be formed as it must be in its place in the sense of the whole. You cannot imagine, if you think realistically, that your ear lobe could be formed the very least bit differently from what it is, in conformity with your whole organism. Were your ear lobe only the least bit differently formed, then you would also have to have quite a different nose, different fingertips, and so forth. And just as the ear lobe is formed in the sense of the whole human being, so must also the lecture in which something flows be given — in the sense of the whole subject — that lecturing which is truly taking on new forms.

Such a lecture cannot be delivered in the manner which one could perhaps learn from the sermon-lecture. For the sermon-lecture as we still have it today, rests on the tradition which really goes back to the old Orient, — on a special attitude which the whole human being in the old Orient had toward speech. This characteristic was continued, so that it lived in a certain free way in Greece, lived in Rome, and shows its last spark most clearly in the particular relationship which the Frenchman has to his language. Not that I want to imply that every Frenchman preaches when he speaks; but a similar relationship, such as had to develop out of the oriental relationship to language still continues to live on in a definite way in the French handling of speech, only entirely in a declining movement.

This element which we can observe here in regard to language came to expression when one still learned speaking from the professors, as one could later, but now in the declining phase — professors who really continued to live on as mummies of ancient times and bore the title, “professor of elocution”. In former times, at almost every university, in every school, also in seminaries and so on there was such a professor of elocution, of rhetoric. The renowned Curtius [Note 1] of Berlin actually still bore the title “professor of elocution” officially. But the whole affair became too dull for him, and he did not lecture on elocution, but only demonstrated himself as a professor of elocution through being sent out by the faculty council on ceremonial occasions, since that was always the task of the professor of elocution. Nevertheless, in this Curtius made it his business to discharge his duties at such ceremonial occasions by paying as little regard as possible to the ancient rules of eloquence. For the rest, it was too dull for him to be a professor of elocution in times in which professors of elocution did not fit in any more, and he lectured on art history, on the history of Greek art. But in the university catalog he was listed as “professor of elocution”. This refers us back to an element that was present everywhere in speech in olden times.

Now, when we consider what is quite especially characteristic in the training of speech for the middle European languages, for German, for example, then indeed everything denoted in the original sense by the word “elocution” has not the least meaning. For something flowed into these languages that is entirely different from that which was peculiar to speaking in the times when elocution had to be taken seriously. In the Greek and Latin languages there is elocution. In the German language elocution is something quite impossible, when one looks inwardly at the essential.

Today, however, we are living definitely in a time of transition. That which was the speech element of the German language cannot continue to be used. Every attempt must be made to come out of this speech element and to come into a different speech element. This also is the task, in a certain sense, to be solved by him who would speak productively about Anthroposophy or the threefold idea. For only when a fairly large number of people are able to speak in this way, will Anthroposophy and the threefold idea be rightly understood in public, even in single lectures. Meanwhile, there are not a few who develop only a pseudo-understanding and pseudo-avowal for these.

If we look back on the special element in regard to speaking which was present in the times out of which the handling of elocution was preserved, we must say: then it was as if language grew out of the human being in quite a naive way, as his fingers grow, as his second teeth grow. From the imitation process speaking resulted, and language with its whole organization. And only after one had language did one come to the use of thinking.

And now it transpired that the human being when speaking to others about any problem had to see that the inner experience, the thought experience, to a certain extent clicked [einschnappte] into the language. The sentence structure was there. It was in a certain way elastic and flexible. And, more inward than the language was the thought element. One experienced the thought element as something more inward than the language, and let it click into the language, so that it fitted into it just as one fits the idea of a statue or the like into marble. It was entirely an artistic treatment of the language. Even the way in which one was meant to speak in prose had something similar to the way in which one was to express oneself in poetry. Rhetoric and elocution had rules which were not at all unlike the rules of poetic expression. (So as not to be misunderstood, I should like to insert here that the development of language does not exclude poetry. What I now say, I say for older arts of expression, and I beg you not to interpret it as if I wanted to assert that there can be no more poetry at all today. We need but treat the language differently in poetry. But that does not belong here; I wanted to insert this only in parenthesis, that I might not be misunderstood.)

And when we now ask: How was one then supposed to speak in the time in which the thought and feeling content clicked into the language? One was supposed to speak beautifully! That was the first task: to speak beautifully. Hence, one can really only learn to speak beautifully today when one immerses oneself in the old way of speaking. There was beautiful speaking. And speaking beautifully is definitely a gift which comes to man from the Orient. It might be said: There was speaking beautifully to the point that one really regarded singing, the singing of language, as the ideal of speaking. Preaching is only a form of beautiful speaking stripped of much of the beautiful speaking. For, wholly beautiful speaking is cultic speaking. When cultic speaking pours itself into a sermon, then much is lost. But still, the sermon is a daughter of the beautiful speaking found in the cult.

The second form which has come into evidence, especially in German and in similar languages, is that in which it is no longer possible to distinguish properly between the word and the grasping of the thought conveyed — the word and the thought experience; the word has become abstract, so that it exempts itself, like a kind of thought. It is the element where the understanding for language itself is stripped off. It can no longer have something click into it, because one feels at the very outset that what is to be clicked in and the word vehicle into which something is to click are one.

For who today is clear, for example in German, when he writes down “Begriff” [concept], that this is the noun form of begreifen [to grasp; to comprehend] be-greifen (greifen with a prefix) is thus das Greifen an etwas ausfuehren [the carrying out of the grasping of something] — that “Begriff” is thus nothing other than the noun form for objective perceiving? The concept “Begriff” was formed at a time when there was still a living perception of the ether body, which grasps things. Therefore one could then truly form the concept of Begriff, because grasping with the physical body is merely an image of grasping with the ether body.

But, in order to hear Begreifen in the word Begriff it is necessary to feel speech as an organism of one's own. In the element of speaking which I am now giving an account of, language and concept always swim through one another. There is not at all that sharp separation which was once present in the Orient, where the language was an organism, was more external, and that which declared itself lived inwardly. What lived inwardly had to click into the linguistic form in speaking; that is, click in so that what lives inwardly is the content, and that into which it clicked was the outer form. And this clicking-in had to happen in the sense of the beautiful, so that one was thus a true speech artist when one wanted to speak.

This is no longer the case when, for example, one has no feeling any more for differentiating between Gehen [to go] and Laufen [to run] in relation to language as such. Gehen: two e's — one walks thither without straining oneself thereby; e is always the feeling expression for the slight participation one has in one's own activity. If there is an au in the word, this participation is enhanced. From running (Laufen) comes panting (Schnaufen) which has the same vowel sound in it. With this one's insides come into tumult. There must be a sound there that intimates this modification of the inner being. But all this is indeed no longer there today; language has become abstract. It is like our onward-flowing thoughts themselves — for the whole middle region, and especially also for the western region of civilization.

It is possible to behold a picture, an imagination in every single word; and one can live in this picture as in something relatively objective. He who faced language in earlier times considered it as something objective into which the subjective was poured. He would as little not have regarded it so, as he would have lost sight of the fact that his coat is something objective, and is not grown together with his body as another skin.

As against this, the second stage of language takes the whole organism of language as another son' skin, whereas formerly language was much more loosely there, I should like to say, like a garment. I am speaking now of the stage of language in which speaking beautifully is no longer taken into first consideration, but rather speaking correctly. In this it is not a question of rhetoric and elocution, but of logic. With this stage, which has come up slowly since Aristotle's time, grammar itself became logical to the point that the logical forms were simply developed out of the grammatical forms — one abstracted the logical from the grammatical. Here all has swum together: thought and word. The sentence is that out of which one evolves the judgment. But the judgment is in truth so laid into the sentence that one no longer experiences it as inherently independent. Correct speaking, this has become the criterion.

Further, we see a new element in speaking arising, only used everywhere at the wrong point — carried over to a quite wrong domain. Beautiful speaking humanity owes to the Orient. Correct speaking lies in the middle region of civilization. And we must look to the West when seeking the third element.

But in the West it arises first of all quite corrupted. How does it arise? Well, in the first place, language has become abstract. That which is the word organism is already almost thought-organism. And this has gradually increased so much in the West, that there it would perhaps even be regarded as facetious to discuss such things. But, in a completely wrong domain, the advance already exists.

*    *    *

Humanism and pragmatism. The need for developing a true ethics of speaking.

You see, in America, just in the last third of the 19th century, a philosophical trend called “pragmatism” has appeared. In England it has been called “humanism.” James [Note 2] is its representative in America, Schiller [Note 3] in England. Then there are personalities who have already gone about extending these things somewhat. The merit of extending this concept of humanism in a very beautiful sense is due to Professor MacKenzie [Note 4] who was recently here.

To what do these endeavors lead? — I mean now, American pragmatism and English humanism. They arise from a complete skepticism about cognition: Truth is something that really doesn't exist! When we make two assertions, we actually make them fundamentally in order to have guide-points in life. To speak about an “atom” — one cannot raise any particular ground of truth for it; but it is useful to take the atom theory as a basis in chemistry; thus we set up the atom concept! It is serviceable, it is useful. There is no truth other than that which lives in useful, life-serviceable concepts. “God,” if he exists or not, this is not the question. Truth, that is something or other which is of no concern to us. But it is hard to live pleasantly if one does not set up the concept of God; it is really good to live, if one lives as if there were a God. So, let us set it up, because it's a serviceable, useful concept for life. Whether the earth began according to the Kant-Laplace theory and will end according to the mechanical warmth theory, from the standpoint of truth, no human being knows anything about this — I am now just simply reporting — , but it is useful for our thinking to represent the beginning and end of the earth in this way. This is the pragmatic teaching of James, and also in essence,the humanistic teaching of Schiller. Finally, it is also not known at all whether the human being now, proceeding from the standpoint of truth, really has a soul. That could be discussed to the end of the world, whether there is a soul or not, but it is useful to assume a soul if one wants to comprehend all that the human being carries out in life.

Of course, everything that appears today in our civilization in one place spreads to other places. For such things which arose instinctively in the West, the German had to find something more conceptual, that permits of being more easily seen through conceptually; and from this the “As If” philosophy originated: whether there is an atom or not is not the question; we consider the phenomena in such a way “as if” there was an atom. Whether the good can realize itself or not, cannot be decided; we consider life in such a way “as if” the good could realize itself. One could indeed quarrel to the end of the world about whether or not there is a God: but we consider life in such a way that we act “as if” there were a God. There you have the “As If” philosophy.

One pays little attention to these things because one imagines: there in America James sits with his pupils, there in England Schiller sits with his pupils; there is Vaihinger, who wrote the “As If” philosophy: there are a few owls who live in a kind of cloud-castle, and of what concern is it to other people!

Whoever has the ear for it, however, already hears the “As If” philosophy sounding everywhere today. Almost all human beings talk in the sense of the “As If” philosophy. The philosophers are only quite funny fellows. They always blab out what other people do unconsciously. If one is sufficiently unprejudiced for it, then one only seldom hears a human being today who still uses his words differently, in connection with his heart and with his whole soul, with his whole human being, who speaks differently than as though the matter were as he expresses it. One only does not usually have the ear to hear within the sound and the tone-color of the speaking that this “As If” lives in it, — that fundamentally people over the whole of civilization are seized by this “As If.”

Whereas things usually come to be corrupted at the end, here something shows itself to be corrupted at the beginning, something that in a higher sense must be developed for handling of speech in Anthroposophy, in the threefold order and so on. These things are so earnest, so important, that we really should speak specially about them. For it will be a question of elevating the triviality, “We need concepts because they are useful for life,” this triviality of a materialistic, utilitarian theory, of raising it up to the ethical, and perhaps through the ethical to the religious. For, if we want to work in the sense of Anthroposophy and the threefold order, we have before us the task of learning good speaking, in addition to the beautiful speaking and the correct speaking which we can acquire from history. We must maintain an ear for good speaking.

Until now, I have seen little sign that it has been noticed, when, in the course of my lectures I have called attention to this good speaking — I have done it very frequently. In referring to this good speaking I have always said that it is not only a question today that what is said be correct in the logical-abstract sense, but it is a matter of saying something in a certain connection or omitting it, not saying it in this connection. It is a question of developing a feeling that something should not only be correct, but that it is justified within its connection — that it can be either good in a certain connection or bad in a certain connection. Beyond rhetoric, beyond logic, we must learn a true ethics of speaking. We must know how we may allow ourselves things in a certain connection that would not be at all permitted in another connection.

Here I may now use an example close to hand, that could perhaps have already struck some of you who were present lately at the lectures: I spoke in a certain connection of the fact that, in reality, Goethe was not born at all. I said that Goethe for a long time endeavored to express himself through painting, through drawing, but that nothing came about from it. It then flowed over into his poetic works, and then again in the poetic works, as for example Iphigenia, or especially in Naturliche Tochter [“Daughters of Nature”], we have indeed poetic works not at all in the sentimental sense. People called these poems of Goethe's “marble smooth and marble cold,” because they are almost sculptural, because they are three-dimensional. Goethe had genuine capacities which really did not become human at all; he was actually not born. — You see, in that connection in which I spoke lately, one could quite certainly say it. But imagine, if someone were to represent it as a thesis in itself in the absolute sense! It would be not only illogical, it would be of course quite crazy.

To speak out of an awareness of a life connection is something different from finding the adequate or correct use of a word association for the thought and feeling involved. To let a pronouncement or the like arise at a particular place out of a living relationship, that is what leads over from beauty, from correctness, to the ethos of language — at which one feels, when a sentence is uttered, whether one may or may not say it in the whole context. But now, there is again an inward growing together, not with language, but with speaking. This is what I should like to call good speaking or had speaking; the third form. Aside from beautiful or ugly speaking, aside from correct or incorrect speaking, comes good or bad speaking, in the sense in which I have just presented it.

Today the view is still widespread that there can be sentences which one forms and which can then be spoken on any occasion, because they have absolute validity. In reality, for our life in the present, there are no longer such sentences. Every sentence that is possible in a certain connection, is today impossible in another connection. That means, we have entered upon an epoch of humanity's development in which we need to direct our view to this many-sidedness of living situations.

The Oriental who with his whole thinking lived within a small territory, also the Greek still, who with his spiritual life, with his rights life, with his economic life, lived on a small territory, poured something into his language that appears as a linguistic work of art must appear. How is it though in a work of art? It is such that a single finite object really appears infinite in a certain realm. In this way beauty was even defined, though one-sidedly, by Haeckel, Darwin and others: It is the appearance of the idea in a self-contained picture. — The first thing which I had to oppose in my Vienna lecture on “Goethe as the Father of a New Aesthetics,” was that the beautiful is “the appearance of the idea in outer form.” I showed then that one must mean just the reverse: that the beautiful arises when one gives to form the appearance of the infinite.

And so it is with language, which in a certain way also acts as a limited territory — as a territory which encloses the possible meaning within boundaries. If that which is actually infinite in the inner soul- and spirit-life is to click into this language, it must there come to expression in beautiful form.

In correct speaking the language must be adequate; the sentence must fit the judgment, the concept, the word. The Romans were compelled to this, especially as their territory became ever larger and larger; their language transformed itself from the beautiful into the logical. Hence the custom has been retained, of conveying logic to people precisely in the Latin language. (You have indeed learned logic quite well by it.)

But we are now once again beyond this stage. Now, it is necessary that we learn to experience language with ethos — that, to a certain extent we gain a kind of morality of speaking in our lecturing, while we know that we have in a certain context to allow ourselves something or to deny ourselves something. There, things do not click-in, in the way I described earlier, but here we make use of the word to characterize. All defining ceases; here we use the word to characterize. The word is so handled that one really feels each word as something insufficient, every sentence as something insufficient, and has the urge to characterize that which one wishes to place before humanity from the most varied aspects — to go around the matter to a certain extent, and to characterize it from the most varied aspects.

You see, for free spiritual life — that is to say spiritual life that exists out of its own laws — there is as yet not very much understanding in present-day humanity. For, mostly what is understood by free spiritual life is a structure in which people live, where each one crows his own cock-a-doodle-doo from his own dung heap — excuse the somewhat remarkable picture — and in which the most incredible consonances come about from the crowing. In reality, in free spiritual life, harmony comes about through and through, because the spirit, not the single egoists, lives — because the spirit can really lead its own life over and above the single egoists.

There is, for example, — one must already say these things today — a Waldorf School spirit definitely there for our Waldorf School in Stuttgart that is independent of the body of teachers, — into which the body of teachers grows, and in which it becomes ever more and more clear that possibly the one can be more capable or less capable, but the spirit has a life of its own.

It is an abstraction, which people today still represent to themselves, when they speak of “free spirit.” This is no reality at all. The free spirit is something that really lives among people — one must only let it come into existence; and what works among people — one must only let it come into existence.

What I have said to you today I have also said only so that what we are meant to gain here may proceed from fundamental feelings, from the feeling for the earnestness of the matter. I cannot, of course, suppose that every one will now go right out and, as those in olden times spoke beautifully, in the middle period correctly, now all will speak well! But you may not for this reason object: of what help, then, are all our lectures, if we are not at once able to speak in the sense of good speaking? — It is rather a matter of our really getting the feeling of the earnestness of the situation, which we are thus to live into, so that we know: what is wanted here is something in itself so organically whole, that a necessity of form must gradually express itself even in speech, just as a necessity of form expresses itself in the ear-lobe, such as cannot be otherwise depending on how the whole human being is.

Thus I shall try to bring still closer together what is for us the content of Anthroposophy and the threefold order with the way in which it should be presented to people. And, from the consideration of principles I shall come more and more into the concrete, and to that which should underlie the practice of lecturing.

I have often emphasized that this must be Anthroposophy's manner of presenting things. I have often emphasized that one should not indeed believe that one is able to find the adequate word, the adequate sentence; one can only conduct oneself as does a photographer who, in order to show a tree, takes at least four views.

Thus a conception that lives itself out in an abstract trivial philosophy such as pragmatism or humanism, must be raised up into the realm of the ethical. And then it must first of all live in the ethos of language. We must learn good speaking. That means that we must experience as regards speaking something of all that we otherwise experience in relation to ethics, moral philosophy.

After all, the matter has become quite clear in modern times. In the speaking of theosophists we have an archaism simply conditioned through the language — archaic, namely as regards the materialistic coloration of the last centuries: “physical body” — well, it is thick; “ether body” — it is thinner, more nebulous; “astral body” — once again thinner, but still only thinner; “I” — still thinner. Now, new members of the human being keep on coming up: they become even thinner. At last one no longer knows at all how one can reach this thinness, but in any case, it only becomes ever thinner and thinner. One does not escape the materialism. This is indeed also the hallmark of this theosophical literature. And it is always the hallmark that appears, when these things are to be spoken about, from theoretical speaking, to that which I once experienced within the Theosophical Society in Paris, (I believe it was in 1906). A lady there who was a real rock-solid theosophist, wanted to express how well she liked particular lectures which had been given in the hall in which we were; and she said: “There are such good vibrations here!” And one perceived from her that this was really thought of as something which one might sniff. Thus, the scents of the lectures which were left behind and which one could sniff out somehow, these were really meant.

We must learn to tear language away from adequacy. For it can be adequate only for the material. If we wish to use it for the spiritual, in the sense of the present epoch of development of humanity, then we must free it. Freedom must then come into the handling of language. If one does not take these things abstractly, but livingly, then the first thing into which the philosophy of freedom [spiritual activity] must come is in speaking, in the handling of language. For this is necessary; otherwise the transition will not be found, for example, to the characterization of the free spiritual life.

 

Notes:

Note 1. Ernst Curtius, 1814–1896, archeologist and historian.

Note 2. William James. 1842–1910, American philosopher.

Note 3. F. C. S. Schiller. 1864–1937. Representative of pragmatism in England which he combined with humanism.

Note 4. S. MacKenzie, born 1560. Professor in Cardiff.




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