In the following there is
given again, in all its essential points, what stood as a kind of preface to
the first edition of this book. Since it gives more the mood of thought out
of which I wrote the book twenty-five years ago than the book's
content, I bring it here as an “appendix.” I do not want to leave
it out entirely, for the reason that the view always comes upon again that
because of my later spiritual-scientific writings I have something to
suppress in my earlier writings.
Our age can
wish to draw the truth only out of the depths of man's being.*
Of Schiller's well-known two ways, the second will especially benefit
the present day:
we both are seeking, you in the life without,
I within the heart, and so each finds it surely.
Is the eye healthy, it meets the creator without;
Is the heart so, it surely mirrors the world within.
A truth which comes to us from outside
always bears the stamp of uncertainty about it. What appears to each one of
us within his own inner life as truth, in this only do we want to
out here are only the very first introductory sentences (of the first
edition) of these considerations which seem to me today completely
unessential. But the rest of what is said seems to me necessary, even now, in
spite of the scientific mode of thought of our contemporaries, nay precisely
because of it.
Only the truth
can bring us certainty in the developing of our individual powers. Whoever is
tormented by doubts, his powers are lamed. In a world which is a riddle to
him, he can find no goal for his activity.
We no longer
want merely to believe; we want to know. Faith demands the
acceptance of truths about which we do not have full insight. That about
which we do not have full insight, however, goes against what is individual,
which wants to experience everything with its deepest inner life. Only that
knowing satisfies us which submits to no outer norm, but rather
springs from the inner life of the personality.
We also do not
want any kind of knowing that has become frozen once and for all into rigid
academic formulations and preserved in compendia valid for all time. We
consider ourselves, each one, justified in taking our starting point from our
immediate experiences, from what we live through directly and in ascending
from there to knowledge of the whole universe. We are striving for a sure
knowing, but each in his own way.
teachings should also no longer be formulated as though we were
unconditionally compelled to accept them. No one would want to give a
scientific work a title like Fichte once did: “A Crystal-clear Report
to the Wider Public on the Actual Nature of the Newest Philosophy.
An Attempt to Compel Readers to Understand.”
Today, no one should be compelled to understand.
If no definite individual need moves a person
toward a certain view, we demand neither that he recognize nor agree with it.
Today we do not want to funnel knowledge even into the still immature human
being, the child, but rather we seek to develop his capacities so that he no
longer needs to be compelled to understand, but rather wants to
I am under no
illusions with respect to this characteristic of my times. I know how alive
and extensive the tendency is to be stereotyped and without individuality.
But I know just as well that many of my contemporaries are seeking to conduct
their life in the sense and direction I have indicated. I would like to
dedicate this book to them. It is not meant to be “the only
possible” way to the truth, but it is meant to tell of that way which
one person has taken, whose concern is for the truth.
leads at first into more abstract regions, where thought must draw sharp
outlines in order to reach sure points. But the reader will be led out of
these dry concepts into concrete life also. I am altogether of the view that
one must lift oneself also into the ethereal realm of concepts, if one wants
to experience existence in all directions. Whoever knows only how to enjoy
with his senses does not know the real delicacies of life. Oriental sages
make their pupils lead lives of renunciation and asceticism for years before
they communicate what they themselves know. The West no longer demands for
science any devout exercises or asceticism, but it does require, instead of
these, the good will to withdraw oneself for a short time from the immediate
impressions of life, and to betake oneself into the realm of the world of
The realms of
life are many. For each of these, particular sciences evolve. But life itself
is a unity, and the more the sciences strive to deepen themselves in the
individual realms, the more they distance themselves from a view of the
living wholeness of the world. There must be a knowledge which seeks within
the individual sciences the elements needed to lead man back again into full
life. The scientific researcher in a particular field wants to acquire
through his knowledge a consciousness of the world and its workings; in this
book the goal is a philosophical one: the science itself is meant to become
organically living. The individual sciences are preparatory stages of the
science striven for here. A similar relationship holds sway in the arts. The
composer works on the basis of the theory of composition. This last is a sum
of knowledge whose acquirement is a necessary prerequisite for composing
music. In composing, the laws of composition serve life, serve actual
reality. In exactly the same sense philosophy is an art. All real
philosophers were artists in concepts. For them human ideas become the
artistic medium and the scientific method became the artistic technique.
Abstract thinking thereby gains concrete individual life. Ideas become powers
of life. We have the not merely a knowing about things, but rather we have
made knowing into a real self-governing organism; our actual active
consciousness has lifted itself above a merely passive taking up of
as an art relates itself to the inner freedom of man, what inner
freedom is, and whether we partake in it or can become partakers in it: that
is the main question of my book. All other scientific discussions are
included here only because they ultimately shed light on those questions
which, in my view, concern the human being most immediately. A
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity
(Freiheit) is meant to be given in these pages.
would only be the satisfying of idle curiosity, if it did not strive toward
raising the value of existence of the human personality. The sciences
first acquire their true value through presenting the human significance of
their results. The ennobling of one single soul faculty cannot be the end of
all the abilities that slumber within us. Knowledge has value only through
the fact that it contributes to the all-around unfolding of the
whole nature of man.
This book does
not therefore consider the relationship between science and life to be such
that man has to bow down to the idea and dedicate his forces to its service,
but rather in the sense that man takes possession of the world of ideas in
order to use them for his human goals which transcend merely
One must be
able to confront the idea, experiencing it; otherwise one falls into
bondage to it.