In this Appendix is repeated, in all essentials, what served as a kind of
“Foreword” to the first edition of this book (1894). In this edition I place
it as an appendix because it conveys the kind of thoughts that occupied me
when I wrote the book twenty-five years ago, rather than having any direct
bearing on the content. It is not possible to omit it altogether, since the
opinion crops up, again and again, that because of my writings on the
science of the spirit, I have to suppress some of my earlier writings.
[Only the very first opening sentences (in the first edition)
are left out here, because to-day they seem to me to be quite irrelevant;
whereas to say the rest seems to me as necessary to-day as it did then,
despite the prevalent scientific trend of thought, and in fact just because
Our age is one in which truth th must be sought in the depths of human
nature. Of Schiller's two well-known paths, it will be the second that most
appeals to modern man:
“Truth seek we both — Thou in the life without thee and around;
I in the heart within. By both can Truth alike be found.
The healthy eye can through the world the great Creator track;
The healthy heart is but the glass which gives Creation back.”
“Wahrheit suchen wir beide, du aussen im Leben, ich innen
In dem Herzen, und so findet sie jeder dewiss.
Ist das Auge gesund, so begegnet es aussen dem Schopfer;
Is est das Herz, dann gewiss spiegelt es innen die Welt.”
(translated by E. Bulwer Lytton)
A truth which comes to us from outside always bears the stamp of
uncertainty. Only that truth which appears to us as coming from within
ourselves do we trust.
Only truth can bring us security in developing our individual powers. In
someone tormented by doubts, the powers are weakened. He can find no goal
for his creative powers in a world that appears to him as an enigma.
No longer do we merely want to believe; we want to know. Belief
demands acknowledgment of truths which are not quite clear to us. But what is
not clearly recognized goes against what is individual in us, which wants to
experience everything in the depth of its being. Only that kind of
knowing satisfies us which is not subjected to any external standard,
but springs from the inner experience of our personality.
Nor do we want a kind of knowledge which has become hardened into formulas
and is stored away, valid for all time. Each of us considers himself
justified in proceeding from his immediate experience, from the facts he
knows, and from there going forward to gain knowledge of the whole universe.
We strive for certainty in knowledge, but each in his own way.
Our scientific teachings, too, should no longer take a form that implies
their acceptance to be a compulsion. Today no one should give a scientific
work a title like that Fichte once gave a book: “A Pellucid Report for the
Broader Public concerning the Essential Nature of Recent Philosophies. An
Attempt to Compel the Reader to Understand.” To-day no one is to be
compelled to understand. We demand neither acceptance nor agreement from
anyone unless his own particular, individual need urges him to the view in
question. Today even the still immature human being, the child, should not
have knowledge crammed into him; rather we should seek to develop his
faculties so that he no longer needs to be compelled to understand, but
I am under no illusion concerning these characteristics of the present age.
I know how much of a stereotypical attitude, lacking all individuality, is
prevalent everywhere. But I also know that many of my contemporaries strive
to order their lives in the direction I have indicated. To them I would
dedicate this book. It is not meant to be the “only possible” way that leads
to truth, but it describes a path taken by one whose heart is set upon
This book at first leads the reader into abstract regions, where thought
must have sharp outlines if it is to reach secure conclusions. But the
reader is also led out of these arid concepts into concrete life. I am
convinced that one must raise oneself up into the ethereal realm of concepts
if one wants to experience existence in all its aspects. One understanding
only the pleasures of the senses, misses the essential enjoyments of life.
Oriental sages make their disciples live a life of resignation and
asceticism for years before they impart their own wisdom to them. The
Western world no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices as a
preparation for science, but it does require that one should have the good
will to withdraw occasionally from the immediate impressions of life and
enter the realm of pure thought.
The spheres of life are many, and for each of them special sciences develop.
But life itself is a whole, and the more the sciences strive to penetrate
into the depths of the separate spheres, the more they withdraw themselves
from seeing the world as a living unity. There must be a knowledge which
seeks in the separate sciences the principle that leads man back to the
fullness of life once more. Through his knowledge the researcher in a special
branch of science wants to become conscious of the world and how it works;
in this book the aim is a philosophical one: science itself must become a
living, organic entity. The various branches of science are preliminary
stages of the science striven for here. A similar relation is to be found in
art. The composer's work is based on the theory of composition. This latter
is a knowledge which is a necessary prerequisite for composing. In
composing, the law of composition serves life, that is, it serves true
reality. In exactly the same sense philosophy is an art. All genuine
philosophers have truly been artists in concepts. For them, human ideas
become the material for art, and the scientific method becomes artistic
technique. Abstract thinking thereby gains concrete, individual life. Ideas
become life-forces. We then have not just a knowledge of things, but we have
made knowledge into a real organism, ruled by its own laws; the reality of
our active consciousness has risen beyond a mere passive reception of
How philosophy as an art is related to human freedom (spiritual
activity), what freedom is, and whether we do or can participate in it, is the
principal problem dealt with in my book. All other scientific discussions
are included solely because they ultimately throw light on this question
which, in my opinion, is man's most immediate concern. These pages offer a
“Philosophy of Freedom.”
All science would be nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity if it did
not strive to elevate the value of existence of the human personality.
The sciences attain their true value only through presenting the
significance of their results in relation to man. The ultimate goal of the
individual cannot be the ennoblement of one single soul-faculty only, but a
development of all the capacities that slumber within us. All knowledge has
value only insofar as it is a contribution to the all-round unfolding of
man's entire nature.
Therefore, in this book the relation between science and life is not
regarded in the sense that man must bow down to ideas and let them enslave
him; rather the relation should be that man conquers the world of ideas in
order to make use of it for his human aims, which go beyond the aims of mere
One must be able to confront the idea in living experience, or else fall
into bondage to it.