Preface to the First Edition, 1901
What I discuss in this work previously formed the content of lectures which
I gave in the course of the past winter at the theosophical library in
Berlin. I had been invited by Count and Countess Brockdorff to talk on
mysticism before an audience to whom the things dealt with in this
connection are a vital question of great importance. Ten years ago I
would not yet have dared to comply with such a wish. This must not be taken to
mean that the world of ideas to which I give expression today was not alive
in me at that time. This world of ideas is already wholly contained in my
Philosophie der Freiheit,
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, (Berlin, 1894).
But in order so
to express this world of ideas as I do today, and thus to
make it the basis of a discussion as is done in this work, something is
needed in addition to an unshakeable conviction of its conceptual truth.
This requires an intimate familiarity with this world of ideas, such as can
only be attained in the course of many years of one's life. Only now, after
I have acquired this familiarity, do I dare to speak in the way which one
will discover in this work.
He who does not encounter my world of ideas with an open
mind will discover contradiction upon contradiction in it. Only
recently have I dedicated a book on the philosophies of the nineteenth
century (Berlin, 1900) to the great scientist Ernst Haeckel, a book which I
terminated with a justification of his ideas. In the following expositions I
speak with assenting devotion about the mystics from Meister Eckhart to
Angelus Silesius. Of other contradictions which someone or other might
enumerate, I shall not speak at all. I am not surprised if I am condemned
by one side as a mystic, by the other as a materialist. If I find
that the Jesuit priest
has solved a difficult chemical problem, and if I
therefore agree with him without reservations in this matter,
one can hardly condemn me as an adherent of Jesuitism without being
considered a fool by the judicious.
One who like myself goes his own way is bound to be exposed to many
misunderstandings. But fundamentally he can bear this easily. Such
misunderstandings are generally self-evident for him when he considers the
mental make-up of his critics. It is not without humorous feelings that I
look back upon many a critical judgment I have received in the course of
my career as a writer. At the beginning everything went well. I wrote about
Goethe and in connection with him. What I said sounded to many as though
they could fit it into their preconceived notions. This was done by saying,
A work such as Rudolf Steiner's introductions to the scientific writings of
Goethe can be described honestly as the best that has been written on this
question. When later I published an independent work I had already become
much more stupid. For now a benevolent critic gave the following advice:
Before he continues to reform and brings his
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity
into the world, one must urgently advise him first to penetrate to
an understanding of those two philosophers
Kant). The critic
unfortunately knows only what he can manage to read in Kant and Hume; thus
he really only advises me to see nothing in these thinkers beyond what he
sees. When I shall have achieved this he will be satisfied with me.
Philosophie der Freiheit
appeared I was in need of being judged like the
most ignorant beginner. This judgment I received from a gentleman whom
hardly anything forces to write books except the fact that there are
innumerable volumes by others, which he has not understood. He informs me
with much thoughtfulness that I would have noticed my mistakes if I had
pursued deeper psychological, logical, and epistemological studies; and he
immediately enumerates for me all the books which I should read in order to
become as clever as he: Mill, Sigwart, Wundt, Riehl, Paulsen, B. Erdmann.
Especially diverting for me was the advice of a man who is so impressed by
the way he understands Kant that he cannot even imagine someone's having
read Kant and nevertheless having an opinion different from his. He
therefore indicates to me the chapters in question in Kant's writings from
which I might acquire an under standing of Kant as profound as his own.
I have here adduced a few typical
judgments concerning my world of ideas.
Although they are insignificant in themselves they appear to me to be well
suited to indicate symptomatically certain facts which today constitute
serious obstacles in the path of one who writes on questions of higher
cognition. I must go my way, no matter whether one gives me the good advice
to read Kant, or whether another accuses me of heresy because I agree with
Haeckel. And so I have written about mysticism without caring what the
judgments of a credulous materialist may be. I would only like, so that no
printer's ink is quite needlessly wasted, to inform those who may now
perhaps advise me to read
Welträtsel, The Riddle of the Universe,
that in the last months I have given about thirty lectures on this book.
I hope to have shown in my work that one can be a faithful follower of the
scientific philosophy and still seek out the paths to the soul
into which mysticism, properly understood, leads.
I go even further and affirm: Only
one who understands the spirit in the sense of true
mysticism can attain a
full understanding of facts in the realm of nature. One must only beware of
confusing true mysticism with the mysticism of muddled heads. How
mysticism can err I have shown in my Philosophie der Freiheit.
Berlin, September, 1901