REVISED INTRODUCTION TO THE
EDITION OF 1894
following chapter reproduces, in all essentials, the pages which
stood as a sort of “Introduction” in the first edition of
this book. Inasmuch as it rather reflects the mood of thought out of
which I composed this book twenty-five years ago, than has any direct
bearing on its contents, I print it here as an “Appendix.”
I do not want to omit it altogether, because the suggestion keeps
cropping up that I want to suppress some of my earlier writings on
account of my later works on the Science of Spirit.
Our age is one which is
willing to seek truth nowhere but out of the depths of human nature.
[Only the very first opening
sentences (in the first edition) of this argument have been
altogether omitted here, because they seem to me to-day wholly
irrelevant. But the rest of the chapter seems to me even to-day
relevant and necessary, in spite, nay, because, of the natural
scientific manner of thinking of our contemporaries.] Of the
following two well-known paths described by Schiller, it is the
second which to-day will be found most useful:
Wahrheit suchen wir beide, du aussen im Leben, ich innen
In dem Herzen, und so findet sie jeder gewiss.
Ist das Auge gesund, so begegnet es aussen dem Schöpfer;
Ist es das Herz, dann gewiss spiegelt es innen die Welt.
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.
E. BULWER LYTTON.
A truth which comes to
us from without bears ever the stamp of uncertainty.
Conviction attaches only to what appears as truth to each of us in
our own hearts.
Truth alone can give us
confidence in developing our individual powers. He who is tortured by
doubts finds his powers lamed. In a world the riddle of which baffles
him, he can find no aim for his activity.
We no longer want to
believe; we want to know. Belief demands the acceptance of
truths which we do not wholly comprehend. But the individuality which
seeks to experience everything in the depths of its own being, is
repelled by what it cannot wholly look through. Only that knowledge
will satisfy us which springs from the inner life of the personality,
and submits itself to no external norm.
Again, we do not want
any knowledge which has encased itself once and for all in frozen
formulas, and which is preserved in encyclopædias valid for all
time. Each of us claims the right to start from the facts that lie
nearest to hand, from his own immediate experiences, and thence to
ascend to a knowledge of the whole universe. We strive after
certainty in knowledge, but each in his own way.
theories, too, are no longer to be formulated as if we were
unconditionally compelled to accept them. None of us would wish to
give a scientific work a title like Fichte's A Pellucid Account
for the General Public concerning the Real Nature of the Newest
Philosophy. An Attempt to Compel the Readers to Understand. Nowadays
there is no attempt to compel anyone to understand. We claim no
acknowledgment or agreement from anyone who is not driven to a
certain view by his own needs. We do not seek nowadays to cram facts
of knowledge even into the immature human being, the child. We seek
rather to develop his faculties in such a way that his understanding
may depend no longer on our compulsion, but on his will.
I am under no illusion
concerning these characteristics of the present age. I know
how much of a stereotypical attitude which lacks all individuality is
prevalent everywhere. But I know also that many of my contemporaries
strive to order their lives in the direction I have indicated. To
them I would dedicate this book. It does not pretend to offer the
“only possible” way to Truth, it describes the path
chosen by one whose heart is set upon Truth.
The reader will be led
at first into somewhat abstract regions, where thought must draw
sharp outlines, if it is to reach secure conclusions. But he will
also be led out of these arid concepts into concrete life. I am fully
convinced that one cannot do without soaring into the ethereal realm
of concepts, if one's experience is to penetrate life in all
directions. He who is limited to the pleasures of the senses misses
the sweetest enjoyments of life. The Oriental sages make their
disciples live for years a life of resignation and asceticism before
they impart to them their own wisdom. The Western world no longer
demands pious exercises and ascetic practices as a preparation for
science, but it does require a sincere willingness to withdraw
oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life, and to betake
oneself into the realm of pure thought.
The spheres of life are
many, and for each there develop special sciences. But life itself is
one, and the more the sciences strive to penetrate deeply into their
separate spheres, the more they withdraw themselves from the vision
of the world as a living whole. There must be one supreme knowledge
which seeks in the separate sciences the elements for leading man
back once more to the fullness of life. The scientific specialist
seeks in his studies to gain a knowledge of the world
and its workings. This book has a philosophical aim: science itself
is here infused with organic life. The special sciences are stages on
the way to the science intended here. A similar relation is found in
the arts. The composer in his work employs the rules of the theory of
composition. This latter is an accumulation of principles, knowledge
of which is a necessary presupposition for composing. In the act of
composing, the rules of theory become the servants of life, of
reality. In exactly the same way philosophy is an art. All genuine
philosophers have been artists in concepts. Human Ideas have been the
material of their art, and scientific method their artistic
technique. Abstract thinking thus gains concrete individual life.
Ideas turn into life-forces. We have no longer merely a knowledge
about things, but we have now made knowledge a real self-determining
organism. Our consciousness, real and active, has risen beyond a mere
passive reception of truths.
How philosophy, as an
art, is related to freedom; what freedom is; and whether we do, or
can, participate in it — this is the principal problem of my
book. All other scientific discussions are put in only because they
ultimately throw light on these questions which are, in my opinion,
the most immediate concern of mankind. These pages offer a
“Philosophy of Freedom.”
All science would be
nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity did it not strive to
enhance the existential value of human personality. The true value of
the sciences is reached only by showing the human range of their
results. The final aim of an individual can never be the cultivation
of any single faculty, but only the development of all capacities
which slumber within us. Knowledge has value only in so far as it
contributes to the all-round unfolding of the whole nature of man.
This book, therefore,
does not conceive the relation between science and life in such a way
that man must bow down before the Idea and devote his powers
to its service. On the contrary, it shows that he takes possession of
the world of Ideas in order to use them for his human aims, which
transcend those of mere science.
Man must be able to
confront the Idea and experience it; or else he will fall into its