24 February 1924
TO ALL MEMBERS • VI
The Quest for Knowledge and the Will for Self-Discipline*
In the Anthroposophical
Society men draw nearer to one another than they would do in other
spheres of life. Their common interest in the spiritual life of the
world unlocks their souls. The inner experiences one man undergoes in
the course of his spiritual striving are full of living interest to
another. A man becomes communicative when he knows that his
fellow-man will be attentive and full of sympathy for the inmost
things which stir him.
it naturally comes about that members of the Society observe other
things in one another ― and in a different way ― than men
do generally. But this at the same time involves a certain danger. We
learn to value one another when we meet in this way; we delight in
the revelation of the inner life of our fellow-man. The loveliest
influences of friendship and friendly intercourse unfold quickly
under these conditions. But the same influences may intensify to an
overweening and uncritical enthusiasm. This, with all its weaknesses,
ought not merely to be met by cold and pedantic indifference, or by
the superior attitude of the ‘man of the world’.
Unbridled enthusiasm, when it has worked its way through many
difficulties to a harmonious balance of soul, opens up the Spirit far
more readily than placid equilibrium which passes stiff and unmoved
by all that is great in life.
it may easily happen that those who quickly draw near to one another
no less quickly fall apart again. When one has learned to know one's
fellow-man more fully, since he was unreserved and open, one soon
begins to see his weaknesses, and then ― negative enthusiasm
may ensue. In the Anthroposophical Society this danger is perpetually
lurking in the background, and to counteract it is one of the tasks
of the Society as such. He who would be a true member should strive
in the deepest places of his soul for inner tolerance towards his
fellow-men. To understand one's fellow-man ― even where he
thinks and does things which one would not like to think and do
oneself ― this should be the ideal.
need not mean an uncritical attitude to weaknesses and faults. To
understand is not to make oneself blind. To a human being whom we
love, we may speak of his faults and mistakes. In many cases he will
feel it as the greatest service of friendship, whereas ― if we
lay down the law about him with cold indifference of judgment ―
he recoils from our lack of understanding and consoles himself with
feelings of hatred which begin to stir in him against his critic.
many respects it would become disastrous for the Anthroposophical
Society if the intolerance of other men and failure to understand
them ― so widely dominant in the outer world today ― were
carried into it. Within the Society, such qualities grow in intensity
through the very fact that men come nearer to one another.
matters indicate most pointedly how the more vital quest of knowledge
in the Anthroposophical Society must be accompanied by the unceasing
endeavour to ennoble and purify the life of feeling. An intensified
search for knowledge deepens the life of the soul and reaches down
into those regions where pride, conceit, lack of sympathy with
others, and many qualities besides, are lurking. A lesser quest of
knowledge enters these regions only to a slight extent and leaves
them slumbering in the deep places of the soul. But a life in
knowledge that is keen and vital stirs them from their slumbers;
habits which kept them under lose their power to do so. A spiritual
ideal may well awaken qualities of soul which would have remained
unmanifest without it. The Anthroposophical Society should be there
to counteract, by cultivating nobility and purity of feeling, the
dangers that are lurking in these quarters. There are indeed, in
human nature, instincts which instill the fear of knowledge into man,
for the very reason that these connections are felt to exist. But a
man who would refrain from cultivating the impulse to knowledge lest
it should stir up the uglier feelings in him, fails to develop the
fullness of true manhood. It is humanly unworthy to cripple our
insight into life because we fear weakness of character. To cultivate
the impulse to knowledge and combine it at the same time with another
striving ― the will to self-discipline ― this alone is
worthy of humanity.
enables us to do this. We need only perceive and reach the inherent
vitality of its thoughts; for by their living quality the thoughts of
Anthroposophy beget power of will, warmth and sensitiveness of
feeling. It only depends on the individual whether he merely thinks
Anthroposophy or makes it living experience.
it will depend on the members who come forward actively, whether
their way of representing Anthroposophy is only able to suggest
thoughts, or to kindle the real spark of life.
* The asterisk denotes a title given by Frau Marie Steiner.