Lecture 1
Stuttgart — March 16, 1921
The spiritual science that underlies this
course in anthroposophy, must fight for its validity in the
truest sense of the word. This can seem strange to one who
has become familiar with the motivating forces of this
anthroposophicallyoriented spiritual science, for it stands
solidly on a common ground with scientific and other cultural
demands of our time. It deals with all that is necessary and
basic for spiritual life in these times.
One can see,
however, that spiritual science must fight, if one takes into
consideration the many prejudices that exist at present.
Spiritual science is in some ways a natural adversary of
certain reactionary forces that remain and can be observed in
the souls of human beings of our time.
In these
lectures it will be my task to present to you in a direct and
scientific manner the significance of what we understand here
as spiritual science. I will gradually proceed from
relatively elementary things to a real knowledge of man from
the point of view of this anthroposophicallyoriented
spiritual science. I will take pains to introduce some
chapters and some special questions by speaking of the
methodology, and by the choice of special examples indicate
their significance.
Today in this
first lecture I would like to point out how presentday
scientific thinking has increasingly come to rely on the
experiment for its main support. In this regard presentday
scientific thinking stands in a certain polarity to older
kinds of knowledge acquisition, especially to those which
start from simply observing nature and the world as it
presents itself.
One can start
by observing the established facts of nature and the world,
or — as we often do today — by first creating the
conditions of an event and then, with the knowledge of these
conditions, observing a fact and being led by this to certain
scientific results. Along with this methodology, one can see
the tendency of this newer scientific thinking to observe the
entire field of natural science through mathematics, and with
these mathematical thoughts, arrive at mathematical results.
You all know the saying by Kant: In every individual science
there is only so much real knowledge as there is
mathematics.
It is thought
that in observation, as well as in experimentation,
mathematics must be introduced. Through this, one feels
oneself in a secure element, one feels in a position to have
an overview of a series of facts with the use of mathematical
formulas. This is a totally different relationship to
knowledge than when such facts are simply described in their
natural state. This feeling of certainty which one has in
treating knowledge mathematically, has been characteristic of
scientific thinking for a long time. One cannot say we have
today a really clear idea of the reasons why one feels so
certain and safe with the mathematical handling of the
natural world. A clear knowledge of the feeling of certainty
accompanying the use of mathematics will lead us to
acknowledge the necessity that a spiritual science must come
about with an equivalent degree of certainty.
This spiritual
science does not have to beg for acceptance from natural
science or any other special field. This spiritual science
will conform in every discipline to the scientific
conscientiousness of modern times; it will, in addition,
oppose all that is brought forward by modern science that is
suspect, and it will answer questions that often go
unanswered. Spiritual science will be on a very sure
mathematical foundation.
I only have to
ask a very simple question for you to see that this feeling
of certainty derived from the mathematical treatment of
certain subjects leads quickly to uncertainty. What would we
do with a science like history if in every science there were
only so much real knowledge as there is mathematics? How
shall we understand and get the facts straight in matters of
the human soul if we have to struggle to understand what
modern psychology, by the use of mathematics, has developed
in order also to secure certainty of understanding? One must
come to recognize that in this field it is not possible to
introduce mathematics into actual knowledge.
One of the
first questions that must occupy us is this: What is the
significance of this mathematical certainty in the context of
human cognition? It is in approaching an answer to this
question that we will be led to the justification for
spiritualscientific investigation. I have also said that the
newer science prefers the experiment, where one knows the
conditions of a process exactly, to outer observation where
the determining conditions are more hidden; even in the case
of psychology and also the field of education, attempts are
made to go over from mere observation to experiment. In
saying this, I must emphasize that spiritual science has
nothing against the correct use of experimentation in
psychology and education. The point I wish to call attention
to is this: What draws the scientists in these fields to
obtain knowledge by the use of experiment? In these areas we
can actually find reasons for the inclination toward the use
of experimentation. Let us therefore explore the transition
to experimentation in the fields of psychology and
education.
We can see how
until recently investigators in psychology and education have
carefully observed the details of the daily life of man, be
it fully mature men and women or the transitional
developmental life. We might ask: What is fundamentally
necessary for an observation of the soul life of the grownup
or the developing child? It is to acquire a certain inner
relationship to what one observes. Try to put yourselves into
the observational methods of olden times, in the fields of
psychology and education. You will find that the inner
relationship that once existed between human beings has
diminished in recent times. We are not so intimately
connected in an objective way with the soul life of another
human being as was the case in the past. We are no longer
aware when our own soul vibrates in sympathetic reverberation
with what lives in the soul of another. We are more removed
from the objective soul life of the other; formerly it could
be directly observed. We are becoming more and more estranged
from any really intimate contact with the soul of the other,
where in a directly intuitive way one takes part with one's
own inner nature in the inner nature of the other soul. Now
an effort is made to approach the human soul from the outside
through the use of instruments. There is an effort to explore
the human soul through the use of apparatus in an external
way. This effort is in the character of our time and must be
acknowledged as being partially justified. If one has become
estranged from a direct perception of the inner activity,
then one must accept the outer expression of the inner
activity, and at the same time be content with the outer use
of experimentation.
It is
especially true that when we are estranged from the spirit
and soul elements of our fellow man, and yet our experiments
are the material expression of this soulspiritual element,
these experiments must be explained in a spiritual sense.
They should be wrought throughout with the results of
spiritual research. I do not want to speak against
experiments as such, but there is a need (I will speak today
only in an introductory way) to illuminate the results of
these experiments spiritually from within. To explain this
properly, I will give you the following example.
Investigations
have established that the rate of growth differs between boys
and girls. In the development of a boy, it has been shown
that in certain phases he grows more slowly, while in the
same time period the girl grows faster. One can take notice
of these facts even if one only looks at the outer expression
of the soul life. But to explain such facts one must know how
the soul motivates the growing process, how the soul of the
boy is inwardly different, and how the force of the soul
expresses itself in different phases of life. Then one will
be able to see how the difference of growth rates between
boys and girls permits a comprehension of what goes on in the
soul of a boy and what goes on in the soul of a girl. It is
just here that one can know that a human being who develops
very rapidly during the period of 14 to 17 years, develops
different forces than those of a human being who grows
rapidly in a somewhat earlier period of life.
Especially in
our age, in which there is real proficiency in the handling
of facts in an outer experimental way, especially now if we
are not to be drawn into superficiality, into externalities,
what is investigated experimentally must be permeated with
the results of spiritual research. This consciousness is
opposed to the more mathematical type of consciousness that
gives the researcher such a feeling of extraordinary
sureness. If one wishes to examine the different ways of
research, one might ask oneself the question: How does one
actually know things mathematically when one applies
mathematics to the facts of the outer senseaccessible world?
And what distinguishes this mathematical approach from other
modes of dealing with the facts given to us?
Let us start
with the fact that the outer objects and events of the world
are given to man through his senses. From childhood on, the
outer factual world presents itself to us as a kind of chaos.
But as time passes we strengthen ourselves inwardly with all
kinds of mental images and concepts. (I have set this forth
in detail in my booklet Truth and Science.) Through the
process of making mental pictures of the outwardly perceived
world, we take what may lie far apart in observation and we
bring the mental pictures of these observations close
together within us. Through this activity we thus create, in
our mental life, a certain order in what otherwise is chaotic
in the purely senseperceptible.
We must,
however, look very exactly at how we treat the perceptual
facts of the world when we do not use our mathematical
knowledge. We might ask what happens when we simply observe
the outer world and make mental pictures about the
connections between the observable facts — for
instance, when we use the familiar law of cause and effect.
We must acquire some thoughts about what we are doing when we
simply observe the facts of the outer world. What do we
really do when we bring order into the senseperceptible
chaos? It appears to me that in relation to this question
David Hume has spoken quite correctly; however, his fault
lies in that he has taken to apply to the universal field of
human cognition what is meant only for this particular field,
namely, the “observation of outer nature free of
mathematics.”
Most errors
and onesidednesses are based an the application of very
correct thinking in one field to the totality of human
cognition. This makes it so difficult to take the assertions
considered to be universally true. Arguments can be raised
for the universal truth being applicable to specific areas,
and arguments can also be raised for the opposite point of
view. David Hume says: We observe the outer world and we
arrange it in a lawful way through our own mental pictures.
However, what we then have in our soul as law is not directly
representative of something in the objective world. We cannot
say that the outer world is always going to follow the course
predicted by such a law. We can only say, according to David
Hume, that until today we have been able to see the sun rise
every morning. That is a statement that fits the facts. We
can put these facts into the form of a general law. But in
doing so we have no guarantee that we have anything other
than a series of events that have happened in the past, of
which we made a comprehensive mental picture. What is it
really in us that brings about these lawful connections
between the senseperceptible occurrences? What kind of
significance do these lawful connections have for the field
which we are considering? Is David Hume correct when he says:
It lies in the habit of our souls to gather together in a
lawful manner the facts as they present themselves to us and,
because we respond to this soul habit, we create for
ourselves various natural laws? These natural laws are
nothing else than what has been gathered together from
individual facts through habit of our souls.
Thus one can
say: Above all, man develops a practical life by bringing
order and harmony into the otherwise chaotic stream of
everyday facts; and the more one advances in this knowledge,
in this special kind of knowledge, the more one inclines to
this characteristic soul habit. This being the situation, one
is not inclined to preserve individual phenomena as such; one
wants to respond to the soul habit of bringing into
uniformity what faces one as senseperceptible, empirical
manifoldness. If one is honest, one has to admit that all the
knowledge obtained in this way stands as a closed door to the
outer world in that it does not allow the essence of this
outer world to enter our cognition. In this kind of cognition
we must say: Out there are the material facts; we arrange
them habitually into our system of mental pictures, and thus
have a comprehensive view of them. We know when a series of
facts have happened, that this series will happen a second
time in a similar way when the same facts appear again before
us. But as long as we remain in this field of knowledge, we
cannot see through the outer appearances; we also, of course,
do not claim to do so. When we want to present rash
metaphysical hypotheses concerning matter, that it consists
of this or that, we are attempting to change the state of
affairs in which we do not deal with the material itself. We
say to ourselves: We cannot see through matter to find out
what it really is in its inner being, so what we are
inclined to do is to arrange sequences of mental pictures and
put these in the form of laws.
By doing so,
we remain outside what appears as outer reality; we only
create pictures of the external material happenings.
Basically, we need this kind of knowledge to maintain our
normal human consciousness, and to this end, we concern
ourselves with these pictures. Try to think for a moment what
it would mean for human consciousness if we were not able to
give ourselves up to the kind of knowledge consisting only of
pictures of the external world — if every time we
wished to know something of the outer world, this world had
to flow into us, as it does when we eat or drink, if it had
to become part of our soul's apprehension before we could
know anything. Just imagine how incompatible such a uniting
of the material existence and our inner life would be with
what our soulconstitution must be in acquiring knowledge of
the outer world! We are in the position where we must tell
ourselves: In our activity of knowing, nothing flows into our
soul life from the outer world; we form pictures of what we
experience in the outer world and these pictures really have
nothing to do with the outer world.
Permit me to
make an analogy out of the field of art to explain what I
have been saying. Suppose I am painting something. The outer
world is completely unconcerned about anything I might paint
on a canvas. Take, for example, a couple of trees we see out
there of which, let's say, I have painted a likeness on a
canvas: the trees are completely indifferent as to how I have
painted them, or if I do paint them. My picture is added to
what is out there as something foreign, something that has
nothing directly to do with that outer reality. In the field
of theoretical and psychological knowledge it is basically
the same as I have just described with the example of
painting. If we were not separated from the world as just
described, and were to take the content of the world into our
soul in a way similar to when we eat or drink, our soul would
grow together with, be one with, the world around us, and we
would be unable to distinguish ourselves from our
surroundings.
We will take
up the subject of human freedom at a later time and show that
it can only be understood if the way of knowing the material
world is as I have characterized it.
This, however,
is not so when I know something mathematically. Let's start
by imagining how you know something of a mathematical nature,
whether it is in the field of arithmetic, algebra, higher
mathematics, or in the field of analytical or synthetic
geometry. There we are not confronted by an outer world, we
live directly and immediately in the objects of our
mathematical knowledge. We form mathematical objects inwardly
with all their interconnections and relationships, and when
at times we sketch these forms, it is only for our own ease
and comfort. What we refer to as mathematical is never some
part of the outer world which we perceive with the senses, it
is always something inwardly constructed. It is something
that only lives in the part of our soul life that is not
concerned with the senses as such. We build up, we inwardly
construct, the mathematical content of our soul. There is a
radical difference between the field of knowledge concerned
with the empirical outer world presenting itself to the
senses and that of the mathematical. In the external given
world the objects of our knowledge remain strictly outside of
us. In mathematical knowledge we stand with our whole soul
within the objects of our knowledge, and what is observed as
substance is the result of an experience in our soul of what
we ourselves constructed.
Here we have a
significant problem which forms, as it were, the first stage
to what will be the next higher stage of considerations: How
does one arrive at the anthroposophical spiritual science
when starting from the familiar science of the present day? I
don't believe anyone will be able to answer this question in
a truly scientific way who cannot first answer the question:
How is our knowledge of a purely observational kind raised to
the kind of knowledge of nature that is permeated with
mathematics? — how is this knowledge related to
mathematical knowledge as such?
Now a further
question arises which the scientist can answer himself, out
of his own experience with scientific work. I have already
mentioned what Kant called our attention to, that in every
science there is only so much knowledge as there is
mathematics contained in it. And, I repeat, this is a
onesidedness, because it is only applicable to a certain
field. Kant's error lies in the fact that he takes a
specialized truth and tries to make it into a universal law.
We have a tendency not to want to leave the facts alone as
they are presented to us, but rather to color them with what
we have created as mathematical formula, so that we may
measure and compare them.
What really
lives in us when we strive in this direction, when we don't
want to remain standing still, habitually combining the outer
facts with general rules, when we permeate the given facts
with what we have formulated in full consciousness
mathematically as objects in our soul life? It is clear that
anyone who has experience in the field of objective
observation will admit that the whole of nature surrounding
his own being is felt, in regard to its materiality, as
something foreign. Please notice that, in a sense, we can
submerge ourselves into what we feel as a foreign material
element, with the help of what we have ourselves inwardly
constructed as mathematical formulas. What we describe in a
mathematical way actually seems as if what happens in nature
has occurred according to the mathematical formula that we
have constructed. What is at the basis of this perception? It
is the fact that we desire above all else to become one with
what we perceive at first as foreign surroundings. We group
what is presented to us externally in order to be able to
reconstruct it in the same way that we construct something in
the purely mathematical realm. We strive to experience what
presents itself to us externally in an inwardly exact
manner.
This
internalization of the outer world with the wish to
experience exactness is what motivates a mathematical
explanation of nature. This is especially characteristic of
our presentday scientific efforts in the direction of
technology. Today's science has an intense longing to
penetrate outer occurrences with mathematical concepts. This
means that we bring something we have created in our own soul
out into what presents itself to us in raw perception. We do
this so that we may understand what is perceived, but in
doing so we can have the impression that the outer occurrence
actually proceeds in the way we portray it mathematically.
When we have gone so far that we have achieved this ideal, as
we have in the field of optics and light theory, where every
phenomenon is represented in terms of a formula, what really
have we done? What really is the content of our soul when
instead of plain external appearances a sum of mathematical
formulas seem to present themselves? What does our soul
receive from this? We look at this edifice, the world
portrayed as mathematical relationships, and then we turn our
gaze to the actual outer world and we find something strange.
We find that all that we look at, all that we consider outer
material world, appears inwardly dark until it is brightened
by the introduction of mathematical concepts. But at the same
time we cannot deny the fact that the picture we have created
of the outer world no longer contains reality, no longer the
reality which presented itself to us originally.
Take, for
example, optical appearances, the whole field as it presents
itself to our eyes; contrast this with what we have, to a
certain extent, correctly constructed as mathematical
geometric optics, full of rules. If one uses just a little
objectivity, it is clear that in what is constructed as a
mathematical picture there is nothing left of the abundance
of color. Everything that our senses first offered us,
namely, actual outer reality, has been pressed out of the
picture. The picture of the outer world is in sharp contrast
to what is really out there; it lacks reality, it lacks the
tremendous abundance that actually exists in the world.
In the coming
lectures I will be speaking of a comparison, that to begin
with I would like you to consider as an analogy. When we
permeate empirical facts with mathematics, our activity
consists of two stages: First we must look at the empirical
facts, let's say the facts of the eye. The second is the
arrangement of these percepts into mathematical formulas. In
a certain way, as a result of this we have essentially an
experience of mathematical formulating. We no longer view the
empirical world of phenomena. This process can be compared to
our inhaling lifesustaining oxygen; we saturate our whole
organism with it. The oxygen then combines with carbon and we
exhale carbon dioxide, which is no longer the lifesustaining
air. But the combined process was necessary for our inner
life. We had to inhale the lifestrengthening oxygen and
combine it with something in us. What is produced in this way
is something killing; we can contrast it with what was
inhaled, which was lifesustaining.
For the time
being, this should only be considered as a picture of the way
in which we pursue the knowledge of nature. We take something
into ourselves that is presented to the senses and try to
unite it intimately with something we produce only in
ourselves, with mathematical construction. We feel that
something is created by this union. Nature is not contained
in what we have created; the living quality is not there,
just as the life force is no longer in the air we exhale. We
can say that our perception of the outer world is like an
inhaling by the soul of what then is changed into the
opposite. If one looks closely at this process of striving
for mathematical knowledge of nature, it is proof of the fact
that mathematical knowledge is something completely different
from the merely perceptual knowledge of nature. This mere
perceptual knowledge of nature contrasts with the habitual
state of our soul, which consists of a feeling of competence
derived from the use of inwardly formed mathematical
knowledge. This state of soul wishes to have something that
will explain the outer world in accordance with our own
being, to unite something inner with something outer.
When one
realizes how the longing for mathematical explanations of
nature are based on this soul habit of longing to take inner
possession of the outer world, then it will also be clear
that what one attains by this is completely different from
the content of sense experience. One goes more deeply into
human inner life with mathematical knowledge. One believes
that one gets correspondingly closer to the outer world
through an inner representation of the nature of the outer
world. One has an inner experience of what has been changed
into mathematical formulas; at the same time, one has
basically lost the fullness of the outer world. One must,
however, be conscious of the fact that what the outer world
has given has been connected with something constructed
purely inwardly.
One must
really experience what goes on in one's soul when one makes
mathematical formulas; one must experience this correctly.
One must see that a mathematical formula actually is
constructed within us. One must realize that this inner human
construction has been achieved apart from the outer world,
and yet in a sense it has brought one closer to the outer
world. Even so, this inner mathematical construction cannot
be regarded as inner reality as compared to what we find in
the outer world. If this were not true, we would have the
feeling that this mathematical construction contained true
reality instead of a bland version of the outer world which
it does actually present to us. Think what the situation
would be if in our spiritual contemplation of a mathematical
construction we had the whole content of the eyes' original
experience in all its color intensity. If this were the case,
we would experience in the formula itself the lighting up,
the intensity of colors, when considering the wave theory, or
“interference phenomena,” in mathematical form.
This we certainly do not see. The fact that we do not see
this proves that with our mathematical formulas we penetrate
only to some degree into the outer world. We do come closer
to it, but at the same time we no longer have the full
reality of it.
We have shown
a progression from an ordinary sensebased knowledge to a
knowledge of inner mathematical construction. The question
then arises: Can this progression be continued further in
human soul life? First, we have an outer world before us;
then we confront it in such a way that the laws which we
create, based on observation, are entirely different from it
in form. We go through this and we can do so because we
become inwardly separated from the outer world. We are
inwardly completely separated from the outer world while
experiencing these mathematical formulas. We do gain a
certain penetration through these mathematical formulas, but
it is obvious that they are not filled with reality or we
would see the whole outer reality recreated in the
formulas.
When we take a
closer look we see that not only are they not real in
themselves but in fact they have the effect of destroying
reality. The question now arises: would it be possible to
strengthen our capacity to make these inner mathematical
constructions by which we then penetrate the
senseperceptible world? Is it possible that what is first
experienced mathematically as pale abstractions can be made
stronger? In other words, could the force which we have to
use to attain a mathematical knowledge of nature be used more
effectively? — with the result not just a mathematical
abstraction, but something inwardly, spiritually concrete? In
that case, we would not just see a recreated version of the
outer world or an abstract mathematical picture, but we would
have something formed in an entirely different manner. We
would have gained something with the full character of
reality, but obtained similarly to the way we obtain
mathematical pictures. We would then have before us
spiritually a reality that shines out toward us in the same
way that the outer senseperceptible world streams toward us.
But we would have this from pictures filled with reality, not
from mathematically abstract pictures. We would have lifted
ourselves, through strengthening our mathematical capacity,
to a higher level, and in doing so we would reveal more of
our own inner reality. This we can see as a third step in our
attainment of knowledge. The first step would be the familiar
grasping of the real outer world. The second step would be
the mathematical penetration of the outer world, after we
have first learned inwardly to construct the purely
mathematical aspect. The third would be the entirely inner
experience, like the mathematical experience but with the
character of spiritual reality.
So we have
before us: The ordinary outer empirical knowledge of nature,
then mathematical knowledge, and finally, spiritual
knowledge. We have, as the last step, through an inwardly
creative activity, spiritual worlds before us .
As preparation
for viewing these worlds as real, we start by creating
mathematical, pictoriallyabstract elements. We use this
mathematics in relation to the outer world, but if we are
honest we must say: What we construct mathematically is still
not a reality in itself; it does not bring reality up out of
the depths of our souls, rather it is a picture of reality.
In spiritual science we gain the ability to bring out of the
depths of our souls what is not just a picture of the outer
existence, but reality itself, true reality.
The three
levels of human knowledge are: Knowledge of physical nature,
mathematical knowledge, and spiritual knowledge. This is not
just taking spiritual science out of thin air with the
purpose of constructing a spiritual science method; rather,
it arises naturally. Starting from merely empirical research
we come to a mathematical approach, and the continuation of
this leads us to study an anthroposophicallyoriented
spiritual science.
This, my dear
friends, is what I wanted to say today as an introduction to
this course of lectures. I wanted to show you that this
anthroposophical spiritual science knows where its place is
in the whole system of sciences. It is not born out of some
kind of subjective caprice, some kind of dilettantism; it is
born out of an exact theory of knowledge. It is born out of
the knowledge that must be used even to understand the
correct use of mathematics. It was not for nothing that Plato
demanded of his pupils that they must first of all have a
good grounding in the knowledge of geometry and mathematics.
Plato did not require an arithmetical or geometric knowledge
of some particular kind, but rather a sound understanding of
what really happens in a man when he does mathematics or
geometry. This is based an a seemingly paradoxical but deeply
meaningful saying of Plato: “God geometrizes.” He
did not mean by this that God just created with mathematics,
or with five or sixsided figures; rather, He creates with
the force of which we can only make pictures to ourselves, in
our mathematical abstract thinking. Therefore I believe that
he who understands the place of mathematics in the whole
field of the sciences, will also understand the correct place
of spiritual science. Spiritual science will battle for its
right to exist, no matter what adversaries it may have, for
it builds on an exact foundation thoroughly in accord with
historical necessity. Therefore I can say: We welcome any and
all opponents who will seriously enter into what spiritual
science has to say; we welcome any serious dialogue.
Spiritual science has no fear of opposition because it is
well supplied with all the scientific weapons of ordinary
science and it knows how to use them. It would only not like
to be continuously interrupted by those who don't understand
it, due to their dilettantism and uninformed opinions.
Spiritual science as we mean it here is actually a necessity
for the other special sciences. The borders of these other
special sciences must be crossed over with the help of
spiritual science. We must inwardly resolve at least to
confront those who, without reason, oppose this spiritual
science, and sometimes even be a bit rude with them. There is
a fundamental need for humanity to adopt this spiritual
science as quickly as possible, and in all seriousness. This
can really happen if only we bring good will to the
understanding of it.
