SUMMARY OF LECTURES GIVEN 29 AUGUST TO 1 SEPTEMBER 1921
29 August 1921
In the course of eight lectures given at the recent
Congress at Stuttgart, Rudolf Steiner explained what effect the agnosticism
of the last century had upon the whole life of humanity today. As a
result of natural science agnosticism taught that humanity was only able
to spin round the world a web of ‘causality’. What lies at
the back, what is unknown, what cannot be reached by our senses —
all this must for ever remain hidden from human wisdom; and most
especially does everything psycho-spiritual withdraw itself from the
reach of knowledge.
Agnosticism has seized hold
of science, education and social life, and it affects millions of men
who very often are quite unaware of the fact. It then lays hold of the
realm of ideas, separating this from the world of true reality upon
which alone humanity should have its stand; thus creating an inner division
which weakens the soul forces of men. Through this division, licence
is given to all the lower instincts, as we can recognize to be prominently
the case in the world today. The realm of feeling also becomes unsatisfied;
unfertilized by ideas it degenerates, hardens and becomes sentimental,
or else it is engulfed in the life of elementary instincts. This shows
itself particularly in art, which is either sweetly unreal or else is
naturalistic. True art creates its own style, and true style can only
come from men's supersensible experiences. Agnosticism robs us
of the truths which must live in art.
Upon our will power, also,
it has had an evil influence, for it has killed moral impulses and has
allowed what is instinctive to become master. Thus do we find today
that thinking is lax, feeling is dulled, and willing is made void through
disbelief; and, as a result, what is animal in man rises to the surface.
In the religious life also men feel a void, and seek support in organized
streams like that of the Catholic Church, or else in some oriental
direction. These, however, can no longer give to men the right content
because they have their life in past ages.
In modern industry we can
see an immediate effect of scientific thought. Here men do not live
within what they practise. Modern systems of labour consist in ruling
out the human side of man and making him into a machine.
Void also today as a fruit
of disbelief are all social impulses, and all these facts work back
on men and have led them to a certain ‘easy-going’ condition
of their social life.
If one wishes to compare
or contrast the ascending with the declining powers of the day, one
observes that the life of expression is not sufficiently active and
does not carry on with enthusiasm what is required. People would rather
not take up any new piece of work; they prefer asking if its need is
already established, rather than trying to prove its worth in life.
In the world of education,
teachers try to place things before children in such a way that they
need not be altered when the children grow up. But what is presented
to children should be so given that it develops with the child during
the course of its life.
It is in these facts that
we can see how the seeds of agnosticism bear fruit in the life of man.
30 August 1921
By giving an aperçu of his own striving
and searching in his outlook upon the world, Rudolf Steiner showed how
the origin of Anthroposophy can be found historically, as it were. During
the period that this searching led to an individual grasp of life, during
the eighties, agnosticism was there in opposition, arousing two necessary
questions: Does science give to men what their souls require? and What
is it that the souls of men require? Already, in 1885, Rudolf Steiner
gave in his book
Theories of Knowledge according to Goethe's Outlook,
as an answer: We have a science which corresponds to no one's
seeking and a scientific craving that nobody satisfies.
Now in Goethe we have another
kind of striving. The old science was founded entirely upon nature apart
from life. (In a certain way this is also true of today's science.)
Research into the Metamorphosis of Plants,
a mode of thinking which was able to penetrate into the nature of the
plant. A friend called this ‘objective thinking,’ a thinking
which linked itself to the object of perception, and Goethe himself
acquiesced in this idea. He could not get so far in his observation
of animals and of humanity as he could in his observation of plants;
in spite of this, however, he wrote his
Metamorphosis of Animals,
and also discovered the metamorphosis of the human skeleton.
The question suggests itself:
Why could Goethe command one realm of nature and not another?
Before this question is
answered we will consider the realm of knowledge in detail. What happens
in a man when he gains knowledge of anything? To this question belongs the
fateful one: Are.the concepts arrived at through the process of knowing
(thinking) merely images through which the world processes
are reflected without being affected by them? In other words, Is thinking
merely formal or is it a reality?
Through our perceptions,
sense-impressions enter us passively. Is anything essential added to
sensory perception through thought or are we simply onlookers who are
useless in the world process when we add thinking to perception? One
arrives here at the whole opposition between thinking and perceiving.
Sensory perception is absolutely passive. In ordinary consciousness
sensory perception and thinking are always mixed up in each other, but
if one separates them with firmness the one from the other, thinking
is then alone actually present. One is using one's whole soul
activity for thought, quite shut off from the outer impression.
In the 19th century there
was the conviction that one could arrive at the purest thinking quite
passively by learning from the pictures which are actually present and
which are only an image of reality. By a further development of this
view one is led to quite imaginary conceptions, such as that of the
Ding an sich. (Kant's theory of the ‘Thing in itself.’)
Opposed to this kind of thought which, on the whole, ruled philosophy
and the remaining sciences, Rudolf Steiner attained the realization
that the outer world does not hold the entire contents of reality, allowing
itself to be reproduced as conceptions, but that man through his sensory
perceptions lives only on one side of reality. And it is in order to
bring into this outer world of reality what only comes forth from his
inner nature that man is born into the world.
He has expressed this view
in his book, the title of which already gives the meaning,
Reality and Science.
In thought we possess
something in which we are wide awake, in which we must actually be when
it comes to pass.
‘In thinking we bring world happenings to a point,’
he says, in
The Philosophy of Freedom.
It is only in the process of thinking that we can reach reality. And for
a true meaning of Anthroposophy we could use a motto which Goethe gives
‘To overcome sensory perception through the spirit is the goal
of art and science. Science overcomes sensory perception by releasing
it entirely into spirit; art overcomes the sense-perceptions when it
engrafts into these the whole world of the spirit.’
31 August 1921
In his book
The Philosophy of Freedom,
Rudolf Steiner wished to present ‘the results of spiritual
observation according to the methods of natural science.’
This was the antithesis to the object of Edward von Hartmann's
The Philosophy of the Unconscious,
which presents ‘metaphysical
results according to the methods of inductive natural science’.
This title implies a conclusion drawn from what you perceive to what
is not perceptible, and this can never lend to true spiritual knowledge.
Just as facts in natural science are observable, so must psychic-spiritual
facts be accessible to spiritual observation also. Through thought we can
unite ourselves not only to the outer world, but also to our
I-consciousness, and in I-consciousness lies human freedom. Agnostic
natural science has veiled this experience and then has disowned it. But
the way of observing it must be conducted differently from the way in
which we observe outer nature. Instead of relying on sensory experience,
as in observing nature, we must look out upon what stands before our
I-consciousness, and at the same time develop our thinking just as it
has been developed by the things of the outer world. Thinking itself
must bring about the state of freedom, in that it is not void of
contents while ceasing to rely upon sensory perception, but that it
fills itself with the contents of the human soul. The methods of
spiritual science are nothing else than the experience of the content
which is there when the human soul loosens itself from the rivets of
outer objects, and can still have the strength to experience something.
The Philosophy of Freedom
confines itself to investigating the human being himself as a free being
in the physical world. But even here we already embark upon supersensible
research, and little by little the way opens up for further penetration.
Most particularly we learn thus to know the imponderable nature of the
human soul; in investigating the problem of freedom we enter upon the
search into what is supersensible.
We must, above all else,
come to an understanding of what the impulse for freedom springs from,
otherwise we do not stand on firm ground in our knowledge, but experience
an undermining of it which makes us unfitted for life. For action, a
philosophy of freedom is required; but, to gain this, supersensible
investigation is imperative.
Whoever, during the last
third of the 19th century, wished to disentangle the problem of freedom
had to reckon with Nietzsche. To Nietzsche perception of the outer world
was an experience of inner pain, for it was to him tainted by the
conceptions of natural science. He felt that the world could give mankind
no satisfaction and therefore he sought everywhere for elements in human
culture which would lift him above this pain. These elements he found in
two instances: on the one hand, in the art of Richard Wagner and on the
other, in the philosophy of Schopenhauer. Both seemed to him to be in
accord with his own sympathy with the spirit of the Greeks. Later on he
became a fighter against the lies of his time, a fanatic champion for the
reality of the outer sense-perceptible world which caused him such anguish.
Thus did he become entirely influenced by the scientific outlook upon
the world. He was deeply affected by such sentences as: ‘Science
ends when supernaturalism begins’ (Du Bois Raymond). What weighed
on Nietzsche's soul penetrated his whole manhood. Feeling and
emotion seemed to burn up his thoughts. He wanted to add inner experience
to outer perceiving. This is expressed in his
If men remain men, then must they be overcome by pain. Therefore must
they rise to be supermen. But for his supermen he had no content. When
the terrible idea arose in him of the ‘eternal repetition of the
same’, then came to Nietzsche the appalling tragedy of his life.
He is wrecked upon the rock on which agnosticism builds its faith as
absolute correct knowledge. To begin with he could still live in isolation,
but our age demands that men live as social beings. Nietzsche lacked
the proper weapons for his battle against agnosticism. He was never
able to win a really deep relationship to modern natural science in
his outlook upon the world; to him it seemed coarse and repulsive, and,
therefore, he arrived at a transformation of Darwinism into the teaching
of the superman. In him there lived the impulse towards an altruistic
striving, but in an unhealthy organism, an organism capable of allowing
him to soar to the heights, but at the same time an unhealthy one.
One must come to an
understanding with Nietzsche if one wishes to understand freedom, and
this is what Rudolf Steiner has done in his book
Nietzsche, a Fighter against his Epoch.
In order to build up an
outlook suitable to our epoch, we have to reckon with another symptom.
1 September 1921
At the same time that the
Philosophy of Freedom
appeared there also came out Haeckel's
Monism as a Link between Religion and Science.
saw that here was a sure ground from whence the investigator can penetrate
into the spiritual worlds. All investigation must be formed on monistic
lines. But what is to be understood by monism? How can nature and spirit
be grasped in a monistic way? Upon these questions Haeckel, the great
experimentalist, was quite elementary. From Goethe we can get a better
answer. He shows that nature must be understood poetically, for art
is the revealer of nature's secrets. The world is not fitted to
surrender its nature to merely logical thinking.
It was in his investigation
of the plant world that Goethe was especially great. One can understand
why this was so if one notes that Goethe, in a certain sense, was on
the road to becoming a sculptor. The leaning towards sculpture, existing
in the depths of his nature, made him a modeller in his working out
Metamorphosis of the Plant.
What is plastic in plant
formation he grasped through this unexpressed talent for sculpture.
One cannot look plastically upon animal and human form in the same way
that one can regard the plant world. This comes to expression in the
fact that we are repelled by plastic reproductions of plants, which
is not the case in regard to human and animal forms. The plant is really
a work of art in Nature, so that one is not able to transcend its natural
form, and on this account the plant does not allow itself to be reproduced
In Goethe, however, there
lived a restrained, hidden plastic faculty which did not culminate in
him in sculpture, but which appears in his dramas. He could not give
it shape in clay, but in nature he finds something which satisfies his
instinct for what is plastic and this is the world of plants. In inorganic
nature we measure, count and weigh, and this breaks up form. Goethe
saw the plant as a unity. He saw this unity as that which Anthroposophy
calls the plant's etheric body. We find this etheric also in men
and animals and the sculptor aims at bringing it to expression in the
sculptured form. Yet someone who, like Goethe, holds back his talent
in regard to the plastic art, can through this restraint discover certain
secrets in nature. In this way Goethe arrived at his doctrine of the
metamorphosis of plants.
In a similar, if in a more
naive, way did Haeckel look upon the animal world. In him also existed
‘imaginative thinking’, and this he applied to animals.
He spoke of the ‘soul’ in the animal world, and by this
he meant that whoever during many years had watched the lower animals
must perceive this ‘germ soul’. There is consequently a
certain relationship between the outlook of Haeckel upon animals (soul)
and the outlook of Goethe upon plants (form).
Now it is particularly
interesting to notice that Haeckel also, in a dilettante way, was
something of a painter, and this proclivity gave him an understanding
for what the animal world conjures to the surface as colour. He has
produced the book
Nature's Art Forms.
He lived with colour as Goethe
lived with form. What belongs to animals has a far more intimate connection
with colour than what is expressed in form in the plant world. The colour
of flowers belongs to what is outer, to sun and air, but with animals
colour is bound up with what is of the soul, of the instincts, and so
on. In Anthroposophy this is named the ‘astral body’. Haeckel's
understanding of the animal kingdom is thus connected with his latent
talent for painting. He did not conduct his studies in any outward way
but, like Goethe, from a latent feeling for art. Nietzsche could not
press on to all this for lack of nature knowledge, and so he could not
have the right relation to his epoch.
Anthroposophy maintains a
due regard to this nature knowledge, and, when anything is spoken from
out the springs of Spiritual Science, it must always be referred to
that other fount. Agnostic methods of thinking must be put aside in
all research, but what Rudolf Steiner induces is a closer agreement
with Haeckel in so far as he was the first to create a philosophy adapted
to our period. What Goethe accomplished for botany and Haeckel for zoology,
Rudolf Steiner achieves for anthropology.