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Chance, Necessity and Providence

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Chance, Necessity and Providence

On-line since: 15th October, 2015


Lecture I

 1: Fritz Mauthner, 1849–1923, German philosopher and writer. Critique of Language, 1901.

 2: Immanuel Kant, 1724–1804, German philosopher of the Enlightenment, Published Critique of Pure Reason in 1781.

 3: Fritz Mauthner, Dictionary of Philosophy, 1909.


Lecture II

 1: Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel, 1770–1831, German philosopher. Published Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in 1817.

 2: Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Man, (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1986).



Lecture III

 1: This lecture was preceded by a eurythmy performance of the final scenes of Goethe's Faust, II.

 2: Wilhelm Wundt, 1832–1907, German philosopher and philologist. See also Mauthner's article “History” in his Dictionary of Philosophy.

 3: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832, German poet, playwright, and novelist. Faust, dramatic poem. The quotations from Faust in this book are all taken from the translation by Bayard Taylor.

 4: Wilhelm Traugott Krug, 1770–1842, German philosopher, influenced by Kant.

 5: Baruch Spinoza, 1632–1677, Dutch philosopher.


Lecture IV

 1: Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, 1743–1794, French chemist. In 1774 he refuted the theory claiming that a substance called phlogiston escapes during the combustion process. In 1777 Lavoisier discovered that combustion consists in the combination of a substance with oxygen. He discovered that breathing is also a combustion or oxidation process.

 2: Edmund Husserl, 1859–1938, German Phenomenological philosopher.


Lecture V

 1: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832, German poet, dramatist, and novelist. The quoted quatrain is from his poetry collection entitled The East-West Divan, published in 1819. The poems are influenced by ancient Persian and Arabian poetry.

 2: Sixth International Congress for Philosophy, Bologna, 1911.

 3: Rudolf Steiner, Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1986).

 4: Jacob Boehme, 1575–1624, German pantheist mystic. He was a shoemaker by profession and the first philosopher to write in German rather than in Latin.

 5: William James, 1842–1910, American psychologist and Pragmatist philosopher. Published Principles of Psychology in 1890


Lecture VI

 1: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832, German poet and thinker. Published Metamorphosis of Plants in 1790; in this book he shows the leaf as the primeval organ of the plant out of which all other plant organs evolved.

 2: Johannes Peter Eckermann, 1792–1854. Published Conversations with Goethe, 1823-1832 in 1836.

 3: Archimedes, 285–212 B.C., Greek physicist and mathematician.

 4: Johannes Kepler, 1571–1630, German astronomer. Calculated orbits of the planets and discovered the laws of the movement of the planets.


Lecture VII

 1: Rudolf Steiner, Life between Death and Rebirth, (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1987).


Lecture VIII

 1: Rudolf Steiner, An Outline of Occult Science, (Spring Valley, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1985).

 2: Otto Liebmann, 1840–1912, German philosopher and professor of philosophy. Leader of Neo-Kantianism. Published Thoughts and Facts in 1882.

 3: “The cosmos is ensouled and all full of gods.” De Anima I, 5. Aristotle, 384–322 B.C., Greek philosopher. De Anima, one of his major works, was published in 322 B.C.

 4: Plato, 427–347 B.C., Greek philosopher. Teacher of Aristotle.

 5: Johannes Kepler, 1571–1630, German astronomer.

 6: Giordano Bruno, 1548–1600, Italian philosopher and Dominican monk. Was burned on the stake as heretic for teaching that the world is infinite in space and time and that all matter is ensouled.

 7: Goethe and Eckermann, see Lecture VI, note 2.

 8: Gustav Theodor Fechner, 1801–1887, German physicist, psychologist, and philosopher.

 9: See Liebmann's book Thoughts and Facts, p. 279.

10: Gustav Theodor Fechner, Professor Schleiden and the Moon, Leipzig, 1856.

11: Matthias Jakob Schleiden, 1804–1881, German natural scientist and professor.

12: Fechner wrote a booklet entitled Proof that the Moon consists of Iodine and published it under the pseudonym Dr. Mises in 1832.

13: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, 1729–1781, German poet, playwright, and critic. Published essay entitled Education of the Human Species in 1780.

14: Steiner ended this lecture with more details about events that were known to his audience and that had occurred shortly before these lectures were given. However, these events cannot be fully reconstructed, and as this passage thus lacks a concrete context for modern readers, it has been moved to this section. Steiner continued:

I'll cite some facts experienced during the last few days, hoping that no member sitting here will be so indiscreet as to spread abroad what is discussed here in our intimate circle. At a conference of teachers held in this area, somebody recently spoke who had written about our movement without knowing anything about it. The teachers association in question was asked to let one of our members listen to the talk and maybe even reply to it. The way this request was refused is characteristic of our times. The letter denying our request to be present where one of our neighbors speaks about our movement contains among other sentences the following “...because if one of you came, that person would probably feel that the speaker does not know your movement sufficiently. Therefore, to avoid unpleasant feelings for the speaker due to the presence of a person from your movement, we ask you not to send anybody. For there will not be enough time for a discussion and the matter would only lead to unpleasant feelings as the man who will speak to us does not know you.”

This is the reason for denying our request; let's take note of that. It has to be said again and again that it is possible today that people say they do not want anyone from our movement to be present because somebody will be speaking about us who does not know anything about us. This is indeed possible, my dear friends; it is a fact.

It has come to the point where people not only think such things but even write them down, and even write them as justification for denying a request. That is the current condition of morality. However, this is not the only instance of such morality; it can be found everywhere. Unfortunately, we had to decide to show our building to that same group, so that those people could not say we were as impolite to them as they were to us. And unfortunately at just the time when they were taken on a tour of our building, a eurythmy lesson was apparently in progress. I don't want to speak about what this eurythmy evoked in the dirty minds of those who were shown through our halls. I regret that it is necessary to mention these things at all. I do not mention them to characterize or criticize the outer world, the people around us. I can only pity them from the bottom of my heart. Rather I mention these things for your sake, so that you become accustomed to finding the right standpoint and to knowing that opposition, enmity, and meanness lurk everywhere. The fact that something is sacred to some people does not protect it against being pulled down, dragged down, by others to the most profane level.

When we are confronted with hate for some reason, we must become conscious of it. This is necessary because we are much too careless about the way we place ourselves in relation to the world around us. Granted, it is inconvenient to place oneself rightly in relation to the outer world, but it is worse to close one's eyes and be ignorant of the hate and opposition lurking everywhere.

Above all we must realize that opposition based on facts cannot ever harm us. We can deal with opposition based on facts. But it is difficult when the opposition is such that one wants to wash one's hands every time one has looked at it. This is the case, for example, with those people in Leipzig who do not base their opposition to us on facts but work only with seemingly plausible slander. Even if you were to write to them in a factual tone, people there will answer out of a fundamental attitude that belongs on the same level as the attitude I have just characterized.

We can foresee that as we are increasingly being noticed in the world, and as we complete our building, opposition and yet more opposition will be called forth; for envy and resentment grow enormously the more our building is noticed in the world. From this, special obligations arise for us.

Last Modified: 22-May-2020
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