The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Mission of Spiritual Science and of Its Building at Dornach, Switzerland
GA 35


By means of the details given in this booklet, it was to be shown how antbroposophical spiritual science receives its form at the present time as knowledge of the spiritual world, by going along lines which can hold their own by the side of the authorised lines of a scientific way of looking at things. In order to penetrate into the spiritual world in just as trustworthy a manner as natural science does into the world of matter, spiritual science must take paths which are different from those of natural science. In order to satisfy in a spiritual sphere the same demands which natural science satisfies in its sphere, it must work with faculties of perception and knowledge which are adapted to the spiritual, just as those of natural science are adapted to nature. A spiritual science with aims such as these cannot in any way be confused with more ancient tendencies of thought such as the Gnosis, etc. We can observe how in the course of modern times the effort to arrive at it appears quite clearly. Therefore it does not come forth as something which is voluntarily fabricated at the present time, but as the fulfilment of hopes which can be observed in the mental development of the West. Many things might be adduced to prove this; but we will only give two examples here, which show that “Anthroposophy” is something that has been thought about for a long time. Troxler, a thinker of the first half of the nineteenth century who is much under-estimated, published his Vorlesungen über Philosophie in 1835. In this work there is the sentence, “Although it is highly gratifying that the latest philosophy ... winds upwards in every Anthroposophy, i.e., it must be revealed in poetry as well as in history, we must not overlook the fact that this idea cannot be the fruit of speculation, and the true personality or individuality of man may not be confused either with what it sets up as subjective spirit or final ego, or with what it contrasts with this as absolute spirit or absolute personality.” What Troxler brings forward regarding his idea of Anthroposophy is confined to statements which clearly show how close he is to the acceptance of principles of human nature beyond the physical body. He says, “In earlier times philosophers differentiated a delicate, sublime soul-body from the grosser body. This they considered to be a sort of vehicle of the spirit, and it was an image of the body. They called it the pattern, and looked upon it as the inner, higher man.” The connection in which these words are found in Troxler's work, and the whole of his conception of the world, testify that we may see in his case aspirations which are fulfilled in the spiritual science indicated in this booklet. Only, as Troxler is not in the position to recognise that Anthroposophy is only possible through the development of soul-capacities in the direction indicated in this booklet, his own views relapse to points of view which, as compared with those attained by J. G. Fichte, Schelling and Hegel are not an advance, but retrogression. (See my book Die Rätsel der Philosophie.) In the work of J. H. Fichte, the son of the great philosopher, viz., in his Anthropologie, second edition 1860, page 608, we find the following sentences, “Anthropology ends in the result which is confirmed from various quarters, that the true nature of man's being and the real source of his consciousness belong to a super-sensible world. But sense-consciousness and the phenomenal world which appears before his eyes, together with the whole of the life of the senses, have no other importance than merely to be the place where that super-sensible life of the spirit is realised, by his bringing the spiritual contents of ideas into the sense-world through his own free, conscious act. ... The final result of this fundamental comprehension of human nature raises ‘Anthropology’ to ‘Anthroposophy.’“ In connection with the explanation of these sentences J. H. Fichte says (p. 609), “Thus, finally, Anthroposophy itself is only able to find its final conclusion in Theosophy.” The reasons why J. H. Fichte with his own view of the world did not arrive at Anthroposophy, but fell behind J. G. Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, are the same as in Troxler's case. For the present we will only give these two examples out of a multitude of facts contained in the history of the spiritual development of mankind, which could be adduced to prove that the anthroposophical spiritual science characterised in this booklet responds to a scientific tendency which has existed for a long time.

In a lecture which I gave in 1902 before the Giordano Bruno Union, I referred to these statements by J. H. Fichte (which seemed to me to be the expression of a modern intellectual movement, not merely of an individual opinion); that was the time when a beginning was made with what now appears as the anthroposophical way of looking at things. From this it may be seen that we had in view the extension of the modern tendency of thought to the genuine observation of spiritual reality. We did not try to bring forth certain views out of the publications then called “theosophical” (and still so named at the present time), but we strove to continue the aspirations given birth to by modern philosophers, aspirations which, however, in their case remained in abstractions, and thus did not gain entrance to the true spiritual world. At the same time, this continuation seemed to me to be an extension of the view which Gœthe, placing it at the foundation of his view of nature, which he described as being “in accordance with the spirit,” did not actually express, but felt. One who has followed my writings and lectures may gather all this from them; and I would not specially mention this matter if the misrepresentation of the truth were not brought up again and again, when it is said that I have changed from all that I wrote and said formerly and have turned to the views represented in the works of Blavatsky and Besant. One who carefully studies, for example, my Theosophy, will find that everything contained in it is developed in accordance with and as a continuation of the above-described direction of modern thought; he will find that the matters dealt with are presented in accordance with certain presuppositions contained in Gœthe's conception of the world, and that only in certain places is it mentioned that ideas which I had arrived at (etheric body, sensation body, etc.), are also to be found in literature which is called theosophical. I know that by these explanations I shall not be able to do away with certain attacks made against me again and again, for in many cases these attacks are not made in order to arrive at the actual facts of the matter, but for something entirely different. But what can be done in the face of ever-recurring inexactitudes? Nothing can be done but to reiterate the truth!

The searcher who works on the basis of the kind of knowledge indicated in this booklet sees that the method of his investigations is in complete accord with the endeavours of present-day natural science. But he knows that these endeavours of natural science must everywhere come to a stand-still or run into blind alleys if they do not meet what spiritual science can bring to light from opposite starting-points. A true view of the matter would look upon both directions of work as being like the boring of a tunnel, which commences from opposite directions, but, when the work is properly arranged, the two parties meet. The facts of contemporary work fully confirm this view. It is only misled opinions-regarding these facts which deny this and presume that spiritual science and natural science contradict each other. This contradiction, however, does not really exist. We have a brilliant example of the importance of the meeting of natural science and spiritual science in a book which has just been published, in, my opinion an epoch-making book. Vom Schaltwerk der Gedanken: Neue Einsichten und Betrachtungen über die Seele, by Karl Ludwig Schleich. If you read the important chapter on “Hysteria — a metaphysical problem,” you will see how a practical physician, who is at the same time a penetrating thinker, confronts facts which can only be fully elucidated by spiritual science, facts which compel him to say: “In the production of tissue through the impulse of hysteria we have the metaphysical problem of incarnation,” in “mediumistic vision, a kind of clairvoyance of possibilities of disease.” But a person would be under one of the very worst of illusions if he seriously thought that without the results of spiritual science he could explain all the actual experiences of man by the facts discovered by natural science. The scientist who refuses to consider spiritual science is like a man who has a piece of magnetic iron in his hand, but has no notion of magnetism and only uses the iron for an instrument in which magnetism plays no part. What would have come out of it if he had put the magnetism and not the material iron to some use? If you also read in Schleich's book the chapter on “The myth of the change of matter in the brain,” you will see for yourself how, by constraint of thought, the scientific physician comes to a formal description of what spiritual science — from a comprehensive presentation of spirit-life — appropriately describes as the etheric body of man. It is interesting to notice how this particular chapter in Schleich's book shows that at the present time natural science and spiritual science often talk in vain, because the co-operation of natural scientists and spiritual scientists in intellectual affairs is so difficult, on account of the dissipation of our intellectual life. Here we come to the painful thought: How different these things would be if scientists were really to become acquainted with spiritual science, instead of passing it by and leaving it to the foolish misrepresentations of those who act in accordance with the axiom: “Do not examine, but keep your irrelevant, prejudiced verdict!” At the close of the above-mentioned chapter Schleich says — and the case is important, because there is no question of ill-will, it is the statement of an upright, true investigator — “If Gœthe, that seer and prophet, observed so many connections in nature and demonstrated that the skull with all its parts is nothing but an expanded cervical vertebra, because all the constituent parts of the latter can be traced in the bony covering of the brain, it would not surprise me if the thought I have just expressed, namely, of the heaping up of the brain out of the elements of the spinal marrow, did not also slip into the labyrinth of his thought. I should not be surprised if some day a slip of paper by Gœthe on this subject was found.” Such is our intellectual co-operation at the present time! In 1916 an honest searcher expects that some time a scrap of paper of Gœthe's will be found. But this was found by me as long ago as 1891. In the Gœian Annual for 1892, page 175, in the article Gœthe as Anatomist, written by Professor K. v. Bardeleben, you will read, “The fact that Gœthe occupied himself not only with Osteology, but also with the ligaments, the muscles, as well as the brain, is shown by various notes, most of them on loose leaves. In the Venetian Diary for 1790 R. Steiner found the following sentence, which may be closely connected with Gœthe's thought on the vertebral nature of the skull-bones: ‘The brain itself is only a large principal ganglion. The organisation of the brain is repeated in each ganglion, so that each ganglion is to be looked upon as a small subordinate brain.’“ On the basis of this and similar things which I found, I was able to write in 1897 in my book, Gœthe's Weltanschauung, out of purely scientific thought, “Each nerve-centre in the ganglia was to him (Gœthe) a brain at a lower stage.” And this, in addition to many other things in connection with it, I have often mentioned since. This is only intended to be a small example of the manner in which investigators talk in vain in our pursuit of modern science. I shall certainly be the last to reproach Schleich for not knowing Gœthe's Annual for 1892 and my book of 1897; the uncertainty in our pursuit of science comes not from people but from the conditions.

In this booklet it has been pointed out how unfounded is all antagonism to spiritual science proceeding from religious points of view. We mentioned the excellent rectorial address given in 1894 by a catholic priest who was professor to the theological faculty at Vienna University. We are referring to Doctor Laurenz Müllner and his discourse on Galileo's Importance to Philosophy. In this address Doctor Milliner, who has remained a faithful son of his Church, says the following: “Thus a new conception of the world appeared (he is referring to the Galileo-Copernican view), which in many points was apparently at variance with opinions regarding which it was asserted, with very questionable right, that they proceeded from the doctrines of Christianity. It was much more a question of the contrast of the widened world-consciousness of the modern age to the more limited one of the antique, a contrast to the Greek, but not to the rightly understood Christian conception of the world, which could only see fresh marvels of divine power and wisdom in the newly discovered starry worlds, whereby the miracle of divine love accomplished on earth could only acquire greater importance.” In a similar manner with respect to the relation of spiritual science to religion it may be said that this spiritual science is often apparently at variance with opinions which are often represented as belonging to Christianity, but which with very questionable right assert their origin in the doctrines of Christianity. It is more a question of the contrast of the world-consciousness of our modern age which has extended into spiritual reality, to the narrowly limited natural-scientific consciousness of the last few centuries, but not to the rightly understood Christian conception of the world, which should only see in the spirit-worlds of Anthroposophy new marvels of divine power and wisdom, whereby the miracle of divine love accomplished in the world of sense can only acquire enhanced importance. As soon as in certain directions there is a fundamental insight into spiritual science such as was possessed by the above-mentioned noble priest and theologian, Laurenz Milliner, into modern natural science, all the attacks which are often made in such an unfounded manner upon spiritual science from the standpoint of religion will cease.