The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Anthroposophy has Something to Add to Modern Sciences
GA 73

The volume includes two series of public lectures given in Zurich. The first four, from 5 to 14 November 1917, were given at the request of young anthroposophists connected with the university. The next four lectures, from 8 to 17 October 1918, largely continue the previous series, though they were in part given without specific reference to one of the sciences.

Rudolf Steiner showed very convincingly in these lectures that the methods and findings of anthroposophical spiritual science may be seen as a vital contribution also in the spheres of academic sciences. It is a central aim in anthroposophy to enhance human powers of perception beyond the limits set to purely intellectual thinking. This is of vital importance also for the problems faced by scientists today. Rudolf Steiner’s statements relating to this are as significant today as ever and in fact gain more than ever in importance and urgency if we consider recent scientific developments.

In contrast to most other public lecture series (e.g. those given at the Architect’s House in Berlin), Rudolf Steiner did not, on the whole, proceed systematically in presenting the argument for the science of the spirit. Instead he concentrated on presenting findings made in that science: ‘my only purpose in presenting such results will be to arouse interest. To furnish proof for every detail of what I am going to say ... would require a course taking a whole week’ (lecture given on 12 November 1917).

‘My aim in giving these lectures has not been to fight other sciences or go against them in any way but to show ... that I appreciate them. I believe they are great not only in what they are today but also in what may still develop’ (lecture given on 14 November 1917).

Translated by A. R. Meuss

Translator's Note
I. Anthroposophy and Psychology November 5, 1917
Influence of 19th century approach to natural science on the field of psychology. Different approaches in investigating the natural world and the soul. Science of the soul as a matter of conscious awareness. Friedrich Theodor Vischer on the way to border point in gaining insight. Bergson in principle under an illusion. Entering deeply into the inner drama of gaining insight as the way of developing ‘spiritual organs of touch’. Perception in images leads to images reflecting the spiritual reality. Inspired and intuitive perception lead to living experience of the soul’s evolution and insight into the reality of repeated lives on earth. Franz Brentano’s tragic attempt. Richard Semon’s ‘mneme’ as natural scientific confirmation of findings made in spiritual science.
II. Anthroposophy and the Science of History November 7, 1917
History really only came to be considered a science in the course of the 19th century. Critical voices of Wolff, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Mauthner. Attempts to treat historical evolution scientifically by Herbert Spencer and Auguste Comte. Lessing’s Education of the Human Race. Johannes Volkelt’s book on dream fantasy as starting point for reflections on the world of dreams. Significance of dreaming for an explanation of feelings, and of sleep life for the origin of will impulses. Misinterpretation by Herbart. Fortlage on the connection between death and conscious awareness. Jacob Burckhardt’s references to simultaneous emergence of religious movements. In the light of spiritual science, mere enumeration of facts becomes a real science. Herman Grimm’s attempt to explain historical impulses. Gibbon as historian of Roman decline and fall. Ernst von Lasaulx’s premonition of the current decline, but failure to perceive the element of growth and development. Retrogressive education of the human race—compared to an individual human life, historical life moves backwards. Goethe’s words concerning history.
III. Anthroposophy and Natural Science November 12, 1917
Relationship between spiritual and natural science. Specific trends evolving from the 16th century onwards— observation limited to facts perceptible to the senses. Attempts made by Rubner and Atwater. Tacit assumption of a ‘thing in itself behind phenomena. Need to complement ordinary waking conscious awareness with perceptive vision. Haeckel’s theory of evolution. Eduard von Hartmann’s refutation of this. Oscar Hertwig’s refutation of Darwin’s theory of evolution. The problem of precedence of hen or egg. Present theory of evolution can be rectified by taking Goethe’s theory of metamorphosis forward. Theodor Ziehen’s view of feeling and will. Reference to the book Von Seelenraetseln which had just been published. The threefold nature of the bodily structure of the human organism. Goethe’s reply to Albrecht von Haller.
IV. Anthroposophy and sociology November 14, 1917
The application of concepts and ideas that are not in accord with reality to human community life can have tragic consequences. The concepts of natural science are not adequate. Moriz Benedikt’s postulated catechism for social life. Fundamental concept for the shaping of social life—the concept of human freedom; how freedom relates to the law of conservation of energy. Social life not structured according to the concepts we have in ordinary conscious awareness but beyond this in impulses that can only be grasped if we develop higher forms of conscious awareness—image-based, inspired and intuitive awareness. Method of accessing subconscious memories in psychoanalysis works with inadequate means. C. G. Jung on the concept of God. Woodrow Wilson’s theory and politics. Dostoevsky on the soul of the Russian nation. Fritz Mauthner on rights. Excellent work by Roman Boos on general labour contract. Anthroposophy as a further development of Goethe’s philosophy. The name Goetheanum for the building in Dornach.
V. Can a method of gaining insight into spheres beyond the sense-perceptible world be given a scientific basis? October 8, 1918
Richard Wahle on philosophy. Limits to knowledge with the natural scientific and mystic approaches. Augustine and Descartes had wrong ideas about thinking. True nature of thinking. Meditation to strengthen it, contemplation to enlighten us about the soul’s condition in dream life. Bringing vision in images and inspiration to conscious awareness is true intuition. Obstacles to understanding the science of the spirit.
VI. The spiritual scientific make-up of psychology October 10, 1918
Richard Wahle on scientific psychology. Increasing tendency to replace the philosophical approach with a physiology of the brain and nerves based on natural science. In the science of the spirit, efforts are made to go beyond the mere shells of words and investigate the soul in its reality. Going to sleep and waking up as starting points for a psychology in which the life of ideas has been strengthened and the will is under control. The forming of ideas. Clarifying the riddles in the life of feelings. The forming of ideas as weak images of life before birth; acting out of the will as a toned-down form of the dying process. Bridge to understanding repeated lives on earth. Brentano’s attempt to develop a psychology.
VII. The study of nature, social science and religious life seen in the light of spiritual science October 15, 1918
Three misunderstandings where anthroposophically orientated spiritual science is concerned. Why is anthroposophical insight into the spirit neither antisocial nor unscientific nor irreligious? Goethe’s theory of metamorphosis and what evolved from it. Science and religion must complement one another. Supersensible insight leads to impulses with real practical value in life when it comes to shaping social life. Purely natural-scientific concepts create social disharmony. The science of the spirit is neither sectarian nor does it create a religion; it satisfies the need to revere the divine.
VIII. Modern history in the light of spiritual-scientific investigation October 17, 1918
History as symptomatology. Danger of anthropomorphism. The 15th century as a turning point, with the spiritual soul coming through. Avignon. Joan of Arc. The Reformation. The universal ideas of papacy and medieval imperialism gave way to a national element. The natural-scientific way of thinking then arose as a new universal impulse. Goethe’s perception of Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire. Schopenhauer a symptom of death impulses. At the present time, a major turning point in time lies before us. This will bring the revelation of the supersensible as a new redeeming impulse. In the age of the spiritual soul, it is possible to understand the fruits of supersensible revelation. Need to cross the threshold.