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Mysticism Is A Superficial World View

Goethe writes to Jacobi: “God has punished you with metaphysics and set a thorn in your flesh, but has blessed me, on the other hand, with physics."

What Goethe wants to see is the essential being of things that expresses itself within his world of ideas. The mystic also wants to know the essential being of things by immersing himself in his own inner being; but he rejects precisely that innately clear and transparent world of ideas as unsuitable for attaining higher knowledge.

The mystic believes he must develop, not his capacity for ideas, but rather other powers of his inner being, in order to see the primal ground of things. Usually it is unclear feelings and emotions in which the mystic wants to grasp the essential being of things. But feelings and emotions belong only to the subjective being of man. In them nothing is expressed about the things. Only in ideas do the things themselves speak.

Mysticism is a superficial world view, in spite of the fact that the mystics are very proud of their “profundity” compared to men of reason. The mystics know nothing about the nature of feelings, otherwise they would not consider them to be expressions of the essential being of the world; and they know nothing about the nature of ideas, otherwise they would not consider them shallow and rationalistic.

Mystics have no inkling of what people who really have ideas experience in them. But for many people, ideas are in fact mere words. They cannot acquire for themselves the unending fullness of their content. No wonder they feel their own word husks, which are devoid of ideas, to be empty.
--Rudolf Steiner, Goethean Science, XVIII Goethe's World View in his Aphorisms in Prose

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Philosophy of Freedom Summary

Humanmindmania Encyclopedia
Philosophy of Freedom posted by Dr.Pouse Poulose

The Philosophy of Freedom, the fundamental philosophical work of the philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner, focuses on the concept of free will. Originally published in 1893 in German as Die Philosophie der Freiheit, the work has appeared under a number of English titles, including The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity and Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path.

Steiner initially divides the problem of free will into freedom of thought and freedom of action. He argues that inner freedom is achieved when we bridge the gap between our perception, which reflect the outer appearance of the world, and our cognition, which gives us access to the inner structure of the world; and that outer freedom arises when we bridge the gap between our ideals and the constraints of external reality, letting our deeds be inspired by what he terms moral imagination. Steiner considers inner and outer freedom as integral to one another, and that true freedom is only achieved when they are united. more...

Historical context
The work followed an epistemological study Steiner presented as his doctoral dissertation at the University of Rostock in 1891, later published as the book Truth and Knowledge.

Following Schiller Steiner describes how from two sides of our existence, our experience works to make us unfree. We can easily recognize that our natural being, that part of us we share with the animal world - our physical body, drives and desires, prejudices and habits - tends to determine our deeds and soul life. Just as constraining, however, are the dictates of conscience and abstract ethical or moral principles. Freedom, he says, is only possible because these various constraining factors work in contradictory directions. Between the impulses of our two natures, neither of which is individualized, we find the freedom to choose how to think and act. By overcoming the dictates of both our 'lower' and 'higher' sources of experience, by orchestrating a meeting place of objective and subjective elements of experience, we become true and free individuals. Freedom for Steiner thus does not lie in uninhibited expression of our subjective nature, but in the conscious unification of this with the objective constraints of the world.

At least since Kant's time, most western philosophy has recognized that dualism is innate to human consciousness. This dualism arises because we perceive the outer nature of the world and its inner nature in radically separated ways. Our sensory perceptions inform us about the outer appearance of the world, while our thought life penetrates its inner nature. This division is particular to and defines human experience. Steiner suggests that we actually have the capacity to overcome the dualism of experience by reuniting perception and cognition. When contemplating our own thinking activity, we are perceiving what we are thinking, and thinking what we are perceiving. Steiner suggests that freedom arises most purely at this moment, when free ideation arises out of ego activity; this is, for Steiner, spiritual activity.

Steiner proposes that once we have brought the two sides of our experience into harmony, we need to forge a new synthesis of these at every moment in a situationally-appropriate, free deed. Steiner coined the term moral imagination for this act of creative synthesis. He suggests that we only achieve free deeds when we find a moral imagination, an ethically impelled but particularized response to the immediacy of a given situation. This response will always be individual; it cannot be predicted or prescribed. This radical ethical individualism is, for Steiner, characteristic of freedom.

A detailed look at the philosophy
In the first part of the Philosophy of Freedom, Steiner discusses the epistemology of freedom, focusing on the conditions necessary for freedom in thinking. In the second part he examines the metaphysics of freedom, focusing on the conditions necessary for freedom of action.

Understanding freedom
Steiner begins by defining the importance of consciousness, in particular of rational thought, for the attainment of freedom. He explores the various compulsions of motives on different levels, and points out that freedom only exists if we overcome the force of the various motives acting within us. In his 1919 lectures on The Study of Man, Steiner further differentiated these motives into seven levels: reflexes, drives, desires, motifs, wishes, intentions, and commitments.

Steiner then takes up Schiller's exploration of the polarity between the moral compulsion of our rationality and the animal compulsion of our bodily nature (see Schiller's essay in letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man) to show that freedom is possible where compulsion from neither of these polar aspects of the human being dominates. He quotes Goethe here:

Two souls dwell, alas, in my breast
Each would from the other split;
One clutches, in its dullish lust
Tight to the world with its organs' grip;
The other raises itself forcibly from dust:
High ancestral fields are its quest.
Faust I, lines 1112-7

The polarity in consciousness is between perception through the senses, which gives us access to the outer nature of things, and perception through thinking, which gives us access to the inner nature of things. Steiner treats thinking as an organ of perception as valid as the senses themselves; both are subject to illusion and distortion, but both can reveal true aspects of the world to us. Our consciousness is dualistic in that the two sides of the world (and of every object or element of the world), the inner and the outer, are only available to us split between two modes of perception. It is then the work of the human mind or spirit to reconcile these two, to bring our thoughts about a given aspect of the world and our perceptions of this into harmony.

Steiner emphasizes that thinking is unique in its access to the true inner reality of the world. We can be conscious of our thought processes in a way that we cannot be of our feelings, will or perceptions. Because of this, we can be sure that our thoughts are truly objective, while our feelings about a thing (for example) may say more about our subjective reactions or condition than about the phenomena to which they seem to be directed. In addition, we correct our perceptions (for example, when these include perspective distortions) through our conceptual framework. Thinking is thus necessary if we are to properly interpret our perception.

Steiner also emphasizes that modern science depends upon these same two elements of perception and thinking. Perception alone is not science, but is at best the gathering of data. Only when we group and analyze a mass of perceptions can we obtain scientific clarity about it. On the other hand, mathematics is a kind of thinking in which thought itself forms the perceptions; no sense-perceptions are needed to form a basis for mathematical principles. Mathematics could be said to be a science of the inner side of things, where we need not know anything about their outer appearance.

A critical analysis of various philosophical directions' relation to the dialectic of our experience, to this polarity of our outer and inner worlds, concludes with the appeal for a higher monism. Though our experience leads us to an illusion of dualism, in reality we are experiencing two sides of a single phenomenon when we perceive it and think about it: two sides of a single, unified world. All the conclusions of dualistic philosophies - in particular Kant's assertion that there are limits beyond which our understanding can never go - are thus mistaken. There are limits beyond which our understanding does not presently go, but both our perception and our thinking can be extended far beyond their momentary abilities. The telescope and microscope offer us radical extensions of the range of our perceptions; we can look to extend our powers of thought as vigorously as we have extended our powers of perception. Steiner thus throws down a gauntlet to the philosophy of his (and our) time: it is not enough simply to define the limits of possible knowledge, it is necessary to work to extend these as well.

Exercising freedom
Steiner begins the second section of this work by emphasizing the role of self-awareness, of the awakening of the ego, in objective thinking. Here he modifies the usual description of inner and outer experience by pointing out that our feelings, for example, are given to us as naively as outer perceptions. Both of these, feelings and perceptions, tell about objects we are interested in: the one about ourselves, the other about the world. Both require the help of thinking to penetrate the reasons why they arise, to comprehend their inner message. The same is true of our will. Whereas our feelings tell how the world affects us, our will tells how we would affect the world. Neither attains to true objectivity, for both mix together the world's existence and our inner life in an unclear way. Steiner emphasizes that we experience our feelings and will - and our perceptions as well - as being more essentially part of us than our thinking; the former are more basic, more natural. He celebrates this gift of natural, direct experience, but points out that this experience is still dualistic in the sense that it only encompasses one side of the world.

This all is by way of introduction and recapitulation. Steiner then introduces the principle that we can act out of the compulsions of our natural being (reflexes, drives, desires) or out of the compulsion of ethical principles, and that neither of these leaves us free. Between them, however, is an individual insight, a situational ethic, that arises neither from abstract principles nor from our bodily impulses. A deed that arises in this way can be said to be truly free; it is also both unpredictable and wholly individual. Here Steiner articulates his fundamental maxim of social life:

Live through deeds of love, and let others live with understanding for each person's unique intentions.

Here he reconnects with Schiller's polar view of the influences on human nature, stating that morality transcends both the determining factors of bodily influences and those of convention:

A moral misunderstanding, a clash, is out of the question between people who are morally free. Only one who is morally unfree, who obeys bodily instincts or conventional demands of duty, turns away from a fellow human being if the latter does not obey the same instincts and demands as himself.

For Steiner, morality is completely situational and individual; true morality depends upon our achieving freedom from both our inner drives and outer pressures. To achieve such free deeds, we must cultivate our moral imagination, our ability to imaginatively create ethically sound and practical solutions to new situations, in fact, to forge our own ethical principles and to transform these flexibly as needed - not in the service of our own egotistical purposes, but in the face of new demands and situations. This is only possible through moral intuitions, immediate experiences of spiritual realities that underlie moral judgments. Moral imagination and intuition allow us to realize our subjective impulses in objective reality, thus creating bridges between the spiritual influence of our subjectivity and the natural influence of the objective world in deeds whereby "that which is natural is spiritual, that which is spiritual is natural".

Steiner concludes by pointing out that to achieve this level of freedom, we must lift ourselves out of our group-existence: out of the prejudices we receive from our family, nation, ethnic group and religion, and all that we inherit from the past that limits our creative and imaginative capacity to meet the world directly. Only when we realize our potential to be a unique individual are we free. Thus, it lies in our freedom to achieve freedom; put another way, only when we actively strive towards freedom do we have some chance of attaining it.

Philosophical antecedents

The 'Philosophy of Freedom' appears to build chiefly on the work of three philosophers: Fichte, Schiller and Franz Brentano (the teacher of both Steiner and Edmund Husserl). Fichte's distinction between formal and material freedom gives the structure to Steiner's presentation: the first half of the book is essentially about formal freedom, the second half about material freedom. Schiller's ideas about human freedom existing in a dynamic polarity between the compulsions of our rational, 'higher' being and those of our sensual, 'lower' being permeate the whole. Brentano's description of soul life as composed of perception, will impulses, feelings and thinking clearly form the basis of Steiner's psychology. It is worth noting that Steiner was a student of Brentano's at the University of Vienna, had studied Fichte intensively from an early date and quotes Schiller's Aesthetic Education extensively in many of his lectures.

Vladimir Solovyov, whom Steiner mentioned frequently in later lectures, may also have been an important influence. Solovyov's description of the fundamental dichotomy in human consciousness corresponds precisely to Steiner's:

In human beings, the absolute subject-object appears as such, i.e., as pure spiritual activity, containing all of its own objectivity, the whole process of its natural manifestation, but containing it totally ideally - in consciousness.

Steiner's philosophy neither evaluates the moral value of an action according to its consequences (utilitarianism), nor does it allow any categorical imperative, whether Kantian or otherwise, to be the moral arbiter of human actions. For Steiner, the highest morality exists when a deed actively connects a person's inner life with the external world through deeds of love by means of individually developed moral imaginations.

To live in love towards our actions, and to let live in the understanding of the other person's will, is the fundamental maxim of free men. - Chapter 9

Only to the extent that a man has emancipated himself in this way from all that is generic, does he count as a free spirit within a human community. No man is all genus, none is all individuality. - Chapter 14

(translations: Michael Wilson)

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The Causality of Thinking

Research on Rudolf Steiners`s Monism by Michael Muschalle
Translated from the German original “Kausalität des Denkens.



The Causality of Thinking

A Research on Rudolf Steiners`s Monism by Michael Muschalle

Translated from the German original “Kausalität des Denkens. Eine Studie zum weltanschaulichen Monismus Rudolf Steiners“ by Terry Boardman and Gabriele Savier
This translation was made possible by generous donations of some anthroposophic friends. Thanks to them all for their support. If you find this article helpful and want to read some more translated anthroposophic scientific investigations of the author, then you can do something for that by your donation toDr Michael Muschalle Kto 44 54 0797 Sparkasse Bielefeld BLZ 480 501 61 IBAN: DE 51 4805 0161 0044 5407 97 SWIFT-BIC: SPBIDE3BXXX

key-word: Translation Studien zur Anthroposophie
For any questions or comments you can reach the author at

Some years ago the mathematician, physicist and cosmologist Roger Penrose made the attempt to revolutionise physics by means of a theory of consciousness. In particular he was concerned to bridge the incompatibilities between Einstein's Theory of Relativity or Theory of Gravity on the one hand and quantum theory on the other.

At first glance such a project may seem to be a fantasy. Nevertheless, Penrose has made a clear impact on the scientific world. In the few pages of this essay I hope to communicate an impression that despite some fractures and inconsistencies in his argument, it is consistent in its fundamental train of thought and could be of real interest to anthroposophical readers. From an anthroposophical perspective, one could hardly choose a better point of departure in order to revolutionise modern physics than the one selected by Penrose: the study of the processes of cognition.

Penrose begins with an analysis of these processes in his 1991 book The Emperor's New Mind – Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics, which appeared in German under the title Computerdenken Die Debatte um künstliche Intelligenz, Bewußtsein und die Gesetze der Physik. 1). The German title makes it clear: it is a matter of a critical divide between many scientific contemporaries about the thesis that human thinking is ultimately comparable to the electronic process that goes on inside a computer; the difference is held to be at best merely one of a certain complexity but not one of fundamental quality. Thinking is therefore a physical process, and once one has largely overcome the physical barriers of the current computer architecture, then one will certainly soon have also eradicated deficiencies in achievement in regard to human thinking.

Much of the book The Emperor's New Mind reads like a plea to save human thinking from the blind and uncomprehending achievements of the calculating machine. Penrose's plea certainly has its strong points. Real thinking, based on insight, is according to Penrose, something completely different from the algorithmically driven, automatic procedures of the calculating machine, which remains basically alien and separate from the lawfulness of the process. (p.407f). Mathematical statements of truth do not allow themselves to be formalised and mechanised without limits, but rather always demand at some point decisions of true or false, which the programmed formalism of a still more refined machine principally cannot achieve (p.107f; p.406). Penrose goes further: the nature of mathematical insight, he thinks, not only consists in the abstract and rational cognising of mathematical lawfulness but is actually based on a kind of contact with ideal platonic beings which exist completely independently of the human thinker. Mathematical ideas are not invented or constructed, but are discovered on the path of an intellectual perception of these beings (p. 92 f; p.416f). This will seem somehow familiar to the anthroposophical reader.

For Penrose, the instant of contact with the platonic beings at the point of insight is an important moment in the physical aspect of the thought process. What is stimulated in thinking as thought content chiefly in the moment of insight can indeed be something extraordinarily complex and span enormous areas of knowledge. But although it may be rich and disparate in itself, for consciousness it constitutes a meaning that hangs together in itself; it is a unity. The unity of this consciousness in the moment of insight is what confirms Penrose in his idea of bridging, by means of a theory of consciousness, the irreconcilables in the great theories of contemporary physics. For there evidently occurs in this process of insight something that is similar to quantum processes, but this something occurs in a realm in which quantum theories do not apply. Something or other must be working from thinking, physiologically and physically, into the hugely entangled network of nerve cells, neurites and synapses, for thinking has a physiological correlate. What is working in this way must be initiating exact physiological processes, and indeed simultaneously, for in the moment of insight the most variegated contents of consciousness are often instantly linked in fractions of a second to something new. Who or what, asks Penrose, links up in the same instant such complex contents and organises physiological processes? The simultaneity of the occurrence leads him (p. 389) to accept that there could exist here a connection between simultaneous processes, which in quantum theory goes by the name of quantum parallelism. But quantum processes are only operative in the world of the miniscule, whereas by contrast, the relevant areas of the brain are truly gigantic and of a completely different order of
magnitude. Penrose's hope is that if one could understand what happens here, one would then have a new physics.

These then, to begin with, are Penrose's fruitful trains of thought. It is essential to note that he rarely leaves the territory of natural scientific thinking. The thought thus occurs to the reader as to whether Penrose is actually seeking merely to check and revise concepts of physics by means of a study of thinking, or whether he is not more concerned to discover a refined, more subtle mathematical-physical super-formalism which can explain what is at the roots of thinking and consciousness? Observations of consciousness in the sense of a phenomenology of consciousness occur in the book The Emperor's New Mind only sparingly, and in his following book, Shadows of the Mind 2) almost not at all. Penrose rejects mysticism (whatever that may be ­Shadows of the Mind p.15) and instead, is convinced that within an expanded science and mathematics there will be found sufficient mystery ultimately to accommodate even the mystery of mind and consciousness. For Penrose, the science of consciousness is mainly commensurate with a methodology oriented towards physics and the natural sciences, which remain rather far from, and suspicious of, a method of inner and direct observation of the phenomena of consciousness. If one tries to approach the problem from the side of physics, however -and here is the achilles heel of his undertaking – consciousness is not at all directly perceptible. That is no new insight, but it was only recently reconfirmed by analytical philosophy.3) This methodological one-dimensionality appears somewhat enigmatic and ambivalent. In this sense Penrose is the child of an age that until now has hardly opened up any other avenues for scientific thinking and in which academic knowledge has for almost a century wholly shut out and discredited direct experiential access to consciousness. Only in the last few years has cognizance been taken of renewed serious efforts to free a path once again for such access. 4)

Despite these weak points, Penrose seems to me to be on an important track. One can get a sense of this when one takes a glance at discussions in recent years which have developed around the so-called body-soul interaction, or in the jargon of analytical philosophy, around mental causality. This question in itself has a long history. It returned in virulent form in 1977 with the publication of the interdisciplinary work of Karl Poppers and John Eccles, titled The Self and its Brain 5) With the combined forces of the well-respected philosopher and a Nobel Prize winning brain psychologist, the attempt is made in the book to counter the widespread conception that the phenomena of consciousness are ultimately the same as physical-physiological processes, or else, through these, are conditioned, inconsequential and in terms of causality ineffective ancillary appearances of such processes. Against this, the authors posit the view that there is a realm of consciousness, independent of physics, which has its own direct, causally determinative influence on physiological processes, notably on the brain.

For physics, such an approach is disturbing, because it collides with an almost sacrosanct notion: that the physical world constitutes a unity, a causally closed system. For if there were to be a primal causal influence, stemming from consciousness, on the processes in the brain, then energy would in fact be produced from nothing, which the law of the conservation of energy rules out. Many critics therefore mobilised themselves against Popper and Eccles 6), while Popper on his side argued that the idea "that the works of Michelangelo are merely the result of molecular movements and nothing else" seems much more absurd than an offence against the First Law of Thermodynamics. (Popper/Eccles, 1982, p.641). Finally, Popper also argues that the development of physics is open, and that no-one knows how the physics of the future will turn out. (ibid., p.640)

In any case, the influential book by Popper and Eccles has had a lasting impact on the academic debate about consciousness and freedom. In some pregnant sentences the philosopher Peter Bieri later summarised the physical and epistemological consequences that had become evident in the debate around mental causation following publication of The Self and its Brain:

If mental phenomena are not physical phenomena and if there is mental causation, then the realm of physical phenomena cannot be regarded as a causally closed system. If, however, it is causally closed and if mental phenomena are non-physical phenomena, then, contrary to all appearances, there can be no mental causation. And if there is mental causation despite the causal unity of the physical world, then it cannot be held that mental phenomena are non-physical phenomena. 7)

As became only too clear in this dispute, questions of consciousness, of cognition and freedom, are very closely and consequentially intertwined with fundamental questions of physics. If one draws out the essential thought processes of the opposing positions, the following picture – somewhat closer to the position of Popper and Eccles – becomes discernible: the causal unity (or closed system) of the physical world excludes cognition and freedom. Logically grounded cognition, on the other hand, includes freedom and mental causality and implicitly lifts our current understanding of physics off its hinges in that it makes clear that the Law of Conservation of Energy is invalid.

For in the physical world applies the principle of causality, according to which everything that happens is, without exception, determined by physical processes. If one explains consciousness as nothing but a physically caused and determined appendage of the physical organism, then cognition and freedom are an illusion. What we think and how we act are then not the results of free, logically grounded insight, but rather, all our thoughts and actions are determined by physiological relationships within the brain. But this places natural science itself in an awkward spot, for cognition is based on logically grounded insight and therefore presupposes freedom from physical causality. If the process of cognition is redefined as a mere physically caused event, then this implies that all knowing and logical grounds are illusory. Natural science would then saw off the branch upon which it sits, for it exists wholly through the logical element of cognition, which is physically unbound.8)

If one acknowledges cognition and freedom, then one must also acknowledge mental causality, which has far-reaching consequences for the understanding of the physical world. To put it another way, the question of knowledge is also a physical question. This aspect of the problem is what makes Penrose's approach so noteworthy because he, like almost no-one else, is looking to renew physics directly from the facts of thinking, and all the questions around mental causality are concentrated again in the fact of free cognition. His attempt follows from the conception itself, even if in some respects it is not stringently thought through to the end. But above all, from an anthroposophical perspective, it seems conclusive, since for Rudolf Steiner, all processes of the normal soul life are very dependent on the physical life, even if not in the way that natural science conceives of the matter. But there is one significant exception: even at the level of the ordinary soul life, thinking is to a high degree independent of physical-physiological processes. If there are primary influences stemming from the inner life of the soul on bodily processes, then one must surely be able to discover them in the physical reflections of thinking and conceiving, which is actually where Penrose seeks the evidential basis of the new physics: in the processes and micro-structures of the brain and the nervous system.

I would like to throw a little more light on this matter from an anthroposophical perspective: many readers will know the following passage from Chapter XI of Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom.9) In this addition to the book's 2nd edition (1918), he speaks directly about the relationship of thinking and the human body and writes (p.147):

For ordinary experience, human thinking only appears in and through this [physical-psychological -MM] organisation. This appearance normally comes so much to the fore that its true significance cannot be grasped unless it is recognised that nothing whatsoever of this organisation plays a part in the essential nature of thinking. Once this is appreciated, one will then no longer fail to be aware of the very particular nature of the relationship between the human organisation and thinking itself. The physical organisation contributes nothing to the essential nature of thinking, but rather, it recedes whenever thinking makes its appearance. It holds its own activity back, which makes a space free, and in this free space thinking appears. The essential element active in thinking thus gives rise to two phenomena: first, the activity of the physical human organisation is pushed back, and second, thinking sets itself in the place that has been made free. Even the pushing back of the bodily organisation is the consequence of the activity of thinking and in fact, it is the consequence of that part of that activity which prepares the manifestation of thinking. One sees from this the way in which thinking finds its counterpart in the bodily organisation, and when one realises this, one will no longer misjudge the importance of this counterpart for thinking itself. Whoever walks over a ground that has been made soft leaves his footprints engraved in that ground. One will not be tempted to say that footprints are created from below by the forces of the ground. One will not ascribe to these forces any part in the production of the footprints.

This passage has its actual function in the middle of the discussion about mental causality and takes a decided position with regard to the question of the suppression of the physical organisation by the process of thinking. The spirit works directly and causally on physiological processes and forces them to recede. Steiner does not go into physical details here, which might lead some readers to think that his use of the word suppression is merely metaphorical, which would actually leave physics as it is and would perhaps present an image of the compatibility of this suppression with the current understanding of physics. But in fact this is not the case – there is no compatibility. For Steiner, the study of thinking has direct consequences for the understanding of the physical world and puts in question the causally closed system of current physics. The process discussed here undermines the Law of the Conservation of Energy and indeed, fundamentally, as Steiner went on to say in 1921.

In later lectures Steiner became very explicit on this matter and spoke unequivocally of an annihilation of matter through the process of thinking, for example, in 1921, when he said:

One experiences something mighty when one enters intuitively into the nature of knowing. One knows then how one is materially organised as a human being. One knows how far this material organisation reaches; but one also sees through Intuition that it extends only to that which provides a resistance, a ground so to speak, on which thinking can then develop itself, but also that where real thinking appears, the material processes in themselves have to be destroyed. Thinking, ideation can take hold in place of the annihilation of the material to the same degree to which the material processes are destroyed. I am aware of all that can be said against what I have just now expressed, but intuitive thinking leads to the insight that in relation to what is material, where thinking unfolds itself, what can be seen is a material void. This leads one to say: If I were to regard material existence, which otherwise one acknowledges as definitive, to be the only existence, then insofar as I think, I am not. Matter must first draw back into the organism and make way for thinking, for ideation; then this thinking, this ideation, sees the possibility for its unfolding within the human being. Therefore, where we perceive thinking in its reality, we also perceive destruction, annihilation of material existence. We look into how matter passes over into nothingness. Here we stand at the boundary of the Law of Conservation of Matter and Force. One must recognise the limits of the applicability of this Law of Matter and Force so as to be able to summon up the courage to contradict it when necessary. No-one can ever penetrate the being of thinking objectively there at the place where matter annihilates itself who holds that the Law of Conservation of Matter is absolute, who does not know that it applies to the outwardly visible realms of physics and chemistry and so on, but does not apply where our thinking appears on the stage of our own human organisation. If it were not necessary, for certain underlying reasons, to place this knowledge before the world today, one would not have to put up with all the scorn and objections which, quite understandably, must come from those who, because of known preconditions, hold that the Law of Conservation of Matter and Force is absolutely valid without exception. 10)

If one follows Steiner here, then the essential power of what is active in thinking is directly and causally opposed to physiological processes. And in the boundary region between the life of the body and the life of thinking, where these forces encounter each other - there would be the place in which Penrose should be able to discover his new physics. He could probably count on theoretical support from Steiner as long as he does not fall into thinking that this physics will explain spirit and consciousness but rather,conceives of it as a physics which is derived from the existence of spirit and consciousness.*

In its very futuristic technical possibilities this new physics will eventually come to seem like something bizarre, and very futuristic here is to be understood as something completely relative. Perhaps one can gain an insight into this when one takes a look at the novel by Bulwer Lytton that Rudolf Steiner expressly recommended Guenther Wachsmuth to translate into German. 11) On occasion, when one has discussed this with anthroposophical partners, it is as if a picture of the future such as Bulwer Lytton presents actually seems for them to be something truly incredible, unreal, or else that it is very futuristic fiction which might come true in the very distant future, if at all, and which has no direct relation to the present reality. All in all, however, all this seems not to relate so much to the agenda of anthroposophical interests, even if now and again short contributions on similar themes can be found in anthroposophical magazines. The reason for this [lack of interest], I believe, is, as is so often the case, an inadequate understanding of Rudolf Steiner's epistemology. In my estimation, this leads to the fact that many anthroposophists, in terms of how they understand things, are not monists, which would correspond to Steiner's conception, but dualists, who wonder how spirit interacts with matter and can bring about causal effects. Only a few seem ready to accept that Bulwer's picture has anything to do with Steiner's epistemology. And yet – and of this I am convinced – it is the case.

What the British novelist brings forward in his story in a very free literary form is in its fundamental reality also a clear logical consequence of what Steiner assumed as the basis of his epistemology and philosophy of freedom. In addition to the urgency with which Steiner addressed the issue, this also explains his engagement in the matter of the translation of the novel. For all this most probably stands much closer to the precursors of our own time than many people suspect. When making projections of the future in relation to this novel, one should think rather not in terms of many centuries or even millennia, but much closer to home – decades or a few generations. In its development natural science progresses not in a linear fashion but exponentially and in leaps, and many astonishing discoveries which now have a profound effect on our lives could certainly have been imagined by only a very few people a hundred years ago. Who in 1907 could have thought that around a hundred years later the contents of a library of thousands of books could be stored on a chip no larger than one's thumbnail and be accessible to someone by means of a cheaply obtainable device anywhere in the world? (cf. Rudolf Steiner's book The Philosophy of Freedom, available from the Gutenberg online library fits more than 2000 times on a 1 gigabyte SD memory chip of the type commonly used in digital cameras. And Steiner's entire collected works can be carried about on a little USB stick which costs just 20 Euros; this would leave plenty of space for a huge amount of other data and books.) Finally: what distinguishes the natural science of today from that of 40 or 50 years ago is a new openness for questions which at that earlier time would have been regarded as far out in the realm of unserious fantasy and imagination.

In his thinking Rudolf Steiner was much more robust and firmly-grounded than a first glance at his philosophical writings might suggest. Much that appears to the reader of these writings and lectures to play itself out only in etheric heights of the spirit has rather solid and sometimes very brutal effects in the earthly world of the senses. This is occasionally overlooked or is not thought through to its final consequences with sufficient energy.

In the years 1904-06 Steiner gave different lectures to the members of the esoteric school (GA 93, Dornach 1982) in which he shared some facts with a narrow circle of selected people. These were facts which had originally been protected as secret knowledge in esoteric societies but which now needed to be revealed because, in Steiner's view, natural science, in the course of its development, was striving towards a point which called for countermeasures to be taken.

What was this about? It had to do with the fact that around the turn of the century it had been realised that science would have to abandon the dualism of material atomic physical structure on the one hand and energy on the other. From then on, both were seen as equivalent: matter was a part of quasi-condensed energy. The physical world was thereby a good deal more unified than it had been previously. And since then, there have been many more steps in this direction, though they are still far from an end in the development. But for Steiner, this very significant step of unification in the sense of the equivalence of matter and energy was only a beginning. A further step was in the offing, and this was what actually prompted his lectures. It seems to me less a matter of going into the physical details, which are bound up with the state of knowledge at his time, and more of the trends which he was indicating: natural science now knew that electrical phenomena and atoms were, from a certain physical perspective, the same.
They would, sooner or later, come to understand that the same powers are at work in human thinking as lie at the basis of the electrical phenomena of nature, and this would enable them to create a link from thinking directly into the atom: the factual power of thinking would be able to work into the atom. What Steiner was pointing to here in the narrower sense was not the nuclear forces known to us, but something far beyond them and which, when fully developed, would unlock mastery both of the mineral and of the organic realms. (See in this connection the publisher's special note on p. 354 of GA­93). In this lecture appear the name of Bulwer Lytton and his futuristic novel Vril, to which I alluded to above. According to Steiner, (p. 281) Bulwer Lytton had knowledge of Rosicrucian secrets.

According to Steiner, the future development of the natural sciences will have immense consequences for humanity.

The secret which will be discovered is that electricity is exactly the same -provided one is able to observe it on a certain plane – as human thought. Human thought is of the same nature as electricity, seen at one time from inside, and at another from outside [....] Whoever knows what electricity is, knows that something lives in him, which, in a frozen condition, forms the atom. Here you have the bridge from human thoughts to the atom. ... As soon as human beings have recognised this most elementary occult truth about thoughts, electricity and atoms, they will understand something which will be most important for the future... They will be able to build with atoms through the power of thought (p.113)

Human beings would not only build, operate machinery and organise life processes by the power of thought, but would also be able to destroy to an unprecedented extent. (p. 123; p.285f). When, incidentally, Rudolf Steiner said (p. 287) that humanity was dancing on the edge of a volcano and simply did not know it, he certainly did not have in mind the great world-embracing events which occurred soon after as a result of political developments and the two world wars that followed them, but rather, discoveries relating to this connection between thinking and nature forces and possibilities linked to them which would eclipse everything that modern humanity had acquired until then.

Even if these statements resulted partly from fragments of lectures combined by their hearers, one can scarcely doubt the basic factual content of his listeners' accounts. These matters must be taken with absolute seriousness.
As I shall seek to show shortly, this is also because Steiner's epistemologically grounded, ideological monism makes such developments appear fundamentally realistic and plausible. So there is no Steiner who in his youth developed his epistemology and then later, simply assimilated eastern, theosophical ideas completely independently of this epistemology or came to such ideas by another route. These things certainly relate to each other in a systematic fashion. As a consequence, in his lecturing Steiner later essentially made it clear that these future forces would only be able to work in a beneficial way if human beings made use of them in a spirit of complete selflessness. Using them in an egoistic manner would result in destructive and chaotic consequences – the war of all against all, of which he frequently warned (p.114; p.123), and which also occurs in Bulwer-Lytton's novel. It is abundantly clear from these lectures that alongside spiritual cognition, Steiner regarded the threefolding of the social organism as a decisive instrument for pre-empting the worst precursors of such developments.

Whoever is familiar with this context will at first be amazed by how close the positions of Penrose and Steiner are to each other and also how they resemble each other in many other details, which I have not mentioned above. To revolutionise physics by means of a theory of consciousness, especially one of thinking, which focuses on the relationship between thinking and quantum electrodynamic phenomena, lies exactly in the direction that Steiner was elucidating for the members of his esoteric school. This is why in one of my works on the Internet I have said that Penrose is one of those who are on the trail of what Steiner calls the etheric or formative forces. There is one serious difference: the result for Penrose would be a physics of the spirit – a kind of theosophical materialism. For Steiner, on the other hand, natural phenomena are the consequences of spiritual forces.

Now a word on Steiner's epistemological underpinning of the future scenario he depicts: the inner relationship of nature and spirit is also the theme of a speech repeated in the above-mentioned lectures (p.101; p.112f) by the British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour on the position of natural science, which Steiner referred to in November 1904 in the magazine Luzifer-Gnosis (GA 34, Dornach 1960, p. 467ff). What Steiner draws attention to here is the relative proximity of modern natural science to the ideas of (what was then for Steiner still) Theosophy. His discussion of Balfour's comments is reflected in the statement: the kernel of nature must be found within the human soul; then it will also be revealed in the universe.

With this we are in Steiner's early philosophical writings. There is a direct line from the lectures to members mentioned earlier and the epistemological foundations of anthroposophy. The closing thoughts from Balfour's speech ­
the kernel of nature must be found within the human soul; then it will also be revealed in the universe – can be found expressed in similar vein at the end of the second chapter of the Philosophy of Freedom (GA 04, 1978):

We can only find nature outside us, if we first recognise it in ourselves. What is the same nature in our own inner being will be our guide. This shows us the way forward. We do not want to make any speculations about the interaction of nature of spirit, but we want to go down into the depths of our own being in order to find the elements there which we have preserved in our flight from nature.

What Steiner expresses here is by no means only to be taken in a philosophically aesthetic or speculative sense but has, as already noted, rock-solid consequences for the interrelationship between human thinking and outer nature. In thinking can be recognised from a different side what a being is in nature and its forces. Because it reaches beyond the opposition between subject and object, this overcomes the dualism of I and the world and recreates in thinking the original monist unity of the world. It is yet not only a theoretical means of monistic liberation from a dualistic captivity but at the same time an object of experience in which the inner being of the one nature shows itself both in its inner essence and in its outgoing force. The spirit that lives and works in thinking is the actual primeval force of nature, which also lives in all natural phenomena. It is the all-encompassing Idea. The kernel of the world, not only in the abstract philosophical metaphorical sense but also in a very real and forceful sense, which does not produce only ideas but also sets arms and legs in movement by means of which actions arise out of thoughts. The same power which acts in the eruptions of distant galaxies and makes plants and animals grow and flourish works also in the human
being in thinking. It is both meaning and force together. The one force which has the capacity to explain itself out of itself because it is determined by no other (GA 04, p. 145f). In his later, anthroposophical works Steiner calls this spirit that is active in thinking also the etheric or formative forces – which can be expressed by the philosophical term living universals (lebendige Universalien).

I think that Steiner means these etheric forces when in those lectures he refers to thoughts as the inner aspect of electrical phenomena. Thoughts or ideas are the active being (wirkende Wesen) of these phenomena. Unmistakeable statements in this direction, relating to the double nature of the spirit (meaning and force), are found already in various places in A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception (GA 02). For example, at the end of chapter 8 (3rd ed., 1978, p.35) he points out that the thought-content of the world shows itself from two sides:

In the one instance, it appears as an activity of our consciousness; in the other, as the immediate manifestation of a conformity to law, complete within itself, a self-determined ideal content.

Then in chapter 13, in summing up (1978, p.66):

Our theory of knowledge leads to the positive conclusion that thinking is the essential nature of the world, and that individual human thinking is the only phenomenal form of this essential nature.

This amounts to saying: the nature of the world as a whole is spiritual and consists of thinking. The forces present in this nature are active spiritual forces, forces of thinking. What first appears as percept reveals itself to be something spiritual and conceptual as soon as thinking turns its attention towards it. Steiner's early philosophical works were concerned to show this. A particularly pregnant expression appears at the end of chapter 11 (1978, p.55):

All sciences should be permeated by the conviction that their content is solely a thought content and that they sustain no other relationship to perception than that they see in the perceptual object a specialised form of the concept.

For our understanding, that applies not only to objectively material percepts of all kinds, such as stones, flowers, and butterflies, but also to all forms of perceptual or enclosed forces. Within 20 years of the appearance of this book at the latest, the natural scientific world had turned away from the previously obtaining concept of matter and had come to explain matter in terms of force or energy, so that from then on the world, seen physically, consisted only of special configurations of forces. This was exactly what Steiner drew attention to in 1904 in Balfour's speech: matter was now held to be what Steiner -accurately identifying the trend -then described in his lectures as frozen electricity, the inner aspect of which was thought. This was not meant as a pictorial image; there was a very real, concretely graspable background to it. In A Theory of Knowledge..... he speaks in this connection (1978, p.67) not only of thinking as "being" or "essential nature of the world" but already quite explicitly indicates that it is a "primal force" (Urkraft) without going any further into this at this point or even referring to any physical or technical examples. Those appear somewhat more clearly on the horizon in Goethean Science (GA 01, 1988) where in the chapter On the ethical and historical sciences (the title in the 1988 translation is: Relationship of the Goethean Way of Thinking to Other Views – transl.) (p.163f), he writes that human will is itself Idea, "conceived as force". In this connection, he holds that the philosopher Eduard von Hartmann completely unrealistically dismantles the unity of the world in the way he sees the aspects Idea, Force and Will as being independent of each other. Such a dismemberment, according to Steiner, can not stand up to more detailed investigation. Will or force are only to be understood as aspects or forms of appearance of the Idea itself and never as autonomous entities alongside it. According to Steiner's conception, there are no forces in the world that in themselves are blind and devoid of meaning and which help an isolated and, by itself, equally powerless Idea to become effective. Rather, the forces themselves belong to the Idea and are of ideal nature; that is, they are constituent parts of an all-embracing spiritual world foundation and cannot therefore be separated from this all-encompassing meaningfulness.

See in this connection also the analogous text from Steiner's A Theory of Knowledge... (GA 02, 1978, p.68f):

Another fallacy must be corrected at this point. It is that which considers thinking insufficient in itself to constitute the world; as if something else (force, will, etc.) must supervene in order to render the world possible.
However, on closer reflection, we soon realise that all such factors really amount to nothing more than abstractions drawn from the world of percepts and must themselves await elucidation through thinking.

Every other constituent of the world-being other than thinking would immediately require another kind of apprehension, of cognition than that which is given through thinking. We would have to grasp those other constituent parts by some other means than through thinking. For thinking provides only thoughts. But as soon as we try to explain what share these constituent elements have in the fabric of the world and seek to do this by means of concepts, then we contradict ourselves. Moreover, no third instrument is given to us besides sense perception and thinking. And we cannot consider any part of the former as the core of the world, because closer consideration of all its constituents shows that they do not as such contain the essential nature of sense perception. That can be sought only by means of thinking.

Seen from this perspective, meaning and force are the same. Statements made in later lectures by Steiner on the nature of pure thinking correspond with this: he speaks of how, in pure thinking, will and thinking become one – and that for pure thinking, "one might just as well say pure will". (See GA 202, Dornach 1980, p.202; lecture of 19.12.1920; and also GA 322, Dornach 1981, p.124, lecture of 3.Oct. 1920). Force and Idea are, accordingly, also one in pure thinking : in pure thinking willed thinking expresses, so to speak, the essential world-will or world spirituality – directly and undivided.

Expanding on this, one could add further statements by Steiner that are scattered throughout his lectures on the theme of how the human will is related to certain forces of nature, but to go into further detail in that direction here would lead too far, especially as the fundamental point has anyway already been sufficiently discussed.

With complete clarity, in his book Goethes Weltanschauung (Goethe's Worldview) (GA 06, Dornach 1979), Steiner writes (p.83f):

As long as the human being remains in any place, perceiving objects around him and considering the laws which are implanted as principles within them and by which they are ruled, he has the feeling that they confront him as unknown powers and which work upon him and impress upon him the thoughts of their laws. He feels himself to be unfree in regard to the things; he senses the lawfulness of nature to be rigid necessity with which he has to comply. Only when man realises that the forces of nature are nothing other than forms of the same spirit which also works in himself, does the insight come to him that he participates in freedom. The lawfulness of nature will only be felt as pressure so long as one sees it as an alien power. If one lives into its being, one feels it to be a force with which one works; one feels oneself to be a productive, cooperating element in the becoming and being of things. One has become one with all the forces of becoming.. One has taken up into one's own doing that which one otherwise only feels as an external driving force.

A little later (p. 85), we read:

Man can therefore only understand the actual nature of the world of ideas if he beholds his own activity. When he looks at anything else he is penetrating only the active idea (wirkende Idee); the thing that is 'worked out' (produced) through the active Idea remains as percept outside his spirit. In beholding the Idea, both elements, the productive and the produced, are wholly contained within his inner life. He has the whole process completely present within him. The beholding no longer seems to be produced by the Idea, for the beholding is now the Idea itself. This beholding of that which produces itself is the beholding of freedom. In observing thinking, man sees into world processes. It is not a matter of researching this process in accordance with some idea, for the process is the Idea itself.

And, expressed in other words:

If all nature processes are only manifestations of the Idea, then human actions are nothing but the Idea itself acting. (GA 01, in the chapter Relationship of the Goethean Way of Thinking to Other Views, Spring Valley, 1988)

This applies just as much to action in thinking as it does to any other human action.

The observer of thinking is – as Steiner had already indicated in A Theory of Knowledge.... and in the Philosophy of Freedom – not only a spiritual researcher but at the same time also a natural science researcher -a natural science researcher who has as the object of his study the inner nature of that which conventional natural science researchers observe from the outside. While the latter only draw their conclusions about the ideal content of nature through their experiments and observations and never achieve a direct beholding of the productive Idea -that is, of the essential foundations of the world -through their methods, this is precisely what the observer of thinking is able to achieve. He sees directly the productive and the produced in the beholding of the Idea in action, that is, of his thinking, and with this, he sees also that which is the essential driving force at the basis of the outer phenomena of nature. (See also the clear exposition of these ideas in Vom Menschenrätsel (The Riddle of Man) (GA 20, Dornach 1984, p.171f)

In this context it is interesting that whereas Steiner is in general only sparingly critical of Goethe, in the book Goethes Weltanschauung he makes quite forthright and brusque remarks about a not insignificant opinion of Goethe's such as the following well-known comment from Goethe's essay Bedeutende Fördernis durch ein einziges geistreiches Wort (Significant Help from One Single Intelligent Word):

Hereby I admit that the great and significant task know thyself always appeared suspicious to me, like a trick by a band of conspiring priests who confuse men with unattainable goals and who would distract them from outer activity into an inwardness of false contemplation. Man only knows himself insofar as he knows the world, of which he only becomes aware in himself, just as he only becomes aware of himself in the world. Every new object, well observed, opens up a new organ in us.
On this, Steiner comments (GA 06 Dornach 1979, p.91):

Precisely the reverse is true: man knows the world insofar as he knows himself. For within him is revealed in its most primal form that which exists to be observed in external things only as reflection, example or symbol – that which man can otherwise only speak of as unfathomable, impenetrable, divine: that, in its true form, is what appears to him when he looks at himself. Because he sees the Ideal directly in beholding himself, he also gains the power and capability to find and recognise this ideal in all external appearance.

This amounts to saying that whoever does not sufficiently confront the nature of his own thinking will never really grasp the outer world either. We recall Steiner's comment from the Philosophy of Freedom, quoted earlier:

We can only find the nature that is outside us if we have first found it within us

The same line of thought reappears here in the form of a very sharp criticism of Goethe. With this we have come full circle back to Steiner's concluding remarks about Balfour's speech and to the above-mentioned lectures to his pupils.

To summarise once again: The external forces of nature are forms of the same spirit, which man activates within him through thinking. It is the spirit which works in man and which can be experienced and observed directly in its active essential being -in thinking. Or to put it another way: In his thinking man observes the inner aspect of the forces of nature, which natural science observes from an external perspective. The productive, ruling meaning of the world (the Idea) – which is differentiated further by Steiner into a multiplicity of spiritual entities and individualities – arrives, as Steiner describes it here, in human consciousness to a self-consciousness and a direct consideration of itself. This is why natural science and anthroposophy – as Steiner frequently indicates -are not irreconcilable. What the natural scientist only unlocks with his formation of concepts, but does not behold
directly, the spiritual researcher beholds directly from the inner perspective. Expressed concretely, the spiritual observer beholds directly the working of those quantum electrical dynamical phenomena – which are at the same time the light from within – the existence of which the physicist Penrose can only infer through his processes and can never experience directly with his scientific instrumentation.

In very general terms, the inner observer experiences on this path a direct picture of the wisdom that permeates the world and is operative everywhere within it and which also lives and weaves within himself. (The account of the Steiner lecture referred to earlier speaks in an extremely abbreviated and simplified form only of thought as the inner aspect of electricity. One cannot of course remain bound to this but must rather expand this fragment of understanding and fill it with more content.) The external observer experiences only an indirect, highly abstract, mathematical-physical, formulaic structure that is also a purely ideal pattern of concepts which, in the ideal and thus yet far from realised case, describes the relationship of all these forces to each other. This then appears to the external observer as a multiplicity of interrelated and interacting forces; from the inner perspective this becomes a multiplicity of mutually related and interacting spiritual individualities – all seen naturally within certain limits. As long as their research is conducted correctly, the pictures which both perspectives provide do not exclude each other but are related like a photographic positive to a negative and therefore despite the difference between them, they are from a certain angle somehow congruent. It is only a consequence of misunderstandings on one side or the other when they appear to get in each other's way. One may compare what Steiner has to say on this theme in the book Von Seelenrätseln
(Riddles of the Soul) (GA 21, Dornach 1976, p.32f). Instructive too is what he says in his book Vom Menschenrätsel (The Riddle of Man)(GA 20) in the chapter New Perspectives (p.146, especially p.171f).

It is only that the physicist with his methods – and this ought not to be overlooked here – cannot make any statements about questions of meaning and still less so about meaning that is motivating or productive. He is unable to explain thinking and thus the inner dimension of the forces which he researches. He cannot explain the spirit and can at most only make inferences about it. p.14 He always stands outside it and never within the natural process that he investigates, experiencing not the productive agent but only the produced result. To elaborate this further at this point would take us into detailed questions of epistemology and exceed the intended range of this paper. Methodologically, the physicist could not fundamentally assume the inner perspective unless he were to become additionally the observer of this thinking and bring both perspectives together concretely.

It is greatly to Penrose's credit that here and there he at least tries to hint at this and at the same time also comes forward with some astonishing ideas. For example, if one takes Steiner at his word and translates what he expresses in his lectures of 1904-06 under the rather time-bound term electricity into the language of later quantum physics, then human thought is the inner aspect of what is today understood as a quantum electromagnetic phenomenon; light phenomena are also considered as such. When Penrose sees the relationship between thinking and quantum physics, then from Steiner's viewpoint, he is remarkably correct, indeed so remarkably correct that (purely speculatively) the question then arises as to whether his thoughts do not originate from other (unnamed) sources. He would not be the first important western physicist whose thought formation has been inspired by the teachings of eastern wisdom. From another perspective, the biophysicist Fritz Albert Popp is even closer to Steiner than Penrose. In his book Biologie des Lichts (The Biology of Light)(Berlin, Hamburg 1984, p. 139) Popp raises the question as to whether the structure of living matter ought not to be understood in terms of the special nature of electromagnetic interactions. If one brings the two perspectives together here as well, then – to put it sloppily and of course very summarily – one only needs to add together one and one, for what appears from without as active electromagnetism is from within seen as active thought. With this, one has arrived at Steiner's concept of the ether body which supports the whole human life organisation as well as the life of thinking. But when particle physicists sometimes use popular expressions, speaking of how they occupy themselves with what holds the world together in its inmost nature, then that is certainly an inappropriate metaphor which does not have much to do with its literary origin.

Because the same forces work in thinking that are active in the outer physical world, only perceived from another perspective and unmediated in their nature, the dualism between spirit and world is merely an apparent one. The difference is only one of perspective and not of essence. It is determined by the different mode of access, outer or inner, and, if supposed to be an absolute one, caused by cognition that misunderstands its own nature. The question of how spirit and matter can work upon each other simply does not arise for Steiner's monist position, and from this position it actually seems absurd because the essential nature of matter is itself spirit – spirit which in its outer manifestation only appears like matter, but which shows, or rather, begins to show its real spiritual nature when the inner perspective attainable through thinking is adopted. In reality, it is only the spirit working upon the spirit, and the result of this interaction can to external sight then appear as physically material effect.

It is this fact that in 1907 Steiner roughly outlines in a comment on the collapse of the 19th century's theoretical natural scientific concept of matter. In essence this is nothing other than what he had already expressed in his early philosophical writings: the physical world of the senses is on closer examination spiritual in nature. It only appears to be material and has been made to seem such as a result of natural scientific abstractions. Natural science is now (1907) at the point of throwing this abstract and unrealistic concept of reality overboard and will itself later come to realise that all the matter it deals with dissolves and only spirit remains.

"This material world will atomise and disintegrate and what lies behind it will be recognised. Then must come an advance in what one experiences and can experience. Then people will know that the atom can be nothing other than frozen electricity, frozen warmth and frozen light. And then they will have to go still further so as to understand that condensed and formed spirit is to be seen in everything. There is no matter! Matter is related to spirit like ice to water. Dissolve the ice and there is water. Dissolve matter and it disappears as matter and becomes spirit. Everything that is matter is spirit, the outer form of the appearance of spirit. (GA 56, Dornach 1985, p. 59, lecture in Berlin 17 October 1907)

By This material world will atomise and collapse is meant: in the sense of the formation of concepts about the physical world. The dissolution of the material world therefore takes place in the dimension of thought and above all, within an element that understands itself. This is why I have made reference to Steiner's early works, for a central focus of Steiner's concern in those works is to indicate that matter is, in its essence, spirit.

For further detail, see also Steiner's book Die Schwelle der geistigen Welt (The Threshold of the Spiritual World, GA-17, Dornach 1972, p. 77f):

When supersensible consciousness enters this spiritual world of living thought-beings, it feels itself to be in a completely new relationship towards the physical world, which confronts it in the spiritual world as another world, just as in the physical world the spiritual world appears as another world. But to spiritual sight, the physical world has lost everything which can be perceived of it within physical existence. All those qualities which are grasped with the senses or with the intellect which is bound up with the senses seem to have disappeared. On the other hand, it is obvious from the viewpoint of the spiritual world that the true, original nature of the physical world is itself spiritual. To the soul's gaze, looking from the spiritual world, there appear instead of the previous physical world, spiritual beings who unfold their activities in such a way that through the converging of those activities, that world comes into being which, seen through the senses, is the very world that man has before him in his own physical existence. Seen from the spiritual world, the qualities, forces, materials, etc., of the physical world disappear, and reveal themselves to be mere appearances. From the spiritual world man beholds only beings. In these beings lies true reality.

Steiner could probably at least count on partial agreement from scientists such as Roger Penrose or Fritz Albert Popp when already in 1910 he said that external matter including the human body is nothing other than "condensed light" :

There is a fundamental nature to our material earthly being, in which all matter only came into being through compression. And to the question: what then is the fundamental matter of our earthly being? spiritual science answers: all matter on earth is condensed light! There is nothing in material being that would be anything other than some form of condensed light...We must therefore see light as being at the basis of all material existence. And when we behold the physical human body, it too, insofar as it is material is woven of nothing other than light. Insofar as the human being is a material
being, he is made of light. (GA 120, Dornach 1992, p.192; lecture in Hamburg 27 May 1910).

A modern quantum physicist like Popp or Penrose would have hardly any fundamental difficulties with such a view, for one finds this metaphor of matter as frozen light amongst quantum physicists too, such as David Bohm. When Steiner finally on other occasions informs his listeners in a lecture course (1920) on the being of colour that light and thought are "the same thing, only seen from different sides" then that practically reads like an invitation to interdisciplinary cooperation between anthroposophists and open-minded physicists such as Penrose or Popp. (See GA 291, Dornach 1991, p.116; lecture in Dornach, 5 December 1920). A central task primarily addressed to those anthroposophists interested in epistemology and natural science is to make plausible to their scientific contemporaries the idea that the light of which physics speaks is essentially nothing other than the working of spirit or of thought. (One may compare here Steiner's detailed exposition on the forming of concepts in modern physics in the chapter 'New Perspectives' in his book The Riddle of Man (Vom Menschenrätsel; GA 20, Spring Valley 1990, p.125f).

What is at work in thinking then is no impotent spirit, which merely interacts somehow in a formal manner with man's physical body -a view that a mistaken dualism could impose. Rather, the "core of nature" has quite strong and direct effects even on this physicality: thinking's activity and interaction with the human physical organisation are thoroughly dynamic, because one and the same force is at work in both the activity and the organisation. This is why an epistemology and philosophy of freedom such as that of Steiner inevitably has direct consequences for a physical understanding of the world.

That meaning (Idea) and force are one and the same thing, only seen from two sides, is perhaps one of the most difficult problems in philosophy. A somewhat more technical and certainly inadequate expression for this would be active infomation. A philosophically educated reader will surely be more likely to think of the mediaeval doctrine of universals to which Steiner occasionally links (as in GA 21, p.138f).

For Steiner incidentally, this does not mean that the Ideal must always also be present in the actions of external forces but rather, that where external forces are at work, these are in essence always spiritual in nature.

In view of this background, it seems only consequential that when thinking interacts with other forces of nature, this relationship should at some point result in technical applications. From here, or from epistemology to the lectures to the members in GA 93, therefore required no further fundamental logical step; rather, what Steiner says in those lectures is only the expression of his idealistic-monist worldview applied in a consistent manner to the approaching physical, technical developments of the near and distant future. What Steiner elucidated for the members of his esoteric school and brought to their attention in relation to real, ongoing developments in natural science is therefore a very drastic consequence of his idealistic conception of the world which had already been laid out in his early philosophical writings. In other words, he was bringing to his pupils' attention nothing other than an essential line of thought in his epistemology, only this time not in the general terms of abstract philosophy but in relation to the very concrete case of the development of technical science. Therefore, when one has become sufficiently familiar with this epistemological groundwork, this connection has as little to do with fantasy as a TV weather forecast compared to the magical dance of a shaman. A particularly bright listener among his students would not have had to join the theosophical movement; if he had wished, he could have acquired this knowledge already in 1894 from a study of The Philosophy of Freedom or even earlier, from A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception.

Evidently, the lectures in question were given at a time when physics was on the way to the formulation or the recognition of the Theory of Relativity. There was as yet no quantum physics such as exists today, and Steiner would certainly have formulated many things differently 70 years later against the background of all the subsequent changes in physics – more in the language of quantum physics. Possibly, he even believed then that physics would more speedily reach that point at which all the forces of nature could be conceived of as metamorphoses of a single fundamental physical force. This point has not yet been reached, and the two great physical theories – relativity and quantum physics – have still not been unified. One ought therefore not to focus too narrowly on electricity, the concept Steiner then selected, for there are things in this realm of forces which are still unknown and remain to be considered. But that changes nothing as far as the most fundamental aspect of his remarks goes: since the forces working in thinking and those in the rest of nature do not differ but are identical, it is more than evident that one can speak here of the factual activity of thinking right down to the level of elementary particles. If one takes Steiner's epistemology seriously, then this activity takes place permanently at the level of natural human thinking. For the possibility as such is predicated in its potential by the monistic unity of the world. From this perspective it cannot be otherwise. The question is only when and in what circumstances humanity will be in a position to work with this to any significant degree in order to achieve purposive technical goals. In my view, if I am reading the signs of the times aright, then we are now standing directly on the threshold of these developments; they are beginning now. That is to say, when one reflects that the merging of neuro­biology and artificial intelligence has now reached the point where it is already possible to control artificial limbs by means of electromagnetic impulses that proceed from thinking, then essentially, we are already well within these developments.

In conclusion therefore I shall add another word on the time perspective behind Steiner's lectures when he spoke about these drastic radical changes in natural science and following them, those in the social and global dimensions. Even if Steiner was naturally then thinking of distant periods of time from very different points of view, when one studies these lectures from 1904 to 1906 one has the impression that he himself reckoned that the first phenomena of this kind would very soon be appearing. He already indicated wireless telegraphy (p. 114) as a beginning of these, and also something that today is seen as an electromagnetic phenomenon in association with other phenomena of light and whose physical foundations are rooted at the level of quantum physics. This impression becomes still stronger when one considers some developments of modern natural science. I said earlier that natural science today is much more open and unprejudiced with regard to certain problems than it was perhaps forty or fifty years ago. This makes feasible perspectives which scientists in earlier decades would have refused to adopt. Then through the networking of disparate scientific disciplines – headword: interdisciplinary studies – and the powerfully refined technical equipment of science today it is now possible to pursue questions experimentally which thirty or forty years ago at most would have had to remain at the level of thought experiments and theoretical ideas. Today it is possible – hardly imaginable 50 years ago – with the help of meditating Tibetan monks to bring clarity to questions in the psychology of the senses which have given psychologists a host of headaches since the time of Hermann von Helmholtz. 12). In these experiments, for example, biological cells and whole plants or animal organisms communicate and interact with each other by means of ultra-weak coherent light phenomena (in effect via micro-lasers) and in so doing the whole range of biological phenomena of growth and metabolism have to be subjected to quantum physical observation and re-evaluation, all of which could hardly be corroborated at the beginning of this science of biophotons in the 1920s because there were then no appropriate measuring instruments that could register such ultra-weak light emissions or isolate them sufficiently from light emissions of other kinds. 13) This only developed further to a level that was scientifically useful in the 1970s and 80s. A few decades ago it was also hardly conceivable that a man like Fritz Albert Popp, who is now one of the most internationally renowned researchers in the field of bio-photons, should have carried out research into the effectiveness of spiritual healers, an undertaking that very probably would have lost him his scientific reputation 40 years ago, and should have had his work published on questions of quantum physics by the top class publishers Springer alongside great scientific names such as Anton Zeilinger and Hans Peter Dürr. 14)

Many more examples of this kind could be cited. A popular science book of recent years Die letzten Rätsel der Wissenschaft (The Last Riddles of Science) (Frankfurt/Main, 2005) by Felix R. Paturi gives a good overview of the new openness and what it has made possible. The author, a physicist and science publicist, does not consider himself an esotericist and he seems to me also far from any striving for fantasy-laden effect, but for a writer of a popular science book, comparatively, he deals very soberly with some of the facts which can be addressed by science these days – facts which, as he says on
p.14 of his book, the science of the old school would scarcely have tolerated. Explaining and justifying the rather unusual content of his book, Paturi writes in his introduction on p.14, that "some readers of this book in vain for a firm divide between phenomena labelled either scientific or "esoteric". It is not that I have an inclination towards esotericism but that the boundaries of natural science themselves these days are experiencing a marked expansion – a phenomenon which, nevertheless, the army of scientists of the old school still largely oppose.... However, today more and more leading researchers at internationally renowned universities and scientific institutes are engaging seriously in areas which two decades ago would have been completely taboo for their future careers, among them telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation. It is not only the occupants of chairs of paraphysics and parapsychology that are busy in these areas but also specialists in quantum mechanics and material science, information scientists, neurologists and geneticists. If the book deals, among other things, with healing at a distance, with "rays", with mental influences upon water, apparitions of Mary and other remarkable things then it never does so from the perspective of the airy-fairy esotericist but as an expression of the fact that natural science has begun to expand its horizons and to reformulate its picture of the world from the ground up; it is summoning up the courage to open up such a new world."

Some of the examples Paturi presents are very close to what Steiner was saying to his pupils in the years 1904-1906: the direct effect of thinking on physical-biological processes at different dimensions of scale. In the narrower sense, this has to do with mental effects at a distance, sometimes over distances of many thousands of kilometres.

It is worth taking a look at such a book in order to get a feel for what is going on in scientific fields these days and what will in a few decades be a reality that determines our everyday life. It is an open question as to whether these developments and the new openness will offer only great opportunities that benefit mankind. And very much in question already is whether the anthroposophical movement is really well-equipped to cope with what is heading towards us.


1) Roger Penrose, Computerdenken. Die Debatte um künstliche Intelligenz, Bewußtsein und die Gesetze der Physik. Heidelberg 1991. Original title: Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind, New York, 1989. 2) Roger Penrose, Schatten des Geistes. Wege zu einer neuen Physik des Bewußtseins. Heidelberg, Berlin, Oxford 1995. Original title: Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind. Oxford Univerity Press, New York 1994 3) See also: Godehard Brüntrup, Mentale Verursachung, Stuttgart, Berlin, Köln, 1994, esp. p. 250 ff. 4) See also for example the contributions of various authors in Journal für Psychologie, 7th year, Vol. 2, 1999, pp. 2-62. More details on this research can be found at :\index.html 5) Sir Karl Popper, Sir John Eccles, The Self and Its Brain -An Argument for Interactionism, Heidelberg, Berlin, London, New York, 1977 German edition: Karl R. Popper, John C. Eccles, Das Ich und sein Gehirn, München 1982 6) See: Mario Bunge, Rubén Ardila, Philosophie der Psychologie, Tübingen 1990, p. 14: "In the philosophy of mind of Popper and Eccles the following is evident: first, that it is half-baked because its key concepts – above all 'world', 'spirit' and 'interaction' remain undefined and beyond this, by no means does it contain precise hypotheses about spirit and its alleged interaction with the brain. Secondly, it goes against the fundamentalphysical principle of the Law of Conservation of Energy (as it postulates that the immaterial spirit can set matter in motion). Thirdly, it ignores an unstated premise that lies at the base of every experimental science, namely, that the spirit cannot work directly on matter..." 7) Peter Bieri (Publ.), Analytische Philosophie des Geistes, 3rd ed., Königsstein/Ts., 1997, p. 6. 8) "Physical determinism", writes Popper (Karl R. Popper, Objektive Erkenntnis, [Objective Knowledge] Hamburg 1984, p. 232 ff) excludes logically grounded insight, because then the process of cognition is itself accomplished through necessity. For according to determinism anyone presents any theory – determinism for example – on the basis of his own predetermined physical structure (e.g. that of his brain). We deceive ourselves therefore (and are physically predisposed to this) when we believe that there are such things as arguments or grounds that lead us to accept determinism. Or, in other words, physical determinism is a theory about which, if it is true, one cannot argue, for it must reduce all our reactions – even one which appears to us as a conviction based on argument – to purely physical conditions. Such purely physical conditions, to which our physical environment belongs, cause us to say or accept whatever we say or accept;... But that means: if we believe that we have accepted a theory such as determinism because of the logical force of certain arguments, then in accordance with the theory of physical determinism, we are deceiving ourselves; or more precisely: we are putting ourselves in a physical condition which predisposes us to deceive ourselves." 9) Rudolf Steiner, Die Philosophie der Freiheit (The Philosophy of Freedom), Collected Works GA 04, Dornach 1978, p. 146 f. 10) GA-78, Dornach 1968, p. 142 f; lecture in Stuttgart, 5th Septemer 1921 11) Edward Bulwer Lytton, Vril -oder eine Menschheit der Zukunft. (Original title: The Coming Race) Translated by Guenther Wachsmuth, 3 Dornach 1981. 12) See: Meditation alters perceptual rivalry in Tibetan Buddhist monks, By O. L. Carter, D. E. Presti, C. Callistemon, Y. Ungerer, G. B. Liu, and J. D. Pettigrew at June 2005 13) See: Fritz A. Popp, Biologie des Lichts, Berlin, Hamburg 1984 14) See: Fritz Albert Popp, Quantum Phenomena of Biological Systems as Documented by Biophotonics, in: A. Elitzur, S. Dolev, N. Kolenda (Eds.); Quo Vadis Quantum Mechanics? With a Foreword by Roger Penrose, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, 2005, p. 371 ff.


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The Human Being Stands In The Center

Excerpt from Humanism and Polemical Populism
By Peter Normann Waage

I am not a member of the Anthroposophical Society or any other world view organization. I do however harbor a great respect for Rudolf Steiner, first of all as a philosopher and social reformer. That is where we find the "anarcho-individualism" that Rudolf Steiner subscribed to in the 1890's.

A survey of philosophical and socio-political works by Steiner conducted with the same objectivity one would expect with regard to more officially recognized thinkers, shows that the originator of anthroposophy was a humanistic rationalist. However, the rationality ascribed to the human being by Steiner does not stop at the borderline of faith. An essential feature of his philosophy is the argument that each single individual, regardless of race, gender, or social class, possesses an absolute value and ability to relate freely and self-dependently to all demands and authorities of a material and spiritual nature.

History cannot show one pioneer who is worth the digesting of absolutely everything. Isaac Newton won't be remembered for his speculations about the Apocalypse of St. John. Steiner is not interesting because of his faults, but because of his project: To create a bridge between insights that until now have been reserved for religion and faith,  and modern scientific reason. He wanted to rescue the individual and its humanness from drowning in foggy spiritualism as well as in stiffened materialism.

From this vantage point, anthroposophy is not so far from the ideal that editor Emberland describes in Humanist's editorial article: "In humanism, the human being stands in the center - and this means unabridged and absolutely: No visions or utopia - regardless of how alluring - and no 'necessary emergencies' - regardless of how imposing - can force us to abandon this ideal."

Where the human being is placed in the center, its potential for development becomes visible. Whether one stands alone or as part of a movement, one's fellow man must be ascribed the ability to learn from life.

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The Art Of Goethean Conversation

Group Moral Artistry II

by Marjorie Spock
Conversing, as Goethe conceived it, is the art of arts. The very place in his works where the subject finds mention lets us glimpse its singular rank in his esteem. This is in a key scene of his fairy tale, The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. There, the four kings enthroned in the subterranean mystery temple are roused to the dawning of a new Age of Man when the serpent, made luminous by the gold she had swallowed, penetrates with her light into their dark sanctuary, and the following dialogue takes place:
        “Whence came you hither?” asked the golden king.
        “Out of the clefts where gold dwells,” replied the serpent.
        “What is more glorious than gold?”
        “What is more quickening than Light?”
Unless one understands what Goethe meant one can feel disappointed at the serpent's answer, which scarcely seems the revelation one expected. For is conversation as we know it in the Twentieth Century really more glorious than gold, more quickening than light? Hardly! We attach the term to every casual exchange, to the most idle, inconsequential chit-chat. Surely, we feel, the term must have come down in the world since Goethe's day, suffering severest diminution in its slide.
That this is indeed the case becomes apparent when we recall the salons of earlier centuries where great minds came together for significant talk. These occasions were of a wholly different order from our social happenings. They were disciplined, where ours are chaotic, built around a common purpose, mutually enriching rather than depleting. It is impossible to picture the participants in a salon all talking at once, babbling away on as many subjects as there were pairs of conversationalists present. No! The star of a theme hung over the assemblage as over a pool studded with crystals, and the responsively scintillating crystal intellects took turns voicing the reflections awakened in them.
But Goethean conversations differ at least as much again from those of the salon as did the salon from today's cocktail party. Their purpose is to call forth a fullness of spiritual life, not to stage displays of intellectual fireworks. They have nothing in common with the salon's formal play of light-points sparkling in cold starlit glitter. Instead, they strive to enter the sun-warm realm of living thoughts where a thinker uses all himself as a tool of knowledge, where – in the manner of his thinking – he takes part as a creative spirit in the ongoing creative process of the cosmos.
But this is to say that a true Goethean conversation takes place across the threshold, in the etheric world, where thoughts are intuitions (cf. Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom), -- that it breaks through into the realm of First Causes.
Lesser types of interchange never do this; they remain mere mentalizing, speculation, argument, a recounting of experience, an offering of opinion, a reporting. At their best they are nothing more than disciplined discussion, at their worst a mindless associative rambling.
While most of these lesser forms of exchange can be made to serve useful purposes, the fact that they remain on this side of the threshold condemns them to spiritual barrenness; they leave earth and those who take part in them unfulfilled. They cannot overcome the isolation with which every man born since Adam feels afflicted.
But true conversations have that power. As the participants strive to enter the world of living thought together, each attunes his intuitive perception to the theme. And he does so in the special atmosphere engendered by approaching the threshold of the spiritual world: a mood of supernaturally attentive listening, of the most receptive openness to the life of thought into which he and his companions are now entering. In such an attitude the consciousness of all who share it shapes itself into a single chalice to contain that life. And partaking of that divine nutriment they partake also of communion, of fellowship; they live the Grail experience of modern man.
We have found Goethe depicting conversation as the art of arts. If it is indeed such, and we aspire to it, what does its practice require of us? Surely no amount of inspired groping will suffice; techniques of a very special order must be cultivated.
Perhaps the first pre-requisite is to be aware that the spiritual world beyond the threshold wishes every bit as keenly to be known to us as we wish to know it. It does not have to be taken by assault; it comes gladly to meet us, much as a wise and loving teacher responds to the warmth of a student's interest. And no one genuinely eager to approach such a teacher with the proper reverence fails to elicit his responses. The spiritual world is no less eager to meet our interest. We recall Christ’s assurance of this: “Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
The seeker's attitude thus proves a magically evoking wand that, like the rod of Moses, unlocks a flow of spiritual life. One must know this to be a fact, both in one's own and others' cases. Then the group’s consciousness becomes indeed a common vessel in which to receive such illumination as the world beyond the threshold may, on each given occasion, find it suitable to offer.
But one cannot step with a single stride from ordinary thought and chatter into Goethean conversation. The latter requires the most loving preparation. Thoughts must first be conceived like children, and then brooded out in the spirits of the thinkers. To this end the theme of a meeting is set in advance. Each member of the group lives with it as a developing concern in his meditation. As the day of foregathering draws near he begins to anticipate coming together as a festival of light which, if he and his fellows have done their work well, will lead to their illumination by the spiritual world.
What, specifically, is meant by work here? Certainly not the production of any finished concepts, the amassing of quotes from authoritative sources, the getting up of a resume of reading done. Thinking and study engaged in prior to a meeting rather serve the purpose of rousing the soul to maximum activity so that it may come into the presence of the spirit all perception. Work of this sort is a warming up, a brightening of consciousness to render the soul a dwelling place hospitable to insight. One must be willing to sacrifice previous thinking, as one does in the second stage of meditation, in order to clear the scene for fresh illumination.
The principle here is the same as that advanced by Rudolf Steiner when he advised teachers to prepare their lessons painstakingly and then be ready to sacrifice the prepared plan at the dictate of circumstances which may point to an entirely fresh approach to their material  If one is well prepared, he said, one will find the inspiration needed. Indeed, the principle is common to all esoteric striving. Invite the spirit by becoming spiritually active, and then hold yourself open to its visitation.
Those who come to the meeting place thus prepared will not bring the street in with them in the form of all sorts of distracting chatter. One does not, after all, approach the threshold in an ordinary mood; and where an approach is prepared, the scene in which the encounter takes place becomes a mystery temple setting. What is spoken there should harmonize with a temple atmosphere. Conventional courtesies to the person in the next chair, comments on the weather, the transacting of a  bit of business, are all completely out of tune and keeping.
To abstain from chatter means learning to live without any sense of discomfort in poised quiet. But then, a very special regard for and tolerance of silence is a sine  qua non of esoteric life, under which heading conversations too belong. This means an about-face from accustomed ways. In ordinary social intercourse words must flow, or there is no proof of relating; silences signal breakdowns in communication. But as one grows in awareness of the threshold, words for words' sake come to seem disturbers of the peace. Unnecessary utterance intrudes upon and destroys the concentrated inner quiet that serves as a matrix for the unfolding life of intuition.
Conversations, then, rest as much on being able to preserve silence as on speaking. And when it comes to the latter, one can find no better guide to the ideal than is offered in another piece of Goethean insight. The poet saw necessity as art's criterion (“Here is necessity; here is art.”). And one can sharpen one's sense of the necessary to the point where a conversation develops like a living organism, every part essential and in balance, each contributor taking pains to lift and hold himself above the level of unshaped outpourings. To achieve true conversations one must, in short, build with the material of intuition. And to reach this height everything of a personal, sentient nature must be sacrificed. Only then can a conversation find its way to necessity.
When it does so, it becomes a conversation with the spiritual world as well as with one's fellow earthlings.
Though groups vary greatly, a good deal of practice is usually needed to grow into a capacity for Goethean converse. Most individuals today are so habituated to discussion that they can hardly conceive higher levels of exchange. We are conditioned to earth; the etheric realm has become a stranger to us.
Several means exist to school oneself in etheric thinking. A prime one is, of course, meditation as Anthroposophy teaches it. Another is an ever repeated study of Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom, carried on with special attention to the way this book, which starts out on the customary ground of philosophic-intellectual argument, suddenly deserts it to lift, winged, into realms where every thought quickens and is free creative deed. Simply to follow that metamorphosis is to receive an infusion of etheric forces whereby one's own thinking is enlivened and one's mind tuned to intuitive perception.
A like transformation is brought about by steeping oneself in fairy tales and great poetry. For rhythms and images teem with spiritual life, and as one absorbs them one can feel one's own life being magically quickened.
It is wholly contrary to a truly modern community building concept to lean on leaders in a conversation. Rather does the creation of a Grail Cup consciousness require an intact circle of fully active, responsible individuals whose only leader is the spiritual world. If, before coming together, every such individual brings the theme of the meeting alive in himself and then, having arrived there, suppresses the thoughts he has had, while offering the life they have engendered to the spirit, the spirit will not fail to bestow fresh insight on a gathering prepared to receive it. This can be experienced again and again. One has only to be active and keep the way clear, knowing that “where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of you.”
The hope of that Presence can be strengthened by learning to listen to one's fellowmen in exactly the way one would listen to the spiritual world: evocatively, with reverence, refraining from any trace of reaction, making one's own soul a seedbed for others' germinal ideas.
This is not to imply that the listener surrenders the least measure of discrimination. He weighs what he hears. But he does so in a novel manner by cleansing himself of sympathy and antipathy in order to serve as an objective sounding board against which the words of the speaker ring true or false.
Thus the speaker is brought to hear himself and weigh his own utterances. Correction – in the sense of an awakening – is there without others sitting in judgment on him.
Nor is this all. Listening evocatively is a sun like deed. It rays the warmth and light of interest into the thought-life quickening in the circle and encourages it to a veritable burgeoning.
A question often asked by those who become interested in exploring conversations is: How does one go about choosing themes?
Certainly not in the usual arbitrary manner. One cannot, as perhaps happened in the salon, seek out the intellectually most appealing theme, nor, like today's discussion group, run one's finger down a list of Timely Topics trying to light on the timeliest. Instead, burning questions that have been harbored in the souls of the participants will seek the light, -- questions that have sprung from a heart's concern with matters of the spirit and are therefore already full of life, and fire and rooted in something deeper than the intellect. Of their own vitality these will burst out to claim the attention of the meeting.
Often a theme teems with such fullness of life that it goes through a long series of metamorphoses requiring many meetings for its exploration. Themes of this kind are especially valuable, for they tend to become lifelong spiritual concerns of all the members, and it is easy to see how indissolubly conversations about such matters link the participants in the conversation.
For a conversation to become a work of art, its life must be given form within a framework. Otherwise it would straggle on amorphously.
The framework that keeps conversations shaped is built in part of temporal elements, in part of a very simple ritual. Thus it will be found desirable to fix the exact time of both beginning and ending meetings, and to keep punctually to it, while everyone who intends to be present understands that he should arrive well beforehand to prepare himself to help launch the evening's activity in a gathered mood. These are invariable rules of esoteric practice. The ritual consists of rising and speaking together a line or more chosen for its spiritually-orienting content, -- for example “Ex deo nascimur (Of God we are born);” “In Christo morimur (In Christ we die);” “Per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus (Through the Holy Spirit we shall live again).” The same or another meditation may be spoken to end the meeting, again exactly at a pre-determined hour.
It may be feared that rigid time-limits inhibit the free unfolding of a conversation. This fear proves ungrounded. A painter's inspiration is not limited by the size of his canvas. Rather do limits serve in every art form as awakeners, sharpening awareness of what can be accomplished, and composition always adapts itself intuitively to the given space.
To make a composition all of one piece as it must be if it is to rank as art, the conversing circle needs to take unusual measures to preserve unity. Here again, there is a vast difference between a discussion and a conversation. In the former, few feel the least compunction about engaging in asides. Disruptive and rude though these are, and betraying conceit in their implication that what one is muttering to one's neighbor is of course of far more interest than what the man who has the floor is saying, they are not as final a disaster as when they take place in a conversation. For discussions base themselves on intellect, and intellectual thinking tends naturally to separateness. But conversations are of an order of thought in which illumined hearts serve as the organs of intelligence, and the tendency of hearts is to union. The conversation group must make itself a magic circle; the least break in its Grail-Cup wholeness would let precious light-substance generated by the meeting drain away. Sensitive participants will feel asides and interruptions to be nothing less than  a cutting off of the meeting from the spiritual world.
Many individuals feel that no conversation could ever match the inspiration of a top-flight lecture. Hence, they tend to think conversing is a waste of time much better spent reading lectures or listening to them.
No doubt lectures do serve important functions. Painstakingly prepared, they convey concentrations of spiritual substance to listeners, who sit down as it were to a meal someone else has placed before them. But to continue the analogy, dyed-in-the-wool lecture-goers do all their eating at restaurants, never learning the lovely art of home-making.
There is something woefully one-sided in such a way of life. Not only does it avoid responsibility and neglect opportunities for creative growth: it means remaining childishly dependent in the most important phase of human evolution, when one should be progressing from having truth revealed to discovering truth by one's own activity.
Rudolf Steiner was no friend of dependency in any form. He seldom told people the solution to a problem, and the only when exceptional pressures of time required it. Rather did he show the way to solving problems for oneself. And that is what the times demand of us: that we become spiritually self-active, learning to draw sustenance from the spiritual world for earth's renewal.
Goethean conversations will be found an ideal schooling for this task of foremost importance.

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Reflections On Community Building Part 2

Reflections On Community Building (Illustrated Part 1 of 2)
Reflections On Community Building (Illustrated Part 2 of 2)
by Marjorie Spock

Ear The Basis For A New Art Of Listening

Esoterics could be said to be the practice of a more than usual degree of attentiveness that leads to more than usual awareness, -- to seeing the thing meant in the thing seen or hearing the thing meant in the thing heard.

The ear comes more easily to such awareness than the eye does. For the eye is very much a surface organ, set closer to material reality and answering to the light that renders that reality visible, whereas the ear's placement makes for inwardness. It is not, like the eye, up front and curving positively out into the physical, but rather largely negative space, a system of hollows and tunnels penetrating deep into the head and set well back where physical form is less articulated. The ear seems to retreat from, rather than advance into externality, inviting impressions to follow it indoors into the soul realm. In a lecture given in Stuttgart on December 9, 1922, Rudolf Steiner spoke of the ear as a filter that separates physical sound from the sound's soul content. It is thus far readier for esoteric use than is the eye.

We have only to consider the eye's tendency to remain superficial to confirm this. Its perception of a human being is first and foremost of that person's body; its attention is prone to become caught up in bodily externalities such as skin texture, or the way the hairline runs or an eyebrow curves, unless it is consciously held to conveying more soul-like aspects of the physiognomy it is studying, to attending to that nebulous thing called an expression. Whereas the ear is not so easily beguiled; it tends to go at once to the heart of a matter and has an immediate, whole impression of the inwardness that lives and moves behind an utterance.

The ear is thus the sense organ readiest for use in esoteric schooling. And where esoterics widens to include joint efforts of communities, the ear's cultivation as an esoteric tool becomes doubly vital in that it forms the basis for a new art of listening.

Pointing to eurythmy's social mission, Rudolf Steiner once commented that listening has become a lost art in the present. So isolated is the ego when incarnated that we are all as though spiritually deaf. Or, put perhaps more accurately, the ear no longer invites impressions to follow it indoors; it lets them stay outside where they cannot be understood, while it turns all its real attention to the self. Nor is this true only when we listen to a voice abstractedly. How often do we not fail to hear a thought in reading and have to read it over and over again to get it! We were simply not listening. And if one asks why, self-observation makes it obvious that we were attending exclusively to our own thoughts, engaged in a running dialogue between the soul and ego. At such times, one resembles that other category of non-listeners: individuals so egotistical that they never stop talking to hear what other egos have to say -- the harsh fact being that no one else's inwardness really holds much interest for them.

Nowadays we blame lack of communication on semantic difficulties. But the problem is of deeper origin, and it will require some effort in its curing: nothing less than the development of a sixth sense in the ear.


* * * *

LISTENING PERCEPTIVELY has social consequences beyond estimating.

Attention On Speaker
First, there is what it does to the soul of the listener. A miracle of self-overcoming takes place within him whenever he really lends an ear to others. If he is to understand the person speaking, he must withdraw his attention from his own concerns and make a present of it to the speaker; he clears his inner scene like one who for a time gives up his home for others' use while himself remaining only in the role of servant. Listeners quite literally entertain a speaker's thought. "Not I, but Christ in me" is made real in every such act of genuine listening.

Growth Of Idea
Second, there is what happens to the speaker when he is fortunate enough to be listened to perceptively. Another kind of miracle takes place in him, perhaps best described as a springtime burgeoning (grow and flourish). Before his idea was expressed to a listener, it lived in his soul as potential only; it resembled a seed force lying fallow in the winter earth. To be listened to with real interest acts upon this seed like sun and warmth and rain and other cosmic elements that provide growth-impetus: the soul-ground in which the idea is embedded comes magically alive. Under such benign influences, thoughts grow full cycle and fulfill their promise. Moreover, they confer fertility upon the ground through the simple fact of having lived there. Further ideas will be the more readily received into such a soil and spring the more vigorously for its life-attunement. And the soul that harbors them begins to be the creative force in evolution for which it was intended by the gods.

One understands how grave sins of omission can be when one considers the potential fruitfulness that is lost to man and the universe through every failure to let the sunlight of our interest shine on the souls of our fellow earthlings. Neglect of such gardens of the spirit means for all of us a greater scarcity of nutriment and beauty than there need be, and at the same time an encouraging of weeds, which spring up rankly in all empty ground.

Cosmic Fullness
Not only do ideas burgeon in response to listening: when groups reflect and entertain them, they take on the many-sided, cosmic fullness that belongs to thoughts as universals.

And there is at least one further miracle attendant on listening, one akin to the miracle of loaves and fishes, in that the proliferating seed of living thoughts falls on the soul-ground of the hearers, as many as are truly listening, and begins in each a fresh evolutionary cycle.

Finally, groups that foster the fundamental social art of listening create a common higher consciousness, able like a Grail cup to receive and dispense the magically quickening lifeblood of the spiritual world. Nor will those who harken perceptively to living men fail to sensitize their listening also to the unseen dead and to those other hosts of heaven who may be seeking to inspire them.


* * * *

Conversational Art Of Shaping
If listening is the art of opening oneself to what lives in another's spirit, dialogue or conversation on the same high level adds the communal art of shaping the life evoked by listening and, through group effort, bringing out its fuller possibilities. Conversing in the Goethean sense is a modelling of the light that lives in heads.

Is this not also love in practice?

* * * *


Nowhere, however, is there a more stringent need to rise above the level of sympathy and antipathy than in listening and conversing. We cannot perceive the spirits of our fellowmen if we allow clouds of subjectivity to hang between them and our understanding. That space must be cleared of all obscuration so that we may become -- like the disembodied -- tremendously knowledgeable, -- able to see with whom we are dealing and what love requires our doing in the situation.

Manichean Deed Of Cleansing
One thing that love requires our doing is to digest not just what is spoken, but the speaker also.

But how different this act is from those in which one hungry ego devours another! It may be called a Manichean deed of cleansing, wherein the sacrificial spirit of the listener blots up, or, as it were, absorbs the speaker's imperfections; it is as though the latter's dross were purged away by the manner of his friend's listening. Then what is eternal in his being stands out clearly and can be mirrored back to him for his self-knowledge.

The Manichean service indicated is one not often met with in our time, nor does it come naturally to modern egohood. Yet it has something in common with parental nurture of the highest order. A wise mother performs it for her children when, almost wordlessly, she soothes them in an upset mood and restores them to serenity. She has, as it were, absorbed the weaknesses that made them vulnerable to upset, and, in digesting these, transmuted them into her own strength, balance, steadfastness. This product of her spirit's work she then rays back, and it becomes therapy for her environment.

Would forgiveness not remain an empty gesture and change absolutely nothing for the better if it did not imply helping to lighten the dead weight of unacceptable qualities with which every one of us is burdened? We speak of bearing with each other. But bearing with is more than passive toleration. It means actively taking up and carrying what the other carries: always a heavy load of unregeneracy. Forgiving, like all deeds of love, has this active quality that transforms both forgiver and forgiven.

It is, moreover, a direct following in the footsteps of the Christ, of whom we are told that he brought salvation by "taking the sins of the world upon himself," that is, digesting them in deeds of Manichean love on a cosmic scale. He "made straight" the path of forgiveness since traveled by those who would be esoteric Christians.

And there is a second service love requires of listeners which even the least tainting by sympathy or antipathy undermines and can render dangerous. That is the group task of reflecting back the speaker to himself as from a mirror.

There need be only a slight flaw in a mirror for it to falsify what it reflects; it must be flawless to produce objective images. Furthermore, unless it is held absolutely motionless, images cannot be brought to focus in it.

Sympathy and antipathy intrude distorting flaws into the mirroring activity of groups, while the stillness needed to focus images is shattered by the movement inherent in these soul reactions.

With proper effort, sympathy's and antipathy's involuntary motions can be eliminated by a circle that feels its responsibility for disciplining itself and fostering self-knowledge in its members. But the effort must be communal as well as individual. To succeed in it, all those present will need to join forces to build a common consciousness of "Christ in me".

This may seem an impossibly high goal to work for. It is certainly not easy to achieve. But genuine esoteric group life is inconceivable without it. It is as much the sine qua non of group accomplishment as meditation is in the esoteric life of individuals. Indeed, it is meditation in its purest form: selfless, deliberate, fully conscious inner action which brings souls to experience the spiritual world as it lives in and through the human spirit.

* * * *

Disciplining Feeling
The above proposals for deepening of social life are read from the need of modern times to lift all living from a sentient to a conscious level. The forward push that brought mankind out of the Dark Ages into the Enlightenment advanced only part of the human make-up: the intellect, leaving feeling still almost entirely in the realm of instinct. There is a clearly discernible rift running through every man of the time that splits mind and impulse wide apart unless he takes deliberate measures for its healing and schools his relations with his fellowmen.

This means making feeling capable of the same largeness of approach, the same objectivity, the same devotion to clarity to which thought advanced when it grew up. At a given moment in man's spiritual history, thinking set itself to eschew prejudice. Now the time has come for feeling to cease indulging sympathy and antipathy and to achieve a maturer basis of relationship.

To take deliberate steps in that direction is to set foot on the esoteric path, and in the way most called for by the period we live in. Anthroposophy confirms this and demonstrates its timeliness by the constant gentle emphasis it lays on disciplining feeling.

It does so in a variety of ways.

First, there is the fact that Christianity forms the very heart of Anthroposophy, all of whose teaching stands in relation to the Christ Event as the central happening in cosmic history. Which is to say that redemptive love, in whose benign presence sympathy and antipathy cannot live on, is shown to be the great gift to -- as it is the goal of -- earth evolution.

Secondly, there is Rudolf Steiner's picturing of what thinking can be when it transcends intellectuality and comes to full development as intuition. We quote from the Philosophy of Freedom, the work in which he most poignantly describes it: "... He who explores thinking in its living essence will find in it both will and feeling and both of these in their deepest reality." (cf. Chap.8)

Thirdly, there is Anthroposophy's nurture of the arts. Not only does it seek to transform the earth by lifting matter above the level of its merely natural ordering that it may receive baptism by the spirit: the Anthroposophically-oriented arts call for the artist's rising to an exceptional height of objectivity as he searches out the shape behind his inspiration. One might say that not he but the spirit of the medium he uses is his guide here. Yet it works through feeling rather than through will or thinking, and this requires a purifying, a making conscious of the feeling life such as really measures up to the time's need.

To sum up, one might say that Anthroposophical schooling sets itself the goal of advancing the student's inner life from mere sentience and intellectuality to the consciousness-soul development suited to the age, and that the Michaelic thought it fosters is as much made up of a pure fire of feeling as it is of clarity.

* * * *

Predestined Sympathies And Antipathies
When people use the term body social, they are referring to something obviously pictured as a single organism, no matter how many separate individuals comprise it.

Considering the difficulty human beings have when they attempt to pull together, the term body social may seem to overstate the case for social unity. Can and does society ever act with the single-mindedness normally underlying the behavior of an organism? Even the smallest body social, the family, is constantly riven by differences, so that it very rarely acts as one. What, then, justifies thinking of much larger clusters: nations, races, devotees of the various religions or philosophies and the like, as organisms?

Anthroposophical research has revealed a most important fact: that feeling has the unifying function in many's soul life. It is feeling that weaves the opposites of will and thinking into one soul organism which reflects its oneness in a single body. And if we explore the element that builds up the organism called the body social, we will find it to be a community of feeling. So, to take the smallest social unit, it is common to speak of family feeling as of a real force which, to some degree at least, overcomes the splintering effects of thought and will that tend to divide family members from each other. And larger groups than families find themselves contained within a single feeling network that is the family feeling of a race or nation, or perhaps of a profession, or, again, of a shared inclination to some particular approach to truth.

These networks in which we find ourselves caught up are woven by spiritual beings, most notably the Zeitgeist, the folk-soul, and our angels. And each of us belongs to them by destiny. But a chief means Karma uses to involve us in them is the sentient-soul with its blind impulses, which take the form of predestined sympathies and antipathies. The push and pull us into karmic situations where what we need to learn and do can be worked out.

Two questions arise here. The first may be occasioned by surprise that antipathy is lumped in with sympathy as involvement, -- for how could repulsion draw us to another? Self-observation makes it clear, however, that antipathetic feelings fasten our attention on a fellowman fully as compellingly as love or liking.

The second question leads into depths of esoteric fact which only Rudolf Steiner could illuminate. It is: if sympathy and antipathy must be overcome, yet Karma functions largely through their agency, how are we to be guided to our destiny?

Rudolf Steiner gave the answer in a sublime perspective on the future when he indicated that Karma can be superseded by the man who lets himself be Christ-inspired to deeds of love. Then he performs -- with love's and freedom's special grace -- the very acts which karmic necessity would have had him carry out, had he waited to be manipulated by it; he travels, seeing and conscious, the same path over which he would otherwise have stumbled, blind and awkward.

If the community building here envisioned has been described as an art of relating, it is because it lifts itself deliberately to the height of love, and wherever love is, there is artistry.

Perhaps it is clear that the social artistry which bases its practice on moral intuition (cf. The Philosophy of Freedom) builds a very different body social from that begotten by antipathy and sympathy. It is, in short, a body which man shares with heavenly hierarchies.

* * * *

Life Begetting Sun - Moon Polarity
From the founding days of the Anthroposophical Society, members have been wrestling with the problem of how to shape the time they spend together. And they have tried everything: lectures, joint reading and study of a Steiner book, panel discussions, artistic presentations, and even the intellectual free-for-all of the forum.

None of these practices has yet been generally or finally adopted. Should the fact that the matter is still unresolved not be taken to indicate that the perfect answer -- if there is one -- has not been found? And does the question not then become "Have we been looking in the right direction?"

Surely the purpose of any gathering, whether it be worldly or esoteric, is to generate more life (in a professional group, greater life of insight) than one can generate alone; otherwise people would save themselves the wear and tear of going out and use the time alone to better purpose. But how is life generated? What develops it most strongly in the body social? Must it be left to chance or grace? Or can it be planned, as a farmer takes measures to assure a harvest?

The cosmos has not left the development of life to chance; it has planned it, setting a sun and moon into the sky as polarities through and between which (cf. Rudolf Steiner's lecture Das Tor Der Sonne und Das Tor Des Mondes) forces of the planetary system enter into life-begetting, life-enhancing interchange -- a process without which life of any kind is unthinkable.

In the human soul, too, polarity serves as the life-engendering element. And esotericists discern a sun and moon pole in man's life as spirit as he alternates between active doing and reflective thinking.

What may be learned for the shaping of esoteric social life from such considerations? Is it not that interchange is all-important? That too great dependence on the lecture form -- which makes the lecturer the sun pole, his audience the moon -- scants a balanced life of soul in the listeners and hence in the society? Does our society not suffer drastically from insufficient life through having failed to take a course that would have developed life more vigorously in the rank and file? Could there, indeed, be a rank and file if we had based group practice on the recognition that every member is a unique spiritual being, a unique treasure house of humanness, from which the common life might be enriched?

Some individuals to whom such questions have been put have shown themselves so fixed in the lecture concept that they have countered, "But you can't have everybody lecturing!" Others have felt that the discussion groups which they mistakenly imagined to be the proposed substitute for lectures are not only too everyday for esoteric life, but encourage the expression of immature ideas, and tend to subject meetings to domination by neurotic individuals with an urge to talk incessantly. Furthermore, they say, the shy personalities would still not participate, but merely listen, moon-like, as they always do. And finally, "We are not there to say what we think but to study what those have said who really know."

Conversation As Shared Meditation
These may be perfectly cogent arguments against having discussion groups on esoteric subject matter. But no such mistaken course has been proposed. For by its very nature, discussion remains an intellectual exercise, and as such takes place on this side of the threshold. It is therefore entirely unsuited to esoteric interchange, which has as its goal crossing the threshold and entering together into spiritual life. What is proposed here is, rather, dialogue in the sense of Goethean conversation.

Conversations of the kind Goethe had in mind would almost certainly be made the modus vivendi of esoteric group life if the difference between them and discussions were better understood. They are actually a form of shared meditation in which the group as a whole consciously seeks to make itself a vessel for spiritual truth.

To do that, members of the group must know what it is to experience thoughts as living beings. And, indeed, idiom reflects wide awareness of the fact that ideas can be living organisms, for we call getting an idea conceiving. Everyone who has ever had a living thought knows how apt the term is. He has experienced that fact that thinking begins with the soul's impregnation by a germinal idea. One is aware from the start that it is present there and growing, though perhaps not at first of its shape or fullness. Then it gradually takes on form and substance. Only after an interval of ripening is the child of this spiritual begetting ready to be born as full-fledged insight.

When we speak of thought-activity as brooding, we also reflect a feeling for it as an evolutionary process, -- even, indeed, awareness of the fact that a thought evolves through warmth of interest and is to be found growing in our consciousness.

That we ourselves are changed as a result of having harbored or nurtured spiritual progeny: ideas, and brought them into realization must be obvious. And that the spiritual world also changes through thus sharing its creative purpose with us is most likely. "For that we came": -- that just such changes might be brought about.

Groups engaging in Goethean conversations become ever more conscious of the maturing role time plays in a thought-being's evolution. They will find, for example, that it is neither desirable nor possible for ideas to spring full-fledged from the spirits of their members on the very day of their conceiving. Insight can grow only gradually and organically from small beginnings. And the group working patiently with an idea knows this. It recognizes that it is participating in the life-process of the moral universe. All the group's members find themselves caught up in its fruitfulness. A mood of confidence awakens in which even the shyest, no longer dreading to expose intellectual shortcomings, finds himself able to contribute.

The germinal ideas that become the focus of group meditation are given to the group by destiny exactly as a child comes to its parents. They begin their life-course as questions that have taken root in the souls of members, and are then brought to the group for fostering.

Here, too, time plays a vital role. There is no unnatural rush, as with a lecture, to get an idea across to listeners who may not have entertained prior interest in the subject, -- a process similar to plumping one's child down in another's lap and saying, "Here, take it; it's all yours now." In such a course there is a great chance that hearers may not accept or will do little with it. Whereas in the slow-ripening group-nurture process outlined here, ideas are tenderly received as presents from on high and become the whole group's common nursling.

Study Group Preparation
The query "Where is Rudolf Steiner in this?" must be answered "Everywhere, from start to finish." It is he to whom we owe our knowledge that a spiritual world exists and owe any capacity we have to be at home there. It is he, the study of whose works awakens such a wealth of germinal questions in us that life can never again seem poor or uninteresting. It is he who has mapped the landscape in which the answers to our questions will be found. And though group meeting time may not be spent reading out his lectures, that same lecture material provides a large part of the substance of the meeting. For it is assumed that books or lectures bearing on the subject matter have been carefully studied (not merely read) by the members prior to the meeting. When the group regathers, it thus surrounds Dr. Steiner's thought with the additional life which that thought has generated in each student. Something becomes of his contribution which could never have grown out of a one-time common reading of a lecture. For lectures allow no time either for ripening or for an exchange of ripened spiritual life. Those who accustom themselves to the conversation form of meeting and to its requirement that members be prepared and active, feel increasingly what a superficial, wasteful use of spiritual substance is entailed in a one-time hearing or reading out of lectures. In fact, the latter method even comes to seem disrespectful to the lecturer, whose germinal ideas fall on largely unprepared and thus largely unresponsive ground.

Conversation Form Of Meeting
It may be objected that Rudolf Steiner himself chose the lecture and book form of presentation. But we might remember, first, that this was the beginning phase of Anthroposophy, when it was needful to endow the earth with a great spiritual treasure that could be drawn upon for centuries, and that none of the listeners was able at that time to contribute much more than a receptive consciousness. Secondly, that since Rudolf Steiner's death we have been in a quite different phase, in that none who have followed him have possessed like stature and a like mission to use their fellowmen as sounding boards for mightiest truth. Thirdly, that the spiritual activity to which he sought unceasingly to rouse us would seem to be best served in the present phase by a form of effort that evokes maximum participation in the members, -- a criterion which the lecture form cannot satisfy.

And do we not show a lack of confidence in Anthroposophy and in its power to bring human souls to burgeoning when we mistrust the conversation form of meeting? Are we not saying in effect that growth is possible to some, but not in significant degree to others? Anthroposophy makes it clear that all mankind is involved in a cosmic growth-process, and that every soul brings unique substance to that evolution. Are we in practice really making use of what each individual offers and providing him with the full stimulus of our interest in his further growth?

That growth and evolution come about through the interchange of two kinds of influences: the cosmic and the earthly. Anthroposophy supplies the cosmic element; it is sunlight to souls rightly rooted in the earth. But an earth must be there. And the earth in which the soul takes root is society, associations large and small that feel concern and will accept responsibility for the soul's development. No matter how much the sun streams down upon it, the soul cannot flourish if the earth provides too meager nutriment.

* * * *

Leaderless Society
Most of us are so habituated to what has always been done that we find it impossible to conceive of a leaderless society. Nor do we want one; it seems a condition fraught with far too many dangers. So when a leader goes, we look at once for new ones to arise who will rescue us from our confusion, dispel our nightmares, put the world to rights with their superior capacities, exactly as good parents do for their small children.

But to yearn for leaders is dependence, -- the same trend that makes the lecture form hang on. Of course it is easier to be shown the way than to find it oneself with independent effort, to let oneself be lifted toward the heights than to take part in the strenuous work of lifting. But the challenge of the times is to adequacy, adequacy such as free and loving men develop through their interest. The esoteric path cannot be for children tied as it were to parental leading strings, but for adults who deliberately fit themselves for mature, creative spiritual action.

There can scarcely be a better training for it than conversations. In such activity, the leader -- if there may be said to be one -- is not a person, but the theme, the spiritual fact under exploration.

Grail Cup Fashioned
Here again, it is vital to distinguish between discussions and conversations. Intellects active in discussion typically make straight for the mark of a conclusion; they penetrate fact as though with mental arrows, unaware that the fact may be a living thing that dies when so approached and becomes nothing more than a taxidermist's specimen. Whereas those who engage in conversations see their function as a group-process of inviting truth exactly as they would invite a human guest, and making the atmosphere receptive to it.

But they do not expect thoughts to come to them in the physical world. They must go out to the world of thought to see and shape their understanding to the shape of truth. It is as though they take themselves to the border of the country where the truth lives and there make of their souls a dwelling suited to receive and entertain the question. Or it could be said that a Grail cup is fashioned in a communal exercise of intuition and held up to receive the precious essence of the living thought.

Esoteric groups that approach their task -- as they must -- intuitively (i.e., in the meaning given the term in the Philosophy of Freedom) have neither need nor use for leaders. For, to say it once again, they meet for inspiration not on this side of the threshold, but beyond it, in a realm where the world spirit is their guide and leader.
* * * *

Read more…

Reflections On Community Building Part 1

Reflections On Community Building
 (Illustrated Part 1 of 2)
Reflections On Community Building (Illustrated Part 2 of 2)
by Marjorie Spock

Blood Stained Planet
Almost from the start, the earth has been a heart-sore, guilt-ridden, blood-stained planet. And though time and evolution have wrought great changes for the better in most aspects of man's living on the earth, his inhumanity to man has not abated, but continues on, adding ever new forms of suffering to the old. The human ingenuity that places space-ships on the moon and makes it possible to sail for weeks beneath the ice of polar oceans appears unequal to the feat of getting inside our fellows' feelings sufficiently to learn how to do by others as we would be done by.

The forms our inhumanity has taken have been myriad: brothers lifting savage hands against their brothers, child against father, neighbor against neighbor, rulers against their hapless subjects. Regions warring against adjacent regions; religions persecuting religionists of other stripes; ideology battling ideology. All over the globe the values most precious to individual life and communal striving have ever and again been subjected to destruction by those who had another set of values. Even those who banded together to advance a common cause have, in almost every instance, found themselves riven by differences of approach, so that instead of cooperating they have all too often blocked the efforts of their fellows. Nor does there seem to be any prospect of an end to these sunderings which keep on tearing down what men so laboriously build up and render life on earth so much more pitiful and futile than it need be.


Men of heart who have come to the point where they could no longer bear the carnage in which hope was wasted and lofty striving poured out on the sand have again and again tried to change the trend by conceiving and in some cases setting up utopias. These were invariably based on reason and took their appeal to reasonableness in others' minds. 

Nevertheless, not a single one of them has worked, or ever could work. For the light of mere reason cannot penetrate to the deeply buried root of the social problem.

Social Artistry Within The Philosophy Of Freedom

There is only one sure hope, and it has not been tried: to base both our understanding and our practice on esoterics. For esoterics alone makes it possible to see man whole, to discover him in his heavenly as well as in his earthly aspect, and, in the light of that total picture, to recognize what makes him worthy of esteem and love.

Anthroposophy provides that esoteric light. But if it is to be made truly fruitful for the earth, those who receive its beneficence will need to address themselves to the fundamental task of discerning and honoring and helping to bring forth the fruits of the eternal spirits of their fellowmen.

Few who read his Philosophy of Freedom for the first time would think of calling it a book on social artistry. Yet this early work which so signally accomplishes the redemption of the thinking process also celebrates in its picturing of free-man-the-thinker, the man who, because he lives in the spirit with his thinking, loves. And (in Chapter VIII) we find Rudolf Steiner most significantly likening moral phantasy to tact, the practice of the highest art of social feeling. Furthermore, he indicates what will bring an end to warring when he shows (in Chapter IX) how harmonious free men's intuitions are, being taken from one and the same world of ideas. He concludes: "Misunderstanding and conflict simply cannot develop between morally free human beings." It is reasonable also to apply the words with which he ends Chapter IX to esoteric societies as well as to society at large: "Social orders exist for no other purpose than to foster the development of individuals."

 * * * *

Darkened State
If the human race had never left the spiritual world to take up its evolution in the realm of matter, there could have been no such thing as a social problem. Human souls would have remained light-beings in a world of light where each would have been seen and known and loved for its shining qualities.

But in order that sight and knowledge and love be developed in freedom, men had to be separated from the light-world of their origin and plunged into the darkness of the earth. As a result of that separation, the light within them was "hidden under the bushel" of their bodies. Thus, from the time of man's fabled Fall, walls of matter have shut him away from the gods and from his fellow human beings, cast their shadows deep into his soul, and divided him from his own spirit. The words of the reversed, macrocosmic Lord's Prayer [1] describe the dilemma searingly:

Evil holds sway,
Attendant on the ego's sundering.
The guilt of selfhood not self-incurred,
Tasted in the eating of our daily bread
In that heaven's will no longer prevaileth,
In that man departed from your kingdom
And your names are forgotten,
Ye Fathers in heaven."

At first, the earth seemed alien to these outcasts, their flesh a prison-house they longed to flee. But with time they began to take the earth and fleshly bodies quite for granted. They forgot where they came from and that they had been exiled from the light in order that they re-discover it of their own seeking. More and more they accepted darkness as the normal state. And in their darkened soul-condition it became possible to dislike -- yes, even to hate and despise and to try to destroy -- their fellowmen because of their dark, body-begotten limitations.

Herein lies the true root of the social problem. Man sundered from God is by the same token also sundered from his fellow human being's spirits.

* * * *

Light Being
If, in our conceiving and our seeing, we could discern the light-man through the man of darkness, we would overcome that problem. Most of us are simply not aware that it is the body and the body-shadowed soul rather than the spirit that so irritate us as to prompt rejection and spur us to destroy a fellow being. Therefore, the first task of enlightened social effort must be to recognize and learn to see through the obscuration created by the fact that we are all darkened prisoners of the flesh.

Insight that develops from Rudolf Steiner's comment on the stumbling blocks presented by the body can indeed move us to look compassionately on our fellow strivers, to seek to penetrate to what they are in spirit, to help rather than continue hindering their evolution. Even to know that we would love them if we saw them truly helps us to progress in the direction where we find them unobscured. Social attitudes then become not a vague do-goodism, a generalized Luciferic love of all mankind, but a willingness to work at the hard but rewarding task of seeing through the outer shell of seeming which surrounds those with whom our destiny unites us and to search out the eternal spirit hidden there.

What is the difference between the exoteric and the esoteric way through life if not that the latter awakens the capacity to look behind the veil of seeming with which the former rests content? -- that esoterics everywhere seeks the spiritual reality behind the physical?

* * * *

Genuinely Social Attitudes
There is every indication in Rudolf Steiner's plays and lectures that he expected genuinely social attitudes to flower among the Anthroposophical membership as a result of esoteric striving. When one puzzles why this has not yet generally been the case, it becomes clear that though our minds may take in Anthroposophy as concept, earth-habituation is so deep-ingrained in all but our private meditative moments that we do not see esoterics as an all-permeating way of life, which, if pursued, radically changes social intercourse. Until that time, we remain even as Anthroposophists earth-corrupted natures, with the tendency to follow earth's darkened way in our human dealing.

An example of earth-habituation that stands in the way of esoteric practice is disregard of the fact that attendance at Anthroposophical gatherings is the modern form of attendance at the mysteries. Meetings should therefore be conceived as esoteric functions whose purpose it is to enable the participants to cross the threshold and have a common experience of the spiritual world.

To achieve this goal in the midst of earth-life is of course not easy. It requires a complete and deliberate about-face of the soul from attitudes such as obtain in exoteric living, a turning outside-in, a blotting out of mundane perceptions and concerns in order to ready the inner scene for purely inner soul activity.

Yet on the occasions of such meetings our centers ordinarily lack awareness of the threshold. Before the meeting begins they are indoor street-scenes. This was true even when Rudolf Steiner was the lecturer! People bustle about greeting one another, finding the location of their choice, chatting, catching up on news, seizing the opportunity to iron out some piece of business with members whom they happen to encounter. When the occasion's master of ceremonies mounts the podium, he often has a hard time getting attention to begin the meeting, so wholly has the outside world been carried in, so scattered is the mood. There then ensues a hurried shift of emphasis, so belated, so incomplete, that the first part of the occasion continues to feel the impact of only slowing subsiding waves of exoteric stir.

How different are these social scenes from those in which the meditating soul, alone with itself, worthily prepares to enter spiritual realms! The contrast here is very striking. In his meditative periods, the striver is fully aware of the esoteric nature of his effort and determined to shape himself to its requirements. But in group meetings that understanding and determination are not usually there. Comparing the two, it becomes clear why -- though individuals progress, deepen themselves, and make significant contributions to their time -- the Society as a group fails to keep pace, remaining for the most part riddled with dissension, undifferentiated from more worldly types of groups, and far less fruitful than it might be. It has simply not developed the esoteric character conceived as its reason for existing, nor has it moved in the direction of becoming the model for a modern mystery school.

These facts may weigh more heavily than is generally realized. Though a truly esoteric society based on Anthroposophy could be expected to serve as a potent spiritualizing leaven in the affairs of the Twentieth Century, so long as its life fails to attain that elevation and assume that character, Anthroposophy cannot have due influence upon the time.

* * * *

Light Of Understanding
Rudolf Steiner tells us that the mission of the earth is love.

Anthroposophy directly serves that goal. It does so not by commanding individuals who embrace it to change overnight from darkness-ridden, hating attitudes to love, but by the most painstaking search of reality whereby, little by little, reality's true aspect is uncovered. Anthroposophy's immeasurable contribution is that it shows reality in a light that reveals specifically how the spirit works. And to see it in that illumination is to love it.

Not only is this true in the lesser kingdoms when they are beheld with understanding. It obtains even in the case of the fallen angels, Lucifer and Ahriman, whom Rudolf Steiner has taught us to regard as benefactors richly meriting our gratitude for their sacrifice, dependent for redemption on our efforts. And if we make the light of understanding real, is there not every reason to expect that in its illumination we shall see our fellowmen bravely struggling up out of the darkness with which earth-evolution has obscured their spirits, -- that we shall love their striving and their light-core, and want to support their courageous efforts?

* * * *

Path Of Love
The path of love on which men travel back to the spiritual world carries a twofold obligation with it: to pierce through the bushel to the light in others, and to manifest it in oneself. Christ expressed the latter, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works..." For one who pursues the path of light does deeds of light, illumining the way to it for all; he becomes a shining presence in men's midst, whom they love freely. And through the power of light thus strengthened in himself, he is able to perceive the light in others and to love them.

Two thousand years ago, Christ permeated the dark matter of the body with His spirit's light. Since then, Christ-illumined souls may do the same, and in their efforts become benefactors of the human race.

* * * *

Imprisonment Within A Body
Before one can love one's fellowmen in the sense described by Rudolf Steiner in his Philosophy of Freedom and in the Foundation Stone address, one must have developed some understanding of what freedom is.

Imprisonment in a body plays a vital role in that achievement. For it is paradoxical but true that to become free one must first become a prisoner. Such freedom as one enjoys before becoming aware of one's imprisonment is egoless, irresponsible: a child's freedom rather than an adult's. And while it remains a boundless shapeless feeling, it is not yet the work of art which the gods intend that man should make it. Freedom, to be the soul's creation, must issue shaped from a core of selfhood and re-issue from it in fresh metamorphosis at each new challenge to moral artistry.

The cause of freedom therefore requires men's enclosure in a bodily housing which sets souls apart from one another to develop an ego-sense in isolation.


* * * *

When one is cut off from the world about, one exists at first in a vacuum, a painful emptiness that cries out to be filled. All the rich interest which environment held must be replaced with a new content. This can be drawn only from within. So the interior world becomes all-important.

Such has been the course of human evolution. Fellowship with the gods and with other men and nature waned in proportion to man's ever further immersion in dense matter, and as it did so, self-awareness strengthened and a new inner world of self-concern, of absorbed self-interest, sprang up within it.

We see this evolutionary process repeated with each newborn child. The baby, freshly emerging out of universal spirit into an individual, separate body, at once reflects self-interest in his bodily needs -- though, for some time to come, his soul still overflows with the loving, giving abundance of its cosmic origin. This native generosity can at times so overmaster self-concern as to prompt him, for example, to take the very food from his mouth and present it to others -- though, he may also ask it back again. Gradually, however, self-interest hardens as the incarnating soul falls ever more strongly under the body's influence; the separate selfhood that is being realized through the body fosters egotism. Only after traveling the long road to maturity can the soul again give freely, this time out of the sense of abundance that comes of conscious union with the spirit.

Ego Battles
That maturing may, however, take many incarnations. And until it is accomplished, man's life on earth suffers two major ill-effects of incarnation: First, a staggering proportion of every adult's time, thought, and effort is devoted to caring for the body's needs, as though that were the sole purpose of existence. Second, it lies in the nature of bodily egotism that selves maintain themselves in physical being in fierce competition with other selves who have also exchanged their child-awareness of abundance for an earth-conditioned sense of scarcity. Ego battles nakedly with ego to get and hold its own, which is always conceived materially (though when it comes to those spiritual possessions, thoughts, are not all men typically eager to share what they produce with others?)

Social Impulse
Countering the conflict rampant on the earth, however, is another force: the social impulse.

We flatter ourselves that all such impulses are wholly generous. But the truth is that they too spring from the emptiness and selfishness of young egohood. In all but highly evolved Christ-like souls, the social impulse has its origin in the need to fill hollow spaces deep within us, to relieve the oppressive isolation of the self. The more empty and alone the soul feels, the more frantically it reaches out for fellowship in its search for completion from outside itself. Every ego has been in a position to observe this drive in itself and others. It is the victim of a basic hunger which impels it to "seek whom it may devour."

Unpleasant though it is to face these facts which waken us so rudely from the idealistic dream of ourselves which we fondly nurture, very little progress can be made toward the earth's goal: love and understanding -- unless we see the stumbling blocks that strew our path and start to remove them. And from start to finish that effort is work of an esoteric nature.

Commune With Spiritual World
An individual can perhaps test how far he has advanced along the path that changes him from a taker to a giver by feeling out how long he might conceivably remain content alone with his own thoughts and without material tasks to occupy and distract him. If he can commune with the spiritual world in thought, he is a man who knows how to provide himself with content through giving attention to what is beyond him and infinitely greater than himself. His thoughts are then a form of worship of the spirit.

Such a one proves himself a safe companion for his fellowmen. He is no longer an unwitting vampire preying upon others for soul sustenance.

Until that point is reached, however, social hunger can take many forms. All forms typically wear the guise of selfless love to hide the self-seeking motives underneath them. And superficial souls are completely taken in.

As Christian Morgenstern put it:

"The lamb-vulture is a bird far-famed;
The vulture-lamb is here first named.
It doesn't say 'baa,' it doesn't say 'boo.'
It just gobbles you up while embracing you.
Then it turns pious eyes unto the Lord,
And is by all revered, adored."

The politician is the most obvious example of the vulture-lamb. But almost everybody sees through his protestations of sacrificial love to the self-seeking that possesses him. The self-seeking in his private life is, however, apt to go unrecognized, so accustomed are we to take the devotion of the parent, friend, lover or spouse, the professional man, the joiner of fraternal groups, at his face value, -- to think he loves and serves because he says he does, and assumes the posture. We should pay more attention to the phrase which besotted parents and the lover use: "You're so sweet I could simply eat you up!"-- Psychologists would find few clients had this not actually happened in so many instances.

Vulture-Lamb Relationships
One might ask why the child or the beloved or other victims of devouring impulses submit to being swallowed up; why, indeed, they seem to like it and even to feel grateful. The answer can only be that they were lonely or felt the threat of impending loneliness, as isolated egos do before maturing. Social hunger prompts them to welcome any kind of joining up with other mortals, whether it be as swallower or swallowed.

There is thus a tacit bargain, usually entered into all unconsciously, between partners in vulture-lamb relationships, an "I'll-scratch-your-back-where-it-needs-it-if-you-scratch-mine" agreement which, though it may never be mentioned, is nonetheless generally adhered to in practice. Many groups have this sort of understanding with their members. It is an agreement founded on the principle that makes tribal belonging and insurance companies work out so successfully: "Our social (or financial) protection for your loyalty (or premium)." Indeed, some churches even trade the protection of the fold and the promise of eternal bliss for the communicant's surrender of free conscience. They have, in short, swallowed him and he has found it expedient to consent.

Such bargains have a negative basis of relationship. This is clearly evidenced in their underlying "we two (or we ten, or we ten million) against the world" hostility of attitude, which causes them to cling together to compete with or resist or attack other groups. In all such, the spirit of separateness lives on; the separate units merely include more than one ego in each body social.

 * * * *

Attitude Shock Waves
One of the most dismaying aspects of this separateness is that intelligence seems powerless to overcome it -- for would it not have done so long ago if that were possible? Has it not been more than amply demonstrated that war, whether between nations or private personalities, never pays off? For both sides it is a losing proposition, unrelieved destruction with the combatants lucky to come out of it alive. And at war's end they face a future that will long be overshadowed by their losses.

Nor is this true only of warfare on the physical plane. Everyone who quarrels with another or thinks of him negatively sets in motion a widening spiral of destruction that affects the whole world, and himself with it. Those who observe themselves at such a moment can discern how their own stature shrinks in hostility, feel the shock waves of cold attitudes freezing the soul-ground where fruitful developments might otherwise be taking place, and sense what deprivation, what spiritual starvation, sets in when loving-kindness is withheld.

And this deplorable state of affairs, this incapacity to meet a basic daily challenge, seems to have to occur in the most vital area of human life! In the fields of mouse-trap making or mattress manufacture, such a situation would not long prevail. For those engaged in making articles of use such as mouse-traps and mattresses recognize the fact that they are in that field to make the thing work, and they go on studying to improve it until it reaches near perfection. But human beings are on earth (are they not?) for no other reason than to make love work. Why are we not more aware of this and studying our assignment day and night? Why do we go on putting almost everything else before our true business, to our own and the world's obvious detriment?

Trained Moral Eye
If it were as easy to see what is happening in the soul-world as it is to be clear on the working of a mouse-trap, we would surely make swift improvements in the social sphere. But without a trained moral eye we do not notice how another's being withers when subjected to the cold wind of our adverse attitudes. We are oblivious of soul-carnage. We do not see soul-starvation all around us. We fail to do with seed-potentialities on the soul-plane what every farmer and gardener does with physical seeds: look upon them as potential burgeoning, and plant and tend them.

Must we not say, then, that we are as blind materialists as other men? That the world of soul and spirit is for us as yet only theoretically primary reality? That we have still to conceive and adopt genuinely esoteric attitudes in the all important realm of social intercourse?

Though the physical world does indeed obscure man's reality as spirit, the vital fact about the human race remains that it is a hierarchy of the spiritual world. Man's and earth's salvation hangs on that fact being recognized and made the basis of our earth relationships.

* * * *

Overcoming Sympathy And Antipathy
Again and again Rudolf Steiner emphasizes how essential it is for the esoteric striver to overcome sympathy and antipathy. In fact, he makes their overcoming a foremost goal of esoteric effort.

Among the many reason why he does so, one stands out particularly. It is that to get beyond sympathy and antipathy means achieving a profundity of inner quiet without which the spiritual world can neither be approached nor known.

Is this not the very same quiet that must be attained before meditation can fruitfully be engaged in and that was called above an indispensable prerequisite to esoteric meetings?

It must be obvious that any and all confrontation with the spiritual world requires complete inner quiet as the basis for perceiving what is being sought there. How, then, can one approach the spirit of a fellow man with the hope of finding his reality in any but the mood of quietness in which sympathy and antipathy are silenced? A state of soul so readied is a sentient mirror, its reflective power undisturbed by the agitation that possesses a self impelled toward another to satisfy its social hunger or withdrawing from it to avoid unwanted contact. Rather is the soul poised, emptied of self and of all self-seeking, conscious of the threshold, ready to experience what lies beyond it.

Only so prepared can one perceive the spirit of another man.

* * * *

The benefits that would accrue to an esoteric movement from a really rigorous exclusion of sympathetic and antipathetic attitudes are beyond estimating. Two may be singled out below in illustration.

First, it would mean an advance from uncontrolled, unconscious and hence childish reactions to conscious, controlled, truly adult responses. Surely no other single change could be more promising for esoteric schooling?

Second, the harm done by lionizing, which is sympathy-gone-overboard, would be eliminated. And that would be a boon indeed to all involved: to the lionized, the unlionized and the lionizers. For to lionize means to form a Luciferic claque around supposedly special personalities. This not only tends to cut off those so venerated from non-claque members, thus lessening their fruitfulness: it swells heads much better left life-sized while at the same time reducing the claque's members to non-entities. Furthermore, it works strongly counter to the greatly-needed insight that all human beings have unique personalities which deserve and require developing. To fail to develop them leads to waste more wanton than any human enterprise can allow itself and still entertain the hope of prospering. Lionizing is thus in all three aspects illness -- illness moving toward a fatal outcome in that it gradually drains away the strength of the organism, while certain of its parts suffer from gigantism. Is this not cancer of the body social?

...continued at  REFLECTIONS ON COMMUNITY BUILDING (Illustrated Part 2 of 2)

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Description of pure experience

Here is the Johannes Volkelt quote describing pure (non-thinking) experience mentioned by Rudolf Steiner in Science Of Knowing.

In our estimation Johannes Volkelt has succeeded admirably in sketching the clear outlines of what we are justified in calling pure experience. He already gave a fine characterization of it five years ago in his book on Kant's Epistemology, and has then carried the subject further in his most recent work, Experience and Thinking. Now he did this, to be sure, in support of a view that is utterly different from our own, and for an essentially different purpose than ours is at the moment. But this need not prevent us from introducing here his excellent characterization of pure experience. He presents us, simply, with the pictures which, in a limited period of time, pass before our consciousness in a completely unconnected way. Volkelt says:

“Now, for example, my consciousness has as its content the mental picture of having worked hard today; immediately joining itself to this is the content of a mental picture of being able, with good conscience, to take a walk; but suddenly there appears the perceptual picture of the door opening and of the mailman entering; the mailman appears, now sticking out his hand, now opening his mouth, now doing the reverse; at the same time, there join in with this content of perception of the mouth opening, all kinds of auditory impressions, among which comes the impression that it is starting to rain outside. The mailman disappears from my consciousness, and the mental pictures that now arise have as their content the sequence: picking up scissors, opening the letter, criticism of illegible writing, visible images of the most diverse written figures, diverse imaginings and thoughts connected with them; scarcely is this sequence at an end than again there appears the mental picture of having worked hard and the perception, accompanied by ill humor, of the rain continuing; but both disappear from my consciousness, and there arises a mental picture with the content that a difficulty believed to have been resolved in the course of today's work was not resolved; entering at the same time are the mental pictures: freedom of will, empirical necessity, responsibility, value of virtue, absolute chance, incomprehensibility, etc.; these all join together with each other in the most varied and complicated way; and so it continues.”

Here we have depicted, within a certain limited period of time, what we really experience, the form of reality in which thinking plays no part at all.

Now one definitely should not believe that one would have arrived at a different result if, instead of this everyday experience, one had depicted, say, the experience we have of a scientific experiment or of a particular phenomenon of nature. Here, as there, it is individual unconnected pictures that pass before our consciousness. Thinking first establishes the connections.

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Ethical-Freedom in Kant by Johannes Kreyenbuehl

Rudolf Steiner writes in his Philosophy of Freedom, Chapter 9, about the article here published:

“... The clearest account of this spring of action (of practical reason, ed.) has been given by Kreyenbuehl. In my opinion his article on this subject is one of the most important contributions to present-day philosophy, more especially to Ethics. Kreyenbuehl calls the spring of action, of which we are speaking, the practical a priori, i.e., an impulse to action emanating directly from my intuition.”

With that Rudolf Steiner repeats his indications in the Theory of Knowledge, Chapter 19:

“... The World-Fundament has poured itself out completely into the world; it has not drawn back from the world in order to control it from without, but impels it from within; it has not withheld itself from the world. The highest form in which it emerges within the reality of ordinary life is that of thought and, with this, human personality. If, then, the World-Fundament has goals, these are identical with the goals which man sets up for himself as he manifests his own being. Man is not behaving in accordance with the purposes of the Guiding Power of the world when he investigates one or another of His commandments, but when he behaves in accordance with his own insight. For in him the Guiding Power of the world manifests Himself. He does not live as Will somewhere outside of man; he has renounced his own will in order that all might depend upon the will of man. If man is to be enabled to become his own lawgiver, all thought about world-determinations outside of man must be abandoned.

“We take this opportunity to call attention to the very excellent treatment of the subject by Kreyenbuehl in Philosophische Monatshefte (Vol. 18, No.3). This paper correctly explains how the maxims of our conduct result directly from the determination of our individuality; how everything which is ethically great is not given through the power of the moral law but is performed on the basis of the direct impulse of an individual idea.”

The translation by Harold Jurgens is very faithful to the German and maintains the flavor of Kreyenbuehl's unique style. The German title of the essay is Die ethische Freiheit bei Kant.

G.F. Karnow 

Ethical-Freedom in Kant
A critical-speculative study of the true spirit in Kantian philosophy(1)

1. In the rising and ebbing flow of thought in Kantian philosophy we only really encounter a single firm point which has remained standing intact in the fluctuating stream of dialectic: a consciousness of man's moral-freedom and autonomy, a belief in a moral world order. The immediate force of Kant's ethical sentiment was stronger than the logical consistency of his scientific thought. His repudiation of all knowledge of the super-sensible, his attenuation of ideas to merely restrictive regulators of empirical knowledge would have also made knowledge of ethical-freedom impossible, if one were strictly and logically consistent. At most one could have said that we can know nothing definite about moral-freedom, about an ethical world order or about a moral law, but we are nevertheless permitted to practically arrange our lives as if the empirical motives of pleasure, usefulness, and the like, were not the only ones which influence our will. It is obvious that a merely hypothetical morality like this would paralyze all moral activity. For if even the firmest conviction in a seemingly binding, categorically-definite moral law, and even the clearest consciousness of one's moral-freedom and responsibility isn't always able to eliminate an immoral attitude and way of behavior and help the opposing moral motives to victory, then the reduction of freedom and moral law to a mere regulative idea, to a mere subjective maxim, to an albeit admissible but unnecessary hypothesis, to an itself entirely unrecognizable problem, would have killed all morality in the bud. A live moral feeling, a certain inborn moral instinct, induced Kant to negate this skeptical volatilization of the ideal — with a resulting sacrifice of scientific consistency in the moral sphere — and made him try to reinstate ideas to their proper place as practical constitutive motives and as necessary postulates of a moral world order. It is not enough for Kant to have broken up the unity of the scientific system, so that human reason is divided in itself, and a gaping chasm is opened up between theory and practice, knowledge and moral faith; but he tries to turn this same unscientific character of his viewpoint to advantage in building up his moral world conception. Countless times, and most extensively in Section IX of the Critique of Practical Reason, he expresses himself to the effect that the theoretical unknowability of the supersensible is just one more reason to place practical belief in the same — and moral action in accordance with it — that much higher. One doesn't believe that one is listening to the father of modern philosophy, but to some scholastic theologian of the Middle Ages when we are assured that this impotence of our cognitional faculty in supersensible affairs is necessary to make possible a truly moral attitude directly consecrated to the law of duty. So as commendable as it is that Kant stopped his speculative skepticism short of the shrine of ethics, it is just as undeniable on the other hand that Reason thus set back and deprived of its rights revenged itself on its offender and provided a stunning example in his ethics that one dare not sacrifice clear, scientific conviction to any kind of faith, and that it is a contradiction to deny knowledge of the supersensible to reason, and yet want to attempt a scientific establishment and presentation of the super-sensible in a definite form (i.e., transcendental freedom). Fichte already opined accurately, that is, observed accurately, but philosophized badly about this contradictory behavior (N.W. I, p. 454). The more energetic the attempts originating from Kant's ethical individuality are to develop the fundamental principles of moral action in the greatest possible purity, the more glaringly at all corners and edges that speculative impotence appears, through which (in incomprehensible illusion) he wanted to provide a free space for his ethical ideal. Therefore a very mixed feeling comes over the critic when he's supposed to show how the deepest thoughts and most genial conceptions of ethical consciousness shrivel under the icy breath of theoretical skepticism and are held back at a certain stage of semi-maturity.

2. The first question is: how do we arrive at the concept of freedom, the central point of all morality? Not by an empirical path, because nature shows us only mechanical causality, in which every change is determined by a previous condition, so that the series of. these never ends. Freedom, however, is an attribute of the spirit, and is the capacity to begin a series of actions by itself by means of an original action which is not empirically or phenomenally conditioned (Critique of Pure Reason, pp.166–169 in Hutchins' edition). (2) If there were nothing but causality in the world there could be no question of freedom and hence of morality. But actually, besides nature there exists the region of moral spirit, besides the realm of necessity there is the realm of moral ought, besides laws of mechanical connections there are the pure imperatives of reason (Ibid. p.167). The ethical realm, far from being capable of being constructed or deduced from empirical-phenomenal components — ex pumice aquam! (water from stone) — is a realm of its own, abiding by ideas into which pure reason fits the empirical conditions (Ibid. p.168). It is this very realm of ought, of the categorical imperative, of moral law, which is the cognitional foundation for the highest concept of morality: freedom (C. Pract. R., pp.291–304). Freedom is the real foundation of moral law, moral law is the cognitional foundation of freedom. Of course the critic immediately has to oppose this description with reasonable doubts. Moral law as distinguished from the law of nature contains exactly the same problem as the idea of freedom, only it is the concept of freedom from the point of view that its content is not arbitrary but is a system in accordance with ideas, reasons or moral motives, just as nature is a system of mechanical-causal mediation. In the same act one knows the content of moral law and the content of moral-freedom. What Kant really wants to say is this: That our knowledge of freedom is not immediately knowledge of the full, positive meaning of the word. By reflecting upon our actions we gain the consciousness to begin with, that certain actions which we call moral can not be exclusively derived from empirical motives, but rather that we go considerably beyond the empirical motives of pleasure, displeasure, usefulness and the like in every moral action. Therefore Kant rightly observes that our concept of freedom is at first a negative or practical freedom in so far as we encounter it in operation in practical affairs (Critique of Practical Reason, H. p.302). However, this dialectical means by which the concept of freedom is first given to us as a negative quantity (= insufficiency of empirical motives in moral action) is only one side of its complete concept, which immediately emerges upon sharper reflection. Namely, if we observe that psychologically speaking the soul is never determined negatively but always positively by some kind of a motive of a moral or immoral kind, then from this viewpoint the concept of a negative freedom is meaningless; and those who understand freedom (freedom) only as a libertas a coactione(liberty from necessity or compulsion) completely forget that with regard to psychological determination it makes no difference whether I am determined from without or within, and that true freedom doesn't consist of inner psychological necessitation at all, but rather that the worst criminal as well as the conventionally most moral person find themselves together in this realm of psychological determination. The concept of ethical-freedom is only then attained when one goes beyond every necessitation by merely empirical motives; however this extension and therefore this negative freedom is itself only possible by virtue of the capacity for positive freedom. Purely negative freedom is contradictory from the standpoint of empiricism, because the soul is always positively determined; it therefore also cannot be the cause of phenomena, as Kant rightly observes (Critique of Pure Reason, p.169) it cannot become practical, and contradicts its own concept. If on the other hand the concept of negative freedom cannot be abandoned because it is a necessary component of moral consciousness, then what remains is to expand it to positive freedom and to elevate it into the region of true, transcendental, ideal freedom. If negative freedom is one where empirical causes do not completely determine us (Ibid., p.164), then positive freedom is a special way of drawing up the initiative for one's actions out of the depths of ethical being or existence. It therefore follows that negative freedom is only possible and comprehensible by means of positive freedom, and those who remain standing at negative freedom in any form are like the Hera of mythology who, laden with weights, was suspended between heaven and earth. On one side the weight of empirical motivation presses on them and prevents them from reaching the realm of freedom, on the other side they recognize morality to be a force which opposes sensuousness and selfishness; out of the confused mixing — rather than the dialectical connecting — of the two directions comes negative freedom — that one-sided abstraction of the empirically given, which is incapable of lifting itself to the heights of independent, positive thinking, and consequently eventually sinks again into the depths of unethical behavior.

Thus, if freedom in its true essence has immediately proven itself to be a positive force, and if we further recognize that moral law, categorical imperative and the like only contain this essence in them as if in paraphrase, then it's clear that we cannot get to know freedom through moral laws or the categorical imperative, or through a feeling of ought or through any of its various moments at all, but in the last instance we can only know it by means of an original and direct self-reflection of the spirit on its own ethical nature — by means of a practical a priori. It is still much less possible therefore to establish the true concept of freedom (freedom) on a merely empirical path by comparison of various kinds of motivation, or by abstraction from external compulsion, or the like. Even for the simplest and plainest judgment of an action from moral points of view this original practical a priori is necessary, and the only thing that can be conceded to empiricism is that this a priori is developed to ever greater clarity and purity through its exercise in our actions in the empirical realm. But this also is not to be understood to mean that the empirical exercise of morality as such could help us to greater clarity about the nature and content of positive freedom; rather it is the practical consciousness of freedom again which in itself progresses to ever higher stages of power and purity independently of all empiricism and only recognizes the limitations in all empirical action above which it rises, the inadequate forms in the battle with which the genius of freedom unfolds its wings ever more mightily and victoriously. Neither the Nemean lion not: the twelve headed Hydra made Hercules, but the divine-like nature of our hero became great in these partial trials by battling them, and this entire empirical finiteness is only the battlefield for the ethical spirit on which it, the spirit, is led on to ever more suitable forms of its being and activity. What Kant therefore opposes to this view — namely as if ethical cognition did not begin with freedom — is easy to refute and would, if it could prove anything, just as well disprove the idea that moral law is the cognitional foundation for freedom. If namely to begin with it is said that the first concept of freedom is negative and that therefore knowledge of the same cannot begin with it, then this objection is overcome by the presentation of the practical a priori, which under all circumstances, if ever so weakly and obscurely includes positive knowledge. Positive freedom is the first, original and principal presupposition for the negative; we would never arrive at a consciousness of what it means not to be necessitated exclusively by natural or empirical motives if we didn't already have some kind of knowledge of a system of higher motives which practically and positively elevate us above that other series of natural motives. A being that was completely and exclusively driven by impulses which were foreign to the ethical realm in the strict sense would on this account never even arrive at a negative freedom — and this simply for the reason that the so-called negative freedom in its true essence is really a positive instance of it, and is only labeled as a merely negative faculty by reflection which is not carried to completion.

The second reason; that freedom cannot be cognized from experience, holds just as much for moral law; for what belongs to experience in the latter (the expansion of the moral way of thinking into the system of external actions) in its empirical existence cannot of course be a source of knowledge for freedom. If it is really true that ought expresses a kind of necessity which otherwise doesn't occur in all of nature (Critique of Pure Reason, p. 167), and if morality essentially consists in being determined by the imperative ought, then morality and with it the law and principle of morality cannot be cognized by external, natural or even psychological means. But what belongs to the inner ethical way of thinking in the realization of moral law is precisely identical with the idea of positive freedom, and therefore knowledge of the ethical can begin just as well with freedom as with moral law. The only serious objection which Kant could bring to bear against the cognition of freedom by an original act of practical self-consciousness, was his aversion for “intellectual Anschauung” (‘intuition’ in Hutchins) by means of which alone freedom can be known as a positive concept (Critique of Practical Reason, p.303). But after all, one should no longer have to prove that the a priori synthetic function, the transcendental self-consciousness, in the Critique of Pure Reason by its very nature and according to its tendency is or can be anything else but exactly intellectual Anschauung, that is, a function of reason in which the intellect as a thinking intellect recognizes itself at the same time as the principle of and source of Anschauung's (that is, perceptual) activity. Now just as in the theoretical realm transcendental apperception is the highest principle of all intellectual activity, which therefore cannot be understood by any subordinate, isolated fact of experience, so in the practical realm an original, practical self-consciousness is the source of consciousness of freedom. Both the theoretical and the practical a priori coincide in their logical form: it is pure reason or intellectual Anschauung which is the basis for both. As far as content goes, however, the practical a priori is an extension of the theoretical one, and the idea of freedom is precisely the essence or the deepest form of the a priori function, of transcendental self-consciousness, of “intellectual Anschauung”. If therefore in this realm of pure reason empiricism is inadequate to establish a knowledge of the philosophical principle, if the latter can only enter our consciousness by an original, synthetic action of the spirit, then therefore eo ipso (by itself) it is also proven that freedom (pure reason in its highest and most perfect form) can only begin with an original, transcendental, absolutely synthetic act of our spirit, and only through such can it become an object of knowledge. There can therefore no longer be any question about a derivation of freedom from moral law as a fact still different from the former, and Kant would have done well to pursue more seriously his conjecture expressed in the footnote for the beginning of §6, that probably the only unconditioned law is the self-consciousness of pure, practical reason, and that the latter is identical with the positive concept of freedom (Ibid., p.302). It remained for Fichte to bring out the. principal significance of the idea of freedom for the theoretical as well as the practical realm; but also in Kant everything which is advanced about freedom depends upon that original, practical self-consciousness of the spirit, and upon the unspoken presupposition that freedom can only be known by means of a free, original, unconditioned act of the spirit.

3. Kant gave his whole investigation of moral law and of the nature of freedom a wrong turn from the start in that he considered moral law to be a mere legislative form, and everything material in morality, all content-containing motives of the will to be simply a contamination of the ethical realm. According to this then, freedom is also defined generally as total independence from the laws of nature and as determination purely by the law-giving form (Ibid., § 5 and 6, p.301). Now to be sure, it is quite correct that the principle of morality cannot coincide with any of its manifold manifestations in moral life, because each of these can only appear and gain validity under the presupposition of an all-comprehensive ethical context; but this doesn't begin to prove that the moral principle must disregard all content, all particular character and peculiar nature of the phenomenal will, and that it has to make laws as a purely abstract, general form. Rather it is obvious that an empty form loses all definiteness and all relation to the situations given empirically and also that the expansion of a moment — simply separated from this phenomenal world — into the latter becomes impossible (and so does the entire system of objective morality), if the ethical principle is supposed to be only the empty form, while the phenomenal world is supposed to be the mere content in contrast to the ethic-producing form. Aside from it being inconceivable how an empty form would ever be able to produce the fullness of a most manifold concrete content out of itself: freedom in its truly positive character is endangered and volatilized to a merely negative independence from the empirically given. For this reason Kant never quite succeeded in giving the idea of freedom in a really positive, clearly defined content; nevertheless we encounter definitions in his work which do more justice to the ideas than anything else that dogmatic philosophy before him has attained.

4. Already in the so-called antithetic of pure reason (Critique of Pure Reason, p.141), Kant defined freedom as the capacity to initiate a condition, and therefore also a series of effects of it, so that nothing precedes it whereby an action in progress is determined by existing laws. This seems to sound very positive, but as it stands here it is a completely negative and empty phrase which is incapable of being carried out dialectically even in Kantian terms. A pure and simple beginning can first of all mean two different things: it can mean an existence, a being, an action or a thought which for us is a pure and simple presupposition beyond which we can in no way go. An action would therefore begin purely and simply if it were only defined and determined by this last, absolute presupposition. In any case a condition would be established which temporally speaking precedes our action and which causally speaking conditions it according to an existing law. Such a beginning is apparently not what Kant had in mind. Spiritual action should absolutely not presuppose anything; it should begin a state and therewith a series of states without precondition, it should be equipped with creative power in the most daring sense in that it places a something in the empty place of nothing (for “nothing” is presupposed). To be sure Kant also expresses himself occasionally to the effect that freedom is the capacity of the subject to begin an action simply out of himself. But this version runs into the same dilemma. Either the subject latches onto a presupposed condition, existence or change in himself, or he creates something similar out of nothing, whereby one should note that the expression “out of himself” becomes invalid, since nothing precedes the original action of the subject, and therefore also not on an anyway already present, definite and responsible subject or ego, so that the subject is necessitated in Munchhausenic fashion as causa sui (cause of himself) to yank himself out of the swamp of non-existence into the region of existence. In other words, a pure and simple beginning in the Kantian sense involves the contradiction that something existing (ego, subject) is treated as something non-existent (which has to posit its state and therewith itself for the first time). This is definitely not to say that transcendental freedom couldn't also acquire an admissible meaning, the discussion of which however we'll have to reserve for another occasion.

5. A more positive result appears to be provided by the definition in which freedom is formulated as the ability to be determined by the mere form of a moral law. (Critique of Practical Reason § 2, 3, 5, 6, besides notes; then the fundamental law § 7). However, the wealth which seems to lie in this all-comprehensive moral principle is only the outline of a general concept which is entirely devoid of content and which depends on an abstract formulation of the concept “law”. But what constitutes the content of a law is the mode of action of components of existence itself, and it therefore is something real, actual, concrete, and not a form merely floating over things which one assumes will later compel the latter to obedience. So moral law then also does not manifest itself in the human spirit as a formula confronting man externally, before which he has to bow down in bIfid obedience, he knows not why or wherefore. Where moral law in this form is felt to be like a categorical imperative, or only a command of a foreign power, there true morality, true freedom and autonomy are not present at all. Instead, no discrepancy should exist anymore between the form of moral law and the content of my moral action, between the law and the deepest essence of my ethical nature, between the godhead on the world throne and the will which is destined to take the former into itself, between the heteronomous command which comes to me as the emanation of a higher or foreign power, and my freedom which is certain in its attitude and in its ethical action of being connected with and one with that higher power in the deepest ground of its being. In short, the form of moral law is either empty talk, a concept which says nothing or it is the deepest substance of the ethical-personal spirit itself, in other words, it is not just the most universal or general moment of moral life but it is also at the same time the most special or concrete one in every single ethical individuality. Kant and all those after him who only talk about a general human nature to which the single person feels obligated in his moral action has only asserted the general nature of moral law and has therefore not advanced at all to the concept of true freedom as a moment of really individualistic life. The consciousness of my moral duty is never an abstract, but a concrete universal one, i.e., it must meet not merely the generally valid requirements of moral life but also the special and particular requirements and relations of the individual position, setting, environment and the most complicated detail of the private circumstances. Therefore, anyone moral action in concreto cannot be produced by laborious reflection about what might possibly be applied as a general rule by every person in a particular case or what might agree with the general nature and dignity of the human spirit. Nor can an unethical motive be overcome and silenced by general discussion. Rather what is required at every moment is a directly active impulse of the moral. principle (of direct ethical tact) which doesn't merely accompany me in easily surveyable situations, but which — like that Socratic daimon — stands at my side advising me or warning me even in the most concrete and individual branches of practical life. Higher than the categorical imperative — whose content I after all can only gain by reflection about the multiplicity of human actions — is the Fichtean teaching of conscience, which tells me in every single situation of my existence what I'm supposed to do or avoid in this situation, which accompanies me in all the events of my life and never fails to advise me when I have to act, and which immediately convinces me and irresistibly wins my approval (The Vocation of Man, Book 3: Faith I). Also, he who only finds the moral rule to be applied in a given case after laborious reflection and casuistic cleverness is lower in our moral esteem, because in someone like this we miss the live moral conviction and the undoubting certainty with which the ethical impulse should grasp and shape the individuality of the particular case. Far higher in our esteem for this reason is the open-minded moral consciousness, the decisive firmness of the pure soul, the heroic greatness of the moral genius who unites vivid warmth of feeling with the clarity of his conviction. If freedom is to become my freedom, a moral action my action, if the good and the right are to be realized by me, by the action of this particular individual personality, then I cannot possibly be satisfied with a general law which ignores all the individuality and specialness of the factors competing with each other in an action and which commands me to examine before every action whether the motive underlying it agrees with the abstract norm of universal human nature or whether the way in which it lives and works in me could become a universally valid maxim: Aside from the fact that such an examination could lead to no result, since I often hardly know what is appropriate for me and my circumstances, seldom what is good for others and never what is right for all, so I can never assure myself of the universal validity of my maxim on the path of general reflection and logical subsumption of the single case under the general categorical imperative or under the idea of a universal human nature: aside from this, such a leveling of my moral action to the general pattern, such an adaptation to the generally customary and acceptable would make every individual freedom, every progress beyond the ordinary and domestic, every significant, outstanding and trail-blazing ethical achievement impossible. The majority of the proponents of the universal human nature of the categorical imperative are known to be little suited to serve as models of moral behavior, and whoever strives to guide himself in his practical self-consciousness by the common sense of ordinary moral practice will in any case never astonish the world with an outstanding achievement, he will never belong to those who as ethically normative people “pre-construct” freedom for their fellow man with a concrete example — not with a general concept. Precisely the highest achievements of heroic morality, e.g., the sacrifice of one's life in the service of the truth and the just can never be deduced from general human nature and therefore can also never become the content of general moral regulation, not because such a deed would not be a moral achievement, but on the contrary, because it is such an intense but individual achievement of the moral spirit that an obligation for it cannot be expected generally, cannot be expressed from the common sense of practical life, but can only be hoped for as the emanation of an exceptionally highly intense, morally ingenious individuality. Kant and all those after him who plague themselves with their obligation to a general human nature, which from their point of view can after all only be viewed nominalistically as a collective concept of the. prevailing moral consciousness and not as a power which transcends the manifesting particularity and concretion, all of these have not penetrated to the deepest core of moral life. “In Kant especially there's still quite a bit of that antiquated rationalism of the Enlightenment period which doesn't respect anything which can't be fitted completely into an exact logical formula. This explains his veneration for general abstract formulae, the constrainedness and rigidity of his deductions and divisions, the careful erasing of all personal advancement, which he abhors as idolization, and the pedantical rigor which commands all comfortable interests to sacrifice themselves to the cold paragraphs of the law of duty. This also explains his subjugation of freedom (this most individual ethical principle in the human spirit, from which everything springs which leads humanity beyond itself, the highest and the deepest to which only a small number of the elect ever advance) by the emptiest and most abstract principle of formal law imaginable, which at most represents the average degree of practical common sense attained at anyone moment, but never represents the creative freedom which carries the law of its moral action in itself.

6. We meet a kind of equalization between the concrete idea of a personal freedom and the abstract form of moral law in Kant's concept of autonomy. Namely, insofar as man can disregard sensual motives and determine himself purely by a consciousness of moral law, he is autonomous; the opposite of this — the determination by sensual impulses, by any matter, or by an object of any kind — heteronomy. (Critique of Practical Reason, 8, Proposition IV, p.304). Now if we once and for all disregard the erroneous opposition of the material and formal principles of practical action it becomes easier for us to do justice to the deep truth that Kant expressed with his autonomous moral principle. For if it previously remained unclear what it meant that man has the capacity to determine himself independently of the compulsion of sense impulses” (Critique of Pure Reason, p.164) or “to begin a series of actions by itself” and if it seemed downright incomprehensible how in pure and simple un preconditioned action one could call a deed into existence out of non-existence, then thanks now to the idea of autonomy this causeless freedom has become thinkable. Namely, freedom now means the direct determination of the will by the condition of a generally binding moral law (C. Prac. R., p.310, 321 ff.); to begin an action by itself doesn't mean to shoot it out of a pistol without any mediation, but it means to be driven to an action by the content of moral law alone; autonomy is not mere whim anymore or mere negative freedom, or mere indifferent liberty, but it is a positive expression of the will on the strength of a moral motive which doesn't lie outside the will as a sensory impulse, but which constitutes the true essence of the human spirit and the substance of the will itself. In short, autonomy signifies a fact of greatest importance: that the content of the moral does not confront the will as an external, foreign, merely abstract (general) law, but it is the true substance and real essence of the human spirit itself. Hence freedom if understood truly and positively is also not different from the content of moral law, but it is the capacity to be active as an autonomous will, a true spirit and an ethical personality. By means of autonomy, or ethical-freedom, the human personality acquires a new dignity and significance which could never accrue to it on an empirical path. What is truly essential in the determination of the human personality is not the ability to be determined by empirical motives, is not the existence of and the activity in the terrestrial phenomenon as such, is not the subjugation of the spirit to a foreign albeit moral law and is not the authoritative guardianship of a will standing over me, — but what's truly essential in the determination of the human personality is freedom firstly as negative independence from the mechanism of the whole of nature, or from the whole sum of all sense-dependent conditions (to which it should be added that the spirit only matures under the authoritative discipline of a spirit confronting it) and then secondly and most importantly, it is the ability to follow specific, practical rules given in and by the reason. According to this, man actually belongs to two worlds: the world of sense phenomena and the world of ethical-freedom. As a phenomenal personality however and as a part of phenomenal existence he is subjected to the intelligible personality, to the personality as ethical spirit. In the ethical spirit therefore lies the content, substance and the true nature of man; in ethical-freedom resides his second and highest determination or vocation; in autonomous self-determination lies the persistent stipulation of that value which man can only give himself; from this point of view every man can and must view himself with nothing but reverence and the highest respect (Critique of Practical Reason, p.325 ff.).


However, running along side these in every respect excellent and incontestable definitions are others from which one can conclude that the conciliation of moral-freedom as a personal act of the ego, and the content of an over-powerful, generally valid, moral law, was not entirely successful. We see this especially from the way that Kant described the relation of the feeling of respect to moral law. True autonomy and therefore true morality is namely, as noted above, only present where the content of moral law in no way confronts the will, either as empirical rule or as a dictate of another person, or as an abstract general formula, but where will and law, phenomenal individual and ethical spirit, autos and nomos, limited self and unlimited content of morality have become so completely united, that, as Hegel so excellently puts it, the spirit's true consciousness of itself coincides with the consciousness of its ethical-freedom (W. W. XI, p. 62), and that the phenomenal world — this whole natural existence — is only felt as the medium in which and through which the ethical, self-assured and mighty spirit reveals itself. This ethical-freedom as true self-consciousness of the spirit now reflects itself immediately in our feeling life as the feeling of self-respect, as the elevating consciousness of our moral dignity, and as a justified moral pride which is inseparable from the ethical individuality. This feeling of respect, however, is not essentially different from ethical-freedom, but is only the legitimate reflection of the same; it is also — as Kant (loc. cit, p.323) rightly notes — not the primary motive of morality, but morality itself, considered subjectively as a motive. First, moral law objectively and directly determines the will, and only then does the effect of this determination on the feeling follow, on the one hand as displeasure insofar as the sensual and selfish individual is suppressed, on the other hand, as pleasure insofar as the individual obedient to the law of duty becomes aware of his worth, his nobility, and his irrestible power. Once this reflection in the feeling is present, it again can act as a powerful ethical motive insofar as this highest enjoyment of personal life induces man to provide and retain the same for himself, and it is a foolish doctrinaire exaggeration of modern pessimism to regard this striving for ethical eudaimonia (which is very essentially connected with moral activity and is always conditioned by the same) as a corruption of morals. With the same injustice Kant denied every characteristic of pleasure or displeasure to the feeling of respect, after he himself after all, described the depressing effect that sensuality and selfishness — and the elevating effect that ethical behavior — have on moral feeling, in a way which cannot be understood without the inclusion of emotional moments (Ibid,. p.324); and in contradiction to the positive nature of moral-freedom and moral pride he only ascribes a negative value to moral feeling (Ibid, p.326). Such contradictions come about through Kant's wrong conception of pleasure as a mere sensual affection; whereas pleasure itself in man — insofar as he has begun to raise himself above the basest sensuality and animality — has an essential spiritual and ethical significance; as all who occupy themselves with the higher interests of spiritual existence themselves experience (Goethe: The song which pours from the throat is a reward which rewards generously).

However, respect for moral law as heteronomous morality understands it is quite different. Here the content of moral law confronts the human will and therefore can only be felt by the latter as an incommensurable, overpowering quantity which suppresses and humiliates it. This discrepancy between moral content and human will underlies all heteronomy, and is everywhere equally false, no matter how the content of moral law is conceived. In principle it makes no difference whether a moral law confronts me in the guise of a human or a divine authority, and if in affairs of moral life I'm conscious of perceiving anything else but the voice of my own practical reason, then true morality is not attained at all. Quite a bit of this heteronomy, or the moral respect (in the heteronomous sense) connected with it, is even still clinging to Kantian ethics. The reason for this is that Kant wasn't able to bring moral law into a concrete form in which it appears as the innermost being of the spirit itself. As a general law it always remains an abstract formula, and one can't see how the spirit is supposed to find the highest expression of its concrete individuality in it again. As an individual manifesting outwardly I don't know how I arrive at this generally valid law; since the connecting threads between the absolute ethical will and my individual will are missing I don't know why this law should be binding for me, and since it is purely and simply an abstract formula which says everything and nothing I don't know how to apply it in a particular case. Lastly, since this moral law demands of me a pure and simple renunciation of all pleasure, of all individual well being, of all likes, and even of all pleasure from the good, I can only see an oppressing, inhuman measure in it, and the highest condition of all morality — consciousness of the intimate connection of one's being with the ultimate ground of ethical life — can never be fulfilled. The greatest respect for the solemn majesty of this law, combined with a consciousness of his utter inability to ever do justice to its dictates is the only feeling which man can ever have for the categorical imperative. This duality however is an attribute of heteronomous morality, and only in contradiction with this does Kant allow our soul to rejoice at the magnificence of this law and to elevate itself above itself to the extent that it sees the sacred law sovereign above itself and its perishable nature (Ibid, p.324). Yet how can and should a moral law — which in its terrible majesty and truly draconic strictness goes far beyond human standards and which “cannot be degraded to any intimate inclination” (Ibid, p.324), simultaneously crush me and elevate me, let me feel my moral powerlessness and simultaneously my moral greatness, fill me with heteronomous respect for a transcendental command, and with autonomous respect for my own moral dignity and sublimity? Because of his abstract-formal conception of ethics, Kant is not in a position to bridge the gap between heteronomous and autonomous morality, and yet his whole heart is on the side of the spiritually active personality, of which his poetic student said that it has taken the godhead into its will and has filled the gap which separates the heteronomous and therefore guilt-conscious conscience from the moral realm. A criticism cannot help point out this vacillation between heteronomy and autonomy in Kant, and yet it is only objective and just if it acknowledges that, in spite of everything, the center of gravity in Kantian morality definitely lies on the side of autonomous freedom.


7. The essential moment which underlies the entire preceding description of freedom — expressly pointed out by Kant, but neither further secured against all objections of empiricism, nor investigated to its full depth — is the thought that morality is capable of influencing the human will directly (Critique of Practical Reason, p.310, 321); that therefore ethical-freedom is completely independent of all sensual motives and signifies a truly autonomous, morally productive activity. Freedom is — to use Kant's own words — causa noumenon (thinkable but not sense-perceptible cause): with complete spontaneity it makes its own system of ideas into which it fits the empirical conditions, and in accordance with which it declares actions to be necessary which perhaps have never occurred yet, nor will ever occur, but it equally presupposes for all actions that reason has causality with respect to them, for without this it couldn't expect practical results from its ideas (Critique of Pure Reason, p.168; Critique of Practical Reason, p.318, 311 ff.). In my opinion Kant reached the high point of his speculations in his idea of ethical-freedom as a transcendental causality (directly determined by the content and ultimate ground of morality) which regulates the phenomenal world by its own laws; with this he more or less made good the errors he incurred in the founding of his principle of knowledge, in his treatment of the absolutely synthetic a priori function, in his limitation of all knowledge to experience of the phenomenal world, and in his overthrow of all metaphysics. We don't want to hold ourselves up by describing how this transcendental ethical causality in all points runs directly counter to the end result of the Critique of Pure Reason: here transcendental apperception which has to be given the substance and content of its activity from intellectual perception, there transcendental ethical-freedom which brings forth morality (which as regards content and form is independent of all empirical material) out of its own perfect power, and subjects the phenomenon to this new system of ideas: here theoretical knowledge which only is in a position to read phenomena as experience, there a practical ability to order and shape phenomena in accordance with supersensible motives: here the direct rejection of “intellectual perception” of the intellect as a principle not merely for conceptual thinking but also for sense-bound thinking; there the just as direct admission that positive freedom can only be recognized by “intellectual perception” and therefore the reality of the former guarantees the truth of the latter: here the volatilization of all ideas to mere things in themselves, mere negative limiting concepts, mere regulative units of experiential thinking, there the consolidation of the reason-idea to a positive magnitude, and the expansion of the empirical by the transcendental realm of ethical-freedom, or by the constitutive force of moral activity: here the negation of all metaphysics, the repudiation of all knowledge of the supersensible, there the restoration of both as a science of pure, autonomous, practical reason. Kant never became aware of the contradictions in which he entangled himself by tying his teaching of transcendental freedom to the final result of his reason-critique. With complete certainty he once and for all convinced himself of the sophism that reason is a supersensible capacity only from a practical point of view, but that from a theoretical point of view it is quite incapable of establishing anything about metaphysical things. The less he was able to raise his ethical principle to the level of a firmly established, scientific proposition, the more inwardly he clung to the ethical fact itself, because he saw that the value of our actions, the dignity of our personality, the significance of all phenomenal existence depends on ethical-freedom, on the possibility of directly influencing the human will with moral law. Very unlike certain modern proponents of philosophical thinking and of so-called higher education who — from the skeptical hollowness and the asthenia of their speculative thinking ability — immediately derive the right to throw the whole content of an ethical world conception overboard, Kant held fast to ethical-freedom as a last anchor-chain which we dare not let go, even if a theoretical insight into its nature and into the connection of jts members with each other and with the rest of the positions of our existence is denied us. With the certainty of unreflective instinct Kant felt that we here stand at the point where the existence or non-existence of the world, in the highest sense, is decided. That is, if the content of moral law is such that man can never become conscious of it in its purity and its full power, then all scientific endeavors to gain a conclusive principle of ethics are futile. If the ethical principle does not possess the power to work regulatively into the human will without any mediation, without any empirical admixture, without depending on any impulse of pleasure or displeasure or usefulness in the bad egotistical sense: then pure, unclouded morality remains an ever unattainable ideal for man. If in the human personality — and that means in everyone without exception — there isn't some point in which — speaking in principle and ignoring empirical complications — the power of sensual and selfish motives, the striving of bad egoity, the domination of opposing evil is absolutely conquered, eliminated and erased, then this selfishness, this bad egoity and this evil will be regarded as irredeemable substance of the spirit, and therefore the real possibility of an ethical world evolution in general, and ethical progress in particular will be abandoned. So infinitely much depends upon our grasping the pure and simple independence of the moral principle — the absolute, transcendental causality in affairs of moral action — with complete clarity and sharpness, and all the misery in all areas of human life — in science, art and practical life — has its origin in the skeptical dissolution of this fundamental norm in our spiritual organization, the organization of our mental capacity. However, if we look around for the reasons with which Kant supported the transcendental causality of ethical-freedom (Critique of Practical Reason, II: About the Right of Pure Reason etc., p.311 ff.) then it is admittedly not difficult to prove that none of these completely serve the purpose. In support of the concept of a causa noumenon he has:

a. That the concept of a cause springs entirely from pure reason. Not only did Kant fail to prove this statement anywhere but he also directly upset it again in that he limited the application of all categories to objects of sense perception and rejected as inadmissible a so-called transcendental use of the same above and beyond experience. But this is just the most important thing about the causa noumenon. If the category of causality refers exclusively to the phenomenal realm, then the idea of a noumenal causality automatically falls.

b. The causality concept's objective reality is ensured by deduction through looking at the objects, i.e., it has factual validity. — Of course, the validity of pure intellectual concepts is proven insofar as they incorporate the condition that they have all possible experience in them, but this proof is no help in establishing freedom as a causa noumenon. Throughout Kant empiricism is ruled by laws of mechanical causality; freedom however establishes a system of ideas, a realm of ought, independent of the mechanism of nature. Experience cannot be regarded as a valid witness to the factuality of ethical-freedom; rather, the fact and the content of the latter — as well as the real possibility of its appearance in this world of phenomena — must be established independently before it can be determined whether any phenomenon, fact or action is an emanation of and an objective description of ethical-freedom. The “empirical character” of transcendental ethical-freedom, i.e., a psychological-motivation in accordance with definite rules, can only then be regarded as a type or pattern of the “intelligible character” of the same if we presuppose the idea of the latter and also presuppose the possibility that reason has real causality with regard to phenomena (Critique of Pure Reason, p. 168); whereas it is quite impossible to establish the reality of ethical-freedom by beginning with its empirical character. All conditions of nature, all mechanical connections have no bearing on the determination of free will (freedom) itself, but only on the effect and the consequences of the same in the phenomenon (Ibid, H. p. 168).

c. The concept of causality as regards its origin is independent of all sensual conditions. Very good, except that when expressed this precisely the concept of causality is equivalent to the idea of transcendental-freedom and therefore cannot first be drawn in as proof of the latter's truth. Rather the order of thoughts is the reverse: if the Critique of Practical Reason is incapable of independently developing the idea of autonomous ethical-freedom from observation of ethical life and from the critical elaboration of the phenomena of the same, then an a priori causality remains a logical abstraction without support or content. This is exactly why in the Critique of Pure Reason Kant fell down again from the heights of a priorispeculation into the “bathos of experience”, because he was incapable of connecting the idea of freedom with the principle of knowledge or of presenting the former as the truth and perfection of all speculation. Since that time, one-sided logicism — which believes it can gain the true philosophical principle from mere elements of intellectual knowledge and that it can ignore real, objective ethical and metaphysical facts, — has remained the hitherto unrecognized root evil of all philosophical speculation.

d. As a concept of non-sensible origin, causality cannot be limited to phenomena but must also be applied to things with a purely intellectual nature. Only, the non-sensible origin of a category merely indicates the negative fact that the realm of sense experience does not constitute the only content of our knowledge. But then how can freedom be thought as a positive concept by means of a merely possible, thinkable, but empty concept?

e. However, the extension of the causality concept above and beyond the phenomena holds only for its practical use; in this extension, it theoretically remains a merely possible and thinkable, but empty, concept. — It is true that with the causality-concept (insofar as it is spread out over the phenomenal world) we go over into the realm of transcendental freedom. But whoever maintains that for speculation this idea is a merely possible and empty concept fails to recognize the unity of reason (which comes to its sharpest expression precisely in this idea) and makes it. into an irrational quantity and an object of an unscientific faith. We are greatly indebted to Fichte for having raised the concept of freedom to the substance of all reason and to the central point of every scientific world conception, and therewith for having paved the way for the first time for the final reconciliation of all dualistic ways of thinking. But more recent philosophers believe they're doing something significant when in renewing the ethical-practical realm, the realm of freedom, and. religious faith they present Kantian dualism as a noli me tangere, which philosophical speculation has to keep away from its body as much as possible, that is, which it has to consider and treat solely as an illusion of uncultured and uneducated minds. Kant expelled the ethical-practical region from speculation and banished it into the realm of faith; the later Kantians, who possess the capacity of a unified world conception to a far lesser degree than Kant, banish the content of faith into the realm of illusion. However, modern positivism has drawn the final conclusion about this conception in that it has reduced ideals in general and therewith philosophical speculation itself to dreams of poetical phantasy. Therewith the series of corrupted products stemming from Kantian dualism is closed, for now.

8. Now although the reasoning by which freedom was to be established as a causa noumenon is invalid, the matter itself is by no means settled hereby. Only, the path by which we arrive at the consciousness of a direct determination of our will by the content of moral law is a different one than Kant chose. If we are to arrive at a scientifically valid concept of ethical-freedom, then this cannot occur on the basis of a “transcendental logic” (or, as one says now, theory of knowledge) which negates the idea of freedom by giving it the form of a source of knowledge which is a priori, absolutely synthetic and rational and independent of all empirical and perceptual material. In logic it was wasted effort to only want to hold on to the rational principle in anyone of its manifold forms of manifestation, as percept, mental image, concept, judgment and the like and in ethics it is lost labor to want to look for a capacity which first makes possible an ethical action that is independent of all empirical motives and that transcends all manifestations of moral consciousness. Furthermore, an error which is connected with the one just mentioned is that one can put things like the principle of speculation, a unified world conception, what philosophy should be or wants to do — into a purely logical form, such as: the three so-called laws of thinking, or a transcendental apperception, or an absolute ego, or an absolute subject-object, or an absolute knowledge. All these forms of the philosophical principle are of a purely logical nature; they contain neither the principle of natural existence nor the basis of ethical existence, and it is therefore impossible to go over to natural and ethical existence by dialectically irreproachable means. The fundamental defect of all previous philosophizing, including classical German idealism from Kant to Hegel lies in this one-sided logicism, which builds up its world conception on the most abstract, emptiest, and therefore least sound and promising foundations, and which doesn't allow the further evolution of the system to follow from this one-sided principle, but only places the single evolutionary phases of the same side by side, or at most reconciles them with each other by an abstract, vague expression such as “otherness”, “return into itself,” etc. However, consistent thinking would require that the form in which the philosophical principle emerged at the end of the dialectical course of evolution should also have been placed at the foundation of the philosophical system as its true beginning. If instead of a single empirical fact or the totality of the same (nature), or a single logical law or the abstract expression of the same (the pure ego or pure knowledge), and if instead of a finite form of the ethical spirit, or the totality of its manifestations (the nature-free or world-free abstract spirit) we place the absolute ethical spirit (as the principle of the total natural and spiritual existence) at the foundation of the philosophical system — only then can a unified world conception be created in which its single members are not rhapsodically roused or placed together externally in only a quite. abstract form, but are conceived to be the inner essential expression of — and the continuously evolving members. of — the absolute ethical spirit itself. In Kant the lack of a unified world conception — and his one-sided logicism — makes itself felt in that he failed in all of his attempts to establish the concept of freedom scientifically and also to reconcile freedom and nature — that sharpest expression of the contrast between empiricism and rationalism, real and ideal, a posteriori and a priori, observation and thinking.

9. The first way that Kant believed he could unite freedom and the necessity of nature is by differentiating between the world as phenomenon and the world as thing in itself. Insofar as things are phenomenon they are subject to the laws of mechanical causality; insofar as they are things in themselves, transcendental freedom rules. (C.Pu.R., p. 165ff.; C.Pr.R., p. 328ff.). Every thing or every human action can and must be considered from this double point of view. Every action as a temporal phenomenon is conditioned by other actions, i.e., by the sum and product of impulses working on the human soul. But every action as an activity of a thing in itself, or as a noumenon, or an intelligible character, has its seat in the spiritually active self-determination of the subject and must therefore be ascribed to the latter for good or bad, must be charged to it or given to its credit. This mode of uniting nature and freedom is already untenable for the reason that the instance to which Kant refers — the distinction of thing in itself and phenomenon — contains exactly the same problem as the relation of freedom and nature. For freedom and nature constitute precisely the greatest, sharpest, and most significant contrast, which is only reflected in a diluted abstract-logical form in the contrast of thing and phenomenon. As long as this universal, ethical contrast of freedom and nature (the absolute ethical spirit and its manifestation in the manifoldness of sense phenomena) is not settled by an independent path of metaphysical speculation, so long the contrast of thing in itself and phenomenon will also haunt “transcendental logic” and cognitional or scientific theory. Only an unparalleled naivety would want to refer to that contrast as a final solution of the world riddle, and the suspicious haste with which the neo-Kantians of all confessions allow all problems which they're unable to solve (Ideas, the supersensible, freedom, religion, the concept of God) to flee into the asylum ignorantiae of the unknowable thing in itself, shows quite clearly that criticism has only fluffed up a pillow for them so that their lazy thinking can take a dogmatic siesta.

10. The same problem returns in a different form in the Critique of Judgment insofar as here the contrast of the mechanical and the teleological world conceptions is to be balanced. The progress which Kant made in this book is as follows. In both the preceding critiques nature appears purely and simply as the realm of mechanical causality and sense phenomenon. Every phenomenon is conditioned by another one and the chain of conditions must not anywhere be broken or torn off. Yet with the concept of a natural law or an order of nature we already stand on ground which has a close relationship to the content of the sensible. Kant expresses this relationship of natural law to moral law in the sentence: By the form of lawfulness in general, sense-world nature is to be regarded as the type (Typus) for intelligible Nature (for moral-freedom). Every moral action, insofar as it becomes manifest, must therefore correspond to this type; it must carry the general form of lawful order in itself, since it would otherwise conceal the order and connection of things. If the maxim for an action is so constituted that it doesn't meet the standard of the form of a natural law at all, then it is also morally objectionable. By this rule, for example, all evil, selfish actions are therefore already inadmissible because they would cancel natural and social life if everyone consistently did them (C. Pra R., p. 317ff.), Herewith Kant broke through the rigid dualism between nature and moral law, and in the general lawfulness of the former he recognized the connecting link (scheme, type, or sign) which leads nature over to where it can be considered from ethical points of view. However as nature is thus brought closer to the ethical realm, the latter takes on a more universal form. If nature in the form of lawful connections shows traces of a moral order, if morality in its external appearance as practical freedom (the sign and type of the transcendental freedom: C. Pu. R., p. 235) can only appear in the form of a causal connection, then the conclusion lies extraordinarily near that nature and freedom no longer confront each other as rigid quantities, that they also don't just stand next to each other indifferently and unconnectedly like thing in itself and phenomenon, but that a point can and must be found in which both diverging lines meet. The Critique of Judgment drew this conclusion and showed that point in the teleological world view. In this last critique it is also repeatedly and rightly impressed on us that the explanation of Nature by mechanical causes in its proper place is a justified and necessary side of the knowledge of Nature, but the final, comprehensive and in. the last instance only satisfying view of Nature depends exclusively upon the application of the teleological view. This teleological viewpoint however consists in our advancing beyond the mechanical-causal connection of things to the supersensible, which lies beyond every possible empirical mental image of Nature (C.J., p. 558). In consequence of the application of this highest idea to the whole of existence, the latter must be viewed as a teleological system which is directed towards a final purpose. The content of this ultimate purpose, however, is man as subject of morality and as a spiritually active moral being (Ibid, p. 587). Therefore freedom — which in the earlier critiques confronted nature as the thing in itself — here becomes the substance and ultimate purpose of all natural evolution. Nature (the entire phenomenal world) is a system of last causes which in the last instance are all aimed at the creation of man as an ethically spiritually-active being. This system of last causes however — with ethical-freedom as the substance and ultimate purpose of evolution in Nature — is the keystone of the entire critical structure, also from a speculative point of view; insofar as thereby all other ideas of God and immortality (which as mere regulative ideas in the Critique of Reason were without ground and support) obtain objective reality through freedom and the ethical ultimate purpose (C.Pr.R., Preface; C.I. p. 607). Thus the last word Kant spoke as a critical philosopher would run as follows: in God (the super-sensible substratum of Nature) we have the binding together of the mechanical and teleological world views, and the unifying point of nature and freedom, and the principle of a conclusive ethical world conception. Ethico-theology is the reasonable conclusion of the whole critical undertaking (C.I., p. 591–593). One would deceive oneself however if one believed that Kant was capable of giving these sentences a strictly scientific and uniformly executed foundation. What we mentioned in general at the beginning of this examination of the ethical investigation of our philosopher applies to an even greater extent to the conclusion of it in the teleological and ethico-theological consecration of existence. Kant not only was unable to free himself from his old superstition that we bring general concepts into the world of sense perception (and accordingly he also pronounced the teleological principle to be a merely subjective, regulative and heuristic axiom of which one can't see how the phenomena are then supposed. to correspond to it), he also retained the incompatible ideas that we can't say anything about the supersensible substratum of Nature, except that it's the being in itself, of which we know only the outer appearance (C.I., p. 581), whereas elsewhere he thinks it very important that the idea of freedom makes the objective reality of God possible and expands our reason beyond those limits within which every (theoretical) concept of Nature would have to remain hopelessly imprisoned (C.Pr.R., p. 291; C.I., p. 607). Finally — instead of (as a philosopher) extending the rights of reason to all things (without exception) which might be given in any way, be it as a component of our ethical-practical world conception, be it finally as the very principle of our knowledge — he took his last refuge in faith, which — without insight into the dialectical mediation between nature and freedom, thing and phenomenon — resolves (and makes into a permanent fundamental principle) to accept as true the conditions of the highest ultimate moral purpose (C.I., p. 607). We get what for philosophy and criticism is a strange spectacle: reason gives itself up, diminishes its rights, and cancels knowledge — to make room for faith (Preface to 2nd edition of C.Pu.R., p. 10), and therewith threatens to shake the whole scientific work to its foundations — especially the critical establishment of the concept of freedom and of an ethical world conception.

In spite of all this — as long as human reason exists it will remain to Kant's undying and imperishable credit that as a critical philosopher he exposed the one-sidedness of the philosophical standpoint which arose before him in the area of pure and practical reason and that he clearly and unequivocally and for the first time set philosophy its true task: to make a conclusive world conception from the point of view of an ethical teleology. Kant's philosophy didn't enter the world as subjectivism, empiricism, scepticism, illusionism, positivism, or pessimism, but as ethicism, and his just for this reason truly critical and truly speculative followers took it up into their philosophical thinking and developed it further. Only when modern thinking has returned from all these false side cruises (which all sail under the proud flag of criticism) to Kant, the father of an absolute, ethical world view — and neither ignores, ridicules or bemoans the development of this ethical world view in Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, but understands it and takes it up into its inner being and life — only then will a new epoch begin for philosophy, and the content and task of this new epoch will be the old problem: to gather together the rays scattered by the proponents of our classical German ethical idealism and to unite them with a newly creative impulse into a more unified and more satisfying world picture.

*  *  *  *  *
1. Philosophische Monatshefte, Vol. 18 (G. Weiss), 1882

2. Great Books of the Western World, Kant, (R.M. Hutchins, 1952)

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An Opponent of the 'Propaganda of the Deed'

An Open Letter to Herr Dr. Rudolf Steiner,
Editor of the Magazine for Literature,
In response to John Henry Mackay

Written in 1898; GA 31; Bn 31.2.30 and 31.2.31

From the Magazin für Literatur of 30 September 1898. This translation, according to text in Volume 31 of the Complete Edition of the works of Rudolf Steiner, consistes of two letters: the first from John Henry Mackay to Rudolf Steiner, Bn 31.2.30, and the second, an answer from Rudolf Steiner to Mr. Mackay, Bn 31.2.31. Translated by Daniel Hafner: first English translation, revised as of February, 2007. Reproduced here with the kind permission of the translator, and the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwltung, Dornach, Switzerland. - See more at:

John Henry Mackay letter to Rudolf Steiner

Individualist Anarchism:
An Opponent of the “Propaganda of the Deed”

Dear Herr Dr. Steiner!

More urgently than ever in the last years, the request of my friends reaches me in these days to take a position anew against the “tactics of violence,” so as not to see my name thrown together with those “anarchists” who are — no anarchists, but one and all revolutionary communists. People are pointing out to me that as a foreigner I am running a danger, in the event of the international measure of an interment of the “anarchists,” of being dismissed from Germany.

I refuse to follow the advice of my friends. No government is so blind and so foolish as to proceed against a person who participates in public life solely through his writings, and does so in the sense of a reshaping of conditions without bloodshed. Besides, for years I have unfortunately lost almost all outer contact with the social movement in Europe, whose outer development, by the way, no longer claims my interest in the same degree as the spiritual progress of the idea of equal freedom in the heads of individuals, which is the only thing all hope for the future still rests upon.

In 1891, in my work The Anarchists (in both editions now published by K. Henckell & Co. in Zurich and Leipzig), in the 8th chapter, entitled “The Propaganda of Communism,” I took a position with Auban against the “propaganda of the deed,” so sharply and unambiguously that there cannot be the slightest doubt as to how I think about it. I just reread the chapter for the first time in five years, and have nothing to add to it; I could not today say better and more clearly what I think of the tactics of the communists, and their dangerousness in every respect. If since then a portion of the German communists has been convinced of the harmfulness and pointlessness of every violent proceeding, then I claim an essential part in this service of enlightenment.

Also, I am not in the habit of repeating myself, and moreover, for years I have been occupied with an extensive project, in which I am trying to approach psychologically all questions pertaining to the individual and his position toward the state.

Finally, in the seven years since the appearance of my work, the situation has, after all, changed drastically, and one knows today, wherever one wants to know it, and not only in the circles of experts, that not only in respect of tactics but also in all fundamental questions of world view, there are unbridgeable contrasts between the anarchists who are anarchists and those who falsely so call themselves and are called, and that apart from the wish for an improvement and reshaping of social conditions, the two have nothing, but nothing whatsoever, in common.

Whoever still doesn’t know it can learn it from the leaflet by Benj. R. Tucker State Socialism and Anarchism, which he can get for 20 pfennig from the publisher B. Zack, Berlin SE, Oppelnerstraße 45, and in which he will also find a list of all the writings of individual anarchism — an incomparable opportunity to increase his knowledge in an invaluable way for the price of a glass of beer.

To be sure, there is a dirty press (it strangely prefers to call itself the decent press), which continues to falsify ever anew even established facts that have become a matter of history. But any battle against it is not only pointless but degrading. It lies because it wants to lie.

With friendly greetings, your devoted
John Henry Mackay
for now Saarbrucken, Rhine Province, Pesterstr. 4
15 September 1898.

Rudolf Steiner's answer to John Henry Mackay

Dear Herr Mackay!

Four years ago, after the appearance of my Philosophy of Freedom, you expressed to me your agreement with my direction of ideas. I openly admit that this gave me deeply felt joy. For I have the conviction that we agree, with respect to our views, every bit as far as two natures fully independent of one another can agree. We have the same goals, even though we have worked our way through to our world of thought on quite different paths. You too feel this. A proof of this is the fact that you chose me to address the above letter to. I value being addressed by you as like-minded.

Hitherto I have always avoided using even the term “individualist anarchism” or “theoretical anarchism” for my world view. For I put very little stock in such designations. If one speaks one’s views clearly and positively in one’s writings: what is then the need of also designating these views with a convenient word? After all, everyone connects quite definite traditional notions with such a word, which reproduce only imprecisely what the particular personality has to say. I utter my thoughts; I characterize my goals. I myself have no need to name my way of thinking with a customary word.

If, however, I were to say, in the sense in which such things can be decided, whether the term “individualist anarchist” is applicable to me, I would have to answer with an unconditional “Yes.” And because I lay claim to this designation for myself, I too would like to say, just at this moment, with a few words, exactly what distinguishes “us,” the “individualist anarchists,” from the devotees of the so-called “propaganda of the deed.” I do know that for rational people I shall be saying nothing new. But I am not as optimistic as you, dear Herr Mackay, who simply say, “No government is so blind and foolish as to proceed against a person who participates in public life solely through his writings, and does so in the sense of a reshaping of conditions without bloodshed.” You have, take no offense at me for this my only objection, not considered with how little rationality the world is governed.

Thus I would indeed like to speak once distinctly. The “individualist anarchist” wants no person to be hindered by anything in being able to bring to unfolding the abilities and forces that lie in him. Individuals should assert themselves in a fully free battle of competition. The present state has no sense for this battle of competition. It hinders the individual at every step in the unfolding of his abilities. It hates the individual. It says: I can only use a person who behaves thus and thus. Whoever is different, I shall force him to become the way I want. Now the state believes people can only get along if one tells them: you must be like this. And if you are not like that, then you’ll just have to — be like that anyway. The individualist anarchist, on the other hand, holds that the best situation would result if one would give people free way. He has the trust that they would find their direction themselves. Naturally he does not believe that the day after tomorrow there would be no more pickpockets if one would abolish the state tomorrow. But he knows that one cannot by authority and force educate people to freeness. He knows this one thing: one clears the way for the most independent people by doing away with all force and authority.

But it is upon force and authority that the present states are founded. The individualist anarchist stands in enmity toward them, because they suppress liberty. He wants nothing but the free, unhindered unfolding of powers. He wants to eliminate force, which oppresses the free unfolding. He knows that at the final moment, when social democracy draws its consequences, the state will have its cannons work. The individualist anarchist knows that the representatives of authority will always reach for measures of force in the end. But he is of the conviction that everything of force suppresses liberty. That is why he battles against the state, which rests upon force — and that is why he battles just as energetically against the “propaganda of the deed,” which no less rests upon measures of force. When a state has a person beheaded or locked up — one can call it what one will — on account of his opinion, that appears abominable to the individualist anarchist. It naturally appears no less abominable to him when a Luccheni stabs a woman to death who happens to be the Empress of Austria. It belongs to the very first principles of individualist anarchism to battle against things of that kind. If he wanted to condone the like, then he would have to admit that he does not know why he is battling against the state. He battles against force, which suppresses liberty, and he battles against it just the same when the state does violence to an idealist of the idea of freedom, as when a stupid vain youngster treacherously murders the likeable romantic on the imperial throne of Austria.

To our opponents it cannot be said distinctly enough that the “individualist anarchists” energetically battle against the so-called “propaganda of the deed.” There is, apart from the measures of force used by states, perhaps nothing as disgusting to these anarchists as these Caserios and Lucchenis. But I am not as optimistic as you, dear Herr Mackay. For I cannot usually find that speck of rationality that is, after all, required for such crude distinctions as that between “individualist anarchism” and “propaganda of the deed,” where I would like to seek it.

In friendly inclination, yours
Rudolf Steiner

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1883 Goethean Science  Online  PDF  GA1-EPUB  GA1-MOBI
1886 Science of Knowing  Online   PDF  GA2-EPUB  GA2-MOBI
1892 Truth and Science   Online   PDF  GA3-EPUB   GA3-MOBI
1894 The Philosophy Of Freedom Online   PDF   Mobi   EPUB  Purchase


1887-1901 Rudolf Steiner Collected Essays  PDF in German

1898 University Education and the Demands of the Present Time by Rudolf Steiner (people want bottom up, not top down)

1897 Rudolf Steiner Thoughts About Theosophists And Spiritualists by Rudolf Steiner

1898 Rudolf Steiner correspondence with individualist anarchist John Henry Mackay by Rudolf Steiner and John Mackay

 1889 Individualism in Philosophy by Rudolf Steiner

1892 Truth And Knowledge Practical Conclusion What is Freedom? by Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner History up to 1900 by Peter Staudenmaier


1918 Brief Reflections on the Publication of the New Edition of The Philosophy of Freedom by Rudolf Steiner

Philosophy of Freedom Summary by Dr. Pouse Poulose

Why Philosophy Of Freedom By Rudolf Steiner Is The Anarchist Bible by Tarjei Straume

A Declaration Of Human Dignity by  Herbert Witzenmann

Ethical-Freedom in Kant by Johannes Kreyenbuehl

Description of pure experience by Johannes Volkelt

Aha The Cognitive Neuroscience Of Insight (PDF) by John Kounios and Mark Beeman

Goethe, Kant and Intuitive Thinking in Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (PDF) by Michael Muschalle 

The Boundaries of Natural Science by Rudolf Steiner


Community Building Awakening To Community  Lecture VI by Rudolf Steiner (illustrated)

Reflections On Community Building Part 1 by Marjorie Spock (illustrated)
Reflections On Community Building  Part 2 by Marjorie Spock (illustrated)

The Art Of Goethean Conversation by Marjorie Spock


Human Being Stands In The Center by Peter Normann Waage

Goethe, Kant and Intuitive Thinking in Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Spiritual Activity by Michael Muschalle

The Causality of Thinking by Michael Muschalle

Heart Thinking by Lori MacKinder, M.A.

Conflict Between Heart and Intellect by Rudolf Steiner

Mysticism Is A Superficial World View by Rudolf Steiner

World-Outlook Table Outlook links to The Philosophy Of freedom

GAS Executive Council Official Letter to explain expulsions

The Being Of The Internet by Sergei Prokofieff (lol)

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© Tom Last 2017