Not concepts and definitions, but direct observation of reality

At the present time people generally give validity only to natural phenomena, phenomena of the physical world which are part of historical evolution. They will have to give validity again to spiritual events, which can be perceived with the aid of spiritual science, for only then can the events in which human beings are caught up be really understood.

With reference to this important event it is quite easy to establish how seriously people are in error if they base themselves only on concepts and definitions when considering the world and not on direct observation of reality. One always has the feeling one ought to base oneself on defined concepts — what is Ahriman, what is Lucifer, what are the particular spirits in one hierarchy or another? Those are the questions we ask, and we believe that having got the definitions we have also understood something about the way these entities work. An extreme example of the inadequacy of definitions is the following, which I have quoted before. It may not have been the ideal way of defining the human being, but it is the definition which was given in a school in Greece: A human being is a creature who walks on two legs and does not have feathers. The next time the pupil came to school he brought a plucked cockerel: a creature who walked on two legs and had no feathers. This is a human being, he said, according to the definition.

Many definitions of this kind are generally accepted, and many of our scientific definitions are therefore more or less in accord with the truth. We must not base ourselves on such definitions in anthroposophy, however. Perception will be poor if we base ourselves on abstract definitions. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 177 – Fall of the Spirits of Darkness – Lecture 12: – The Spirits of Light and the Spirits of Darkness – Dornach, 26 October 1917

Translated by Anna R. Meuss