Nowadays, if you start to discuss, with someone who is interested in these matters, the possibility of achieving a knowledge of spiritual life in conjunction with the sensuous and physical world, you will generally meet with a sympathetic reception. At any rate, the question will be raised: Are there paths by which man can reach some kind of spiritual knowledge? even though it may often turn out that the only knowledge of a spiritual world allowed is one that takes the form of general concepts and ideas, a vague pantheism perhaps or a conception of life reminiscent of mysticism.
If however you should then attempt, as it became necessary for me to do in my book Occult Science, to describe a real cosmology, a science of the origin and development of the world in specific terms, discussion with a rationalist is usually at an end. He reacts strongly to the suggestion that anyone today might be in a position, on some epistemological basis or other, to make a statement about a spiritual origin of the world, about forces operating spiritually in the world’s development, and about the possibility that this development, after having passed through a sensuous and physical phase, might lead back once more into a spiritual form of existence.
The reaction of the rationalist to such a suggestion, implicit in the specific descriptions in Occult Science, for example, is to avoid having anything to do with someone who makes claims of this kind. He will think that, if a man sets out to make specific statements about such matters, he is probably on the verge of losing his reason; at least, we cannot compromise ourselves by becoming involved in discussing these details.
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 83 – The Tension Between East and West: 5: Cosmic Memory – Vienna, 5th June, 1922
Translated by B. A. Rowley
Previously posted on March 29, 2017