When men grow old they do not become weak or even feeble-minded

For very many people it will be a hard nut to crack if they are told to believe that when men grow old they do not become weak or even feeble-minded, but more psychic and more spiritual. Only, when the body is worn out, we can no longer express the psycho-spiritual which we have cultivated, through the body. It is like the case of a pianist: he might become a better and better player, but if his piano is worn out we cannot perceive this. If you were only to know his capabilities as a pianist from his play, you will not be able to gather much if the piano is out of tune and has broken strings. So that Kant, when he was an old man and “feeble-minded” was not weak minded as regards the spiritual world; there he had become glorious.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 181 – Anthroposophical Life Gifts – Lecture III: Thoughts about the Life Between Death and Rebirth – Berlin, 2nd April 1918

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 Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Previously posted on 4  March 2017

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How can Anthroposophy prove what it claims?

Often the question is put: how can anthroposophy prove what it claims? People ask for proof because the usual way to prove facts is not available for Anthroposophy. Therefore, some people dispute the scientific validity thereof; they do not take into consideration the following – I can explain these things only approximately, but they apply in the most accurate, exact way -: the person who needs proof, thus shows that what must be proven, is not sense-perceptible. We need proof whenever we have no perception. Should I need evidence that there was a man in this room yesterday, it will only be because I did not see the man myself.

Thus, it is with everything, concerning the historical development of humanity, we always need the evidence as well. When people still had an instinctive knowledge, they had a natural inner experience of what they called the Divine Being, did not need proof. The evidence for the existence of God only started to be required when during the development of humanity this spiritual perception was lost. The evidence is only needed where understanding is not available.

The Anthroposophical method, however, prepares the human soul to discover the spiritual. When it is described – that is the peculiarity about Anthroposophy-, it can be explained with healthy common sense and understood in the way a non-artist can recognise a work of art, although he cannot create it. One can therefore not object to the fact that only the seer can investigate Anthroposophy. For even if another person cannot examine it, it can be understood by anyone, who wants to use his healthy common sense without bias.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 82 – Damit der Mensch ganz Mensch werde – The Hague, 12 April 1922 (page 200-202)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Previously posted on 1 november 2018

A definition can never explain the essence of a thing

The big mistake, the great illusion, of the materialistically minded people, is that they believe a definition or a description can fully explain the essence of a thing.

I have often illustrated the grotesque nature of this belief in the past by pointing out the fact that a school of Greek philosophers once sought to define a human being and finally found that a human being is a creature with two legs and no feathers. Now, that is undoubtedly true. One can say that it is an absolutely correct definition. The next day, someone who understood the definition brought with him a plucked rooster and said: “This is a creature with two legs and no feathers, so it must be a human being.”

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 253 – Probleme des Zusammenlebens in der Anthroposophischen Gesellschaft – Dornach, September 11, 1915 (page 33)

Anonymous translator

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Previously posted on 30 October 2018

Steiner’s visit to Friedrich Nietzsche

Shortly before I began the actual writing of that book (Nietzsche as the Adversary of His Age), Nietzsche’s sister, Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, appeared one day at the Goethe and Schiller Institute. She was taking the preliminary steps toward the establishment of a Nietzsche Institute, and wished to learn how the Goethe and Schiller Institute was managed. Soon afterward there came to Weimar the editor of Nietzsche’s works, Fritz Koegel, and I made his acquaintance.

Later I got into a serious disagreement with Frau Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Her emotional and lovable spirit claimed at that time my deepest sympathy. I suffered inexpressibly by reason of the disagreement. A complicated situation had brought this to pass; I was compelled to defend myself against accusations; I know that it was all necessary, that the happy hours I was permitted to spend among the Nietzsche archives in Naumburg and Weimar should now lie under a veil of bitter memories; yet I am grateful to Frau Förster-Nietzsche for having taken me, on the first of many visits I made to her, into the chamber of Friedrich Nietzsche. There he lay on a lounge enveloped in darkness, with his beautiful forehead-artist’s and thinker’s forehead in one. It was early afternoon. Those eyes which in their blindness yet revealed the soul, now merely mirrored a reflection of the surroundings which could find no longer any way to reach the soul. One stood there and Nietzsche knew it not. And yet one could have believed, looking upon that brow permeated by the spirit, that this was the expression of a soul which had all the forenoon long been shaping thoughts within, and which now would fain rest a while. An inner shudder which seized my soul may have signified that this also underwent a change in sympathy with the genius whose gaze was directed toward me and yet failed to rest upon me. The passivity of my gaze so long fixed won in return a comprehension of his own gaze: his longing always in vain to enable the soul-forces of the eye to work.

And so there appeared before my soul the soul of Nietzsche, hovering above his head, boundless in its spiritual light; surrendered wholly to the spiritual worlds, longing after its environment but failing to discover it; and yet chained to the body, which would have to do with the soul only so long as the soul longed for this present world. Nietzsche’s soul was still there, but only from without could it hold to the body, that body which so long as the soul remained within it had offered resistance to the full unfolding of its light.

I had ere this read the Nietzsche who had written; now I perceived the Nietzsche who bore within his body ideas drawn from widely extended spiritual regions – ideas which still sparkled in their beauty even though they had lost on the way their primal illuminating powers. A soul which from previous earthly lives bore rich wealth of light, but which could not in this life cause all its light to shine. I had admired what Nietzsche wrote; but now I saw a luminous form behind that which I had admired.

In my thoughts I could only stammer over what I then beheld; and this stammering is in effect my book, Nietzsche as the Adversary of His Age. That the book is no more than a stammering conceals what is none the less true, that the form of Nietzsche I beheld inspired the book.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 28 – The Story of My Life – Chapter XVIII

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Previously posted on  20 October 2018

Passionless thinking

There is usually only one area where we have pure thoughts, that is in mathematics. When people calculate, their passions are usually very little involved. Because the majority of people everywhere wish to exercise their feeling and critical faculty they have no love for mathematics. Here one cannot vote in parliamentary fashion. Mathematical truth is recognised by man through truth itself; a problem can only have one solution. Whether one or a million people hold their own view about it, the problem must find the same solution. Nowhere should we need majority decisions, if it were possible in all spheres to make decisions in a way as free from emotion, as objectively, as in mathematics. In Europe one can only point to this as to an ideal, in the hope that one day, in other spheres of life, judgements will be, reached equally objectively and free from emotion.

Thinkers would not disagree so violently if they would take all the factors into consideration completely objectively, for truth cannot approach man in different ways. People hold different opinions because with their instincts and passions they are involved in their ideas in different ways. […..] No philosophy dealing with human matters was expressed so objectively, with such pure mathematical thinking, as the Vedanta philosophy which is truly philosophical in the highest sense of the word. Whoever imbues himself with this, knows what the following means: ‘I need no other person in order to know whether something is true.’ Whoever actually raises himself to this clear, passionless thinking, needs no other opinion.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 93a – THE FOUNDATIONS OF ESOTERICISM: Lecture XXI – Berlin, 19th October 1905

Translated by Vera and Judith Compton-Burnett

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