Abstract thinking was not always natural

Our abstract thought, which we use even in the pursuit of popular science, which we regard today as quite natural — this thinking activity was by no means always so natural and simple. In order to illustrate what I say, let me give you a radical example. You will think it strange that while for all of you it is quite natural to speak of a “fish,” it was by no means natural for primitive peoples to do so. Primitive peoples are acquainted with trout and salmon, cod and herring, but “fish” they do not know. They have no such word as “fish,” because their thought does not extend to such abstract generalization. They know individual trees, but “tree” they do not know. Thinking in such general concepts is by no means natural to primitive races even in the present time. This mode of thinking has indeed only entered humanity in the course of its evolution. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 146 – The Occult Significance of the Bhagavad Gita: Lecture 2 – Helsingfors, 29th May 1913

Translated by George and Mary Adams & Doris M. Bugby

3CD5AF8A-7E9B-44AA-B61F-0E33B0D34997 (2)

Art of Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on 1 januari 2019


Spiritual darkness

In the thirteenth century spiritual darkness fell for a time upon all human beings, even the most enlightened, and also upon the initiates. Whatever knowledge of the spiritual worlds existed in the thirteenth century came from tradition or from men who in still earlier times had been initiates and were able to call up memories of what they had then experienced. But for a brief space of time it was impossible even for these men to have direct vision of the spiritual world. Darkness had to fall for this short period to prepare for the intellectual culture which was to be characteristic of our modern age. 

The important point is that we have this kind of culture today in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Culture in the Greek epoch was quite different. Instead of the modern, intellectual kind of thinking, direct perception was then the dominant faculty; the human being was one, as it were, with what he saw and heard, even with what he thought. He did not cogitate and reason as he does today, and needs must do, for this is the task of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. In the thirteenth century it was necessary for especially suitable personalities to be singled out for initiation, and the initiation itself could only take place after that brief period of darkness had come to an end.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz – Lecture 1 – Cassel, 27th January 1912

Translated by Pauline Wehrle


Awakening to the Inner Fire – Art of Carol Herzer

Previously posted on 22 December 2018

The best method of developing good thinking 

We come now to the third aspect of the super-sensible life, to thinking. This, we nurture and sharpen, especially by the development of characteristics which seem to have nothing whatever to do with thinking, with concepts. The best method of developing good thinking is by complete absorption and insight, not so much through logical exercises but by observing one thing and another, using for this purpose processes in nature, in order to penetrate into hidden mysteries. Through absorption in problems of nature and of humanity, through the endeavour to understand complex personalities, through the intensifying of attentiveness, we grow wise. Absorption means striving to unravel something by thinking, by conceiving. In this connection, we shall be able to see that such mental absorption has a wonderfully good effect in later life.

The following example is taken from life. A little boy showed his mother remarkable aspects of his observation, which were associated with extraordinary absorption and capacity for insight. He said: ‘You know, when I walk on, the streets and see persons and animals, it seems as if I had to enter into the persons and the animals. It happened that a poor woman met me, and I entered into her, and this was terribly painful to me, very distressing.’ (The child had not seen any sort of destitution at home, but lived in altogether good circumstances.) ‘And then I entered into a horse and then into a pig.’ He described this in detail, and was stimulated to an extraordinary degree of compassion, to special deeds of pity, through feeling union with the life of others. Whence does this come, this expansion of one’s understanding for other beings? If we think the matter over in this case, we are led back into the preceding incarnation, when the person in question had cultivated absorption in things, in the secrets of things, as we have described.

But we do not have to wait till the next incarnation for the results which follow the cultivation of absorption. These manifest themselves even in a single life. When we are induced in earliest youth to develop all of this, we shall develop in later life a clear, transparent thinking, whereas otherwise we develop a scrappy, illogical thinking. It is a fact that truly spiritual principles can advance us in our course of life.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – ESOTERIC CHRISTIANITY AND THE MISSION OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ – VI. Jeshu ben Pandira II – Leipzig, 5 November 1911


Painting by Liane Collot d’Herbois

One-sided truths

To say something that is incorrect is not the worst thing that can happen, for the world itself will soon put one right about it; but it is really serious to regard a one-sided truth as the absolute truth and to persist in so regarding it. […]

It is always essential to look at truths not only from the one side but also from the other. The fault of most philosophers is not that they say what is false — in many cases their assertions cannot be refuted because they do state truths — but that they make statements which are due to things having been viewed from one side only. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 119 – Macrocosm and Microcosm – Lecture 6 – Experiences of Initiation in the Northern Mysteries – Vienna, 26th March 1910


Infinite Source – Art of Carol Herzer

Previously posted on 21 December 2018

Clairvoyance without understanding and logic has no value

However much a clairvoyant may be able to investigate and see in the spiritual world, what he sees is of no value to him and to others so long as he is unable to bring it down into the ordinary sphere of men, and to express it in thought that can be grasped by sound logic and a natural feeling for truth. The clairvoyant must in fact first understand the matter himself if it is to be of any use to him. Its value begins where the possibility of logical proof begins. […]

Picture to yourselves a man who has perhaps made quite exceptional discoveries in the spiritual world through purely clairvoyant observation, but who has neglected to clothe these observations in language suited to the ordinary sense of truth of any age. Do you know what would happen to him? All his discoveries would be wiped out after death! Just as much of value would remain as it was possible for him to translate or formulate into any language that corresponded to a sound sense for truth.

It is certainly of the greatest importance that there should be clairvoyants capable of bringing over communications from the spiritual world and handing them on to others. This brings blessing to our day, for our age has need of wisdom and cannot advance unless it gets it. Such communications are necessary to the culture of the present time. If not recognised to-day, in fifty or a hundred years it will be the universal conviction of all mankind that culture cannot advance but must perish unless convinced of spiritual wisdom.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 124 – Excursus on the Gospel According to St. Mark I. On the Investigation and Communication of Spiritual Truths – Berlin, 17th October 1910

Translated by E. H. Goddard and D. S. Osmond


Liane Collot d’Herbois Tobias. Year 1970. Watercolor on paper

Previously posted on 20 December 2018