Intelligence is not the decisive factor

When the famous eruption of Mount Pelee in Central America took place, very noteworthy and instructive documents were found in the ruins afterwards. In one of them it said: “You need not fear any more because the danger is past; there will be no more eruptions. This is shown by the laws which we have recognised as the laws of nature.” These documents, which stated that further volcanic eruptions were impossible according to the current state of knowledge of nature, had been buried — and with them the scholars who had written these documents on the basis of their normal scholarly knowledge. A tragic event took place here. But that precisely demonstrated the disharmony of the human being with the physical world quite clearly. There can be no doubt that the intelligence of the scholars who investigated these natural laws would have been adequate to find the truth if they had been sufficiently trained. For they were not lacking in intelligence. 

But although intelligence is necessary, it is insufficient on its own. Animals, for example, leave an area if such an event is imminent. That is a well-known fact. Only the domesticated animals perish with the human beings. The so-called animal instinct is therefore sufficient to develop a far greater wisdom as far as those future events are concerned than human wisdom today. “Intelligence” is not the decisive factor; our current intellect is present also in those who commit the greatest follies. Intelligence is therefore not lacking. 

What is lacking is sufficiently matured experience of events. As soon as the intelligence lays something down which appears plausible to its narrow limited experience it can come into disharmony with the real outward events and then the outer events break down around it. For there is a relationship between the physical body and the world which the human being will gradually learn to recognise and grasp with the forces which he possesses today already. But he will only be able to do this once he has accrued and assimilated the experiences of the outside world. Then the harmony which will have developed as a result of this experience will have been created by no other intellect than the one we have today; for it is precisely in the present that our intellect has developed to a certain stage. The only thing lacking is the ripening of experience. If the maturing of experience does not correspond to the outside then the human being becomes disharmonious with the outside world and can be broken on events in the outer world.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 59 – Metamorphoses of the Soul – Paths of Experience Vol. 2: Lecture 5 – Sickness and Healing – Berlin, 3rd March 1910

Translated by C. Davy and C. von Arnim / Original translation by George Metaxa

Previously posted on March 1, 2020



If man were not to develop anything else but intelligence he would become an evil being

Since the middle of the fifteenth century, a gradual transformation of intelligence is taking place. Although it is still very much like that of the Greeks it is undergoing a transformation, and we are in the beginning of it. In the coming centuries and millennia this intelligence will become something very, very different. Even today it shows a tendency toward what will come in future, a tendency merely to grasp what is error, untruth, deception; a tendency to ponder only what is evil.

The mystery pupils and especially the initiates had known for some time that human intelligence approaches its development toward evil, and that it becomes more and more impossible to recognize the good through mere intelligence. Mankind finds itself today within this transition. We may say, it is still barely possible, if men exert their intelligence and do not bear especially wild instincts in themselves, to look toward the light of what is good. But human intelligence will more and more develop the inclination to plan evil, to bring error into knowledge, and insert evil into man’s moral life.

This is one of the reasons initiates called themselves men of anxiety. Indeed, if one observes the evolution of mankind from this aspect as I have just done, it causes anxiety, precisely because of the way intelligence is developing. It is not for nothing that it fills modern man with pride and haughtiness. This is the pre-taste of intelligence becoming evil in the fifth post-Atlantean age, which is beginning now. If man were not to develop anything else but intelligence he would become an evil being on earth. If we want to think of a wholesome future for mankind, we must not count on the one-sided development of intelligence. In Egypt and Chaldea, it was good; later it entered into a relationship with the forces of death; and it will enter into a relationship with the forces of error, deception, and evil.

This is something about which mankind should have no illusions. In an unbiased fashion humanity should reckon with the fact that it has to protect itself against this one-sided development of intelligence. It is not in vain that precisely through the anthroposophically oriented science of the spirit another element will be added by taking in what can be gained through a renewed perception of the spiritual world. This cannot be grasped by intelligence, but only if we take into ourselves what the science of initiation brings down from the spiritual world through vision.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 296 – Education as a Social Problem: Lecture V: The Metamorphoses of Human Intelligence: Present Trends and Dangers – Dornach, 16 augustus 2021


Rudolf Steiner by Bernhard Hoetger

Being intelligent and at the same time immoral will be impossible in the future

Whereas it is still entirely possible today that a person may be very able intellectually but be immoral, we are approaching a time when it will be impossible for anyone to be at the same time intellectually shrewd and immoral. It will be impossible for mental shrewdness and immorality to go hand in hand.

This is to be understood in the following way. Those who have kept themselves apart, and have opposed the course of evolution, will be the ones who will then battle together, all against all. Even those who develop today the highest intelligence, if they do not develop further during the succeeding epochs in feeling and morality, will gain nothing from their cleverness. The highest intelligence is, indeed, developed in our epoch. It has reached its climax. But a man who has developed intelligence today and who neglects the possibilities of further evolution, will destroy himself by his own intelligence. 

This will then be like an inner fire consuming him, devouring him, making him so small and feeble that he will become stupid and be able to achieve nothing — a fire that will annihilate him in the epoch wherein the moral impulses will have reached their climax. Whereas a person can be very dangerous today by means of his immoral shrewdness, he will then be without power to harm. 

Instead of this power, the soul will then possess in ever increasing measure moral powers — indeed, moral powers such as a modern man cannot in the least conceive. The highest power and morality are needed to receive the Christ Impulse into ourselves so that it becomes power and life in us.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 130 – Esoteric Christianity – JESHU BEN PANDIRA WHO PREPARED THE WAY FOR AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHRIST IMPULSE – Lecture 1 – Leipzig, 4th November 1911


At the present time, one regards every man as intelligent, even as if he were wise. However, that is not the case. One can be intelligent and have the most stupid thoughts. The greatest foolishness is thought out very intelligently. Especially if one looks at a large part of contemporary science, it must be said: This science is actually intelligent in all areas, but it is certainly not wise.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 353 – Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker – Dornach, May 10, 1924 (page 214)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on May 23, 2018

Intelligence is everywhere

All around us there is not only oxygen and nitrogen, but throughout Nature there is intelligence, truly intelligence. No one is surprised if one says that we breathe in the air, for air is everywhere, and science today is so widely included in all the school books that everyone knows that air is everywhere, and that we breathe it in.

All the same I have known country people who thought this a fantastic idea, because they did not know the air is everywhere; in the same way there are people today who do not know that intelligence is everywhere. They consider it fantastic if one says that just as we breathe in the air with our lungs, so do we breathe in intelligence, for example, through our nose, or through our ear. I have already given instances in which you could see that there is intelligence everywhere.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 351 – Nine Lectures on Bees: Lecture IX – Dornach, December 22, 1923

Translated by Marna Pease & Carl Alexander Mier

Previously posted on August 3, 2016