I must say that I understand Kant, because otherwise others may say that I am stupid

Today there is still a peculiar worship of all that has been printed. The only reason I have been able to read Kant, was that his books have been edited by the “Universalbibliothek” –  because otherwise, I would never have been able to afford his books; but the books were cheap, despite the fact that they are so thick– and since then, the devil is actually loose around Kant, because nowadays everyone is able to read him. That is, they read the first page, but they do not understand what they read. They think: ”I must pretend to understand Kant because otherwise, people will say that I am stupid.”
Then they hear that Kant is “the Emperor of literary Germany”; and they think: ”By golly, now we know what’s going on, that means we are also clever, intelligent people! –” Most of them admit to themselves: ” Yes, I must give the impression that I understand Kant, because people will say that I am stupid when I do not understand Kant” In reality, people do not understand him. Only, they do not want to admit it; they say to themselves: ”I must understand Kant, because he is very clever. I understand something very intelligent, if I understand Kant! In this way, I make a good impression on people.”

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 353 – Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker – Dornach, May 14, 1924 (page 244-245)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger


You can imagine what a difficult situation one is in, as representative of spiritual science

You can imagine what a difficult situation one is in as representative of spiritual science: One not only has the representatives of the religions against one, but also the whole philosophical world and their followers as well. Every Tom Dick or Harry then comes and says: Well, you claim this or that about the spiritual world; but after all, Kant has already proven – so they say – that nothing can be known about it! – This is actually the most generalizing objection that one can make. Someone can say: I do not want to hear anything that Steiner says, because Kant has already proven that nothing can be known about the Spiritual world.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 353 – Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker – Dornach, May 14, 1924 (page 240)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Kant was right, and so is Spiritual Science

In the past years, when one brought forward the spiritual-scientific world-conception in this or in that place and certain people thought that they had to assert their own views in the face of the spiritual-scientific world-conception, one could frequently hear the following argument: Kant has already proved by his philosophy that there are limitations to man’s knowledge; human knowledge cannot reach the spheres which the spiritual-scientific world-conception tries to reach. Then they bring forward certain interesting things showing how Kant is supposed to have proved that human knowledge cannot reach the spiritual world. If spiritual science was upheld in spite of all, then they came along and said: This person rejects everything that has been proved by Kant! Of course, this more or less implied: What a foolish person he must be, for he rejects strictly proved facts!

But this is not the case: The spiritual scientist does not deny that Kant is absolutely right, for it is evident that he demonstrated this clearly. But my dear friends, suppose that someone had stated that the plant consists of minute cells, at a time when the microscope had not yet been invented, but that these cells could not be found because human eyes are unable to see them. It might have been proved that the cells do not exist and this would have been quite correct, for the constitution of the human eye does not permit us to penetrate into the plant’s organism to the extent of seeing these tiniest cells. The proof would be absolutely correct and it could not be overthrown. Yet in the course of human development the microscope was discovered as an aid to the human eye, so that in spite of the strictest proof to the contrary, people were able to recognise the existence of these tiniest cells.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 159 – The Subconscious Forces – Vienna, 9th May 1915

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

Previously posted on December 30, 2013

Human beings have infinite faith in their own power of insight

Human beings have, as you know, infinite faith in their own power of insight. There was actually a philosopher who said: “Give me matter, and I will make a universe.” That philosopher was Kant. It is a good thing he was not given matter, for he would have made something perfectly horrible out of it!

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 231 – Supersensible Man: Lecture III – The Hague, 17th November 1923 (afternoon)

Translated by Mary Adams