Understanding must take the place of criticism

For the development of the soul it is necessary that one acquire a certain definite manner of judging one’s fellowmen. It is difficult to attain an uncritical attitude, but understanding must take the place of criticism. It suppresses the advancement of the soul if you confront your fellowman immediately with your own opinion. We must hear the other out first, and this listening is an extraordinarily effective means for the development of the soul eyes. Anybody who reaches a higher level in this direction owes it to having learned to abstain from criticizing and judging everybody and everything.

How can we look understandingly into somebody’s being? We should not condemn but understand the criminal’s personality, understand the criminal and the saint equally well. Empathy for each and everyone is required and this is what is meant with higher, occult “listening.” Thus, if a person brings himself with strict self-control to the point of not evaluating his fellowman, or the rest of the world for that matter, according to his personal judgment, opinion and prejudice and instead lets both work on him in silence, he has the chance to gain occult powers. Every moment during which a person becomes determined to refrain from thinking an evil thought about his fellowman is a moment gained.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 53 – The Inner Development of Man – Berlin, 15th December 1904

Translated by Maria St. Goar

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Previously posted on August 22, 2018

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Above all you must get rid of the notion that your opinion is worth more than that of other people

Self-knowledge is one of the hardest things to acquire, and it is precisely those who think they know themselves best who are most likely to be deceived: they think too much about themselves. You should get out of the habit of fixing your attention on yourself and constantly using the word “I” — “I think, I believe, I consider this right”. Above all you must get rid of the notion that your opinion is worth more than that of other people. Suppose, for instance, that someone is very clever. If he displays his cleverness in the company of people who are not so clever, his behaviour will be very ill-timed; he will be doing it only to please his own egoism. He ought to adapt his response to the needs and capacities of others.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science: Lecture XIV: Rosicrucian Training – The Interior of the Earth – Earthquakes and Volcanoes – Stuttgart, 4th September 1906

Translated by E.H. Goddard & Charles Davy

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Painting David Newbatt

Previously posted on August 7,  2018

The two main thoughts of occult science

The whole of occult science must spring from two thoughts that can take root in every human soul. For the occult scientist, as he is meant here, these two thoughts express facts that can be experienced if we use the right means. For many people these thoughts signify extremely controversial statements about which there may be wide differences of opinion; they may even be “proved” to be impossible.

These two thoughts are the following. First, behind the “visible” there exists an invisible world, concealed at the outset from the senses and the thinking bound up with the senses; and second, it is possible for man, through the development of capacities slumbering within him, to penetrate into this hidden world.

One person maintains that there is no such hidden world, that the world perceived by means of the human senses is the only one, that its riddles can be solved out of itself, and that, although the human being at present is still far from being able to answer all the questions of existence, a time will surely come when sense experience and the science based upon it will be able to give the answers.

Others state that we must not maintain there is no hidden world behind the visible, yet the human powers of cognition are unable to penetrate into it. They have limits that cannot be overstepped. Let those who need “faith” take refuge in a world of that kind: a true science, which is based upon assured facts, cannot concern itself with such a world.

There is a third group that considers it presumptuous if a man, through his cognitive activity, desires to penetrate into a realm about which he is to renounce all “knowledge” and be content with “faith.” The adherents of this opinion consider it wrong for the weak human being to want to penetrate into a world that is supposed to belong to the religious life alone.

It is also maintained that a common knowledge of the facts of the sense world is possible for everyone, but that in respect of supersensible facts it is only a matter of the personal opinion of the individual, and that no one should speak of a generally valid certainty in these matters. Others maintain still other things.


Source: GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – 1. The Character of Occult Science

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges.

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Previously posted on April 14, 2018

The principle which has ruined so much in our culture

It does not matter, you see, if you say a great deal to the child which he will only understand later. The principle that you should only teach the child what he already understands, what he can already form an opinion on, is the principle which has ruined so much in our culture. A very famous educator of a still more famous personality of to-day once boasted that he had educated this person on this principle: he said: “I have educated this young man well, for I have made him form an immediate opinion on everything.” 

Now very many people today are in agreement with this principle of forming opinions about everything and it is not remarkable that you find a very well-known teacher (Georg Hinzpeter (1827-1907) of a still better-known personality (Prince Wilhelm von Preußen) wishing to emphasize this principle again in pedagogical books. I have even found it said in a modern pedagogical work referring to this principle: It only remains to desire that such a model education might be given to every German boy and every German girl. You see from this that examples are plentiful among present-day educationists, of how not to behave, for this kind of educating conceals a great tragedy, and this tragedy again is connected with the present world catastrophe.

The point, then, is not that the child should at once form an opinion on everything imaginable, but that between the seventh and fifteenth year he absorbs what he is to absorb, from love for his teacher, from a sense of his authority.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 294 – Practical Course for Teachers – Stuttgart, 25th August, 1919

Translated by Harry Collison

Previously posted on August 4, 2019

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Apparent motives and real motives

In connection with a series of actions, a man once said to me that he had done them out of an iron sense of duty, out of infinite devotion to the cause he represented. I was bound to say to him in reply: “The opinion you have about the motives of your procedure and of your actions is no criterion whatever. Only reality is the criterion, not the opinion one may have. The reality shows that the impulse, the urge to these actions was to gain influence in a certain direction.” I said to the man quite baldly: “Although you believe that you are acting out of an iron sense of duty, you are really acting under the impulse to acquire influence and you misinterpret this way of acting as being selfless, done purely out of a sense of duty. You are not acting out of this motive but because it pleases you to act so, because it brings you certain pleasure — again, therefore, out of a certain inner impulse.”

Our opinion, our mental picture of ourselves may be extremely complicated; it may not resemble in the very remotest degree what is really dominating and weaving in the soul. it may be extremely complicated. You will admit at once that such things must be known when it is a question of living in a world of truth and not in a world of Maya; you will also admit at once that it is necessary now and then to speak of such things in a radical way! The reasons which as genuine, true reasons, drive us to our actions, can only become clear to us slowly and by degrees, when through Spiritual science, we really have knowledge of the secret connections existing between the human being and the world.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 161 – The Problem of Death: Lecture 1 – Dornach, February 5, 1915

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