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.


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


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


A personal remark from Steiner

Forgive my inserting at this point a personal remark — you know I am not fond of doing so, and I do so seldom. Anyone who looks at what I wrote when I first began my work, decades ago, will see that at that time I disregarded what I had to bring forward as my own opinion. I did not write my opinion about Goethe, but tried to express the thoughts that came forth from Goethe. I did not write my own Theory of Knowledge, but a Theory of Knowledge implicit in Goethe’s Conception of the World. 

In this way it is possible quite consciously to connect oneself with men long dead and work out of their spirit. Indeed this is what gives one, as it were, a true, legitimate certificate to influence the living. It is a bad certificate which people of our time are so very keen upon: namely, that every individual, scarcely has he conceived an opinion, should wish to communicate it forthwith to as many followers as possible.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 168 – The Influence of the Dead on the Life of Man on Earth – Zurich, 3 December 1916

Painting by David Newbatt


Whoever still heeds his own opinion, cannot come to truth

Whoever will experience the true character of cosmic mysteries must stand entirely on the standpoint from which he says: Whoever still heeds his own opinion, cannot come to Truth. That is indeed the peculiar [eigenartige] nature of anthroposophical truth that the observer may have no opinion of his own, no preference for this or the other theory, that he may not love this or the other view more than any other because of his own especial individual qualities. 

As long as he stands on this standpoint, it is impossible for the true secrets of the world to reveal themselves to him. He must pursue knowledge quite individually, but his individuality must develop so far, that it no longer has anything personal, i.e., anything of his own peculiar sympathies and antipathies. This must be taken strictly and earnestly. Whoever still has any preference for these or the other ideas and views, whoever can incline to this or the other because of his education or temperament, will never recognise objective truth.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 117 – The Ego: Lecture One – Munich, December 4, 1909

Translated by Gilbert Church