Practical life is the best spiritual preparation 

In my book “Vom Menschenrätsel” I have pointed out that one can say: as a man awakes from sleep in which has only a very dull consciousness, to the ordinary waking consciousness, so he can wake up from this ordinary consciousness, in which he usually lives his life, to perceive the spiritual. It is an awakening into a supersensible world that one acquires through spiritual exercises. But in the same way that everyday life can never be healthy if one does not also regularly have a healthy sleep life, so can the entrance into the world of spirit not be healthy, if one does not first develop a healthy waking life grounded in reality and practical insight; If one does not first discipline oneself, so that one can handle the realities of external life.

The awakening to spiritual perception can only follow from a healthy life during the day, just as the awakening to a healthy life during the day can only come about from a healthy sleep not disturbed by illness. Everything whereby man is in some way alienated from the realities of life, all that people search for out of folly, prejudice, false asceticism, aversion to life, living in mystical twilight or mystical darkness – all that the spiritual scientist needs to ban from his life. To stand properly in everyday life, face to face with practical reality, that is the best preparation for entering the spiritual world.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 72 – Freiheit, Unsterblichkeit, Soziales Leben – Basel, 19th October 1917 (page 78-79)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Previously posted (in 2 parts) on 4 and 5 January 2015

Muddled, fantastic speculations

Many of our contemporaries have received the idea more or less superficially that spiritual science is something that lies far away from all practical life and cannot at all intervene anyhow in this practical life of the daily routine. You do not find the idea as seldom as it expresses itself in the words: oh, this spiritual science, it is something for single people who are tired of life who do not deal with anything practical and have time enough to deal with all sorts of muddled, fantastic speculations as the spiritual-scientific ideas are.

I do not deny from the outset that strictly speaking such a reproach is even justified with many theosophical/anthroposophical phenomena that it is often true that those who deal with theosophical/anthroposophical matters and ideas really face the everyday life as strangely as possible. However, even among those who have hard to fight and to work in the everyday life and bring themselves through only with pain and misery, those are found who are driven from inner sympathy, from the yearning of their hearts to spiritual science. Among them many a man will be for whom this duality — the everyday occupation, the everyday work from morning to night and then the merging in the great ideas has something marvellous. 

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 56 – Knowledge of Soul and Spirit: Lecture XI: Occupation and Earnings – Berlin, 12 March 1908

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Wisdom and Practical Life

Looking at what is described here, it is easy to see that it is really not about something merely theoretical, but something that touches the whole human being. For today I have put forward precisely those insights that directly concern the human being himself. 

Indeed, not everyone can be a spiritual researcher, just as not everyone can be a chemist or an astronomer. But with common sense, everyone can understand what astronomy, chemistry and physics teach. In the same way, common sense can understand what the spiritual investigator brings out of the human soul’s depths if only one does not close oneself off through scientific prejudice. Then, however, when it is raised and becomes wisdom, it also comes to be integrated into practical life.

And since I do not like to speak in general abstractions, I would like to show through concrete examples how these matters become part of practical life when they flow into the human being through the insights of anthroposophical spiritual science.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 255b – Die Anthroposophie und ihre Gegner – Stuttgart, January 4, 1921 (page 279)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Without spiritual impulses everything will lead to decadence, to barbarism, to the fall of civilisation

What must be emphasised over and over again is the need there is today for things to be taken with deep seriousness. This goes against the grain. People choose to believe that things will continue in the same way. No, they will not. 

If life continues without the stimuli that come from the spiritual world, industry can go on, banks can be in existence and universities where all the sciences are taught, other professions can be developed — but everything will lead to decadence, to barbarism, to the fall of civilisation. 

Those who are not willing to apply in practical life what can come out of Spiritual Science are working, not for ascent but for decline. And the majority of people today want decline and simply delude themselves into the belief that an ascent can still come out of it.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 202 – The Search for the New Isis, Divine Sophia – Lecture IV – Dornach, 26th December 1920

Previously posted on January 13, 2017

Mobility of thoughts

I was overjoyed recently when I read that there are still people who, going beyond the ordinary routine of life, have already perceived the practical life as something important. Recently a news item spread through the world, describing how Edison tested the people he wished to prepare for some sort of practical work. It did not interest him at all whether or not a merchant was able to keep books. That, he said, can be learned in three weeks if one is a reasonable, intelligent person. None of these specialties interested him at all; these one can learn. 

When Edison wished to know whether people would be of any use in practical life, however, he tested them by asking them questions like, “How large is Siberia?” Thus when he wished to discover whether someone was a good bookkeeper, Edison did not ask whether he could conduct an audit properly, but he asked, “How large is Siberia?” or “If a room is five meters long, three meters wide, and four meters high, how many cubic meters of air are contained in this room?” and similar questions. He posed questions like, “What is standing at the place where Caesar crossed the Rubicon?” and so on, just general questions. And according to the extent to which a person could answer such questions, Edison hired him as a bookkeeper, or whatever. He knew that if a person could answer such a general question this was a proof that his schooling had not been in vain, that as a child he had developed mobile thoughts, and this is what Edison demanded.

This is how practical life really should be conducted, whereas in recent times we have steered precisely in the opposite direction, succumbing more and more to specialization, so that finally one could really despair of finding the people needed for practical life. It is impossible to get anyone to do something outside the pigeonhole into which he wants to fit. Already today it must be said that in this way too we must work toward the mobility of thoughts. If there is such a working toward the mobility of thoughts, then these thoughts will not harden, and Ahriman will be in a difficult position.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 205 – Therapeutic Insights: Earthly and Cosmic Laws – Dornach, July 3, 1921

Translations by May Laird-Brown, Alice Wulsin and Gerald Karnow