Self-knowledge and world knowledge

One can never reach true self-knowledge without having come to a knowledge of the world. To brood over our inner self will not lead to self-knowledge. What prepares the self for self-knowledge is world knowledge. In turn, one cannot come to a world knowledge without having first delved into his own self. Knowledge of the world is impossible without self-knowledge.

The two statements may seem contradictory, but it is a lively and fruitful contradiction: we cannot come to a knowledge of the world without self-knowledge, neither can we attain self-knowledge without a knowledge of the world. It is like the beating of a pendulum which must swing back and forth. So must man constantly search for the pendulum that beats, now between self-experience and world experience, and now between world experience and self-experience. This inner activity will bring about a strengthening of the soul. It is today a soul necessity and will be more so in the future.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 192 – Geisteswissenschaftliche Behandlung sozialer und pädagogischer Fragen – Stuttgart, 1 May 1919 (page 71)

Anonymous translator

Previously posted on July 31, 2017

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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

Previously posted on February 12, 2015

Self-knowledge and self-control

Let’s take a closer look at esoteric life. We know that various changes take place in our soul life through the exercises we received. For instance, the passions that a man had before get stronger. Old inclinations, drives and passions one thought one had overcome and put aside reemerge from the dark shafts of soul life and assert themselves vehemently. Or an esoteric often thoughtlessly does something which he would have been ashamed of before the start of his esoteric training or wouldn’t have done at all. His antipathies and sympathies for people become stronger than before; his whole soul life becomes stirred up. In short, a man gets to know what he’s really like in his soul depths so that he has real self-knowledge. Therefore strict and strong self-control is indispensable for an esoteric pupil.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 266 – From the Contents of Esoteric Classes – Esoteric Lessons Part II – Basel, 20th September 1912

Previously posted on April 13, 2014

Self-knowledge and world knowledge

One can never reach true self-knowledge without having come to a knowledge of the world. To brood over our inner self will not lead to self-knowledge. What prepares the self for self-knowledge is world knowledge. In turn, one cannot come to a world knowledge without having first delved into his own self. Knowledge of the world is impossible without self-knowledge.

The two statements may seem contradictory, but it is a lively and fruitful contradiction: we cannot come to a knowledge of the world without self-knowledge, neither can we attain self-knowledge without a knowledge of the world. It is like the beating of a pendulum which must swing back and forth. So must man constantly search for the pendulum that beats, now between self-experience and world experience, and now between world experience and self-experience. This inner activity will bring about a strengthening of the soul. It is today a soul necessity and will be more so in the future.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 192 – Geisteswissenschaftliche Behandlung sozialer und pädagogischer Fragen – Stuttgart, 1 May 1919 (page 71)

Anonymous translator

Previously posted on March 14, 2016

Our True Being is Unknown to us

Self-knowledge is really comparable with the extreme case I quoted of the university professor who himself tells the story of how, in his youth, he crossed the street and suddenly saw coming towards him a young man with a dreadfully unsympathetic face; he tells of the shock he received when he realised that he was seeing himself through two mirrors that were revealing his own physiognomy, as if it were coming towards him. This shows that he had no inkling of his external appearance, which was exceedingly unsympathetic to him.

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

Previously posted on February 10, 2016