The world is not simple

There was once a Spanish king who was shown how complicated the structure of the universe is. He thought he would have made it simpler. A man may think like this, but, as a matter of fact, the world is not simple, and  we must exert ourselves somewhat to grasp what man is.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 234 – Anthropososophy, an Introduction – 5. Love, Intuition and the Human Ego – Dornach, 2 February 1924

Translated by V. Compton Burnett. Second English edition edited by Owen Barfield.

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Truth is complicated

When, as so often happens, people say that truth should be simple, this is due to indolence and a dislike of having to wrestle with many concepts; but the greatest truths can be apprehended only when the spiritual faculties are exerted to their utmost capacity. If considerable efforts are needed to describe a machine, it is surely unreasonable to demand that the greatest truths should also be the simplest! Truth is inevitably complicated, and the most strenuous efforts must be made if it is desired to acquire some understanding of the truths relating to the Events of Palestine. Nobody should lend himself to the objection that the facts are unduly complicated; they are complicated because here we have to do with the greatest of all happenings in the evolution of the Earth.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 114 – The Gospel of St. Luke – Lecture Five – Basel, September 19, 1909

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond & Owen Barfield

Previously posted on March 16, 2018

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Many want the great truths to be simple and easy

The truths in the religious documents have emerged from the depths of wisdom. But then many say: you give us complicated material; we want to have the gospel uncomplicated and straightforward. The great truths must not be complex. 

In a certain respect, these people are correct, but apart from superficial efforts, deeper (German: weisheitsvolle) wisdom-filled thinking must also find the highest truths. The standpoint from which we consider these things cannot be high enough. In the future, we must increasingly leave behind convenient points of view to seriously penetrate the most profound insights.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 97 – Das christliche Mysterium – Keulen, March 8, 1907 (page 134)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

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Why are the books written in a way so difficult to understand?

How often does the demand arise, again and again: ‘Why are the books written in a way so difficult to understand? Could they not be written in a simpler fashion?’ And someone or another makes suggestions as to how these books could be written for the people and made popular. One must really beware of gaining such popularity, for it only enhances egotism. If it were made so easy to enter Spiritual Science then each one could enter without overcoming his egotism. But in the work accomplished spiritually by the efforts we have to make, we get rid of a little of our egotism; we enter what we wish to acquire through Spiritual Science in a more hallowed frame of mind if we have had to take trouble over it, than if it had been presented to us in quite an easy and popular form. 

For example, a person has come home and said: ‘There are so many people who have to work all day long. If these people have to sit down in the evening to read these difficult books, they do not get on very well. For such as these there ought to be books quite easy to read.’ 

To this I had to answer – and quite correctly: ‘Why should one prevent these people from applying even the little time at their disposal to reading such books as are purposely written with full regard to spiritual conditions? Why should they occupy the little time they have in reading books which may be more convenient, but which trivialise the matter even textually?’ For it is just because these books do not place the soul in the right attitude, that they drag down into the trivial life that which should lead one away from it, even as regards the nature of the experience connected with another sphere.

It will become of special importance in Spiritual Science that we should bear in mind not only the ‘What’ (the matter) but the ‘How’ (the manner): that we should really bestir ourselves gradually to acquire ideas of a world quite different from the ordinary physical world, and thus gradually to accustom ourselves to form conceptions different from those we can build so comfortably in the physical world.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 157a – The Forming of Destiny and Life after Death: LECTURE 4: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE SPIRITUAL AND THE PHYSICAL WORLDS, AND HOW THEY ARE EXPERIENCED AFTER DEATH – Berlin, 7th December, 1915

Authorised Translation Edited by H. Collison

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It is very frequently pleaded that ‘Truth must be very simple’ 

If one wished to understand the mechanical action of a watch, one would have to bear in mind the connection of the wheels, etc. Yet it is supposed that one can talk of man’s highest being without the requisite trouble being taken to gain knowledge of man’s nature. It is very frequently pleaded that ‘Truth must be very simple’ — and the accusation is made against Spiritual Science that it is very complicated. 

Man longs to acquire in five minutes — or in less time — what is necessary for the knowledge of his highest being; whereas he is by nature a complicated being, his greatness in the universe is due to that very fact, and we must overcome the tendency to indolence in respect of knowledge if we really wish to penetrate to the human entity.

Opposite words for simple and complicated
Opposite words for simple and complicated illustration

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 181 – Earthly Death and Cosmic Life: Lecture 2: A Contribution to our Knowledge of the Human Being – Berlin, 29th January 1918

Translated by Harry Collison

Previously posted on May 27, 2017