Maurice Maeterlinck – About Death

Recently a book was published which I can enthusiastically recommend, because it was written by a very intelligent man and proves what nonsense even intelligent people can say about spiritual things. I mean Maurice Maeterlinck’s Vom Tode (“About Death”). Among many nonsensical things, he affirms that when a person dies he is a spirit, and can no longer suffer because he has no physical body. Maeterlinck, a very intelligent man, suffers under the illusion that only the physical body can suffer and a dead person can therefore not suffer. He doesn’t notice the phenomenal, almost incredible nonsense it is to affirm that only the physical body, which consists of physical forces and chemical elements, can suffer. As if a stone could suffer! The physical body cannot suffer; it is the soul that suffers. It has come to the point where people think the opposite of what makes sense about the simplest things.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 148 – The Fifth Gospel: Lecture III – Oslo, Norway – October 3, 1913

Translated by Frank Thomas Smith

Previously posted on August 24, 2014


What is it that is not well in a mentally ill person?

What is unwell in a mentally ill person?  In the case of someone who is mentally ill it is the body that actually is sick; the body is unable to use the soul and the spirit in the right way. In the case of someone of whom it is said that he is mentally ill, it is always the physical body that in reality is ill; when the brain is not able to function in the right way it is understood that the person concerned will not be able to think normally. In the same way the feelings of a person with a sick liver cannot function in the normal way.

And so to call someone “spiritually ill” (in German it is called Geisteskrank) is actually the most incorrect expression to use. Someone, of whom it is said that he is mentally ill, actually suffers from a bodily ailment. The body is so ill, that the spirit, which is never ill, cannot be utilised in the right way.

Above all, you must clearly understand that the spirit is always healthy. Only the body can get sick in such a way that it cannot take hold of the spirit in the right way. If someone has an ailing brain it is the same as when someone uses a hammer that keeps on breaking when he uses it. If I call someone who does not have a hammer lazy and tells him he is incapable to function as a woodworker, it goes without saying that I am talking nonsense. He might be able to function as a woodworker if he had a hammer at his disposal. In the same way it is utter nonsense to say that someone is mentally ill. The spirit is perfectly healthy, but his body, his tool, lets him down.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 350 – VORTRÄGE FÜR DIE ARBEITER AM GOETHEANUMBAU – Dornach, 28th June 1923 (page 144-145)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on July 6, 2015

Present-day knowledge considers only the outside

In relation to obtaining knowledge of the human being nowadays, it must be said, that it is as if people attempt to understand how a watch works, by only looking at it from the outside. One can learn how it indicates time by looking at it, one can also get to know whether it is made of gold or silver, but one cannot become a watchmaker by observing it from the outside. What we currently call biology, physiology or anatomy, is still only knowledge obtained by way of observing the human being from the outside. A true understanding of human nature will only arise through observing body, soul and spirit. And only then can the human being be treated according to knowledge of body, soul and spirit.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens -Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, January 2,  1922 (page 199)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on August 1, 2017

The theories are very ingenious and astute, but cannot grasp reality

These days human beings speak of the soul and the spirit, for sure; they speak of the body and its physical qualities. And then great philosophies on the relationship between soul and body are engendered. There exist comprehensive theories by the cleverest people. The theories are ingenious, very perceptive, but they cannot grasp reality, for the simple reason that the only way to grasp reality is when the whole human being, the all-inclusive human being, can be seen in direct perception, when the interweaving activity of both the spiritual-psychic and corporal-physical is considered. And the person who truly contemplates contemporary perceptions grasped by humanity, will likewise discover how grey and hazy both outer and inner human knowledge is.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens – Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, 28 December 1921 (page 102-103)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Previously posted on June 21, 2017

The abolition of the spirit

The steps taken by the Church Fathers towards the abolition of the spirit were carried a stage further by Marx and Engels in their comprehensive attempt to abolish the soul. According to the materialistic theory of history spiritual impulses are of no account, the driving forces of history are material forces or economic factors — the struggle for material wellbeing. What appertains to the soul is simply a superstructure on the solid foundation of material processes. It is important to recognize the genuine catholicity of Marx and Engels and to note in these aspirations of the nineteenth century the true consequence of the abolition of the spirit. […]

It will not be long before decrees are promulgated in several States declaring that those who take seriously the existence of the soul are not of sound mind, and only those will be regarded of sound mind who recognize the “truth”, namely that thinking, feeling and willing are the necessary by-products of certain physiological processes.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 175 – Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha: Lecture 1 – Berlin, 27th March 1917

Translated by A. H. Parker

Previously posted on November 21, 2014