The path to the peaks of knowledge and the path to the heights of compassion are one and the same. Only knowledge and understanding -not preaching- will lead to empathy. A man with a broken leg will not be helped by the compassion of a surrounding crowd, but by one who, knowing what to do, treats his leg correctly.

Mere preaching is like standing before a stove, and asking it to perform its duty of warming up the room. It is the same when you tell people they need to practise brotherly love. Just  as one must put wood in the stove and light a fire, so must he give people the knowledge their souls need in order to join in brotherly love.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 97 – Das christliche Mysterium – Vienna, 22 February 1907 (page 245)

Anonymous translator



Spiritual truths are fuel for the human soul

Look for a moment at this stove! And now imagine that someone were to stand before this stove and say to it: “You stove, you are created to spread warmth! Think of your mission and warm this room!” Would it do so? Would these words have any effect? No, the stove would not stir. But if instead of speaking, we get wood and coal and light the fire, then it will fulfill its mission.

So it is with the communications of spiritual-scientific truths. They are fuel for the human soul. For thousands of years morality has been preached and people have been told, “Be good and love one another”. But do they really then do so? Do not matters look rather sad in spite of all Christian doctrines? In a town in southern Germany, a preacher once said to me: “I can make no objection whatever to all that you say of the Gospels, but what is the use of founding little conventicles for spiritual science here and there, when the church carries on practical education on alarge scale?” Yes, if this preacher were right, then it would indeed be of no use. But he is not right, for if the church really performed its task in full measure, from whence do so many evil deeds still continually arise? And does everyone really go to church? In truth the church does not teach practical morality, but “stove morality”. In our days there are no longer many people who grow better simply upon urgent request. […] And were this to go on, the adherents of the church would become scarcer and scarcer, and materialism would become greater and greater, until one day not very much would be left of the church. And this is just the reason why spiritual science has come; it has become necessary, in order to supply the “fuel”! It is itself fuel in this sense, for the simple communication of truths from out the spiritual world animates and furthers the spiritual development of the individual, helping it forward not only in the sphere of morals, but also in spiritual vision.

Even among students of spiritual science there are those who are of the opinion that we need only be good and noble and strive to attain perfection, and then in the end our spiritual eyes will open of their own accord. At the same time they think that the communication of higher truths is of no great significance, and that we should only wait till we can see for ourselves, till the veil is of itself withdrawn from before oureyes. Those who think in this way are mistaken. They fail to recognise the character of these communications which act as fuel.The essential point is to stimulate active inner motion within the soul which would not come about in any other way, nor develop of its own accord.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 109 – The Dedication of an Anthroposophical Group – Breslau, June 15, 1909

German source: GA 109-II-THEOSOPHIE UND OKKULTISMUS DES ROSENKREUZERS – Breslau, June 15, 1909 (page 279-280)

Not preaching and restrictions are helpful, but insight

When people do not build their social ideas according to the foundations of Anthroposophical spiritual science, then humanity will not be able to avoid the disasters which are so terribly evident nowadays. I know the value of what emanates from people who are nowadays called pacifists and such, people who are enthusiastic about all kinds of peace movements. However such things do not get established through restrictions or by merely ordaining this or that must happen. People may fully agree about what should happen. If one, however, only establishes the rules, only the laws from out of the customary way of thinking, it is as if one would say to a stove: Dear stove, it’s your duty as stove to heat the room; so you are going to make this room nice and warm immediately. However, this will not happen, one must first fill the stove with wood and light the fire. It would be wonderful if this could be done by just by telling the stove to do so, but it will not happen. Not unless one provides the wood and light the fire.  

Just as little would the conventional ideas on peace-keeping and so on commonly accepted be adequate. The point here is that one does not just say: people, love one another, but that one – just as pointed out in the example of the stove –  provide the fuel that will speak to the human souls. The fuel needed here are ideas that stem from absorbing spiritual insight in a living way. Because the human soul does not only belong to material life, but also to spiritual life. And often it is still not understood nowadays what it really means that the human soul is part of the spiritual world. It is believed that one comes nearer to the supersensible through applying certain laws. This is not the case.

Source(German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 72 –  Freiheit Unsterblichkeit Soziales Leben – Basel, 18th October 1917 (page 58-59)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger


Previously posted on January 15, 2015

It is of no avail to speak of virtue, selflessness or freedom

Those who boast most about their altruism are really the least unselfish of all. Just as those who use the word “truth” in every third sentence usually are the least truthful. It is important to penetrate deeper and deeper into the truths and insights of spiritual science; not to pursuit ideals as: I know I will overcome my I – With such a phrase nothing is gained. Nothing happens, for example when I tell a burning stove: you must be a good stove, you need to make the room warm. – You can stroke the stove and treat him with loving kindness but nothing will happen. That stove will remain cold. Only when the wood is added and lighted will the stove become hot. Similarly, it has no value to preach virtue, selflessness or freedom. The right thing is: give the people fuel; and the right fuel in this instance will be the spiritual truths.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 56 – Die Erkenntnis der Seele und des Geistes – Berlin, December 12, 1907 (page 148)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger


To preach morality is like preaching to a stove

The higher worlds convey to us the impulses and powers for living, and in this way we get a basis for morality. Schopenhauer once said: “To preach morality is easy, to find a foundation for it, difficult.” But without a true foundation we can never make morality our own. People often say: Why worry about the knowledge of higher worlds so long we are good men and have moral principles? In the long run no mere preaching of morality will be effective; but a knowledge of the truth gives morality a sound basis. To preach morality is like preaching to a stove about its duty to provide warmth and heat, while not giving it any coal. If we want a firm foundation for morality, we must supply the soul with fuel in the form of knowledge of the truth.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 95 – At the Gates of Spiritual Science – Lecture II: The Three Worlds – Stuttgart, 23rd August 1906

Previously posted on February 16, 2014