Today, people still deny the existence of a spiritual realm

Just as mankind has to do with the three realms of nature, he also has to do with three spiritual realms. Now you may say: It is of no consequence whether I believe it or not, for these three kingdoms are not visible, not perceptible. Yes, gentlemen, I have known people, to whom it had to be explained that air exists! They could not believe that there was something like air. When I say to such a person, this is a table – that he can believe, for when he goes to the table, he can knock on the table, and when he looks at it, he sees the table with his own eyes, but he cannot bump into the air. He looks around and says, there is nothing here. However, everyone nowadays admits the existence of air. The existence of air is simply accepted.

In the same way, it will happen that people will come to admit the existence of a spiritual world. Today, people still say: The spiritual realm simply does not exist – in the same manner that the peasants used to say: There is no air. – In my native village the peasants used to say: there is no air at all, only the big-headed people from the city assert that because they want to give the impression that they are so clever; one can walk through it because there is nothing to walk through! – But that was long ago. Today, farmers also accept that air exists. But even the smartest people still don’t recognize that there are spiritual beings everywhere! They will, however, acknowledge it in due time, because otherwise certain things simply will be inexplicable, things that will need to be understood.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 353 – Die Geschichte der Menschheit und die Weltanschauungen der Kulturvölker – Dornach, June 25, 1924 (page 306)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

The two main thoughts of occult science

The whole of occult science must spring from two thoughts that can take root in every human soul. For the occult scientist, as he is meant here, these two thoughts express facts that can be experienced if we use the right means. For many people these thoughts signify extremely controversial statements about which there may be wide differences of opinion; they may even be “proved” to be impossible.

These two thoughts are the following. First, behind the “visible” there exists an invisible world, concealed at the outset from the senses and the thinking bound up with the senses; and second, it is possible for man, through the development of capacities slumbering within him, to penetrate into this hidden world.

One person maintains that there is no such hidden world, that the world perceived by means of the human senses is the only one, that its riddles can be solved out of itself, and that, although the human being at present is still far from being able to answer all the questions of existence, a time will surely come when sense experience and the science based upon it will be able to give the answers.

Others state that we must not maintain there is no hidden world behind the visible, yet the human powers of cognition are unable to penetrate into it. They have limits that cannot be overstepped. Let those who need “faith” take refuge in a world of that kind: a true science, which is based upon assured facts, cannot concern itself with such a world.

There is a third group that considers it presumptuous if a man, through his cognitive activity, desires to penetrate into a realm about which he is to renounce all “knowledge” and be content with “faith.” The adherents of this opinion consider it wrong for the weak human being to want to penetrate into a world that is supposed to belong to the religious life alone.

It is also maintained that a common knowledge of the facts of the sense world is possible for everyone, but that in respect of supersensible facts it is only a matter of the personal opinion of the individual, and that no one should speak of a generally valid certainty in these matters.

Others maintain still other things.

Source: GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science – 1. The Character of Occult Science

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges