The young Rudolf Steiner


22-03-2017 4 comments

In Antwerp I had the opportunity to work for a whole day on the theme 'The young Rudolf Steiner'. The starting point was the unpublished article 'Einzig mögliche Kritik der atomistischen Begriffe' by the young Rudolf Steiner (1882), written for Friedrich Theodor Vischer. In the RS Archive I could not find the translation of this article, only one of a much less interesting article with the title: 'Atomism and its refutation'.

It was our intention to deepen our insight into the being of the young man, who had such far-reaching questions about the possibility of knowing the human being. In 'The story of my life' he wrote:
'On the other side I was tremendously occupied by the question of the scope of human capacity for thought. It seemed to me that thinking could be developed to a faculty which would actually lay hold upon the things and events of the world. Any “stuff” which remains outside of our thinking, which we can merely “think toward,” seemed to me an unendurable conception. Whatever is in things, this must be also inside human thought, I said to myself again and again.'

We therefore tried to unfold this kind of thinking capacity, to 'grasp' the riddles that lived in the young man and that were solved during his finding the transition from philosophy into anthroposophy.

All children lose their union with the spiritual worlds from which they come; they have to, in order to become free thinking adults. In Rudolf Steiner there remained a strong inner world of spirit – while still becoming a free thinking adult - and he struggled to find the bridge from the spiritual worlds and the knowledge of them, to the natural worlds and the knowledge of them. He recognised his own struggle in the image of the two worlds without a binding bridge, in Goethe’s fairy tale: The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily. Both worlds had to be recognised as lacking strength in thinking, in order to have them as real worlds in consciousness. There seemed to be in the sciences only the idea of spirit and the idea of nature. And both ideas were only imagined, they were not real - and thus knowledge could never become something real.

The activity of the I, which provides this strength to all thinking - and so also to all the ideas and concepts that are thought - had been described by Fichte. Through enforcing the spiritual idea with the activity of the I and the natural idea with the activity of the I, the bridge was being built.

In 'Truth and knowledge' Rudolf Steiner said:
'The fact that the I in free-ness can turn to activity, makes it possible for it by itself, through determination of itself, to realise the category of cognition; in the rest of the world on the other hand, the categories show themselves to be connected through objective necessity to the corresponding given.' (I have translated this sentence myself, because the translation that is available is too short to comprehend the force of metamorphosis that lies within it).

This miracle of knowledge can be conceived in the unpublished article by Rudolf Steiner, about the only possible critique of the atomistic concept.

The young Rudolf Steiner
The rose-cross

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  • From Jos Van Aerschot @
    In hoofdstuk 13 van het Matteüs evangelie staat de zogenaamde 'Gelijkenisrede van Jezus'. Men kan er o.a. drie grote gelijkenissen lezen, nl. 'De zaaier', 'Het onkruid tussen de tarwe' en 'Het sleepnet', maar ook nog twee keer twee kleine gelijkenissen, nl. 'Het mosterdzaadje', 'Gist en bloem' en 'De schat in de akker', 'De koopman en de parel'. Dus samen hebben we een 3-voud en een 2x2-voud, eigenlijk overeenkomstig de rozen op het rozenkruis.
    Misschien is 'Einzig mögliche Kritik der atomistischen Begriffe' wel bestemd voor onze hedendaagse ontlevende tijden, een teken tot inkeer, met als mogelijkheid... Het lijkt wel een parel...
    Mt. 13, 45-46
    'Nog is het Rijk der hemelen gelijk aan een mens, een koopman, die mooie parels zoekt.
    Toen hij nu één kostbare parel gevonden had, ging hij heen en verkocht al wat hij had en kocht hem.'
    Men kan kan ook een relatie vermoeden tussen:
    Grundlinien... en 'De schat in de akker'
    Wahrheit und Wissenschaft... en 'Gist en bloem'
    Die Philosophie der Freiheit... en 'Het mosterdzaadje'
    • From Michiel Suurmond @
      Mij viel, het Lucas-evangelie lezend, de samenhang met Lucas 8 op: ook de zaaier, en dan: 'Want niets dat verborgen is, blijft geheim; alles wat verborgen is zal bekend worden en aan het licht komen.'
      • From Jos Van Aerschot @
        Ja Michiel, veelvuldig komt men in het Nieuwe Testament het woord 'Naam' tegen (in Mijn Naam, In Zijn Naam, in Uw Naam), duidend op de Heilige Geest, de Helper, de Trooster, de Geest der Waarheid... Toch bijzonder dat Rudolf Steiner en op haar beurt Mieke Mosmuller hier kennistheoretisch bij aansluiten en de mogelijkheid duiden dat er geen absolute kennisgrenzen zijn; dat men dit 'Enige' als moderne mens niet alleen met een gedeeltelijke geloofsbegripswereld, maar met zijn algehele begripswereld kan benaderen, met als grondslag 'Die Kategorie des Erkennens, de dertiende'.
  • From Ron Breland @
    Excerpt; "Cognition and Reality

    "The first paragraphs of the new chapter [ Steiner, Truth and Knowledge, ] appear even more condensed than the preceding arguments. “Concepts and ideas,” Steiner begins, comprise part of the given, but at the same time lead beyond it. This makes it possible to determine the nature of the remaining activity of cognition. (p. 63)

    "They “lead beyond” because our activity of thinking can take hold at just this point. But the required neutral description has left us with a field populated by two species of given: the “other than thinking,” which we cannot comprehend, and the products of thinking, which we can. A determination of the “remaining activity of cognition” will consist in establishing the proper relations within the given field, explaining how the other than thinking is to be grasped.
    It may seem strange to refer to “concepts and ideas” in a given but unrelated condition, when we usually think of them in an applied situation — that is, a concept is a concept of something, and thus at least related to that thing. But since “things” are not recognized until they are conceptualized, the concept is treated in another manner here: “By concept I mean a principle by which the unconnected elements of perception are bound into a unity.” Obviously the phrase “unconnected elements” does not refer to individual pieces, for each of these would already possess a unity, but it refers to that content of the given field that shall become unified as the concept is applied. Thus, the concept must be produced before it can be applied. (This argument is expanded in the “Interruption” on intentionality below.)
    Although Steiner has removed the distinction between objective and subjective from his starting point, the current prejudice that thinking must be merely subjective requires a specific argument to avoid this impression. Thus in the second paragraph Steiner warns that we must realize that the distinction just made between the two types of given content is “artificial” with respect to the given:
    Through a postulate we have separated a particular part from the rest of the given content; this was done because it lies in the nature of cognition to start with just this part. Thus it was separated only to allow us to understand the act of cognition. In so doing we must be clear that we have artificially torn apart the unity of the world-content. We must realize that what we have separated has a necessary connection to that content irrespective of our postulate. (p. 63)
    This is a new argument and one that can be particularly difficult for the unprepared reader to absorb. The point is that there must be a determinate relation between the passively given “other than thinking” and the intentionally given, which relation our investigation must discover. In order to do this Steiner must complete his description of intentional activity. The paragraph continues:
    This provides the next step in the theory of knowledge; it must consist of restoring that unity which we tore apart in order to make knowledge possible. This restoration takes place in thinking of the world as given. Our thinking contemplation of the world brings about the actual union of the two parts of the world content: the part we survey as given on the horizon of our experience, and the part that has to be produced in the act of cognition before it also can be given. The act of cognition is the synthesis of these two elements. Indeed, in every single act of cognition, one part appears as something produced in this act itself, and it is brought by the same act to the merely given. (pp. 63-64)
    Thus the “idea of cognition” makes its first appearance, and we enter step three. The activity of cognition now appears to be the mediation of one content by another — that is, when presented with a passively given content, cognition cannot proceed unless it produces a contribution of its own in order to mediate (or recognize) the former. Knowledge — or consciousness, which always implies some form of knowledge — must arise from this mediation, Steiner concludes, if it is to arise at all. But as the previous chapter established, the demand for this mediation comes from the particular nature of thinking:
    To permeate the “given” world with concepts and ideas is a thinking contemplation of things. Thus thinking is actually the act through which knowledge is mediated. Only when
    thinking, out of itself, orders the content of the world picture, can knowledge come about. Thinking itself is an activity that brings forth a content of its own in the moment of knowing. Insofar as the content that is cognized issues from thinking, it contains no problems for cognition. We have only to observe it: the very nature of what we observe is given to us directly. A description of thinking is also at the same time the science of thinking. Logic too has always been a description of thought forms, never a science that demonstrates anything. Demonstrative evidence is only called for when the content of thought is synthesized with some other content of the world ... with thinking, all demonstration [that is, providing evidence] ceases, for demonstration presupposes thinking. One may be able to demonstrate a particular fact, but no one is able to demonstrate the validity of demonstration. We can only describe what demonstration is. In logic all theory is empiricism — in this science there is only observation. (pp. 64-5)"

    "How We Make Sense of the World," (pp.17/8), Ron Brady, Archive, Nature Institute.