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 The starting point was the unpublished article 'Einzig mögliche Kritik der atomistischen Begriffe' by the young Rudolf Steiner (1882), written for Friedrich Theodor Vischer.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.