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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Individualism in Philosophy
GA 30

Translator's Introduction

This essay is so radical that I enclose Rudolf Steiner's later statements about it (Appendix II) partly to prove that he did in fact write it. Egoism in Philosophy is his theme (and original title). He shows that active self-knowledge opens a person to the essential being of the world, with which he is inwardly then so united that he can say with equal truth, “I am” and “I am the world.” The others person's self also is and is the world.

But man's tendency over the ages has been unconsciously to take what he finds within himself and to project it outside himself as “God,” as “natural laws,” etc., existing independently of him. He does so out of modesty and out of the desire not to have to take responsibility for himself. Rudolf Steiner cites Plato's philosophy as an example of such projection:

“Everything that Plato believes to be present as the world of ideas in the beyond, outside things, is man's inner world. The content of the human spirit, torn out of man and pictured as a world unto itself, as a higher, true world lying in the beyond: that is Platonic philosophy.”

Our urge is to start, in thinking, with something “outside” us, with something “objective.” We conceive of a “God” and then try to decide what our relationship to Him is and should be. Or we picture an “objective” world of atoms in lawful interaction. But we ignore the fact that all such conceiving and picturing are our own creation. Outer perception gives us neither God nor lawfulness. These are only to be found within us, when we begin to think about our perceptions.

The theological meaning of blasphemy is “the act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.” This definition posits an external God, even though all “attributes and rights” ever ascribed to God have come from man's own inner life. Man is so loath to acknowledge his own soul as the actual “location” of everything he calls God, however, that he labels such an act as blasphemy, as sin!

The enclosed passage from Riddles of Philosophy (Appendix I) can help to resolve the “I”/world paradox. Rudolf Steiner shows there that the “I's” actual union with true reality is not that of a drop of water losing itself in an ocean. Individual and conscious of itself, the “I” can partake fully in the essential being of everything. It no longer needs to invent any divine entity foreign to itself.

The renewed debate today between “humanists” and “Christians” is unfruitfully focused on the question “Man or God?” But the real challenge of the times is to recognize man's inner world for what it actually is. Rudolf Steiner's Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, of course, is the classic work on this subject. The motto of that book is “Results of soul observation arrived at by the scientific method.”