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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity
GA 4


Not long before the conclusion of his full and active life, Rudolf Steiner was asked which of his writings, in his opinion, would last the longest. Without a moment's hesitation he replied, “The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity will outlive all my other works.”

The significance of this statement becomes apparent when the extent of Rudolf Steiner's literary estate is realized.

At the present time the Complete Edition in German of the Works of Rudolf Steiner is being published in Switzerland. When completed, this edition will be composed of approximately three hundred thirty volumes. These will include some fifty volumes of his written works, and the balance will be made up of the transcripts of his nearly six thousand lectures, most of them delivered during the first quarter of the present century.

Therefore, in selecting The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity as the most enduring of all his literary work, Rudolf Steiner was not limited in the range of his possible choice.

Beyond this, however, as its author once wrote, “This book is based on an experience consisting in the fact that man's consciousness comes to an understanding with itself.” Therefore The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity is designed to meet one of the most far-reaching and decisive problems confronting each human being today.

If one reads this book simply for information, one will miss its main point. For the work is intended—as Steiner intended all his writings—to awaken in the reader a new experience of the world of ideas, to arouse in him an inner activity, enabling him to come to grips with some of the most fundamental questions anyone can ask. Therefore this book does not offer ready-made answers to the queries it places before the reader. More important, it points the way whereby the reader can build up these answers within himself, for only then will they acquire that deep significance which the reader instinctively seeks.

The architecture, the form of this book in contrast to its content, was carefully worked out by its author, who once wrote, “In writing I subdue to a dry mathematical style what has come out of warm and profound feeling. But only such a style can be an awakener, for the reader must cause warmth and feeling to awaken within himself. He cannot simply allow these to flow into him from the one setting forth the truth, while he remains passively composed.”

In the present translation, therefore, careful effort has been made to preserve as much as possible details of external form such as sentence and paragraph arrangement, italics, and even some of the more characteristic punctuation of the original, regardless of currently accepted English usage.

A word of appreciation is due the translator of this volume of the Centennial Edition of the Major Writings of Rudolf Steiner. Mrs. Stebbing has brought to the work an intimate knowledge of Rudolf Steiner's writings, and a wide experience in presenting the fundamentals of his philosophical ideas to English and German speaking groups over many years. Her translation is the fruit of her earnest effort to render the precise meaning of the original, a task fraught with extraordinary difficulty, which she has solved with remarkable facility.

The introduction by Hugo S. Bergman, internationally known as an author and philosopher, now a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is certain to be appreciated for the light it sheds on Rudolf Steiner's development of his philosophical point of view. Dr. Bergman heard Rudolf Steiner lecture at the fourth International Philosophical Congress at Bologna, 1911, and the present introduction reflects his life-long study and appreciation of one of the really significant thinkers of this century.

When the first English translation of his Die Philosophie der Freiheit was in preparation, Rudolf Steiner suggested that the title should not be translated literally as The Philosophy of Freedom, but should become The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity for he felt that in English the latter more accurately characterizes the fundamental theme of this book.

As one comes to a living experience of The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, one discovers a new basis for his daily activities and a richer relationship with his fellow human beings. Far from estranging him from others, his enhanced experience of thinking helps him to a deeper, more profound comprehension of humanity, for he has entered the portals leading to “the true communion of man.”

South Egremont, Massachusetts
February 1963