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Christianity as Mystical Fact
GA 8

Points of View

[ 1 ] Natural scientific thought has deeply influenced the formulation of present-day ideas. It is becoming more and more impossible to describe the spiritual requirements of the “life of the soul” without reference to the methods of thinking and the conclusions of natural science. However, it must be admitted that many people satisfy these requirements without taking into account the trend of natural scientific thought in modern spiritual life. But those who are alert to the pulse of the times must take this trend into consideration. Ideas derived from natural science conquer our thought-life with gathering momentum, and our unwilling hearts follow hesitantly and with apprehension. Not only the number thus conquered is important: there is a power inherent in natural scientific thought which convinces the observant that a modern conception of the world cannot exclude its impressions. Several of the side-growths of natural scientific thought compel us to reject which this method of thought has gained widespread recognition and attracts people as if by magic. The situation is not altered by the fact that isolated individuals can see how true science, through its own power has “long” led beyond the “shallow doctrines of force and matter,” taught by materialism. It appears to be far more important to heed those who boldly declare that a new religion should be built on natural scientific ideas. Even if such people seem shallow and superficial to those who know the deeper spiritual requirements of humanity, nevertheless they should be noted because they claim attention in the present time, and there is good reason to believe that they will win increasing recognition in the future. And those also must be considered who have allowed their heads to take precedence over their hearts. These people are unable to free their intellects from natural scientific ideas. They are oppressed by the need for proof. But the religious needs of their souls cannot be satisfied by these natural scientific ideas. The latter offer too comfortless a perspective for their satisfaction. Why be enthusiastic about beauty, truth and goodness if in the end everything is to be swept away into nothingness like a bubble of inflated brain tissue? This is a feeling which oppresses many people like a nightmare. Therefore scientific ideas also oppress them, pressing their claims with tremendous authoritative force. As long as they can, these people remain blind to the discord in their souls. Indeed, they comfort themselves by saying that true clarity in these matters is denied the human soul. They think in accordance with natural science so long as the experience of their senses and logic demand it, but they keep to the religious sentiments in which they have been educated, preferring to remain in darkness concerning these matters, a darkness which clouds their understanding. They have not the courage to struggle through to clarity.

[ 2 ] There can be no doubt whatever that the method of thought derived from natural science is the greatest power in modern spiritual life. And one who speaks of the spiritual concerns of mankind may not pass it by heedlessly. Nevertheless it is also true that the method by which it attempts to satisfy spiritual needs is shallow and superficial. If this were the right method the outlook would indeed be comfortless. Would it not be depressing to be forced to agree with those who say, “Thought is a form of force. We walk with the same force with which we think. Man is an organism that changes several forms of force into thought-force. Man is a machine into which we put what we call food, and produce what we call thought. Think of that wonderful chemistry by which bread was changed into the divine tragedy of Hamlet!” This is quoted from a lecture of Robert G. Ingersoll, titled The Gods.1Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–1899), was an Illinois lawyer, a colonel in the Civil War, attorney general of Illinois, and a nationally-known political speaker. “His public addresses attacking the Bible and Christianity destroyed his political career, and his reputation as a speaker was based on his brilliant oratory rather than clear logic.” Ingersoll's writings and lectures were published posthumously in 12 volumes, New York, 1902. It is irrelevant that such thoughts, casually expressed, apparently receive little recognition. The main point is that countless people, influenced by the natural scientific method of thought, seem compelled to assume an attitude in line with the above quotation, even when they believe they are not doing so.c1The words of Ingersoll are introduced at this point in the book, not only with reference to those people who declare them to be word for word their own conviction. Many people do not do so, and yet their ideas about natural phenomena and man are such that if they were logical they would have to arrive at these statements. It does not matter what anyone declares to be his conviction theoretically, but it matters whether this conviction really follows from his whole method of thought. Someone may even abhor or laugh at the above words; but if he forms for himself an explanation which takes into account only the outer facts without rising to the spiritual background underlying natural phenomena, as a logical consequence he will construct a materialistic philosophy out of it.

[ 3 ] The situation would indeed be comfortless if natural science itself forced us to the credo advanced by many of its newer prophets. Matters would be entirely comfortless for one who has become convinced from the content of this natural science that its method of thought is valid and unshakeable in the realm of nature. Such a person must say to himself, However much people may quarrel over individual questions, though volume after volume may be written and observation upon observation collected about the “struggle for existence”c2For those who can observe rightly the “Spirit of Nature” speaks powerfully in the facts which are at present being dealt with by the cliches “struggle for existence,” “omnipotence of natural selection,” etc. But not in the opinions which science forms about them today. The first of these circumstances contains the reason why natural science will gain increasingly widespread attention. From the second circumstance it follows that the opinions of science need not be accepted as essential to cognition of the facts. The possibility of being tempted by the latter is, however, immeasurably great at the present time. and its insignificance, about the “omnipotence” or “powerlessness” of “natural selection,” natural science itself moves on in one direction, and must find increasing agreement within certain limits.

[ 4 ] But are the demands made by natural science really as they are described by some of its representatives? The behavior of these representatives themselves proves that this is not the case. Their behavior in their own field is not such as many describe and demand in other fields. Would Darwin and Ernst Haeckel1aCharles Robert Darwin (1809–1882), English naturalist, whose voyage on the Beagle to the Southern Seas, recorded in his Journal of a Naturalist (1837) prepared the way for his famous work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Presentation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, published November 24, 1859. Next in importance among his books, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, appeared in 1868. The Descent of Man, published in 1871, dealt with “the origin of man and his history” in the light of The Origin of the Species.

Ernst Heinrich Haeckel (1834–1919), German biologist, originally a physician in Berlin, became Privatdozent at Jena, afterward extraordinary professor of comparative anatomy, later professor of zoology, a chair established for him at Jena. This position he occupied for 43 years with intervals for zoological travels to various parts of the world. When Darwin's Origin of the Species appeared in 1859, Haeckel was deeply influenced by it, so that he became “the apostle of Darwinism in Germany.” Among his famous books were General Morphology (1866), Natural History of Creation (1867) and Die Weltraetsel (1899), English title, The Riddle of the Universe (1901). By his 60th birthday he had published 42 works of some 13,000 pages, plus many monographs. Rudolf Steiner knew Ernest Haeckel personally, and in his autobiography, Chapter 15, Steiner recorded a very perceptive impression of the great scientist.
ever have made their great discoveries about the evolution of life if, instead of observing life and the structure of living beings, they had gone into the laboratory to make chemical experiments with tissue cut out of an organism? Would Lyell1bSir Charles Lyell (1797–1875), British geologist, was the author of the famous Principles of Geology, An Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes Now in Operation (Vol. 1, 1830; Vol. II, 1832). His Elements of Geology and his Antiquity of Man appeared in 1838 and 1863 respectively. His life-work, which included journeys to the United States and Canada, the Scandinavian countries, Sicily, Madiera, Teneriffe and elsewhere, resulted in the advancement of modern geology. On the occasion of the observance of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lyell, Rudolf Steiner wrote an appreciative article on his work which was published in Das Magazin für Literatur, Berlin, November 27, 1897. Steiner also made a number of references to Lyell's work in his lectures (1900–1924). have been able to describe the development of the crust of the earth if, instead of examining strata and their contents, he had analyzed the chemical qualities of innumerable stones? Let us really follow in the footsteps of these explorers who appear as monumental figures in the development of modern science! We shall then apply to the higher regions of spiritual life what they have applied in the field of the observation of nature. Then we shall not believe we have understood the essence of the “divine” tragedy of Hamlet by saying that a wonderful chemical process transformed a certain quantity of food into that tragedy. We shall believe it as little as a naturalist can seriously believe that he has understood the mission of heat in the evolution of the earth when he has studied the action of heat upon sulphur in a chemical retort. Neither does he attempt to understand the construction of the human brain by examining the effect of liquid potash upon a fragment of it, but rather by inquiring how, in the course of evolution, the brain has been developed out of the organs of lower organisms.

[ 5 ] It is therefore quite true that one who is investigating the nature of spirit can only learn from natural science. He really needs only to do as science does. But he must not allow himself to be misled by what individual representatives of natural science would dictate to him. He must investigate in the spiritual domain as they do in the physical, but he need not adopt their opinions about the spiritual world, confused as they are by their exclusive consideration of physical phenomena.

[ 6 ] We shall act in conformity with natural science only when we study the spiritual evolution of man just as impartially as the naturalist observes the material world. Then in the domain of spiritual life we shall admittedly be led to a method of consideration differing from the purely natural scientific method as geology differs from pure physics or the investigation of the evolution of life from research into purely chemical laws. We shall be led to higher methods which, although they cannot be those of natural science, yet hold good in the same sense. Many a one-sided view of natural science will allow itself to be modified or corrected from another point of view, but this only leads to progress in natural science and thereby one does not sin against the latter. Such methods alone can lead to penetration into spiritual developments like Christianity, or the world of ideas of any other religion. Anyone applying these methods may provoke the opposition of many who believe they are thinking scientifically, but nevertheless he will know himself to be in full accord with a truly scientific method of thought.

[ 7 ] An investigator of this kind must also go beyond a merely historical examination of the documents relating to spiritual life. This is necessary just because of the attitude of mind he has acquired from the consideration of natural occurrences. When a chemical law is explained it is of little value to describe the retorts, dishes and pincers which have led to its discovery. And in explaining the beginning of Christianity, it is of just as much or as little value to ascertain the historical sources drawn upon by the Evangelist Luke, or those from which the book of Revelation of John was compiled.c3It should not be concluded, from remarks such as those regarding the sources of the Gospel of Luke etc., that the author of this book underestimates purely historical research. This is not the case. It is absolutely justified, but it should not be intolerant of the method of thinking which proceeds from spiritual points of view. In this book no value is placed on bringing in quotations at every possible point, but whoever wishes to do so can see clearly that an all-round and really unprejudiced judgment will find no contradiction anywhere between what is said here and what is truly established historically. Admittedly, anyone who wants to be one-sided, and holds this or that theory to be what has been established as certainty, may find that the assumptions of this book “do not hold their own” from the “scientific” standpoint, but are “without any objective foundation.” In this case “history” can be only the outer court to research proper. By tracing the historical origin of documents we shall not discover anything about the ideas in the writings of Moses or in the traditions of the Greek mystics. In these documents the ideas in question are expressed only in outward terms. And the naturalist, investigating the nature of “man,” does not concern himself about the origin of the word “man,” or how it has developed in a language. He keeps to the thing itself, not to the word which expresses it. And likewise, in studying spiritual life we shall have to keep to the spirit and not to its outer documents.


[ 1 ] Das naturwissenschaftliche Denken hat das neuzeitliche Vorstellungsleben tiefgehend beeinflußt. Immer unmöglicher wird es, von den geistigen Bedürfnissen, von dem «Leben der Seele» zu sprechen, ohne sich mit den Vorstellungsarten und Erkenntnissen der Naturwissenschaft auseinanderzusetzen. Gewiß: es gibt noch viele Menschen, welche diese Bedürfnisse befriedigen, ohne sich die Kreise von der naturwissenschaftlichen Strömung im Geistesleben stören zu lassen. Diejenigen, welche den Pulsschlag der Zeit hören, können nicht zu diesen gehören. Mit wachsender Schnelligkeit erobern sich die aus der Naturerkenntnis geschöpften Vorstellungen die Köpfe; und die Herzen folgen, wenn auch viel weniger willig, wenn auch oft mutlos und zagend. Nicht allein auf die Zahl derer kommt es an, die erobert sind; sondern darauf, daß dem naturwissenschaftlichen Denken eine Kraft innewohnt, die dem Aufmerkenden die Überzeugung gibt: dieses Denken enthält etwas, an dem eine Weltanschauung der Gegenwart nicht vorbeigehen kann, ohne bedeutungsvolle Eindrücke zu empfangen. Manche Auswüchse dieses Denkens nötigen zu einem berechtigten Zurückweisen seiner Vorstellungen. Doch kann man dabei nicht stehen bleiben in einem Zeitalter, in dem sich weite Kreise dieser Denkungsart zuwenden und von ihr wie von einer Zaubermacht angezogen werden. Daran ändert auch die Tatsache nichts, daß einzelne Persönlichkeiten einsehen, wie wirkliche Wissenschaft durch sich selbst über die «flache Kraft- und Stoffweisheit» des Materialismus «längst» hinausgeführt hat. Viel mehr, so scheint es, ist auf diejenigen zu achten, die mit Kühnheit erklären: die naturwissenschaftlichen Vorstellungen sind es, auf die auch eine neue Religion aufgebaut werden müsse. Wenn solche dem, der die tieferen geistigen Interessen der Menschheit kennt, auch flach und oberflächlich erscheinen, so muß er doch auf sie hören; denn ihnen wendet sich die Aufmerksamkeit der Gegenwart zu; und es sind Gründe zu der Ansicht vorhanden, daß sie die Aufmerksamkeit in der nächsten Zukunft immer mehr gewinnen werden. Und auch die anderen kommen in Betracht, die mit den Interessen ihres Herzens hinter denen ihres Kopfes zurückgeblieben sind. Es sind die, welche sich in ihrem Verstande den naturwissenschaftlichen Vorstellungen nicht entziehen können. Die Beweislast drückt auf sie. Aber die religiösen Bedürfnisse ihres Gemütes können von diesen Vorstellungen nicht befriedigt werden. Für eine solche Befriedigung liefern diese eine zu trostlose Perspektive. Soll denn die Menschenseele sich für die Höhen der Schönheit, Wahrheit und Güte begeistern, um in jedem einzelnen Fälle wie eine vom materiellen Gehirn aufgetriebene Schaumblase am Ende in Wesenlosigkeit hinweggefegt zu werden? Das ist eine Empfindung, die auf vielen wie ein Alp lastet. Und die naturwissenschaftlichen Vorstellungen lasten auch deshalb auf ihnen, weil sie mit einer gewaltigen autoritativen Kraft sich aufdrängen. Solche Menschen verhalten sich, solange sie nur können, blind gegen diesen Zwiespalt in ihrer Seele. Ja, sie trösten sich damit, zu sagen, daß volle Klarheit in diesen Dingen der menschlichen Seele versagt sei. Sie denken naturwissenschaftlich, soweit die Erfahrung der Sinne und die Logik des Verstandes dies erfordern; aber sie erhalten sich ihre anerzogenen religiösen Empfindungen und bleiben am liebsten über diese Dinge in einer den Verstand umnebelnden Dunkelheit. Sie haben nicht den Mut, sich zu einer Klarheit durchzuringen.

[ 2 ] So kann kein Zweifel darüber sein: die naturwissenschaftliche Denkungsart ist die mächtigste Gewalt im Geistesleben der Neuzeit. Und wer von den geistigen Interessen der Menschheit spricht, darf an ihr nicht achtlos vorübergehen. Aber zweifellos ist es auch, daß die Art, wie sie zunächst die geistigen Bedürfnisse befriedigt, eine oberflächliche und flache ist. Es wäre trostlos, wenn diese Art die rechte wäre. Oder wäre es nicht niederdrückend, wenn man zustimmen müßte, sobald einer sagt: «Der Gedanke ist eine Form der Kraft. Wir gehen mit derselben Kraft, mit der wir denken. Der Mensch ist ein Organismus, der verschiedene Formen der Kraft in Gedankenkraft umwandelt, ein Organismus, den wir mit dem, was wir «Nahrung» nennen, in Tätigkeit erhalten und mit dem wir das, was wir Gedanken nennen, produzieren. Welch ein wundervoller chemischer Prozeß, der ein bloßes Quantum Nahrung in die göttliche Tragödie eines «Hamlet» verwandeln konnte!»? Das ist geschrieben in einer Broschüre Robert G. Ingersolls,1Die Worte Ingersolls werden an dieser Stelle des Buches nicht etwa bloß im Hinblicke auf solche Menschen angeführt, welche sie in genau demselben Wortlaute als ihre Überzeugung aussprechen. Gar viele werden dies nicht tun und dennoch sich über die Naturerscheinungen und den Menschen solche Vorstellungen machen, daß sie, wenn sie wirklich konsequent wären, zu diesen Aussprüchen kommen müßten. Es kommt nicht darauf an, was jemand theoretisch als seine Überzeugung ausspricht, sondern darauf, ob diese Überzeugung wirklich aus seiner ganzen Denkungsart folgt. Es mag jemand für seine Person die obigen Worte sogar verabscheuen oder lächerlich finden: wenn er, ohne zu den geistigen Untergründen der Naturerscheinungen aufzusteigen, sich eine das bloß Äußerliche berücksichtigende Erklärung derselben bildet, so wird der Andere als eine logische Folge eine materialistische Philosophie daraus machen. die den Titel «Moderne Götterdämmerung» trägt. — Mögen solche Gedanken äußerlich wenig Zustimmung finden, wenn sie der eine oder andere ausspricht: das ist gleichgültig. Die Hauptsache ist, daß Unzählige durch die naturwissenschaftliche Denkungsart sich gezwungen sehen, sich im Sinne der obigen Sätze zu den Vorgängen der Welt zu stellen, auch wenn sie die Meinung haben, daß sie es nicht tun.

[ 3 ] Gewiß wären diese Dinge trostlos, wenn die Naturwissenschaft selbst zu dem Bekenntnisse zwänge, das viele ihrer neueren Propheten verkünden. Am trostlosesten für den, welcher aus dem Inhalte dieser Naturwissenschaft die Überzeugung gewonnen hat, daß auf ihrem Naturgebiete ihre Denkungsart gültig, ihre Methoden unerschütterlich sind. Denn ein solcher muß sich sagen: mögen sich die Leute noch so sehr über einzelne Fragen herumstreiten; mögen Bände nach Bänden geschrieben, Beobachtungen nach Beobachtungen gesammelt werden über den «Kampf ums Dasein» 2Aus den Tatsachen, welche gegenwärtig mit den Schlagworten «Kampf ums Dasein», «Allmacht der Naturzüchtung» und so weiter behandelt werden, spricht für den, der richtig wahrnehmen kann, gewaltig der «Geist der Natur». Aus den Meinungen, welche sich die Wissenschaft darüber heute bildet, nicht. In dem erstern Umstande liegt der Grund, warum die Naturwissenschaft in immer weiteren Kreisen gehört werden wird. Aus dem zweiten Umstande aber folgt, daß die Meinungen der Wissenschaft nicht so genommen werden dürfen, als ob sie notwendig zu der Erkenntnis der Tatsachen hinzugehörten. Die Möglichkeit, zu dem letztern verführt zu werden, ist aber in gegenwärtiger Zeit unbegrenzt groß. und seine Bedeutungslosigkeit, über «Allmacht » oder «Ohnmacht» der «Naturzüchtung»: die Naturwissenschaft selbst bewegt sich in einer Richtung, die, innerhalb gewisser Grenzen, Zustimmung in immer höherem Grade finden muß.

[ 4 ] Aber sind die Forderungen der Naturwissenschaft wirklich diejenigen, von denen einige ihrer Vertreter sprechen? Daß sie es nicht sind, beweist gerade das Verhalten dieser Vertreter selbst. Dieses ihr Verhalten ist auf ihrem eigenen Gebiete nicht ein solches, wie viele es beschreiben und für andere Gebiete fordern. Oder hätten Darwin und Ernst Haeckel jemals die großen Entdeckungen auf dem Gebiete der Lebensentwicklung gemacht, wenn sie, statt das Leben und den Bau der Lebewesen zu beobachten, sich in das Laboratorium begeben hätten, um chemische Versuche über ein aus einem Organismus herausgeschnittenes Stück Gewebe anzustellen? Hätte Lyell die Entwicklung der Erdrinde darstellen können, wenn er nicht die Schichten der Erde und deren Inhalt untersucht, sondern dafür unzählige Steine auf ihre chemischen Eigenschaften hin geprüft hätte? Man wandle doch wirklich in den Spuren dieser Forscher, die sich wie monumentale Gestalten innerhalb der neueren Wissenschaftsentwicklung darstellen! Man wird es dann in den höheren Gebieten des Geisteslebens treiben, wie sie es auf dem Felde der Naturbeobachtung getrieben haben. Man wird dann nicht glauben, daß man das Wesen der «göttlichen» Hamlettragödie begriffen habe, wenn man sagt: ein wundervoller chemischer Prozeß habe ein Quantum Nahrung in diese Tragödie umgewandelt. Man wird das ebensowenig glauben, wie irgendein Naturforscher im Ernste glauben kann: er habe die Aufgabe der Wärme bei der Erdentwicklung begriffen, wenn er die Wirkung der Wärme auf den Schwefel in der chemischen Retorte studiert hat. Er sucht ja den Bau des menschlichen Gehirns auch nicht dadurch zu begreifen, daß er ein Stückchen aus dem Kopfe nimmt und untersucht, wie eine Lauge darauf wirkt, sondern indem er sich frägt, wie es sich im Laufe der Entwicklung aus den Organen niederer Organismen gestaltet hat.

[ 5 ] Es ist also doch wahr: derjenige, welcher die Wesenheit des Geistes untersucht, kann von der Naturwissenschaft nur lernen. Er braucht es nur wirklich so zu machen, wie sie es macht. Er darf sich nur nicht täuschen lassen durch das, was ihm einzelne Vertreter der Naturwissenschaft vorschreiben wollen. Er soll forschen im geistigen Gebiete wie sie im physischen; aber er braucht die Meinungen nicht zu übernehmen, welche sie, getrübt durch ihr Denken über rein Physisches, von der geistigen Welt vorstellen.

[ 6 ] Man handelt nur im Sinne der Naturwissenschaft, wenn man den geistigen Werdegang des Menschen ebenso unbefangen betrachtet, wie der Naturforscher die sinnliche Welt beobachtet. Man wird dann allerdings auf dem Gebiete des Geisteslebens zu einer Betrachtungsart geführt, die sich von der bloß naturwissenschaftlichen ebenso unterscheidet wie die geologische von der bloß physikalischen, die Untersuchung der Lebensentwicklung von der Erforschung der bloßen chemischen Gesetze. Man wird zu höheren Methoden geführt, die zwar nicht die naturwissenschaftlichen sein können, aber doch ganz in ihrem Sinne gehalten sind. Dadurch wird sich manche einseitige Ansicht der Naturforschung von einem andern Gesichtspunkte modifizieren oder korrigieren lassen; aber man setzt damit die Naturwissenschaft nur fort; man sündigt nicht gegen sie. — Solche Methoden allein können dazu führen, in geistige Entwicklungen wie in diejenige des Christentums oder anderer religiöser Vorstellungswelten wirklich einzudringen. Wer sie anwendet, mag den Widerspruch mancher Persönlichkeit erregen, die naturwissenschaftlich zu denken glaubt: er weiß sich aber doch in vollem Einklänge mit einer wahrhaft naturwissenschaftlichen Vorstellungsart.

[ 7 ] Auch über die bloß geschichtliche Erforschung der Dokumente des Geisteslebens muß ein also Forschender hinausschreiten. Er muß es gerade wegen seiner aus der Betrachtung des natürlichen Geschehens geschöpften Gesinnung. Es hat für die Darlegung eines chemischen Gesetzes wenig Wert, wenn man die Retorten, Schalen und Pinzetten beschreibt, die zu der Entdeckung des Gesetzes geführt haben. Aber genau so viel und genau so wenig Wert hat es, wenn man, um die Entstehung des Christentums darzulegen, die geschichtlichen Quellen feststellt, aus denen der Evangelist Lukas geschöpft hat; oder aus denen die «Geheime Offenbarung» des Johannes zusammengestellt ist. 3Es soll mit solchen Bemerkungen, wie diejenige über die Quellen des Lukas und so weiter eine ist, nicht geschlossen werden, daß die rein geschichtliche Forschung von dem Verfasser dieses Buches unterschätzt werde. Das ist nicht der Fall. Sie hat durchaus ihre Berechtigung, nur sollte sie nicht unduldsam sein gegen die Vorstellungsart, welche von geistigen Gesichtspunkten ausgeht. Es wird in diesem Buche nicht darauf Wert gelegt, bei jeder Gelegenheit Zitate über alles Mögliche zu bringen; doch kann derjenige, welcher will, durchaus sehen, daß ein allseitiges, wirklich unbefangenes Urteilen das hier Gesagte nirgends in Widerspruch finden wird mit dem wahrhaft historisch Festgestellten. Wer allerdings nicht allseitig sein will, sondern diese oder jene Theorie für das hält, was «man» als sicher festgestellt hat, der kann finden, daß die Behauptungen dieses Buches sich vom «wissenschaftlichen» Standpunkte aus «nicht halten lassen», sondern «ohne alle objektive Grundlage » dastehen. Die «Geschichte» kann da nur der Vorhof der eigentlichen Forschung sein. Nicht dadurch erfährt man etwas über die Vorstellungen, welche in den Schriften des Moses oder in den Überlieferungen der griechischen Mysten herrschen, daß man die geschichtliche Entstehung der Dokumente verfolgt. In diesen haben doch die Vorstellungen, um die es sich handelt, nur einen äußeren Ausdruck gefunden. Und auch der Naturforscher, der das Wesen des «Menschen» erforschen will, verfolgt nicht, wie das Wort «Mensch» entstanden ist, und wie es in der Sprache sich fortgebildet hat. Er hält sich an die Sache, nicht an das Wort, in dem die Sache ihren Ausdruck findet. Und im Geistesleben wird man sich an den Geist und nicht an seine äußeren Dokumente zu halten haben.

Points of view

[ 1 ] Scientific thinking has had a profound influence on the modern imagination. It is becoming increasingly impossible to speak of spiritual needs, of the "life of the soul", without engaging with the concepts and findings of natural science. Certainly, there are still many people who satisfy these needs without allowing themselves to be disturbed by the scientific current in spiritual life. Those who hear the pulse of the times cannot be among them. With increasing rapidity the ideas drawn from the knowledge of nature conquer the minds; and the hearts follow, though much less willingly, though often despondently and timidly. It is not only the number of those who are conquered that matters; but the fact that there is a power inherent in scientific thinking that gives the observer the conviction that this thinking contains something that a contemporary world view cannot pass by without receiving meaningful impressions. Some excesses of this thinking necessitate a justified rejection of its ideas. But we cannot stand still in an age in which wide circles turn to this way of thinking and are drawn to it as if by a magical power. This is not altered by the fact that individual personalities realize how real science has "long since" led beyond the "shallow wisdom of force and matter" of materialism. Much more attention, it seems, should be paid to those who boldly declare that it is the ideas of natural science on which a new religion must also be built. If such appear shallow and superficial to one who knows the deeper spiritual interests of mankind, he must listen to them; for to them the attention of the present is turned; and there are reasons to believe that they will gain more and more attention in the near future. And the others also come into consideration, who have lagged behind the interests of their hearts behind those of their heads. They are those whose minds cannot escape the ideas of natural science. The burden of proof weighs on them. But the religious needs of their minds cannot be satisfied by these ideas. They provide too bleak a perspective for such satisfaction. Is the human soul supposed to be enthusiastic about the heights of beauty, truth and goodness, only to be swept away into insubstantiality like a bubble of foam blown up by the material brain? This is a feeling that weighs on many like an Alp. And scientific ideas also weigh on them because they impose themselves with a powerful authoritative force. Such people remain blind to this conflict in their souls for as long as they can. Indeed, they comfort themselves by saying that full clarity in these matters is denied to the human soul. They think scientifically, as far as the experience of the senses and the logic of the mind require it; but they retain their acquired religious feelings and prefer to remain in a darkness that clouds the mind about these things. They don't have the courage to bring themselves to clarity.

[ 2 ] There can be no doubt about it: the scientific way of thinking is the most powerful force in the intellectual life of modern times. And whoever speaks of the spiritual interests of mankind must not pass it by carelessly. But there is also no doubt that the way in which it initially satisfies spiritual needs is superficial and shallow. It would be dismal if this were the right way. Or would it not be depressing if one had to agree as soon as someone said: "Thought is a form of power. We walk with the same power with which we think. Man is an organism which transforms various forms of force into thought-force, an organism which we keep in activity with what we call "food" and with which we produce what we call thought. What a marvelous chemical process that could transform a mere quantum of food into the divine tragedy of a "Hamlet"!"? This is written in a brochure by Robert G. Ingersoll,1Ingersoll's words are not quoted at this point in the book merely with regard to those people who pronounce them in exactly the same wording as their conviction. Quite a lot of people will not do this and yet form such ideas about natural phenomena and man that, if they were really consistent, they would have to come to these statements. It is not a question of what someone says theoretically as his conviction, but of whether this conviction really follows from his whole way of thinking. Someone may even find the above words abhorrent or ridiculous for his own person: if, without ascending to the spiritual foundations of natural phenomena, he forms an explanation of them that takes into account the merely external, the other will make a materialistic philosophy out of it as a logical consequence. which bears the title "Modern Twilight of the Gods". - Such thoughts may meet with little outward approval when they are expressed by one or the other: it makes no difference. The main thing is that countless people feel compelled by the scientific way of thinking to take a stand on the processes of the world in the sense of the above sentences, even if they have the opinion that they do not.

[ 3 ] Certainly these things would be bleak if natural science itself were forced to make the confession that many of its more recent prophets proclaim. Most dismal for those who have gained the conviction from the content of this natural science that its way of thinking is valid and its methods unshakeable in its field of nature. For such a one must say to himself: no matter how much people argue about individual questions; no matter how volumes after volumes are written, observations after observations are collected about the "struggle for existence" 2From the facts which are currently treated with the catchwords "struggle for existence", "omnipotence of natural breeding" and so on, the "spirit of nature" speaks powerfully to those who can perceive correctly. Not from the opinions that science forms about it today. In the first circumstance lies the reason why natural science will be heard in ever wider circles. But it follows from the second circumstance that the opinions of science must not be taken as if they necessarily belonged to the knowledge of facts. The possibility of being seduced into the latter, however, is unlimited at the present time. and its insignificance, about the "omnipotence" or "impotence" of "natural breeding": natural science itself is moving in a direction which, within certain limits, must meet with ever-increasing approval.

[ 4 ] But are the demands of natural science really those of which some of its representatives speak? The fact that they are not is proven by the behavior of these representatives themselves. Their behavior in their own field is not what many describe and claim for other fields. Or would Darwin and Ernst Haeckel ever have made the great discoveries in the field of the development of life if, instead of observing life and the structure of living beings, they had gone into the laboratory to carry out chemical experiments on a piece of tissue cut out of an organism? Would Lyell have been able to depict the development of the earth's crust if he had not examined the layers of the earth and their contents, but had instead tested the chemical properties of countless stones? Why not really follow in the footsteps of these researchers, who present themselves as monumental figures in the recent development of science! One will then pursue the higher realms of intellectual life as they did in the field of natural observation. They will not then believe that they have grasped the essence of the "divine" Hamlet tragedy when they say that a miraculous chemical process has transformed a quantum of food into this tragedy. One will no more believe this than any natural scientist can seriously believe that he has understood the function of heat in the development of the earth when he has studied the effect of heat on sulphur in the chemical retort. He does not seek to understand the structure of the human brain by taking a piece out of the head and examining how an alkali acts on it, but by asking himself how it has developed from the organs of lower organisms in the course of evolution.

[ 5 ] It is therefore true that those who study the essence of the spirit can only learn from natural science. He only really needs to do it the way science does it. He must not allow himself to be deceived by what individual representatives of natural science want to prescribe. He should research in the spiritual realm as they do in the physical; but he need not adopt the opinions which they, clouded by their thinking about the purely physical, present of the spiritual world.

[ 6 ] One only acts in the sense of natural science if one observes the spiritual development of man just as impartially as the natural scientist observes the sensory world. In the field of spiritual life, however, one is then led to a way of looking at things that is as different from the purely scientific approach as the geological approach is from the purely physical approach, the study of the development of life from the study of mere chemical laws. One is led to higher methods, which may not be those of the natural sciences, but are nevertheless entirely in their spirit. In this way many a one-sided view of natural science will be modified or corrected from another point of view; but one is only continuing natural science; one is not sinning against it. - Such methods alone can lead to a real penetration into spiritual developments such as those of Christianity or other religious conceptions. Those who apply them may arouse the objection of some people who believe they are thinking scientifically, but they know that they are in full agreement with a truly scientific way of thinking.

[ 7 ] A researcher must also go beyond the mere historical investigation of the documents of spiritual life. He must do so precisely because of his attitude drawn from the observation of natural events. It is of little value for the exposition of a chemical law to describe the retorts, dishes and tweezers that led to the discovery of the law. But it is of just as much and just as little value if, in order to explain the origin of Christianity, one establishes the historical sources from which the evangelist Luke drew; or from which the "Secret Revelation" of John is compiled. 3It should not be inferred from such remarks as the one about Luke's sources and so on that the purely historical research is underestimated by the author of this book. This is not the case. It certainly has its justification, but it should not be intolerant of the way of thinking which proceeds from spiritual points of view. This book does not set great store by quoting all sorts of things at every opportunity, but anyone who wants to can certainly see that an all-round, truly unbiased judgment will nowhere find what is said here in contradiction with what is truly historically established. However, anyone who does not want to be all-round, but considers this or that theory to be what "one" has established as certain, may find that the assertions of this book "cannot be upheld" from a “scientific” point of view, but are "without any objective basis". “History” can only be the forecourt of actual research. One does not learn anything about the ideas that prevail in the writings of Moses or in the traditions of the Greek mystics by following the historical genesis of the documents. In these the ideas in question have only found an external expression. And even the natural scientist who wants to investigate the nature of "man" does not trace how the word "man" came into being and how it has developed in language. He focuses on the thing, not on the word in which the thing finds its expression. And in the spiritual life, one will have to stick to the spirit and not to its external documents.