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Riddles of the Soul
GA 21

II. Max Dessoir on Anthroposophy

The preceding essay shows how strongly and concretely the anthroposophist (spiritual scientist) can wish to come to terms with the anthropologist (natural scientist). One might think that a book with purposes like those of Max Dessoir would lend itself to just such a discussion. From the anthroposophical viewpoint, Dessoir's book is written in the anthropological mode. It bases itself upon the findings of sense observation; and wants to employ the kind of thinking and research usual to the natural-scientific approach. His book belongs to what we mean by anthropological science.

In that part of his book entitled “Anthroposophy,” Max Dessoir wants to deliver a critique of the anthroposophical views presented in my books.1Pages 254-263 of his book, Vom Jenseits der Seele, die Geheiniwissenschafien in kritischer Betrachtung; Beyond the Soul, A Critical View of the Arcane Sciences, by Max Dessoir, Ferdinand Enke Press, Stuttgart, 1917. He tries to reproduce in his own way some of the material from these books and then adds his critical comments. This could show us, therefore, what each of the two realms of thought has to say about one or another aspect of human striving for knowledge.

Let me now present and discuss what Max Dessoir writes.

Dessoir wishes to point to my support of the view that the human soul, through inner development, can attain the ability to use its spiritual organs, and through this can bring itself into the same kind of connection with the spiritual world that it has to the sense world through its physical sense organs. You can see from my first essay how I picture what must occur in the soul in order for it to arrive at perception of the spiritual life. Max Dessoir presents in his way what I have said about this in my books. He writes:

Through this kind of inner work, the soul attains what all philosophy has sought. To be sure, we must be careful not to confuse the body-free consciousness with dream-like clairvoyance or hypnotic processes. When our soul powers are enhanced, the "I" can experience itself above consciousness, in a kind of densification and individualization of the spirit, as it were; yes, the "I," in its perception of colors and sounds, can even exclude the mediation of the body from this experience.

Dessoir then inserts the following footnote: "Refuting these assertions individually is not worth the while." So, Dessoir adds to my views about spiritual perception that T assert that in perceiving colors and sounds one can exclude the mediation of the body. Please look back at what I said in the preceding essay about the experiences of the soul through its spiritual organs, and how the soul arrives at expression of these experiences in color and sound pictures. You will see that, from the point of view of anthroposophy, I could not assert anything more absurd than that the soul, “in its perception of colors and sounds, can exclude the mediation of the body.” If I ever did make such a claim, it would then be correct to say that “refuting these assertions individually is not worth the while.” We are confronted here by a really strange fact. Max Dessoir asserts that I say something that, in accordance with my own presuppositions, I would have to label as absurd. It is of course impossible to come to terms with an objection raised by an opponent in this way. One can only recognize and show that a distorted picture was presented as though it were the actual view of the person one is opposing. Now Dessoir might object to this by saying that he could not find in my earlier works any presentation as clear as that in the preceding essay on the conclusions to be drawn from my views on the point at issue here. I admit right away that on many points of anthroposophy my later presentations contain a more exact exposition of what I stated earlier, and that readers of my earlier works can perhaps arrive at an erroneous view here and there of what I myself consider to be the necessary conclusions to be drawn from my views on a certain point. I believe that any insightful person would find this obvious. For, anthroposophy represents a broad field of work, and books can only deal with individual parts of it. But in this case can Max Dessoir have recourse to my not having clarified in my earlier books the point at issue here? Dessoir's book was published in 1917. In chapter 6 of the fifth edition of my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, published in 1914, in the passage dealing with the pictorial manifestation of spiritual experiences in colors, I made the following statement:

In the descriptions that follow, one must be alert to the fact that "seeing" a color, for example, means a spiritual seeing (observing). In clairvoyant knowledge when one says, "I see red," one means, "in the soul-spiritual [realm], I am having an experience that is like the physical experience of the sense impression of the color red." Only because it is completely natural in clairvoyant knowledge in such a case to say "I see red," is this expression used. Someone who is unaware of this fact can easily mistake a color vision for a truly clairvoyant experience.

I added this footnote not because I believed that a reader with true understanding could believe that I assert the possibility of seeing colors without eyes, but because I could imagine that a superficial reader here or there, through misunderstanding, could falsely attribute such an assertion to me if I did not expressly state the contrary. Three years later, after I had expressly warded off any such imputation, Max Dessoir comes along and declares that I am asserting something that I actually consider to be absurd.

But there is more. In the sixth edition of my book Theosophy, also published in 1914, the following statements are made on this subject:

One might picture that what is described here as “color” confronts the soul in the same way a physical color confronts the eye. But any such “soul color” would be nothing but a hallucination. Spiritual science has absolutely nothing to do with "hallucinatory" impressions and they are certainly not what we are referring to in these descriptions. One arrives at a correct picture when one keeps the following in mind. Relative to a physical color, the soul experiences not only the sense impression, but also has a soul experience in connection with it. When the soul perceives a yellow color through the eye, it has a different soul experience than when it perceives a blue color. Let us call this experience “living in yellow” or “living in blue.” Now, a soul that has entered the path of knowledge has a similar “experience in yellow” when confronted by the active soul experiences of other entities; and an “experience in blue” when confronted by devotional soul moods. The essential point is not that the “seer,” while picturing someone else's soul, sees "blue" the way he sees this “blue” in the physical world, but that he has an experience that justifies him in calling this picture “blue,” just as a physical person calls a curtain, for example, “blue.” Another essential point is that the “seer” is conscious of the fact that, with this experience, he is standing within a body-free experience, and thus is given the possibility of speaking about the value and significance of a soul life in a world whose perception is not communicated by the human body.2Please see my book Theosophy, an Introduction into Knowledge of the Supersensible World and Human Destiny. In my book Occult Science, an Outline, there is a similar presentation about seeing colors. And now we are faced with the unbelievable fact that Max Dessoir cites this book as one of the writings that he supposedly used. He asserts, therefore, that I say something the exact opposite of which stands in the book he is citing!

I will forgo quoting other passages from my books that present my true view on this particular subject. And as to an assessment of Max Dessoir's “version” of my statements, this I leave up to every reader who can still form an objective judgment about the facts even when anthroposophy is the topic.

The level of understanding that Dessoir brings to the descriptions I attempted of the consciousness attained through spiritual organs does not bode well for his further presentations on the relation of "Imaginative" pictures to the spiritual reality to which they correspond. He has heard that anthroposophy does not explain the evolution of mankind on earth only by the means employed by anthropology but rather, with its own means, sees this evolution to be dependent upon spiritual powers and beings. In my book Occult Science, an Outline, I attempted to make this evolutionary process visible by means of "Imaginative" pictures (and through other kinds of knowledge as well that go beyond Imaginative vision, but are not so relevant to our present topic). In that book I indicated how to anthroposophical observation a picture arises of states undergone by mankind in evolutionary forms that are already close to those of the present day; and I also pointed to even earlier evolutionary forms in which the human being appeared that are quite unlike those of today and that are described by me, not in the pictures that anthropology borrows from sense perception, but in Imaginative pictures.

Dessoir then informs his readers in the following way about what I have described as to the evolution of mankind. He says of my depiction of the evolutionary forms that are still close to those of the present-day human being that I designate a specific period of time in the past as the old Indian culture of mankind and then see other cultural periods succeeding it. As Dessoir puts it:

Old India is not the India we know of today, for, all geographic, astronomical, and historical references are to be taken as symbolic. Following the Indian culture, the ancient Persian culture arose, led by Zarathustra who, however, lived much earlier than the historical personality of that name. Other periods followed. We are now in the sixth period.

What I say about a much earlier age of human evolution, in which mankind still appeared in forms quite unlike those of today, is reported by Dessoir like this:

This human being evolved in a distant past that Steiner calls the Lemurian age of the earth—why in the world?—and in a land that lay then between Australia and India (which, therefore, is an actual place and not a symbol).

I want here to totally disregard the fact that I could also see the entire “version” of my description as a mere distortion that could never give the reader a picture of what I mean. I only want to address one point of this “version.” Dessoir inspires in his reader the belief that I speak as though what is seen in the spirit is to be taken as symbolic, that old India, therefore, where I locate an ancient culture, is a “symbolic” land. Later, he blames me for locating a much older period of human evolution in Lemuria—between Australia and India—and in doing so contradict myself horribly, since one could notice from my presentation, after all, that I consider Lemuria to be an actual place and not a symbol.

One could only agree fully with the view that a reader of Dessoir's book who has read nothing of my work and only takes up Dessoir's version of it would have to conclude that my presentation is complete rubbish—thoughtless, confused, and self-contradictory.

What really stands in my book about the region of the earth I refer to as old India? Read the pertinent passages and you will find that I express with full clarity that old India is not a symbol; it is the region of the earth that basically, if not quite exactly, corresponds with what we all call India. So, Dessoir reports to his reader, as though it were my view, something that it would never even enter my mind to imagine. And because he believes that, in describing old Lemuria, I speak, indeed, in a way that accords with my actual beliefs about old India—but not with the nonsense that he ascribes to me—he accuses me of contradiction.

One has to ask oneself how the unbelievable can occur that Dessoir has me assert that old India is to be understood in a symbolic way. Out of the whole context of his presentation, I come to the following explanation. Dessoir has read something about the processes in our soul life that I call the path to spiritual vision, whose first level is Imaginative cognition. I describe there how the soul, through calm devotion to certain thoughts, evolves from its own depths the ability to form Imaginative pictures. I say that to this end the soul does best to dwell upon symbolic pictures. No one, through my description, should fall into the error of thinking that these symbolic pictures are anything other than a means of arriving at Imaginative cognition. Now, Dessoir believes that, because one arrives at Imaginative picturing by means of symbols, this picturing also consists only in symbolic pictures; indeed, he ascribes to me the view that someone who uses his spiritual organs does not look through the Imaginative pictures at realities, but only at symbols.

With respect to my presentation, Dessoir's assertion that in cases like that of old India I am pointing at symbols, not realities, can only be compared with the following. Someone finds, from the condition of a certain stretch of ground, that in the region where he now is, it must have rained a short while ago. He communicates this to someone else. Naturally, he can only communicate his mental picture of the fact that it has rained. Therefore, a third person asserts that the first person is saying that the condition of the ground did not result from real rain, but only from a mental picture of rain. I am asserting neither that Imaginative pictures consist only of mere symbols, nor that they themselves are realities; I am saying that Imaginative pictures relate to a reality the way the mental pictures of ordinary consciousness do. And to impute to me that I am pointing only at symbolic realities is like asserting that the natural scientist does not see the reality to lie within the existence of that to which his mental picture relates, but rather within this picture itself.

When one presents the views one wants to combat the way Dessoir does, the battle is quite easy. And Max Dessoir does make it really easy for himself to sit upon the judge's seat in a lofty manner; but he achieves this only by first perverting my presentations into distorted pictures—often into complete foolishness, in fact—and then scolding his own creation. He states: “It is self-contradictory to say that from ‘envisioned’ and merely ‘symbolic’ circumstances, the actual facts of real existence are supposed to have evolved.” But you will not find any such self-contradictory way of picturing things in any of my work. Dessoir only imputes such an element to my work. And when he goes so far as to assert: “For the point is not whether one regards the spiritual as brain activity or not, but whether the spiritual is to be regarded in the form of a childish way of picturing things or as a realm with its own lawfulness,” then the response must be: I agree with him totally that everything he serves up to his readers as my view bears the mark of a childish way of picturing things; however, what he labels as childish has nothing to do with my real views, but refers totally to his own mental pictures, which he has created by distorting mine.

How is it even possible that a scholar could proceed in this way? In order to contribute toward an answer to this question I must take the reader for a little while into a realm that will perhaps not seem entertaining but that I must enter here in order to show how Max Dessoir reads the books that he appoints himself to judge. I must bring a little philology to bear upon Max Dessoir's presentations.

As already mentioned, Dessoir describes my picture of the evolution of human cultural periods within certain time frames as follows: "The Old Persian culture followed the Old Indian. Other periods of time succeeded them. We are now in the sixth period." Now it might seem quite petty to criticize someone for having me say that we are now in the sixth period whereas I actually show, with all possible clarity, that we are in the fifth period. But in this case the matter is not such an insignificant one. For, anyone who has penetrated into the whole spirit of my presentation of this subject would have to admit that someone to whom it would even occur to believe I was speaking of the sixth period as our present one must have misunderstood my whole presentation in the grossest manner. My designation of the present period as the fifth is intimately connected with my whole discussion of this topic.

How did Dessoir arrive at his gross misunderstanding? One can form a picture of this if one compares my presentation of the matter with his “version” of it and, in doing so, tests it by the philological method.

When, in my description of the cultural epoch, I arrive at the fourth period—which I see to begin in the eighth century BC and end in about the fourteenth or fifteenth century—I say the following:

In the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries AD, a cultural era spread over Europe in which we are still living today. It was meant to gradually replace the fourth epoch, the Greco-Roman. It is the fifth Post- Atlantean cultural epoch.

Accordingly, my view is that, through processes occurring in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries, effects were prepared that needed several centuries more to ripen, in order then, in the fourteenth century, to make the transition into the fifth cultural epoch in which we are still living now. In his reading of the above passage, Max Dessoir seems to have brought it into the domain of his attention in such a way that he confused the sequence of the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries with the sequence of the cultural epochs. When someone reads superficially and in addition has no understanding of what he is reading, such things can occur.

I would not advance this hypothesis about Max Dessoir's superficiality by itself if it were not supported by the following discoveries that one can make in his “version” of my presentations. In order to discuss the pertinent factors here, I must introduce mental pictures relative to anthroposophical knowledge that are hardly comprehensible if not viewed in connection with the presentations in my book Occult Science, an Outline that refer to them. I myself would never tear them out of all context and introduce them to a reader or listener the way Dessoir does. But since he bases his criticism on his “version” of views that in my presentations are in a broad context, I must address this “version” here. I must show what kind of “version” this is. To begin with I must note that the depiction of such matters presents such difficulties because the content of spiritual observation can only be elucidated to some extent when one strives for the most exact possible forms of expression. Therefore, when presenting such matters, I always try to spare myself no pains or time in struggling to attain the greatest possible exactitude in my form of verbal expression. Anyone who penetrates even a little way into the spirit of anthroposophy will understand what I have just said.

In the light of this, let me now show how Max Dessoir proceeds in giving his "version" of my presentations.3One could perhaps point to something here that is not taken into consideration in those circles that often want to judge anthroposophical endeavors in terms of their philosophical and scientific validity. I do not want to leave out this point, because the opinion could easily arise in some people that what I am bringing against Dessoir is a much too pedantic insistence upon my actual words. In anthroposophy we are dealing with descriptions of the spiritual. In doing so, one must use the words and even the word combinations of ordinary language. But it is absolutely the case that one cannot always find adequate terminology for that toward which the soul directs its attention when it observes something spiritual. The relationships that hold sway in the spiritual realm and the particular nature of what one can call the beings and occurrences there are much more complicated, subtle, and manifold than what comes to expression in our ordinary use of language. One attains the goal only if one avails oneself of the linguistic potential of sentence structure and word transformation, and if one strives to bring to expression through a second sentence—in connection with the first—something that one cannot adequately express in one sentence. To understand anthroposophy it is absolutely necessary to enter into such matters. The case can arise, for example, that a spiritual state of affairs is seen in a completely skewed way if the form of expression is not regarded as essential to it. Dessoir has not even come close to recognizing the need to take such things into consideration. He seems to assume everywhere that what is incomprehensible to him is based upon childish thinking and the primitive method of the other person.

With respect to the path that the soul takes in order to acquire the use of its soul organs, he presents my views in the following way:

The schooling toward a higher state of consciousness begins—at least for a human being of today— with his immersing himself with all his strength into a mental picture as though into a purely soul state of affairs. A symbolic mental picture works best, such as the visualization of a black cross (symbol of annihilated lower drives and passions), whose crossing point is circumscribed by seven red roses (symbol of purified drives and passions).

Leaving aside the fact that this statement, tom out of context, must make a strange impression upon a reader, whereas this would hardly be the case if read at its proper place in my book, I must say that, if I read what Max Dessoir states in the above sentence as the opinion of some person, I would consider the whole matter as nonsense, or at least as nonsensically expressed. For, I could find no connection between the meanings of the two symbols, between “annihilated lower drives and passions” and “purified drives and passions.” I would, in fact, have to picture that a person is supposed to annihilate his lower drives and passions, and then, at the place where the annihilation occurred, purified drives and passions arise as though shooting forth out of nothingness. But why “purified,” since there is nothing there to “purify”; something new has arisen at the place of the annihilation? In no way could my thinking deal with such a statement. But read what I wrote in my book. I say:

Picture a black cross to yourself. Let this be a symbol for the annihilated lower element of our drives and passions; and there, where the two arms cross, picture to yourself seven red, radiant roses in a circle.

You can see that I do not say that the cross is a symbol for “annihilated lower drives," but for the “annihilated lower elements of our drives and passions.” So, the lower drives and passions are not “annihilated,” but rather “transformed,” in such a way that their lower element is cast off and they themselves manifest as purified. This is how Max Dessoir deals with something that he wants to critique. Then he can portray it as a childish way of picturing things. It is definitely pedantic to correct someone's formulations in this pedagogical manner. But I am not the instigator of this pedagogical act. It is Dessoir's distortions, which can only be caught by the pedagogical approach, that make it necessary. For these distortions amount to misrepresentations— which, as far as I am concerned, arose unconsciously or through superficiality—of my own actual formulations. And only with respect to these misrepresentations is Dessoir's critique possible.

Here is another example of Dessoir's “version” of what he reads. I speak—again, in a context that makes the matter appear completely different than when tom out of context in the Dessoirian manner—of certain earlier stages of the earth's evolution before it became a planet inhabitable by man in his present form of development. In Imaginative mental pictures I describe the first stage of this evolution. In order to elucidate these periods I have to speak of beings of a spiritual nature who were connected with the primal planetary form of the earth at that time. After Dessoir has me assert that through these spiritual beings “processes of nutrition and excretion develop” upon the planetary primal form of the earth, he continues: “A clairvoyant person still experiences these states today through a supersensible perception that is like smell, for these states are actually still present today.” What you will read in my book is that the relevant spiritual beings enter into interaction with "forces of taste that billow up and down" within the inner being of the primal planetary form. “As a result, its etheric or life body unfolds an activity of such a sort that one could call it a kind of metabolism.” Then I say that these beings bring life into the inner entity of this primal planetary form. “Processes of nutrition and excretion occur as a result.” It is obvious that sharpest rejection of such a description by present-day science is possible. But it should be just as obvious that a critic cannot go about his work the way Max Dessoir does. While awakening the belief that he is reproducing my description, he says that processes of nutrition and excretion develop through the beings referred to. The way I describe the matter, between my indication that beings arise and the indication that nutritional and excretory processes arise, there is an intermediary statement to the effect that an interaction develops and that through it an activity arises in the etheric or life body of these beings that now in its turn leads to the nutritional and excretory processes of the primal planetary form. What Dessoir accomplishes with my description can be compared with the following. Someone says: “A man enters a room in which a child and its father are present. The child treats the visitor in such a way that the father must punish him.” Another person now misrepresents this statement by asserting: “The punishment of the child arises from the visit of the stranger.” Now, from this assertion, could anyone know what the first person actually wanted to say? Nevertheless, Dessoir has me say in addition that the clairvoyant learns about certain conditions, arising in the primal planetary form, “through a perception that is like smelling.” But my formulation is that, in the relevant states, will forces manifest that communicate themselves “to clairvoyant perception through effects that can be compared with ‘odor.’” So, in my work, there is no trace of an assertion that the spiritual perception under discussion is “like smelling”; rather, the fact emerges quite clearly that this perception is not like smelling, but that what is perceived can be compared to odors. How such a comparison is to be understood in an anthroposophical sense is amply demonstrated at another place in this book. Nevertheless, through this misrepresentation of my formulation, Dessoir gives himself an opening for the following remark, which he probably considers clever: “I am surprised that the ‘odor of sanctity’ is not connected here with the ‘stench of the devil.’”

I could now present (and rectify) more examples like these of Dessoir's “versions” of my presentations, such as the way he has me explain the “going to sleep” of a leg “through separation of the etheric body from the physical body,” whereas I do not explain in that way the objective fact of a “leg going to sleep,” but rather state that the subjective “strange sensation that one feels” results “from the separation of the etheric body.” Only if one takes my formulations the way they are given, can one form an opinion as to the significance of my statements and recognize how they absolutely do not exclude the objective facts discovered by natural science, anymore than they need to be excluded by the adherent of anthropological views. Dessoir, however, wants to make his readers believe that my views should be excluded from scientific consideration. But I need not tire the reader any longer with such corrections. I only wanted to show the degree of superficiality with which Max Dessoir reads what he sets himself up to judge.

But I still want to show where that soul attitude can lead that sits in judgment with such superficiality. In my book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind, I try to show how the power to make mental pictures—which does not enter the consciousness of the child right away at birth but only at an older age—is already active before it emerges consciously, and how in its unconscious activity (in the upbuilding of the nervous system, for example, and in other ways), this power works in such a wisdom-filled way, that its later conscious working seems much less wise by comparison. For reasons too extensive to present here, I arrive at the view that our conscious life of mental picturing does indeed develop further the wisdom active in early childhood in certain formations of the human organism, but that this conscious life of mental pictures relates to that unconscious working of wisdom the way, for example, the structure of a tool stemming from conscious human wisdom relates to the marvelous structure of the human brain. The reader of the above-mentioned book can easily see from it that I do not express any such statement as the result of a sudden "inspiration," in an anthroposophical sense, even though I of course cannot present in every book the details of this path. In this respect I must ask that my books be considered as parts of one whole that mutually support and carry one another. But my concern now is not with presenting the validity of my statement about unconscious or conscious wisdom, but with something else that Dessoir does by retailoring the relevant passage of my book for his readers in the following way: “Our connection with the higher worlds— we read—is closest in our first three years of life, to which no memory extends. Especially a person who himself teaches wisdom—as Mr. Rudolf Steiner confesses—will say to himself: ‘As a child I worked upon myself through powers that worked in from the spiritual worlds, and what I can now give as my best must also work in from higher worlds; I must not regard it as belonging to my ordinary consciousness.’”

One might well ask: what picture imprints itself in a reader of Dessoir's book whose eye falls upon these sentences? Hardly anything other than that, in this book, I gave myself occasion to speak of the connection of the spiritual world to the knowing human being, and present myself as an example. It is obviously not difficult to expose someone to ridicule whom one can reproach with such bad taste. But what is the actual state of affairs? My book states:

Imagine that a person has found adherents, a few people who acknowledge him. Such a person, through genuine self-knowledge, can easily become aware that precisely the fact that he has found adherents gives him the feeling that what he has to say does not originate from him. It is much more the case that spiritual powers from higher worlds wish to communicate with his adherents and find in the teacher the suitable instrument through which to reveal themselves.

The thought will occur to such a person: As a child, I worked upon myself through powers that worked in from the spiritual world, and what I can now give as my best must also work in from higher worlds; I must not regard it as belonging to my ordinary consciousness. Yes, such a person may say that something “demonic,” something like a “daimon”— but a “daimon” in the sense of a good spiritual power—is working from a spiritual world through me upon my adherents.

Socrates experienced something like this... Many efforts have been made to explain this “daimon” of Socrates. But one can explain it only if one wishes to give oneself over to the thought that Socrates was able to feel something like what is described in the above discussion.

You can see that the issue for me is to grasp the Socratic "daimon" from the anthroposophical point of view. There are many views about this Socratic “daimon.” One can find grounds for opposing my view just as well as these other views. But what does Max Dessoir do? Where I speak of Socrates, he twists the matter to seem that I am speaking about myself by stating, “as Mr. Rudolf Steiner confesses” and even putting my name in italics. What are we dealing with here? With nothing less, in fact, than an objective untruth. I leave it up to any fair thinker to form a judgment about a critic who employs such means.

But the matter does not end there. For, after using my view of the Socratic “daimon” in the way just described, Dessoir writes further:

The fact, therefore, that the individual person is the bearer of supra-individual truths coarsens here to the picture that a spirit world, conceived as thing-like, is connected with the individual person by pipes or wires, so to speak: Hegel's objective spirit transforms itself into a group of demons and all the shadow shapes of an impure religious thinking arise again. The whole direction characterizes itself as a materialistic coarsening of soul processes and as a personifying leveling of spiritual values.

In the face of such “critique,” all possibility of serious discussion with the critic really ends. Just reflect what we have before us here. I speak of the “daimon” of Socrates, about which Socrates himself has spoken, according to historical references. Max Dessoir imputes to me the view that when one speaks of the demonic in this way, then "Hegel's objective spirit transforms itself into a group of demons ..." So Dessoir uses his strange deviation from the thoughts as they were truly meant, to instill in his reader the view that someone is justified in assuming about me that I see in Fegels objective spirit “a group of demons.”

Just place beside this Dessoirian assertion all that I present in my book The Riddles of Philosophy to keep at a distance from Hegel's view of the “objective spirit” everything that could possibly stamp this spirit with the character of the demonic. Anyone who, with respect to what I have presented about Hegel, would say that the proponent of anthroposophy has mental pictures by which Hegel's “objective spirit” transforms itself into a group of demons, any such person would be asserting an objective untruth. For, he cannot even hide behind the excuse that: Yes, Steiner does in fact present it differently, but I can only imagine that the Steinerian anthroposophical presuppositions lead to the conclusions I have just drawn. To say this, in fact, would only show that he is not in a position to understand my presentations on Hegel's “objective spirit.” After making his jump from Socrates to Hegel, Max Dessoir judges on: "Out of an inability to understand in accordance with the facts there spring forth these fantasies that are not inhibited by any scientific scruples...”

Whoever reads my books and then looks at Dessoir's representation of my views might perhaps feel, when confronted by such a statement, that I have some right to give it the following turn: From Max Dessoir, out of his inability to understand, in accordance with the facts, what I say in my books, there spring forth the most superficial, objectively untrue fantasies about the mental pictures of anthroposophy.

Max Dessoir shares with his readers the fact that besides my Occult Science, an Outline, he has also “used a long series of other writings.” From the way his manner of “expressing” himself has been characterized here, one can hardly ascertain what he means by “using a long series” of my writings. I looked into the chapter on anthroposophy in his book to see which of my books—besides Occult Science, an Outline—show traces of “use.” I can only discover that this “long series” consists of three small books: The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind, consisting of 64 pages; Blood Is a Very Special Fluid, a reprint of a lecture that takes up all of 48 small pages; and the 46-page booklet Reincarnation and Karma. In addition he mentions The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (1894) in a footnote. However much it might go against my grain to respond to this footnote with a few purely personal remarks, I must still do so, because even such incidental matters display Max Dessoir's own particular level of scientific exactitude. He states: “In Steiner's first work The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (Berlin 1894), only germs of his actual teachings are to be found...” Max Dessoir calls The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity my “first” work (Erstling). The truth is that my literary activity began with my introductions to Goethe's natural-scientific writings, the list volume of which appeared in 1883, i.e., eleven years before the date set by Dessoir for my “first” work. Preceding this “first” work are the extensive introductions to three volumes of Goethe's natural-scientific works, my Science of Knowing (1886), my book Goethe As Father of a New Aesthetics (1889), and Truth and Science (1892), which lays the foundation for my whole world view. I would not have mentioned this further case of Dessoir's strange apprehension of what he writes about if the fact were not that all the basic views contained in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity were already expressed in my earlier books and only represented them in a way that synthesized them and came to terms with the philosophical-epistemological views of the end of the nineteenth century. In The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity I wished to express, in a systematic, organic form, what I had written in the previous (almost entire) decade of extensive publications of epistemological groundwork and its ethical-philosophical implications for a view aiming at a grasp of the spiritual world.

After writing in this way about my “first” work, Max Dessoir continues to speak about it:

It is stated there that man has taken over into himself something from nature, and therefore through knowledge of his own being, can solve the riddle of nature; that, in thinking, a creative activity precedes knowing, whereas we are not involved in the coming about of nature and so are dependent on knowing it subsequently. Intuition counts here merely as the form in which a thought content at first appears.

Look and see whether there is anything in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity that could be synthesized into such monstrously trivial statements. In my book, after an extensive discussion of other philosophical directions, I tried to show that, for man, full reality is not present to sense observation, that the world picture given by the senses, therefore, is an incomplete reality. I made every effort to demonstrate that the human organization causes this incompleteness. Nature does not hide from man what is missing from the sense-perceptible picture as its essential being; rather man is so constituted that through this constitution, at the level of merely observational knowing, he hides from himself the spiritual side of his world picture. In active thinking then, the opening up of this spiritual side begins. In active thinking, according to my world view, something real (spiritual) is directly present that cannot yet be given to mere observation. That is precisely what characterizes my epistemological foundation for a spiritual science: that in intuition—insofar as it comes to expression in thinking—I do not see “merely the forms in which a thought content at first appears.” So Max Dessoir wishes to present his readers with the opposite of what is actually expressed in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity.

In order to see this, you need only look at the following thoughts from that book:

In thinking we are given the element that joins our particular individuality into one whole with the cosmos. Insofar as we sense and feel (and also perceive) we are separate entities; insofar as we think, we are the all-one-being that permeates everything ... The perception, therefore, is nothing finished, closed off; it is one side of total reality. The other side is the concept. The act of knowledge is the synthesis of perception and concept... In contrast to the content of perception, which is given to us from outside, thought content appears in our inner being. Let us call the form in which thought content at first arises "intuition." It is for thinking what observation is for perceptions. Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge.

So, I say here: I wish to use “intuition” as an expression for the form in which the spiritual reality anchored in the thought content at first appears in the human soul, before the soul has recognized that in this conceptual inner experience there is contained the side of reality that is not yet given in the perception. Therefore, I say that intuition “is for thinking what observation is for perceptions.” So even when Max Dessoir seemingly presents someone's thoughts verbatim, he is able to twist what the other person means into its opposite. Dessoir has me say “Intuition counts here merely as the form in which a thought content at first appears.” He leaves out the following sentence, which makes nonsense of his use of the word “merely.” For me, intuition counts not “merely” as the “form in which a thought content at first appears,” but as the revelation of a spiritual-real element, just as the perception is a revelation of a material-real element. If I say “My watch appears at first as the content of my vest pocket; it measures time for me,” someone else cannot assert that I said: “The watch is ‘merely’ the content of my vest pocket.”

In the context of what I have published, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity lays the epistemological foundation for the anthroposophically oriented spiritual science advocated by me. I explained this in the last chapter of my book The Riddles of Philosophy. I showed there how, in my view, a path leads straight from Truth and Science and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity to anthroposophy. But Max Dessoir, through his non-use of my two-volume book, The Riddles of Philosophy, creates for himself the possibility of telling his readers all kinds of easily misunderstood stories about the “long series” of my three small books The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind, Blood Is a Very Special Fluid, and Reincarnation and Karma. In the first little book, I try to recognize how the powers of concrete spiritual beings are at work in the course of the spiritual development of mankind. I made it clear to my readers (at least I thought I did) that I am very conscious of how easily the content of precisely this book could be misunderstood. In the preface I state expressly that someone who picks up this book without having the prerequisite background would have to "regard it as the curious product of pure fantasy.” To be sure, in this preface I name only the content of Theosophy and Occult Science, An Outline as prerequisites. That was in 1911. In 1914 my book The Riddles of Philosophy was published as the second edition of my two-volume book Nineteenth-Century Views of Life and the World (1900 and 1901). In The Riddles of Philosophy I also described how the atomic theory arose and how researchers like Galileo (in my view) fit into the course of mankind's development; in this description, I did not refer to anything other than what is “clearly evident to everyone” relative to the origins of the atomic theory or Galileo's place in the history of science.4I also spoke of Galileo in the introductions and annotations to Goethe's natural-scientific works (Goethean Science).

My presentation, to be sure, is made in my own way; but in this presentation I refer to nothing other than is usual in any presentation of an outline of the history of philosophy. In my book The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind the attempt I made was to show how that which I myself strove in another book to show as “evident to everyone” is the result of the powers of concrete spiritual beings at work in the course of human development. Taken out of its context in The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind, the relevant thought (in my opinion) can only be rendered in the following way: In the spiritual history of mankind, besides the forces that ordinary historical methods have found to be “clearly evident to everyone,” there are other powers (supersensible beings) working as well that are accessible only to spiritual-scientific research. And the powers of these beings work in accordance with specific, knowable laws. In the way in which man's cognitive powers work in that developmental period of mankind which I call the Egypto-Chaldean (from the fourth to the first pre-Christian millennium), one can recognize the powers of those beings who arise again in the age in which the atomic theory originates, but in a different form of activity. In the arising and further development of atomism I see those powers of spiritual beings at work that were already at work in a different way in the mode of thinking during the Egypto-Chaldean age.

Even someone who only goes into my books in a quite cursory way can find that through my anthroposophic viewpoint I do not assert the existence of spiritual powers at work in the course of man's development in order to obscure purely historical observations with all kinds of anthropomorphisms or analogies or in order to shift them into the twilight dimness of some false mysticism. Max Dessoir finds it possible, with respect to our topic here, to present his readers with these words:

No! Here even the most patient reporter can no longer hold his peace. It is evident to everyone how the atomic theory arose and developed consequentially since antiquity, and now someone comes along and calls for help from the mysterious great unknown!

Whoever reads The Riddles of Philosophy can see that what is evident to everyone is also presented by me in the way it is evident to everyone: and that—for those who are able to understand that what is evident to everyone contains something that is not evident to everyone—I am pointing to this something, which is accessible to spiritual vision. And I am not pointing to a “mysterious unknown,” but to something in fact that is known through the anthroposophical viewpoint.5Please forgive me for borrowing from mathematics an analogy for the Dessoirian kind of critique. Suppose that, in the context of logarithms someone says: two numbers are multiplied when you add their logarithms and seek the antilogarithm of their sum as their product. Then someone comes along and says: “No! Everyone knows how numbers are multiplied and here is a person talking about addition!” Max Dessoir's critique is of this sort in the above case.

I have shown that it is inadmissible for Max Dessoir to twist my reference to Socrates to mean that I was speaking of myself. But it is clear from the context that Max Dessoir is referring to none other than himself in his comment on page 34 of his book. In order to understand this comment, one must note that Dessoir distinguishes between two regions in the moment of consciousness: between a central field and a peripheral zone. He expounds on how the contents of consciousness move continuously from one of these regions to the other. It is only that these contents take on a particular appearance when they enter the peripheral zone. They lose sharpness, show fewer characteristics than usual, and become indistinct. The peripheral zone leads a marginal existence. But there are two ways that they attain independent activity. The first way does not pertain here. Dessoir expresses himself as follows about the second way:

The other kind of independence occurs in such a way that the peripheral zone does indeed remain as a co-consciousness beside the main consciousness, but lifts itself to a greater distinctness and coherency of its content and enters thereby into a completely new relation to the simultaneous fully conscious soul activity. To use another easily grasped picture: a complex glides from the center of a circle to the periphery, but does not sink into obscurity there but rather partly preserves its distinctness and coherency.

In connection with this, Dessoir then states:

An example: When I am lecturing on very familiar trains of thoughts, it sometimes happens to me that my concepts and words end up in that region and my attention occupies itself with other things. In spite of that, I speak on, without the participation of my consciousness, as it were. When this happens the following sometimes occurs: I am surprised by a sudden silence in the room and have to be reminded that it is due to the fact that I myself have stopped talking! Habitual mental connections and judgments, therefore, can also be made subconsciously, sometimes even those that move along invisibly; the movements of the organs of speech connected with them also run their course without difficulty in their usual groove.

To be sure, if I draw the full implications of this passage, I would rather believe that they do not refer to Dessoir's own experience but rather to something that he noticed in other absent-minded lecturers, and that he is only using the words “me” and “I” stylistically as though he were putting himself in someone else's place. The context in which these sentences occur makes this explanation difficult, to be sure, and possible only if one assumes that a stylistic device got in under Dessoir's guard, which does happen to many writers in our hurried times.

But however the case may be, the essential point is that a state of soul in which the “subconscious” plays a role like that just described in Dessoir's lecturer is the very first thing that must be overcome in the soul if a person wants to penetrate to an understanding of anthroposophical knowledge. The exact opposite—the thorough permeating of concepts with consciousness—is necessary if these concepts are to have a relation to the genuine spiritual world. In the sphere of anthroposophy a speaker who continues to speak when his “attention” is occupied “with other things” is an impossibility. For, someone who wants to grasp anthroposophy must have accustomed himself to not separating the direction of his attention from the direction of a train of thought that he is evoking. He will not go on speaking of things from which he has withdrawn his attention because he will no longer be thinking about these things.

But if I only look at the way Max Dessoir reports to his readers on my little book Blood is a Very Special Fluid, the thought does occur to me that he not only speaks on when his attention turns to “other things,” but in such a state actually writes on. In his report you will find the following. My statement is quoted that our “blood takes up the pictures of the outer world that our brain has inwardized,” and then Dessoir adds the comment:

This kind of monstrous ignoring of all facts combines with the assertion—just as improvable as it is incomprehensible—that prehistoric man, in the “pictures that his blood received,” also remembered the experiences of his ancestors.

But if one reads in context the sentences that Dessoir quotes and put beside them the comment on the same page—'T must speak in analogies if I want to present the complicated processes that pertain here"—then one will perhaps understand in fact what it means when someone reports the way Dessoir does.

Picture what it would be like if I were writing about Max Dessoir's Beyond the Soul and told my readers: And now someone comes along and asserts that the blood "running in our veins" is “the blood of many millennia.” This is just as improvable as it is incomprehensible and has the same value as another assertion: “But beyond any doubt, behind the surface of our consciousness there is a dark, richly-filled space, whose changes also change the curvature of the surface.” These two sentences are in Dessoir's book, the second on page 1 and the first, about the “blood of millennia,” on page 12. Both sentences, of course, are fully justified because Max Dessoir is expressing himself “in analogies.” When I have to do the same and expressly state so, Dessoir forges for himself a critical weapon out of wooden iron to refute me.

Dessoir states that my reference to spiritual being, “on the whole, characterizes itself as a materialistic coarsening of soul processes and as an anthropomorphic leveling of spiritual values.” With respect to the contents of my books, this assertion makes about as much sense as the following would make: “A thinker who is capable of saying that ‘to use an admittedly very imperfect analogy, one can call the present moment of consciousness a circle, whose circumference is black, whose center is white, and whose intermediary areas are gradations of gray,’ such a thinker's view characterizes itself ‘on the whole ... as a materialistic coarsening of soul processes.’ And the thinker who is doing this grotesque thing—comparing the present moment of consciousness with a circle and speaking of white, gray, and black—is Max Dessoir.” Now it would of course never occur to me to say such things, because I know that Max Dessoir in this case is not coarsening soul processes in a materialistic manner. But what he does to me is like what I have just hypothetically characterized.

You can see the total impossibility of discussing the meaning of the law of destiny from an anthroposophical viewpoint with a critic who bases himself on presuppositions like those of a Dessoir; I would have to cite whole chapters from my books here to show Dessoir's hair-raising distortions of my descriptions of human destiny when he says:

Here, supposedly, a connection between cause and effect in the spiritual world is revealed (so causality does not pertain only to the phenomenal world as grasped by the intellect). A person who perfects himself through a series of lifetimes is subject to the law of karma, according to which every deed brings its inevitable effects along with it; thus, for example, one's present poverty is one's own fault from an earlier life.

In 1887, in my introduction to the second volume of Goethe's natural-scientific work, I wrote:

The explaining of a process in nature is a going back to its determining factors: a seeking out of the producer in addition to the product that is given. When I perceive an effect and then seek its cause, these two perceptions do not by any means satisfy my need for explanation. I must go back to the laws by which this cause brings forth this effect. It is different with human action. Here the lawfulness that determines a phenomenon itself enters into action; that which makes a product itself appears upon the scene of activity. We have to do with a manifesting existence at which we can remain, for which we do not need to ask about deeper-lying determining factors.6Please see page 151 of Goethean Science. Ed.

It is perfectly clear what I mean: One cannot ask about the determining factors of a human action in the same way as with a process of nature. So there must be a difference. Therefore, my views about destiny connections, which are closely related to those about the sources of human will, cannot refer to the relation between cause and effect spoken of in natural science. For this reason, in my book Theosophy, I took every pain to make clear that I am far from thinking that the experiences of one life work over into subsequent ones the way cause and effect work in nature. Max Dessoir distorts my picture of destiny in the crudest way by weaving into his report of it the statement: “So causality does not pertain only to the phenomenal world as grasped by the intellect.”

He creates for himself the possibility of adding this comment only by lifting out of my little book Reincarnation and Karma a statement that sums up a lengthier discussion. But only this discussion gives this statement its rightful meaning. The isolated form in which Dessoir presents this statement opens it to cheap criticism. The statement reads:

Everything that I have the ability for and actually do in my present life does not stand there isolated and alone as some kind of miracle, but it is connected with my soul's earlier forms of existence as effect, and with its later forms as cause.

Anyone who goes so far as to read this statement in the context of the discussion that it sums up will find that I understand the working over of one form of life into the other in such a way that one cannot put it in the category of causality in the usual, purely natural-scientific sense. One can only use the abbreviated term “causality” in a broader sense if one explains exactly what one means by it or if one can safely assume that the reader already knows how the word is being used. What precedes my summing-up sen57 fence, however, will not allow this sentence to be understood in any other way than:

Everything that I have the ability for and actually do in my present life is connected, as effect, with my soul's earlier forms of existence to the extent that the causes (lying in my present life) of my abilities and actions relate to the other forms of my life in a kind of connection that is not causality in the ordinary sense; and everything that I have the ability for and actually do is connected with my soul's later forms of existence to the extent that these abilities and deeds are the cause of effects in my present life that now in their turn relate to the content of later forms of my life in a kind of connection that again is not causality in the ordinary sense.

Anyone who investigates my writings will see that I have never advocated a concept of karma that is incompatible with the picture of man's free being. Dessoir could have noticed this fact even if he had not “used” more of my writings than what stands in my Occult Science, An Outline:

Anyone who believes that human freedom is not compatible with predetermination of the future configuration of things should reflect that man's free action in the future depends just as little upon how the predetermined things will be, as freedom depends upon the fact that/he plans in one year to live in the house whose blueprints he is drawing up now.

For even if these statements do not relate directly to the circumstances of human earthly lives, still, someone could not write them who believes that the destinies of our earthly lives relate to each other in a way that corresponds to the law of causality in the natural-scientific sense.

Nowhere in Dessoir's book can one see that he made any effort to investigate the way I build the epistemological and general philosophical foundation—in accordance also with natural-scientific views—of the anthroposophy advocated by me. Instead, he makes assertions that do not have even distant reference points in my writings. For example, on page 296f. of his book, he writes:

We hear that medieval medicine—still totally under this spell—divided up man according to the zodiac and saw in the hand with its fingers subdivisions of the heaven's proportions. Or we read in Rudolf Steiner that before fertilization the plant is in the same situation that the whole earth was before its separation from the sun. These are examples of the basic principle of seeing in small things a copy of great cosmic processes.7Max Dessoir writes this in reference to statements at the end of Occult Science, An Outline. He has not even come close to understanding what I said there. Otherwise the thought could never have occurred to him that the matter could have anything at all to do with his dilettantish method of seeking "correspondences" between widely separated facts. Any unprejudiced person must see that what I say about the separation of the sun and earth on the one hand and fertilization of the plant on the other can be discovered in a completely independent way, without setting out to discover “correspondences.” One could just as well say that the physicist is seeking “correspondences” when he investigates the polar-opposite facts of the anode and cathode. But Max Dessoir is far from understanding that the method employed by me has nothing to do with what he is attacking, but rather is totally in the mode of a natural-scientific thinking applied to the realm of spirit.

But even if Max Dessoir's statements were just as correct as they are actually false they would still serve the purpose of lumping my anthroposophical viewpoint together with all kinds of dilettantish goings-on that manifest today as mysticism, theosophy, and the like. In reality, this assertion of Dessoir's—all by itself—proves fully that this critic approaches my anthroposophy without any understanding either for its philosophical foundation or its methods— or even, in fact, for the form of expression of its results. Basically, Dessoir's critique is no different than many other “responses” to which the anthroposophy advocated by me is prey. Coming to terms with them is unfruitful because they do not critique what they claim to be judging, but rather a caricature arbitrarily drawn by them that is then quite easy to attack. It seems quite impossible to me that anyone who sees what I value in anthroposophy could put it, as Dessoir does, together with a literary, unintended burlesque like the Faust books of J. A. Louvier, with the repulsive racial mysticism of Guido List, with Christian Science, or even with everything that Dessoir calls "NeoBuddhism."

I leave it up to those who really want to leam to know my books to judge whether Max Dessoir is justified in saying of them:

It betrays an undemanding thinking when someone requires merely that the reader acknowledge what he is reading, as not contrary to reason (for, in a broader sense, much is possible that remains improbable and fruitless); or when things are nowhere investigated, questioned, doubted, or weighed but only dictated from on high in the form, “occult science says such and such.”

Or what about a statement like: “Unsuspecting readers might be taken in by the examples sprinkled about or by the purported explanations of certain experiences ...” It can at best make me think that "unsuspecting readers" of Dessoir's book might be taken in by the quotations from my books that Dessoir sprinkles about and interprets nonsensically or by the nice trivializing of my thoughts.

If, in spite of the fruitlessness to which a discussion with this critic is doomed from the beginning, I nevertheless undertake one here, it is because I had to show once again, with an example, the kind of judgment encountered by what I call anthroposophy; and because there are altogether too many “unsuspecting readers" who form judgments about such a spiritual striving from books like Dessoir's without acquainting themselves with what is being judged, and without even an inkling of the true nature of what is being caricatured for them.

I will also not judge, but leave it up to the readers of my books to judge, what significance it has when someone like Dessoir, who is far from understanding my goals and who reads the books he is judging the way he does, asserts "from on high" that I “care about certain connections with science,” but possess “no inner relation to the spirit of science.”

It would almost have been a miracle for Max Dessoir's whole approach for him not to have added to everything else the statement: “Indeed the bulk of his disciples renounce fully any work of their own in thinking.” How often do those people have to hear this (whom one likes to call my “disciples”)! Certainly there are “disciples” of dubious character in every spiritual endeavor. But the point is whether they and not others perhaps are characteristic of the endeavor. What does Max Dessoir know about my “disciples”? What does he know about the number of them who are not only far from renouncing any work of their own in thinking but who—after recognizing through their work in thinking the scientific inadequacy of world views of the stripe of Dessoir's—do not disdain to draw impulses from endeavors by which, as well as I can, I am seeking a methodical path by which to penetrate a little way into the spiritual world. Perhaps a time is also coming when one will judge more correctly those present-day people who can accomplish enough work in thinking not to belong to Max Dessoir's “unsuspecting readers.”8Only the fact that Dessoir is in no position to really form an adequate picture of anthroposophical striving can explain why he cannot enter with understanding for these strivings, even into areas very close to where his own train of thought lands him. A case in point is the area he points to in two sentences from his book: “There is nothing beyond the soul in the sense of an invisible reality, because the spiritual state of affairs is raised above the existence of things as well as of persons. What is objectively beyond the soul may be regarded as a supra-consciousness, but never as something existing spatially outside the soul.” Dessoir does not see that with such statements he does not provide a refutation, but rather a precise proof of the necessity for anthroposophy. He does not see that everywhere in my books the attempt is made to treat the relevant questions as questions of consciousness. Please take note of how this attempt is carried through precisely in my Occult Science, on Outline, for example. But Dessoir just cannot see that through this the whole cognitive process, with respect to the spiritual world, is made into an inner function of consciousness and that, within consciousness itself, other forms of consciousness must be sought in an experiential way that are not concerned in fact with “something existing spatially outside the soul,” but are concerned with the soul's presence within an existent something that is non-spatial in exactly the same sense as the experiences of ordinary consciousness themselves are already non-spatial. To be sure, someone who wants to understand this must be able to do justice in an anthroposophical sense to a statement like that of Friedrich Theodor Vischer in the first part of his book Old and New (Altes und Neues ): “The soul, to be sure, as the uppermost unity of all processes, cannot be localized in the body, even though it is nowhere else than in the body...” This statement belongs to those that lead to the borderland of our ordinary knowing, in the sense of chapter 1 of this book and in the sense of Addendum 1: The Philosophical Validation of Anthroposophy. 9Please see Dessoir's response to this essay.