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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Riddles of the Soul
GA 21

8. An Objection Often Raised against Anthroposophy

An objection is often raised against anthroposophy that is just as comprehensible to the soul attitude of the personality from which it comes as it is unjustified to the spirit from which anthroposophical research is undertaken. This objection seems to me to be entirely insignificant because its refutation is near at hand for anyone who follows with true understanding the presentations made from the anthroposophical point of view. Only because it arises ever anew do I say something about it here, as I have already done also in the sixth edition of Theosophy, 1914, at the end.

In order to raise this objection, the demand is made that the results of spiritual observation which anthroposophy is presenting be “proven” in the sense of purely natural-scientific methods of experimentation. One imagines, for example, that several people who assert that they can arrive at such results are confronted by a number of other people in a properly ordered experiment, and the “spiritual researchers” would then say what they have “seen” about the subjects in front of them. Their statements would then have to agree, or at least be similar in a sufficiently high percentage. It is comprehensible that someone who only knows anthroposophy without having understood it will raise this demand again and again, for its fulfillment would spare him the trouble of working his own way through to the correct path of proof which consists in the attainment of one's own vision, which is possible for everyone. Anyone who has really understood anthroposophy, however, also sees that an experiment set up in the way just described to gain the results of truly spiritual vision is about as appropriate as stopping the hands on a clock in order to tell time. For, in order to bring about the conditions under which something spiritual can be seen, paths must be taken that arise from circumstances of the soul life itself. Outer arrangements like those leading to a natural-scientific experiment are not formed out of such soul circumstances. These circumstances must be such, for example, that the will impulse leading to vision issue exclusively and entirely from the primal, individual, inner impulse of the person who is to see. And that there is nothing in the way of artificial outer measures flowing into and shaping this inner impulse.

It is actually surprising that the fact is so little considered that everyone, after all, through one's own appropriate soul attitude, can directly create for oneself the proofs for the truth of anthroposophy; that therefore these “proofs” are accessible to everyone. As little as one wants to admit this to oneself, the fact is that the reasons for requiring “outer proofs” lie, after all, only in the fact that outer proofs would be attainable in a more comfortable way than upon the difficult, uncomfortable, but truly spiritual-scientific path.

What Brentano wanted, when he endeavored again and again to be able to work in a psychological laboratory, lies in an entirely different direction than this demand for comfortable experimental proofs for anthroposophical truths. His longing to have such a laboratory at his disposal often appears in his writings. The circumstances denying him this affected his life tragically. Precisely through his approach to psychological questions he would have accomplished great things with such a laboratory. If one wishes, in fact, to establish the best foundation for anthropological-psychological findings, extending to the “borderland of knowledge” where anthropology and anthroposophy must meet, this can best be accomplished through a psychological laboratory such as Brentano envisaged. In order to demonstrate the facts of a “seeming consciousness” no experimental methods would need to be sought in such a laboratory; but through those experimental methods that are sought, it would become clear how the being of man is predisposed to this vision, and how seeing consciousness is demanded by ordinary consciousness. Anyone who stands upon the anthroposophical viewpoint longs as Brentano did to be able to work in a genuine psychological laboratory—which is impossible because of the prejudices still holding sway today against anthroposophy.