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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Riddles of the Soul
GA 21


The essays collected in this book were written by me in order to present something of what I believe I must say as validation of the anthroposophical path of knowledge.

In the first essay on anthropology and anthroposophy (“Where Natural Science and Spiritual Science Meet”), I seek to show briefly that the true natural-scientific approach not only does not stand in any contradiction to what I understand by "anthroposophy," but that anthroposophy's spiritual-scientific path must even be demanded as something essential by anthropology's means of knowledge. There must be an anthroposophical spiritual science if the anthropological knowledge of natural science wishes to be what it must claim to be. Either the reasons for the existence of an anthroposophy are legitimate, or true validity cannot be attributed to natural-scientific insights either. This is what I endeavor to present in the first essay in a form not yet expressly stated in the books I have already published, although present there in a germinal state.

Concerning the second essay, “Max Dessoir on Anthroposophy,” I must admit that I had no subjective desire to write it. Yet it had to be written, because had I not done so, the misconception could have arisen in many circles that the adherent of anthroposophy shrinks from entering into a scientific discussion with adherents of other ways of picturing things. To be sure, I leave many attacks on anthroposophy entirely unanswered, not only because I do not consider polemics in this area to be my task, but because the great majority of these attacks lack the seriousness necessary for a fruitful discussion in this area. Even those assailants who believe they should combat anthroposophy for scientific reasons often do not know at all how unscientific their objections are compared to the scientific thinking that anthroposophy considers necessary for itself.

I deeply regret that the essay on Max Dessoir's attack on anthroposophy could not be what I gladly would have made it. I would have liked to enter into a discussion of the way of picturing things advocated by Dessoir on the one hand and by anthroposophy on the other. Instead of this I am obliged by Dessoir's "critique" to show that he presents his readers with a distorted picture of my views, and then speaks, not about them, but about what he has made of them, which has nothing at all to do with my views. I had to show how Max Dessoir "reads" the books that he undertakes to attack. Therefore my essay is filled with discussion of things that might seem trivial. How can one proceed differently, however, when trivial details are needed for presenting the truth? I leave it up to the readers of my book—who can decide from it how much this “critic” could understand of my views with his way of reading my books1With respect to other hostile books and articles, please see the "Closing Remark" on page 154 of this book. Basically I do not feel it suitable to the seriousness of the present time to publish a polemic like the one necessitated for me by Dessoir's book. It is only that in this case I could not avoid an answer to the provocation of such an attack.—to judge whether Max Dessoir has the right to debase the anthroposophy advocated by me through his act of including it in spiritual streams of which he says that they are “a mixture of incorrect interpretations of certain soul processes and incorrectly judged relics of a vanished world view.”

I must say just the opposite about the third essay, “Franz Brentano, in Memoriam.” Writing it was my deepest need. And if I regret anything about it, it is that I did not write it long ago and could not make the attempt to bring it to Brentano's attention while he still lived. It is only that, although I have been an ardent reader of Brentano's writings for a long time, his life's work has only now appeared before my soul in such a way that I can present its relation to anthroposophy as is done in this book. The passing of this revered man moved me to relive in thought his life work; and only from this did my views of his life work reach the provisional conclusions that underlie the discussions in my essay.

I have added on to these three essays ''Sketches of Some of the Ramifications of the Content of This Book," which represent the findings of anthroposophical research. Present- day circumstances dictate that in these presentations I give indications of findings that actually necessitate a much fuller discussion, like that given in my lectures, although there too in an incomplete fashion still. In these presentations I establish some of the scientific connections that must be drawn between anthroposophy and philosophy, psychology, and physiology.

It might very well seem as though at the present time the interests of human beings must go in a different direction than the following discussions are moving. Nevertheless, I believe that such discussions do not draw us away from the serious duties of the immediate present; on the contrary, what lies in these discussions serves precisely this present day through impulses that have less directly striking but therefore all the stronger connections to our experience of this present day.

Berlin, September 10, 1917
Rudolf Steiner