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The Life, Nature, and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
GA 26

VI. The Quest for Knowledge and the Will for Self-Discipline

24 February 1924

In the Anthroposophical Society men draw nearer to one another than they would do in other spheres of life. Their common interest in the spiritual life of the world unlocks their souls. The inner experiences one man undergoes in the course of his spiritual striving are full of living interest to another. A man becomes communicative when he knows that his fellow-man will be attentive and full of sympathy for the inmost things which stir him.

Thus it naturally comes about that members of the Society observe other things in one another — and in a different way — than men do generally. But this at the same time involves a certain danger. We learn to value one another when we meet in this way; we delight in the revelation of the inner life of our fellow-man. The loveliest influences of friendship and friendly intercourse unfold quickly under these conditions. But the same influences may intensify to an overweening and uncritical enthusiasm. This, with all its weaknesses, ought not merely to be met by cold and pedantic indifference, or by the superior attitude of the ‘man of the world’. Unbridled enthusiasm, when it has worked its way through many difficulties to a harmonious balance of soul, opens up the Spirit far more readily than placid equilibrium which passes stiff and unmoved by all that is great in life.

Still, it may easily happen that those who quickly draw near to one another no less quickly fall apart again. When one has learned to know one's fellow-man more fully, since he was unreserved and open, one soon begins to see his weaknesses, and then — negative enthusiasm may ensue. In the Anthroposophical Society this danger is perpetually lurking in the background, and to counteract it is one of the tasks of the Society as such. He who would be a true member should strive in the deepest places of his soul for inner tolerance towards his fellow-men. To understand one's fellow-man — even where he thinks and does things which one would not like to think and do oneself — this should be the ideal.

It need not mean an uncritical attitude to weaknesses and faults. To understand is not to make oneself blind. To a human being whom we love, we may speak of his faults and mistakes. In many cases he will feel it as the greatest service of friendship, whereas — if we lay down the law about him with cold indifference of judgment — he recoils from our lack of understanding and consoles himself with feelings of hatred which begin to stir in him against his critic.

In many respects it would become disastrous for the Anthroposophical Society if the intolerance of other men and failure to understand them — so widely dominant in the outer world today — were carried into it. Within the Society, such qualities grow in intensity through the very fact that men come nearer to one another.

These matters indicate most pointedly how the more vital quest of knowledge in the Anthroposophical Society must be accompanied by the unceasing endeavour to ennoble and purify the life of feeling. An intensified search for knowledge deepens the life of the soul and reaches down into those regions where pride, conceit, lack of sympathy with others, and many qualities besides, are lurking. A lesser quest of knowledge enters these regions only to a slight extent and leaves them slumbering in the deep places of the soul. But a life in knowledge that is keen and vital stirs them from their slumbers; habits which kept them under lose their power to do so. A spiritual ideal may well awaken qualities of soul which would have remained unmanifest without it. The Anthroposophical Society should be there to counteract, by cultivating nobility and purity of feeling, the dangers that are lurking in these quarters. There are indeed, in human nature, instincts which instill the fear of knowledge into man, for the very reason that these connections are felt to exist. But a man who would refrain from cultivating the impulse to knowledge lest it should stir up the uglier feelings in him, fails to develop the fullness of true manhood. It is humanly unworthy to cripple our insight into life because we fear weakness of character. To cultivate the impulse to knowledge and combine it at the same time with another striving — the will to self-discipline — this alone is worthy of humanity.

Anthroposophy enables us to do this. We need only perceive and reach the inherent vitality of its thoughts; for by their living quality the thoughts of Anthroposophy beget power of will, warmth and sensitiveness of feeling. It only depends on the individual whether he merely thinks Anthroposophy or makes it living experience.

And it will depend on the members who come forward actively, whether their way of representing Anthroposophy is only able to suggest thoughts, or to kindle the real spark of life.