Anthroposophy and Science
23 March 1921, Stuttgart (evening)
Now we have come to the end of our university courses. We have heard lectures from various individuals who have worked in our anthroposophical spiritual science for some time. We have also had a number of seminars which were intended to fill out what the lectures only sketched as a framework. In spite of the fact that all the participants in these lectures have worked hard, we must also consider the quality of the time spent together given the nature of such an event. All we were able to do was to let some light come in, as through individual windows in a building — that light which we believe is present in our anthroposophical spiritual science. Please consider what is contained in this room, the openings into which we are describing symbolically as windows of the spiritual-scientific movement. The contents of the room are various subjects that are just at their beginning; a richer work will exist ultimately. If you take this into account, you can understand why we could present only a small amount of what we might hope to give in such courses on similar occasions.
With such an event we hoped to draw students from all directions, and to our joy they have in fact appeared in great numbers. It is very gratifying to us and meaningful for the movement. For first and foremost, we would like to show, no matter how sketchily, that a genuine scientific attitude prevails in the anthroposophical movement. No doubt there are other spiritual intentions at work also, but these will have to be shown in other ways. Above all, these lectures are meant to demonstrate at the very least the will to strive toward real scientific knowledge. However, considering present-day conditions, anyone who understands the situation must feel: If we speak of a scientific attitude, a scientific spirit that plays directly into the living conditions of the modern human being, then it must be able to prove itself in the social sphere.
It is really necessary that the scientific spirit of our day shall give rise to ideas that can bring strength and healing into our social life. It is not enough today to have a scientific spirit that calls the human being into an existence estranged from life. We need a scientific spirit that will give us real health in our social life. The social situation confronts us full of riddles and urgent demands, even in a certain way threatening. If we have a feeling for these times, we can sense the need for real solutions — solutions that can be found only by those who grasp the social life with scientific understanding. We believe we are able to recognize this necessity from the most significant signs of this time. It is out of this recognition that our anthroposophical movement is artistically, scientifically and culturally conceived; this includes the building in Dornach called the Goetheanum, the Free University for Spiritual Science. Our wish is that out of a genuine scientific attitude these impulses can come to life in us and become really socially active.
We have attempted in the very structure of our lectures and seminars to make possible a recognition of the truly scientific spirit to which we aspire in our anthroposophical movement. Attacks from various directions accuse us of sectarianism or the desire to found a religion, but they come from those who don't know us, or — in some cases — from a malicious desire to slander us. The scientific spirit cannot of course be seen in the factual content of what is presented. Whoever would exclude empirical content, whether physical or super-sensible, shows that he himself is not imbued with the scientific spirit. It can only be seen in the treatment of the facts, in the striving to follow a definite method. And the real test of its validity — whether its results originated from sensory or supersensory experience — is based on the nature of this striving. Do we strive toward the scientific spirit that rules in the recognized sciences?
Is this striving demonstrated in our methodology, in our thinking with scientific accuracy? This is a justifiable question. It is also a worthwhile point of discussion inasmuch as this scientific spirit, as it prevails among us, is in need of improvement. One can determine whether our movement is scientific or not, not on the content we present but by how we proceed. Let it be shown in any instance that we have proceeded illogically, unscientifically, or in a dilettante fashion and — since we are serious about the correct development of our spiritual-scientific endeavors — we will make the necessary improvements without argument. We do not wish to deny this principle of progress in any way. So, enough about the underlying elements for discussing the scientific status of our endeavors.
We have striven to prove in the social realm, in life itself, what results from our knowledge of the world. In our discussions we have tried to present what we believe to be the truth regarding knowledge of the human being and the world. In the seminars we showed how the Waldorf School movement arose out of the anthroposophical movement. The lively manner of teaching in the Waldorf schools raises the question whether what is found in spiritual science will also prove itself in the shaping of today's young people. We don't want to exhaust ourselves in fruitless theoretical discussion: we want to let reality itself test what we believe is the truth toward which we should strive. Goethe said, “What is fruitful, that alone is true.” Even those far removed from modern philosophical pragmatism or the “as if” school must have their truth proven by its fruitfulness. We can declare ourselves in full agreement with the Goethean principle that only what is fruitful yields proof of its truth before reality — particularly where social truths are concerned. If what flows livingly out of spiritual science can return again into life, and if life can show that the result of recognized truth, or supposed truth, can send a human being out into life with ability, vigor, sureness, and enthusiasm and strength for work, then this is a proof of the truth which has been striven for. At the same time we have attempted something else, but it is really still too much in its infancy to be outwardly demonstrated.
In Der Kommende Tag, in Futura, we have put forth economic ideas which are intended to show that what is derived in a spiritual way, out of reality, also enables us to see the affairs of practical life in the right light. The time has not yet come when we can speak of these things becoming manifest, of fulfilling the conditions for a real proof. However, even in the economic realm, one may grant us the fact that we have not been afraid to extend something that was won purely in the spiritual out into practical life. This is actual testimony that we do not shy away from the tests of reality. How things develop in this region is perhaps not fully within our own will to determine. In such cases, even more than in the field of education, one is dependent on the practicalities of life, as well as how one is understood by the world and one's own circle.
In this way, we try to take into account the signs of the times. We have recently seen in some of our lectures that these signs point directly to spiritual-scientific demands; they also confront us with great social questions. But above all we seek to take into account the inner soul needs of the human being. For someone who is familiar with one area, for example the natural sciences, it is very easy to believe that we are already in possession of an infallible scientific method. Ultimately, however, what arises as science can only be fruitful for the whole evolution of humanity if it joins human evolution in a way that sustains the life of man. With this essential condition in mind, I ask you: Isn't there something in today's universities or in similar circumstances that can cause the soul to come somewhat into error? One can, of course, enter a laboratory and work in the dissection room, believing that one is working with a correct method and that one has an overview of all factors involved, grasping them in accord with present conditions and the level of humanity's evolution. But for humanity's evolution something else is necessary. Something is necessary which perhaps occurs very rarely, and the significance of which is not properly appreciated. It would be necessary that someone who has worked seriously and conscientiously with scientific spirit in the chemistry lab, observatory, or clinic, could then step into a history or aesthetics classroom and hear something there that would live in inner conformity with what he had learned in his technical courses. Such unity is needed — for the simple reason that regardless to what degree individuals may specialize, ultimately the things achieved in separate disciplines must work together in the process of general human evolution, and must spring from a common source.
We believe it is impossible today to experience a unity directly between, for instance, present historical pronouncements and the teachings of natural science. For this reason we strive toward what stands behind all scientific endeavors: the spiritual reality, the source that is common to them all. The aim of our striving is to come to know this spiritual reality. With our feeble powers we are striving to establish the validity of such knowledge of the spirit and its right to exist. In this lecture series and similar events, we have striven to show you what we are doing and how we do it, and we are grateful that you joined us.
May I touch on one additional subject: A short time ago, a coworker of long standing in our movement spoke with me. He knew that for spiritual-scientific reasons I must speak about two Jesus children. Until recently he hadn't told me of his intentions to follow this matter up in a conscientious manner studying the external aspect. His recent conversation with me was after he had finished his investigations. He said that he had compared the gospels thoroughly with one another, and had discovered that they don't begin to make sense until they are regarded from this spiritual-scientific viewpoint.
May research proceed thus in all realms! If it does, we know that our spiritual science will be able to stand fast. We do not fear the testing, no matter how detailed the examination may be. We have no fear of the request to verify. We only worry if someone opposes our viewpoint without proof, proof of all the individual details. The more carefully our spiritual research is tested, the more at ease we can be about it. This consciousness we bear deep within us. It is with such awareness that we have taken the responsibility of calling you all here, you who are striving to build a life of science and of scientific spirit. Today, my honored students, it is impossible to offer you the things of the outer world. In the places where this is done, our efforts are sometimes rejected in a surprising manner. Even so, your appearing here allows us to feel we are correct in saying that there are still souls among today's youth whose concern is the truth and striving toward the truth. Therefore we wish to say — I speak from the fullness of my heart, and I know I am also speaking for the coworkers of these courses we have truly enjoyed working with you. This is particularly gratifying because at the same time from other quarters attacks are raining down on us from ill-will, and we are called upon again and again to refute these attacks. We do as much as we can to make the refutations — as much as time permits. But really, the burden of proof lies with the one who makes an assertion; he should bring evidence of its truth. Otherwise, one could blithely throw assertions at anyone, leaving him to refute everything.
I only wish to indicate how the opposition operates toward us, personally attacking us rather than attempting to understand our ideas by discussing matters seriously with us.
What is most strongly held against us is that in one important area we have to insist upon setting ourselves against the well-intended strivings of the times. We cannot just go along with the general attitude to take what traditional science represents in the various fields and simply let it be carried in a popular way throughout the world. Rather, from our own knowledge we believe there is another need. Something must be brought into those quarters which consider themselves infallible these days. It is generally believed that such authority is held in those quarters that their ideas can be taken unaltered and be disseminated among the masses.
We believe, however, that certain scientific elements still lacking must enter those quarters to fructify their scientific work. The fact that we do not merely want the scientific spirit disseminated from certain quarters into the wide world but also want to bring a different spirit into science — this, I believe, is why we are confronted by such frightful opposition. It would be good if these matters were considered in a calm and objective way. For we must not hide the fact that we are in serious need of the collaboration of wider circles, even though every one of us is convinced of the scientific value of our endeavors. What worries us most is that we have so few coworkers who can really stand their ground. This is why it means so much to us that you, the university youth, have been coming to us now for some time. We have faith in you young students. We believe that what we need can sprout out of your youthful energy. Therefore, my honored fellow students, we would particularly like to work together with you in our field, as far as time and conditions permit.
It is with this spirit that we sought to permeate the work in these courses. Perhaps you can carry away with you the conviction that it has at least been our aspiration to work in this direction. I began today by comparing what we are offering to a closed room, opening out through windows to the surrounding world of spiritual science. Through these windows we have wanted to let fragments shine in of a world of knowledge, which we want to apply in a spiritual-scientific way. Now we are at the end of the course, and I wish to say a heartfelt “goodbye till we meet again” in similar circumstances.
But I would still like to return to the comparison with which I began the course. It is not generally my habit to pay homage to fine phrases, even when they are time-honored; rather, I like to return to just a simple expression of truth. In our cultural literature, a high-sounding phrase is often quoted as being Goethe's dying words, “Light, more light!” Well, Goethe lay in a tiny room in a dark corner when he was dying, and the shutters on the opposite window were closed. From my knowledge of Goethe I have every reason to believe that in truth his words were simply: “Open the shutters!” Now that I have dealt with that lofty phrase of my beloved and revered Goethe in an heretical manner, I would like to use my version of it as we end our work. My honored students! As we feel ourselves together in the room whose windows open out to spiritual knowledge, windows through which we have sought in a fragmentary way to let in what we believe to be light, I call to you out of the spirit that led us to invite you here: I call out to you, “Open the shutters!”