Dornach, August 5, 1921
A lecture delivered by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach on the 5th of August, 1921. From stenographic notes, unrevised by the lecturer. Lecture 4 of 11 from the volume: Human Evolution, Cosmic Soul, Cosmic Spirit II The volume of the Complete Edition of the works of Rudolf Steiner containing the original text of the this lecture, among eleven others, is entitled: Menschenwerden, Weltenseele und Wetlgeist. Zweiter Teil. Der Mensch als geistiges Wesen im historischen Werdegang. Der Mensch in seinem Zusammenhang mit dem Kosmos. (No. 206 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961). Published in Anthroposophic News Sheet 1939, Supplement No. 1
During my recent lectures I have brought forward a few things with the view of explaining the modern life of the spirit and its possibilities of development for the future. I have said that we should observe the events which have taken place in the course of human evolution, events that have led up to a soul-constitution which characterises the modern life of the spirit.
Let us once more bear in mind a few things which characterise this modern life of the spirit. By departing from various standpoints, we have gradually struggled through to the conclusion that the fundamental note of this modern life of the spirit is intellectualism, the intellectual, understanding attitude towards the world and man. This does not contradict the fact that in our times the essential character of a world-conception is sought in the observation and elaboration of external phenomena which can be observed through the senses. This, in particular, will be unfolded in the next few days. We may say that intellectualism, as such, has made its first appearance in the course of human evolution during the time comprised within the 300 years prior to the Mystery of Golgotha, and then it has gradually developed to a height which has not been surpassed during the three centuries subsequent to the Mystery of Golgotha. We may say that in the course of about six centuries, humanity has been trained to take up intellectualism. Intellectualism developed from out a spiritual world-conception, which began to ebb at that time, in the course of those six centuries. External documents (I have already called attention to this fact) hardly enable us to study the ebb of this world-conception, because the spreading of Christianity did its utmost to destroy, with but a few exceptions, every gnostic document.
Within the evolution of human world-conceptions, these gnostic documents represent that particular element which has, on the one hand, taken up something from older traditions, from what existed in Asia, Africa and southern Europe in the form of an ancient wisdom, from what could still be reached in these later times, in accordance with the faculties of human beings who were no longer able to rise to great heights of super-sensible vision. This older form of wisdom, the last echoes of which may still be found in the pre-Socratic philosophers and which contains last, pale gleams of Plato's arguments, this world-conception did not work with intellectual forces; essentially speaking, its contents were obtained through super-sensible vision, even if this was instinctive. At the same time, this super-sensible vision supplied what may be designated as an inner logical system. If we have within us the contents of super-sensible vision, no intellectual elaboration is needed, for the human being already possesses a logical structure through his own nature. Thus we may say that in the course of human evolution intellectualism has, in a certain respect, risen out of Gnosticism. It has risen out of super-sensible, spiritual contents. The spiritual contents have dried up and the intellectual element has remained.
A man with a preeminently leading spirit, who at that time already made use of the intellect (in Plato, this was not evident as yet) and who clearly evinced that the older form of spirituality had ceased to exist and that the human being now sought to gain a world-conception through inner intellectual work, this preeminently leading spirit was Aristotle. Aristotle is, as it were, the first man in human evolution who works in a truly intellectual way. In Aristotle, we continually come across statements showing that the recollection of an old wisdom, gained through super-sensible means, is still alive in a traditional form. Aristotle is aware of this older form of wisdom; he alludes to it whenever he speaks of his predecessors, but he can no longer connect his statements with any contents which are really his own inner experience.
Aristotle evinces in a high degree that things which were vividly experienced in the past, have now become mere words for him. But on the other hand, he is eminently intellectual in his way of working.
Owing to the special configuration of Greek culture, Aristotle is not a Gnostic. The gnosis of that time, with its still ample store of wisdom, which continued to exist even in the post-Christian centuries, had an intellectual way of grasping the old spiritual contents. These can no longer be experienced. What the Gnostics set forth, contains, as it were, a shadow-outline of the old spiritual wisdom. We can see that humanity gradually loses altogether the possibility of connecting a meaning with what had once been given to man in a super-sensible form. This stage, of not being able to connect any meaning with the old spiritual wisdom, reaches its climax in the fourth century of our era. Particularly a man like Augustine clearly reveals the struggle after a world-conception from out the very depths of the human soul, but it is impossible for him to reach a world-conception which is based on spirituality, so that he finally accepts what the Catholic Church presents to him in the form of dogmas.
The spiritual life of the Occident (and this is, to begin with, our present subject of study) obtained its contents above all during the centuries which followed the first four hundred years after the Mystery of Golgotha. It obtained its contents through what had been handed down traditionally from a Christian direction and had gradually acquired the form of dogmas, that is to say, of intellectual forms of thought. Nevertheless these dogmas were connected with contents which had once been experienced in super-sensible vision and which now existed merely in the form of memories. It was no longer possible to gain an insight into man's connections with these super-sensible contents; that is to say, it was not in any way possible to convey to the human beings the significance of these super-sensible contents. For this reason, the education of humanity took on an essentially intellectual character in the following centuries, up to the fifteenth century.
The spiritual life of the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, up to the fifteenth century, with all the experiences connected with that time — starting with the first Fathers of the Church up to Duns Scotus and then Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus — the spiritual life of those centuries and all the experiences connected with that time, arouse our interest not so much in view of the contents which have been transmitted to us, as in view of the thoroughly significant training through which the human beings had to pass, so that their soul-constitution was directed towards intellectualism. In regard to intellectual matters, in regard to the elaboration of conceptual matters, the Christian philosophers have reached the very climax. We may say, on the one hand, that intellectualism was fully born at the end of the fourth century of our era, but we may also say that intellectualism, as a technique, as a technical method of thinking, evolved up to the fifteenth century. That human beings were at all able to grasp this intellectual element, is a fact which took place in the fourth century. But to begin with, intellectualism had to be elaborated inwardly, and what was achieved in this direction, up to the time of high Scholasticism, is truly admirable.
Modern thinkers could really learn a great deal in this connection, if they would train their capacity of forming concepts by studying the conceptual technique which was unfolded by the scholastic thinkers of the Catholic Church. If we observe the disorderly way of thinking which is customary in modern science, if we observe how certain ideas which are indispensable for the attainment of a world-conception (for instance, the idea of subsistence in connection with existence) have altogether disappeared, particularly in regard to their inner character, if we observe how concepts such as “hypothesis” have acquired an entirely indistinct character, whereas for the scholastics it was a conceptual form with clearly defined outlines, if we observe many other things which could be adduced in this direction, we shall realise that the ordinary modern life of the spirit does not possess a real technique of thinking. How many things could be learnt if we would once more become acquainted with what has been developed up to the fifteenth century as a technique of thinking, that is to say, as a technique of intellectualism! Thinkers who have had a training in this sphere are so superior to the modern philosophers because they have taken up within them the scholastic element.
Indeed, after the disorderly thoughts contained in modern scientific writings, it does one good to take hold of a book such as Willmann's “History of Idealism”. Of course, at the present time we cannot agree with the contents of Willmann's book, for it contains things which we cannot accept, nevertheless it reveals a thinking activity which gives us, as such, a feeling of well-being, in comparison with what has just been characterised. Otto Willmann's “History of Idealism” should also be read by those who adopt an entirely different standpoint. The way in which he deals with the problems from the time of Plato onwards, his complete mastery of the scholastic activity of thought, can, to say the least, exercise an extraordinary influence upon modern human beings and discipline their thoughts.
Essentially speaking, the task of the time which lies between the fourth and the fifteenth century was, therefore, the development of a technique of thinking. This thinking activity has now adopted a definite attitude in regard to man's cognitive faculty towards the contents of the world. We may say: Spirits such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas have set forth the position of man's thinking activity towards the contents of the world in a manner which was, at that time, quite incontestable.
How do their descriptions appear to us?
Thinkers such as Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas had dogmatically preserved truths which originated from old traditions, but their meaning could no longer be grasped. To begin with, these truths had to be protected as contents of a supernatural revelation, which at that time was more or less equivalent to a super-sensible revelation. The Church preserved these revelations through its authority and teachings, and people thought that the dogmas of the Church contained the revelations connected with the super-sensible worlds. They were to accept what was offered in these dogmas, they were to accept it as a revelation which could not be touched by human reason, that is to say, by the human intellect.
In the Middle Ages it was, on the one hand, quite natural to apply the intellectual technique, which had reached such a high degree of development, but on the other hand, it was evident that the intellect was not allowed to determine anything in connection with the contents of these dogmas. The highest truths required by the human beings were sought within the dogmas. They had to be presented by theology, which was supernatural, and contained the essence of everything relating to the higher destinies of man's soul-life. The conceptions of that time were, on the other hand. permeated by the idea that Nature could be grasped and explained by the unfolding intellect, and that ratio, that is to say, the intellect, enabled one to grasp in a certain abstract manner the beginning and the end of the world, that it enabled one to grasp even the existence of God, etc. etc. These things were altogether considered as forming part — although in a certain abstract manner — of the truths which could still be reached through the intellectual technique. Human cognition was thus divided into two spheres: The sphere of the super-sensible, which could only become accessible to man through revelation and was preserved within the Christian dogmas, and the other sphere, which contained a knowledge of Nature, to the extent in which this was possible at that time, and which could only be reached, in its whole extent through an intellectual technique.
If we wish to grasp the spiritual development of our modern times, we must penetrate into this dual character of cognition during the Middle Ages. New spheres of knowledge slowly begin to appear from the fifteenth century onwards, and then more and more quickly; new spheres of knowledge, which then became the contents of the modern scientific world-conception. Up to the fifteenth century, the intellect, as such, had developed, its technique had gradually unfolded, but throughout that time it had not enriched itself with contents of a natural-scientific character. The knowledge of Nature which existed up to that time, was an old traditional knowledge which could no longer be grasped to its full extent: the intellect had. as it were, not been tested by contents of an immediate and elemental kind.
This only took place when the deeds of Galilei, Copernicus and so forth, began to penetrate into the modern development of science, and it occurred at a time when the intellect did not merely unfold its technique, but when it began to tackle the external world. Particularly in a man such as Galilei we can see that he uses his highly developed technique of thinking in order to approach with it the contents of a world which appears to the external observation through the senses. In the centuries which followed, up to the nineteenth century, those who were striving after knowledge were occupied above all with this: their intellect was grappling with Nature, it was seeking to gain a knowledge of Nature.
What lived in this struggle of the intellect that was seeking to gain a knowledge of Nature? In order to grasp this, we should not follow preconceived ideas, but psychological and historical facts.
We should clearly realise that humanity does not only carry over theories from one epoch to the other, and that the Christian development of philosophy has produced in an extraordinarily strong way the tendency to apply the intellectual faculties merely to the world of the senses, without touching the super-sensible world. If those who were striving after knowledge had touched the super-sensible sphere with their intellectual forces, this would have been considered a sin. Such an attitude gave rise to certain habits, and these habits continued. Even if the human beings are no longer fully conscious of them, they nevertheless act under the influence of these habits. In the centuries which preceded the nineteenth century, one of these habits, that is to say, a habit which arose under the influence of Christian dogmatism, produced the tendency to use the intellectual faculties merely for an external observation through the senses. In the same way in which the universities were, generally speaking, the continuation of schools which had been founded by the Church, so the sciences which were taught at these universities in connection with a knowledge of Nature were fundamentally a continuation of what the Church acknowledged to be right in the sphere of natural science. The tendency to include in knowledge nothing but an empiricism based on the observation through the senses is, in every respect, the echo of a soul-habit which has risen out of Christian dogmatism.
This way of directing the intellect towards the external world of the senses was more and more accompanied by the fact that the forces which the soul itself directed towards the contents of super-sensible dogmas gradually paled and died. The possibility of an independent investigation had once more arisen, and although the contents which the intellect thus obtained were of a purely sensory kind, they were nevertheless the contents of knowledge.
The dogmatic contents gradually paled under the influence of contents which were gained through a knowledge of the sensory world. This knowledge was acquiring a more and more positive character. It was no longer possible to adopt towards these super-sensible contents a soul-attitude which still existed after the fourth century of our era as a recollection of something which humanity had experienced in very ancient times. What was connected with the super-sensible worlds gradually disappeared completely, and what lies before us in the spiritual development of the last three or four centuries merely represents an artificial way of preserving these super-sensible contents.
The contents which have been taken from the world of the senses and which have been elaborated by the intellect grow more and more abundant. They permeate the human soul. The habit of calling attention to the super-sensible contents gradually pales and disappears. Also this fact is unquestionably a result of the Christian dogmatic development.
Then came the nineteenth century; the human soul had completely lost its elementary connection with what was contained in the super-sensible world, and it became more and more necessary for the human beings to convince themselves, one might say, artificially, that it is, after all, significant to accept the existence of a super-sensible world. So we may see, particularly in the nineteenth century, the development of a doctrine which had been well prepared in advance, the doctrine of the two paths of cognition: the path of knowledge and the path of faith. A cognition of faith, based upon an entirely subjective conviction, was still supposed to uphold what had been preserved traditionally from the old dogmas. In addition to this fact, the human beings were more and more overcome, I might say, by the knowledge which the world of the senses offered to them. Fundamentally speaking, just about the middle of, the nineteenth century, the evolution of the spiritual world of Europe had reached the following point: An abundant knowledge flowed out of the world of the senses, whereas the attitude towards the super-sensible world was problematic. When the human beings investigated the sensory world, they always felt that they had a firm ground under their feet and the facts resulting from an external observation could always be pointed out and summed up in a kind of world-picture, which naturally contained nothing but sensory facts, but which grew more and more perfect in regard to these sensory contents. On the other hand, they were striving in an almost cramped and desperate manner to maintain a survey of the super-sensible world through faith. Particularly significant in this connection is the development of theology, especially of Christology, for it shows us how the super-sensible contents of the Christ-idea were gradually lost, so that finally nothing remained of this idea except the existence of Jesus of Nazareth within the world of the senses; he was, therefore, looked upon as a member of human evolution within the ordinary and intellectual life of the senses. [See Rudolf Steiner's, “Et incarnatus est ...”.] Attempts were made to uphold Christianity even in the face of the enlightened and scientific mentality of modern times, but it was submitted to criticism and dissolved through this critical examination; the contents of the gospels were sieved and thus a definition was construed, as it were, which justified to a certain extent at least the right to point out that the super-sensible world must be the subject of faith, of belief.
It is strange to see the form which this development took on just about the middle of the nineteenth century. Those who study modern spiritual science should not overlook this stage in the development of human knowledge. Men who have spoken extensively of the spirit and of the spiritual life of the present, have treated in an amateurish way what has arisen as materialism in the middle of the nineteenth century within the evolution of mankind. Of course, it would be superficial to remain by this materialism. But it is far more superficial to take up an amateurish attitude towards materialism. It is comparatively easy to acquire a few concepts which are connected with the spirit and with spiritual life, and then to pass sentence over what has arisen through the materialism of the nineteenth century; but we should observe this from a different standpoint.
It is, for instance, a fact that a thinker such as Heinrich Czolbe, and he is perhaps one of the most significant materialistic thinkers, has given a real definition of sensualism in his book, “An Outline of Sensualism”, which was published in 1855. He states that sensualism implies a cognitive striving which excludes the super-sensible from the very beginning. Czolbe's system of sensualism gives us something which seeks to explain, the world and man only with the aid of what may be obtained through sensory observation.
We might say that this system of sensualism is, on the one hand, superficial, but, on the other hand, it is extraordinarily sharp. For it really attempts to observe everything, from perception to politics, in the light of sensualism and to describe it in such a way that an explanation can only be given through what the senses are able to observe and the intellect is able to combine through these sensory observations. This book was published in 1855, when a clearly defined Darwinism did not as yet exist, for Darwin's first epoch-making book only appeared in 1858.
Generally speaking, the year 1858 was very trenchant in the more recent spiritual evolution. Darwin's “Origin of the Species” appeared at that time. Spectral analysis also arose at that time within the evolution of humanity, and this has given rise to the conception that the universe consists of the same material substances as those of terrestrial existence. In that year the first attempt was made to deal with the aesthetic sphere in an external, empiric manner, a subject which in the past had always been treated in a spiritual-intellectual manner. Gustav Theodor Fechner's “Introduction to Aesthetics” was published in 1858. Finally, the attempt was made to apply this manner of thinking, which is contained in all the above examples, to social life. The first more important economic book of Carl Marx also appeared in that year. This fourth phenomenon of the modern materialistic life of the spirit thus appears not only in the same period, but in the same year of that period. As stated, certain things have preceded all this, for instance, Czolbe's “Sensualism”.
Afterwards, the attempt was made to permeate with materialistic world-conceptions the many facts which were discovered at that time in regard to the external life of the senses and we may say: The materialistic world-conception has not been created by Darwinism, or by spectral analysis, but the facts which Darwin had so carefully collected, the facts which could be detected to a certain extent in spectral analysis, and all that could be discovered in connection with certain things which were once investigated in an entirely different manner (this may be seen, for instance, in Fechner's “Introduction to Aesthetics”), all this was immersed in the already extant conception of sensualism. Fundamentally speaking, materialism already existed; it had its origin in the propagation of that habit of thinking which was, in reality, an offspring of the scholastic manner of thinking. We do not grasp the modern development of the spirit, we do not grasp materialism, unless we realise that it is nothing but the continuation of medieval thinking, with the omission of the idea that it is necessary to rise from thinking to the super-sensible with the aid, not of human reason and human observation, but with the aid of the revelations contained in the dogmas.
This second element has simply been omitted. But the fundamental conviction relating to one side of cognition, to that side which refers to the world of the senses, this fundamental conviction has been maintained. What had thus developed in the course of the nineteenth century, then changed in such a way that it appeared, for instance, in the famous Ignorabimus of du Bois-Reymond, in the early seventies. The scholastic thinkers used to say: Human cognition, which is permeated by the intellect, is only connected with the external world of the senses, and everything that the human being is supposed to know in regard to the super-sensible world must be given through the revelation which is preserved in the dogmas. — The revelation which the dogmas have preserved has paled, but the other fundamental conviction has been retained. This is what du Bois-Reymond states incisively, in a modern garment, to be sure. du Bois-Reymond applied what Scholasticism used to voice in the manner which I have just described, in such a way that he said: It is only possible to gain a knowledge of sensory things; we should only gain a knowledge of sensory things, for a knowledge of the super-sensible world does not exist.
Fundamentally speaking, there is no difference whatever between one of the two spheres of knowledge in Scholasticism and what has arisen, in a modern garment, among the modern natural scientists, and du Bois-Reymond was undoubtedly one of the most modern scientists. It is really very important to contemplate earnestly and carefully how the modern conception of Nature has risen out of Scholasticism, for it is generally believed that modern natural science has arisen in contrast to Scholasticism. Just as the modern universities cannot deny that in their structure they originate from the Christian schools of the Middle Ages, so the structure of modern scientific thought cannot deny its origin from Scholasticism, except that it has stripped off, as I have explained before, the scholastic elaboration of concepts and the scholastic technique of thinking, which are worthy of the greatest respect and appreciation.
This technique of thinking has also been lost; and for this reason certain questions, which are evident and which do not satisfy a real thinker, have simply been overlooked with elegance in the modern scientific manner of considering things. The spirit and the meaning contained within this modern science of Nature, are, however, the very offspring of Scholasticism.
But the human beings acquired the habit of restricting themselves to the world of the senses. This habit, to be sure, also produced excellent things, for the human beings acquired the tendency to become thoroughly absorbed in the facts of the sensory world. It suffices to consider that spiritual science, the spiritual science which is orientated towards Anthroposophy, sees in the sensory world an image of the super-sensible world; what we encounter in the sensory world really contains the images of the super-sensible world. If we consider this, we shall be able to appreciate fully the importance of penetrating into the sensory material world. We must emphasize again and again and we should continually lay stress upon the fact that the other form of materialism which has come to the fore in spiritism, which seeks to cognise the spirit in a materialistic manner, is unfruitful, because the spirit can, of course, never be seen through the senses. and the whole method of spiritism is, therefore, a humbug. On the other hand, we should realise that what we observe through our ordinary, normal senses and what we elaborate from out this sensory observation, with the aid of the intellect which has developed in the course of human evolution, is in every way an image of the super-sensible world, and consequently the study of this image can, in a certain way, lead us into the super-sensible world far better than, for instance, spiritism. In earlier times, I have often expressed this by saying: Some people are sitting around a table in order to “summon spirits”; yet, they completely overlook the fact that there are so and so many spirits sitting around the table! They should be conscious of their own spirit. Undoubtedly this spirit sets forth what they should seek; but owing to the fact that they forget their own spirit, that they are unwilling to grasp their own spirit, they seek the spirit in a materialistic, external manner, in spiritistic experiments which ape and imitate the experiments made in laboratories. Materialism, which works within the images of the super-sensible world, without being aware of the fact that it is dealing with images of the super-sensible world, this materialism has, after all, achieved great things through its methods of investigation, it has achieved great and mighty things.
Of course, and in Czolbe we may see this quite clearly, the real sensualists and materialists have never sought a connection between that which they obtained through their senses and the super-sensible; they merely sought to recognise the sensory world as such, its structure and its laws. This forms part of what has been achieved from 1840 onwards. When Darwinism brought forward its great standpoint, Darwinism, which had brought about the circumstance that through Darwin's person a wealth of facts had been collected from certain standpoints, when Darwinism made its appearance, it presented, to begin with, a principle of research, a method of investigation.
The nineteenth century had a few accurate natural scientists, such as Gegenbauer. Gegenbauer never became a Darwinist in Haeckel's meaning. Gegenbauer, who continued Goethe's work in connection with the metamorphosis of the vertebrae and the cranium, particularly emphasized this: No matter how the truth, the absolute truth of Darwinism may stand, it has given rise to a method which has enabled us to align phenomena and to compare them in such a manner that we have actually noticed things which we would not have noticed without this method, without the existence of Darwinism.
Gegenbauer meant to say more or less the following: Even though everything which is contained in the Darwin Theory were to disappear, the fact would remain that the Darwin Theory has given rise to a definite way of handling research, so that facts could be discovered which would otherwise not have been found. It was, to be sure, a certain “practical application of the as-if principle.” But this practical application of the “as-if principle” is not so stupid as the philosophical establishment of the “as-if principle”, in the form which it took on in a later epoch.
Thus it came about that a peculiar structure of spiritual life arose in the second half of the nineteenth century. In more recent times, and these do not lie so far back, philosophy has, after all, always developed out of a theological element. Those who fail to see the theological element in Hume and in Kant are simply unable to have an insight into such things. Philosophical thought has arisen altogether out of theological thought and, in a certain way, it has elaborated certain things in the form of intellectual concepts and these things had almost a super-sensible colouring. In view of the fact that the things which were dealt with in philosophy always had a super-sensible colouring, natural science began to oppose it more and more, ever since the middle of the nineteenth century, for the tendency towards these super-sensible contents of human knowledge had gradually disappeared. Natural science contained something, and it compelled one to have confidence in it, because the contents of natural science were substantial. The philosophical development was powerless in the face of what was flowing into natural science more and more abundantly, developing as far as Oken's problems, which were grasped philosophically. It is interesting to see that the most penetrative philosophy of the second half of the nineteenth century calls attention to the unconscious, and no longer to the conscious. Eduard von Hartmann's philosophy was discarded by the intellect, because it insisted upon its right of existence as a philosophy. The more the nineteenth century drew towards its close, the more we watch the strange spectacle of a philosophy which is gradually losing its contents and is gradually adopting the attitude of having to justify its existence. The most acute philosophers, such as Otto Liebmann, strive, above all, to justify the existence of philosophy.
There is a real relationship between a philosopher of Otto Liebmann's stamp, who still tries to justify the existence of philosophy, and a philosopher such as Richard Wahle, who wrote the book, “Philosophy as a Whole and Its End”. Richard Wahle very incisively set himself the task of demonstrating that philosophy cannot exist, and thereupon obtained a chair of philosophy at an Austrian university, for a branch of knowledge which, according to his demonstrations, could not exist!
In the nineties of the nineteenth century we may then observe a strange stage in these results of the modern development of thought-cognition. On the one hand, we have the natural-scientific efforts of advancing to an encompassing world-conception and of rejecting everything connected with revelation and the super-sensible world, and on the other hand, we have a powerless philosophy.
This came to the fore, one might say, particularly clearly in the nineties of the nineteenth century, but it appears as a necessary result of the preceding course of development. To-morrow we shall continue to examine the course of this development. I would only like you to hold fast in particular, that modern materialism should be considered from the following standpoint. The things which appear in material life are an image of the super-sensible. Man himself, in the form in which he appears between birth and death, is an image of what he has experienced supersensibly between his last death and his birth. These who seek the soul within material existence, seek it in the wrong direction.
The fundamental problem in the face of the materialism of the nineteenth century, if we wish to grasp it historically, is: To what extent was it justified? We grasp its historical evolution, not by opposing it, but by trying to understand what it lacked, indeed, but what it had to lack, owing to the fact that, during the time which immediately preceded it, the soul-spiritual element was sought in the wrong place. People believed that they could find the soul-spiritual by seeking it in the ordinary way within the sensory world, through reflections of one or the other kind, and so forth. But this is not possible. It can only be found if we go beyond the world of the senses. Sensualism and materialism were neither willing nor able to go beyond the world of the senses. They remained at a standstill by the image, they thought that this image was the reality. This is the essence, of materialism.