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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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Hegel, Schopenhauer, Thought, Will
GA 202

4 December 1920, Dornach

Translated by Hanna von Maltitz

It is my intention now to bring several viewpoints to you regarding the relationship between human beings and the cosmic world on the one side and the spiritual development of human beings on the other. Our considerations will be supplementary to what we have already allowed to pass over our souls many times. Today I want to add a kind of introduction to our considerations of the next hours, which could appear to some as remotely relevant, the necessity of which will become clear in the next hour. I would like to remind you that in central European-German thought development, during the first half of the 19th century, besides events to which we have just referred, an additional, remarkable event took place. I have recently referred to the contrast which arises when considering Schiller's aesthetic letters on the one hand and Goethe's Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily on the other. Today I wish to point to a similar contrast, which appeared in the development of thought in the first half of the 19th century with Hegel on the one side and Schopenhauer on the other. With Goethe and Schiller we are dealing with two personalities who, at a certain time in their life, being surrounded by the constant contrasts of the central European thought development - a development of thought striving for equilibrium—managed to bring about an equilibrium in their deep friendship, whereas previously they had been repelled by one another.

Two other personality also represented polar opposites but with them it is impossible to say some kind of equilibrium was established: Hegel on the one side and Schopenhauer on the other. You only have to consider what I put forward in my “Riddles of Philosophy” to see the deep opposition between Schopenhauer and Hegel. It appears relevant that Schopenhauer really spared no swearwords in what he held as the truth in his characterization of his opponent Hegel. In many of Schopenhauer's work there is the wildest scolding of Hegel, Hegelianism and everything related to it. Hegel had less reason to scold Schopenhauer, because, before Hegel died, Schopenhauer would actually have remained without influence, not being established amongst remarkable philosophers. The contrast between these two personalities can be characterised by indicating how Hegel regarded the foundation of the world and the world development and everything pertaining to it, as consisting of real thought elements. Hegel firmly believed that thoughts were the foundation of everything. Hegel's philosophy fell into three parts: Firstly in logic, not subjective human logic but the system of thought that must form the foundation of the world. Secondly Hegel had his philosophy of nature, but nature for him was nothing other than an idea, not even an idea with a difference, but the idea which implies it exists out-of-itself. So also nature is an idea, but the idea in a different form, in a form which is sense-perceptible to people, ideas by contrast. The idea which reverts back to itself, this was to him the human being's spirit which had developed out of the simplest human-spiritual activities into the world's history and up to the beginning of the human subjective spirit in religion, art and science. When one wants to study Hegel's philosophy thus, you need to allow yourself entry into the development of world thoughts, just like Hegel let these world thoughts explain themselves.

Schopenhauer is the opposite. For Hegel thoughts, world thoughts were creative, actual reality in things; for Schopenhauer every thought was merely subjective, and as a subjective image only something unreal. For him the only real thing was will. Just as Hegel followed with human thought into everything mineral, animal or vegetative, for Schopenhauer it was all about “the will of nature”. So one can say Hegel is the thought philosopher and Schopenhauer the will philosopher.

In this way these two personalities stood opposite one another. So, what do we actually have here as thoughts on the one hand and will on the other? We would best introduce this polar opposite in the following lecture by allowing it to be brought before our souls when we observe human beings. We will for a moment divert our gaze from Hegelian philosophy and look at the reality of humanity. We already know: in people we predominantly have an intellectual, meaning a thought element, followed by a will element. The thought element is preferably assigned to the human head, the will element preferably to the human limb organism. With this we have already referred to the intellectual element as actually being that which permeated our bodies from a prenatal existence out of the spiritual worlds, flowing from us between death and a new birth, as well as out of the prenatal life and its remnants of an earlier earth life pouring into the essence of this earth life. The will element is however, I would like to say, the youth in contrast to the thought element in humanity; it goes through the portal of death and then enters the world between death and a new birth, gets converted, metamorphosed and builds the intellectual element in the next life. Essentially, we have in our soul organisation our intellectual as predominant, thought elements reaching back to antiquity; our will element reaching into the future. With this we have considered the polar opposites between thought and will.

Naturally we should never, in considering reality, schematize these things. It would be naturally schematized if one could say: every thought element directs us to earlier time and all will elements direct us towards our time past. It is not so, yet it is striking, I say, that which in people as the thought element reaches to earlier times while the will element goes into later times. Added to this human organisation it is striking that the backward aim in the thought element is a type of will element and included into the organisation becomes the will element, which rings right out through death and into the future, as a thought element. You may, when you enter with understanding into reality, never schematize, never merely list one idea beneath another, because you must be clear that in reality everything can be observed which at sometime or other appears striking, the remaining elements of reality existing within, and that above all, what may be in the background can at another point become a striking reality and then something else falls into the background.

When philosophers come to consider this or that from their particular point of view, you have your one-sided philosophers. Now that which I've characterized for you as thought elements in people, are not only in people bound to their head organization, but thoughts really spread out in the cosmos. The entire cosmos is threaded through with cosmic thoughts. Because Hegel was the stronger spirit, who, I want to say, felt the results of many past earthly lives, he directed his attention in particular to cosmic thoughts.

Schopenhauer experienced less events of his previous earth lives, thus directed his attention more towards cosmic will. Just as will and thought live in people, so will and thought live in the cosmos. What do thoughts mean for the cosmos as observed by Hegel in particular, and what does will mean for the cosmos in the way Schopenhauer observed it? Hegel didn't consider the kind of thoughts which took form within human beings. The entire world was for him basically only a revelation of thoughts. In fact, he had cosmic thought in mind. Observing the extraordinary formation of Hegel's spirit, one can say: this spirit shaping of Hegel refers to the West. Only Hegel manages to lift everything to an element of thought—everything pertaining to the West, for example materialistic developmental directives and materialistic thoughts in Western physics. One finds with Darwin a developmental teaching just as one finds a developmental teaching with Hegel. With Darwin it is a materialistic developmental philosophy, in which everything happens as if only mighty nature substances are involved and act creatively; with Hegel we see how everything which is in development is permeated through with thought, like thoughts in particular configurations, in their concrete expression—they are the actual development.

Henceforth we can say: in the West the world is approached from the standpoint of thought, but materialistic thought. Hegel idealized thought and as a result arrived at cosmic thought.

Hegel argued in his philosophy about thought but actually meant cosmic thought. Hegel said when we look into the outside world, be it observing a star in its orbit, an animal, plant or mineral, we actually see thoughts everywhere, only this kind of thought in the outer world is actually in a different form as in the thought-form being observed. One can't say in fact that Hegel was attempting to maintain these teachings of world thoughts as esoteric. They remained esoteric because Hegel's work is seldom read, but it wasn't his intention to keep the teaching of cosmic content of the world as esoteric. However, it is extraordinarily interesting that when it comes to western secret societies - this teaching relates in a certain way to the deepest esoteric teachings - that the world is actually created out of thoughts. One could say what Hegel so naively observed in the world, what western secret societies considered their observations, is what the Anglo-American peoples held as content of their secret teachings, while they had no intention of popularizing their secret teachings. As grotesquely as one might take it, one can say Hegel's philosophy is to a certain extent the basic nerve of the teachings of the West.

You see, here we have an important problem. You could really, when you become knowledgeable about all the esoteric teachings of Anglo-American secret societies, content-wise hardly find anything but Hegelian philosophy. However there is a difference which doesn't lie in the content, it lies in the handling. It is connected to this, that Hegel saw the things in a manner of a revelation, and the western secret societies keep a watchful eye over what Hegel presents to the world so it would not become generally known and remain as an esoteric secret teaching.

What actually lies at the basis of this? This is a very important question. If one has some kind of content which has originated out of the spirit and one considers it at a secret possession, then one gives it power, because when this content becomes popularised, it no longer has this power. Now I ask you to really for once focus completely: Any content containing knowledge becomes a force of power when held secret. To this is added that those who want to retain certain teachings as secrets, become quite unpleasant when these things are popularized. It is almost a universal law that whatever popularizes, gives insight. Power is given to that which is kept secret.

I have spoken to you over the last few years about various powers which emerged from the West. That these emerged out of the West did not come from knowledge which had been unknown in Central Europe, but this wisdom was treated in a different manner. Just imagine what kind of tragedy it predicted! It could even have seriously warded off events in world history from the power of western secret societies, if single individuals could have been studied in Central Europe, if this wasn't merely done in Central Europe but that it was thoroughly stated: In the (eighteen) eighties—I have mentioned this—Eduard von Hartmann openly printed that only two philosophers in the Central European faculties had been read by Hegel. Hegel was excessively discussed and lectures were held about him, but only two philosophy professors could be proved to have been shaped by Hegel. For those who have any kind of receptivity for such things could experience the following: when they read some volume of Hegel's out of some library they could only really state that the volume was not very well-thumbed! Sometimes one page to the next—I know this from experience—was most difficult to pry apart because the volume was still so new. And “Editions” Hegel has only experienced recently.

Now I haven't established this as the basis for the facts I've particularly stipulated in the foregoing, but I want to show how this idealism living within Hegel nonetheless points towards the West, because on the one hand it appears again in the clumsy materialistic thoughts of Darwinism, of Spencerism and so on, and on the other in the esotericism of secret societies.

Now let's consider Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer is, I might say, the admirer of the will. That he has cosmic will in mind appears everywhere in Schopenhauer's work, in particular in the delightful treatise “Regarding the Will in Nature” where everything which exists and lives in nature is taken from a basis of will, expressed in the elemental power of nature.

Towards what does the entire soul constitution of Schopenhauer point if Hegel's soul state points to the West? You can see this in Schopenhauer himself because you soon find, in your studies, his deep leaning towards the Orient. It rose from his mood, it's not clear how. This preference of Schopenhauer's for Nirvana and for all that is oriental, this inclination towards everything Indian is irrational like his entire will philosophy; it arose to some extent from his subjective inclination. However in this lies a certain necessity. What Schopenhauer presented as a philosophy is a philosophy of will. This philosophy, as it belongs in Central Europe, he presented dialectically in thoughts; he rationalized about will but he actually spoke about will through the medium of thought. While he spoke thus about will, actually cosmic will materialized, entered deeply into his soul and rose in his consciousness as a preference for the East. He enthused about everything Indian. Just as we saw how Hegel pointed more to the West, so we see how Schopenhauer pointed towards the East. In the East however we don't find anything which is an element of will and what Schopenhauer really felt as the actual element of the East, was materialised and pressed into thinking and thus intellectualized. The entire form of the representation of cosmic will, which lies at the basis of eastern soul-life, does not appear as originating from the intellect, it is partly a poetic, partly a section derived directly from the observation of the relevant representation. Schopenhauer took what the oriental image form wanted to convey and intellectualized it in the Central European way; however that which he refers to, the cosmic will, this was after all the element at which he was pointing; from this he had formulated his soul orientation. This element is what lived in the world view of the Orient. When the oriental world view is permeated with love in particular, this element of love becomes nothing other than some aspect of cosmic will, and is not just raised from the intellect. So we may say: here the will is spiritualized. Like thoughts are materialised in the West, so in the East will becomes spiritualized.

In Central European elements we see within idealized cosmic thought, within materialized cosmic will, treated through the medium of thought, these two worlds creating an interplay; with reference to Hegelianism we have in western secret societies something similar to a deep relationship between Hegelian cosmic thought systems in the West, and if we penetrate this, in the subjectivity of Schopenhauer's penetration with the Orient, it brings to expression Schopenhauer's relationship with eastern esotericism.

It is quite extraordinary when you allow Schopenhauer's philosophy to work on you, the thought-element appears somewhat flat; Schopenhauer's philosophy is really not deep, but it has at the same time something intoxicating, something wilful which throbs within. Schopenhauer becomes most attractive and charming when shallow thoughts are penetrated with his will element - then traces of the warmth of will are found to some extent in his sentences. As a result he basically has become a shallow salon philosopher of his age. As the thought provoking age, which the first half of the nineteenth century was, passed and people suffered from thought deprivation, the time came for Schopenhauer to become the salon philosopher. Not much effort was needed to think, while the thrill of thought throbbing with will was allowed its influence particularly when something like “Parerga and Paralipomena” (“Appendices and Omissions”—philosophical reflections published 1851) came through, where these thrilling thoughts could work their craftiness.

Thus we have two opposing poles in the Hegel-Schopenhauer antitheses in the central regions of our civilization's development; the one a particular shaping from the West, and the other a particular formation from the East. In Central Europe they stood up to the time they balanced out, imperiously side by side, being incomparable to the alliance between Schiller and Goethe which was harmonious, as opposed to Hegel and Schopenhauer in their disharmonious relationship. Schopenhauer then became outside lecturer at the Berlin University at the same time as Hegel represented his own philosophy. Schopenhauer could hardly find an audience, his auditorium remained empty. Probably, when Hegel was idly asked about the Schopenhauer type philosophy - which he could manage because he was at the time an impressive, respected philosopher—then he merely shrugged his shoulders. When anybody spoke from the basis of this will element and stressed it in particular like (Friedrich) Schleiermacher, then compared with Hegel it still indicated something, Hegel would become uncomfortable. Therefore when Schleiermacher wanted to explain Christianity from this thoughtless element and said: Christianity cannot be understood through the thought element when one includes worldwide thoughts, to some extent the divine thoughts, grasped differently than through feeling oneself dependant on God, through which one develops a feeling of dependency on the universe - to this Hegel replied: Then the dog is the best Christian, because it has the best knowledge of the feeling of dependency! Obviously Hegel gave Schopenhauer a piece of his mind as he gave Schleiermacher, when he took the trouble. Hegel had to forever connect and convince everyone who didn't change towards understanding the reality of thought. For Schopenhauer these thoughts were nothing more than foam rising from the breaking of waves of cosmic will. Schopenhauer, who certainly from the characterised position had more occasion, insulted Hegel like a washerwoman in his work.

Within life's riddles, contributing to the centre of civilization, we thus see the contradictions which do not come to a harmonious closure. Both however, Schopenhauer as much as Hegel, felt a lack of what really constituted the understanding of mankind. Hegel lived in cosmic thought, and this was exactly that which made him so unpopular—because in daily life people are not going to soar up to cosmic thoughts. They have a particular feeling which they eagerly enter for comfort—a feeling which says: why should we split our heads with cosmic thoughts? That is done for us by the gods, or God. Being an Evangelist one says: a God does this, why should we especially bother with it? In particular that which appeared in the publications on thought was extraordinarily impersonal. History, for instance, which we discover through Hegel, has something thoroughly impersonal. Thus we have actually from the beginning of earth evolution right to the end of earth development, self enfolding thoughts.

Should you want to schematically draw this Hegelian historical philosophy, here thoughts would rise up (a drawing is made), rise up, distort each other mutually and thus go through the historic development and in this web of thoughts people are spun in and are swept away by the thoughts. Thus actually for Hegel the historical development of these coalescing, corrupt thoughts harness people as automatons, out of these webs of world historic thought this thought system had to develop. For Schopenhauer of course thoughts were nothing more than froth. He directed his gaze to cosmic will, or in other words, to this sea of cosmic will. The human being is actually only a reservoir where merely a little of this cosmic will is collected. The Schopenhauer philosophy contains nothing of this developmental reasoning or progressive thinking, but is the unclear, irrational, the unreasonable element of will which flows from it. Within the human beings rises up, reflects in him as if it was reason but which he or she actually continually develops as foolishness. For Hegel the world is the revelation of reason. For Schopenhauer—what does the world mean to him? It is a remarkable thing, if one wants to answer the question: What is the world to Schopenhauer? It struck me particularly clearly once in a sentence of Eduard von Harman, where Schopenhauer was considered and discussed because Eduard von Hartman had Hegel on the one side and Schopenhauer on the other, Schopenhauer's side being predominant. I want to with this article, which was a purely philosophic article of Eduard von Harman, indicate, that for him the solution to the world riddle has to be expressed as follows: “The world is God's big foolishness.”—I had written this because I believe it's the truth. The editor of the newspaper, which appeared in Austria, answered me that this had to be deleted because the entire edition would be confiscated if this was printed in an Austrian newspaper; he simply couldn't write that the world was God's stupidity. Now, I didn't insist further but wrote to the editor of these “German Words”: Delete the “God's foolishness” but just remember another case: When I edited the German Weekly (Deutsche Wochenschrift) you didn't write about the world as God's foolishness, but that the Austrian school system is a stupidity of the teaching administration and I allowed it. - For sure, that weekly newspaper was confiscated at the time. I wanted to remind the man at least, that something similar had happened to him as was happening to me, only me with the loving God, and with him the Austrian the minister of education, Baron von Gautsch.

When one looks back over the most important world riddles, it is clear how Hegel and Schopenhauer represent two opposing poles, and they appear actually in their greatness, in their admirable, dignified greatness. I know for certain that some people find it extraordinary that a Hegel admirer like me can likewise produce such a draft, because some people can't imagine that when something in contrast to them is great, humour can also be retained about it, because people imagine one must unconditionally show a long face when one confesses to experiencing something great in a well known person.

Thus two opposite poles present themselves, but in this case not like with Schiller and Goethe which came to a harmonious equilibrium. We could find some solution to this disharmony if we consider that for Hegel the human being was evolving within a web spun with concepts of world history and for Schopenhauer the human being actually was nothing other than a little lamb, a small container where a portion of world-will had been poured in, basically only an extract of the cosmic world will. Both failed to perceive the actual individuality and personality of human beings. They also could not perceive what the actual being was which they sensed in the cosmos.

Hegel looked into the cosmos and saw this web of concepts within history, Schopenhauer looked into the cosmos and didn't see this web of concepts—that was only a mirror image for him—but he saw it as a sea of ruling will, to some extent tapped into these vessels in which human beings swam in this irrational, unreasonable sea of will (drawing is made). Human beings were only being fooled by what reflected in their unreasonable will as actual reason, imagination and thought. Yet these two elements are present in the cosmos. What Hegel saw was already in the cosmos. Cosmic thoughts exist. Hegel and the West viewed the cosmos and perceived world thoughts. Schopenhauer and the East looked at the cosmos and saw world will. Both are within. A useful cosmic world view could c0me into existence if the paradox could have been entered, resulting in Schopenhauer's scolding bringing him so far as to him leaving his skin behind, and despite Hegel's soul remaining in Hegel, that Schopenhauer entered Hegel so that Schopenhauer was actually inside Hegel. Then he would have seen the world-thoughts and world-will fusing! This is the deed which is within the world: world thoughts and world will. They exist in very different forms.

What is revealed to us through actual spiritual scientific research in relation to this cosmology? It tells us: when we look into the world and allow world thoughts to work on us, what do we see? We see, by letting world thoughts work on us, thoughts of the dim and distant past, everything which worked in the past up to the present moment. Thus we see, through our world-thought perception, that which is dying away when we look into the world. From this comes the hardened, the dead part of natural laws and we can practically only use mathematics to deal with what is dead when we consider nature's laws. However within that which speaks to our senses, which delights us in the light, what we hear in sound, what warms us and everything touching our senses, works out of world will. It is this, which rises out of the dead element of world thoughts and what basically gestures outwards to the future. Something chaotic, undifferentiated exists in the world thoughts, yet lives presently in world moments as a germ which progresses into the future. Submitting ourselves to the world's thought elements, we experience that which originated from the most horrible past, spilling into the present. However, in the human head is something different. In the human head thoughts are separated from outer world thoughts, and are bound into the human personality in an individual will element, which in this way may first only be looked at as that small reservoir, the little lamb of poured cosmic will-element. However, what one has intellectually, point backwards. We have basically developed this germ from a former life on earth. Will was involved there. Now it has become thought, is bound to our head organization, resurrected like a living copy of the cosmos in our head organization. We connect this to will, we rejuvenate it in our will. By rejuvenating it in will, we send it over to our next life on earth, our next earth incarnation.

This world image must actually be drawn differently. We must draw it in such a way that the outer cosmic aspect of olden times is particularly rich in thought elements, but becomes ever more thinned out as we approach the present, allowing the thoughts, as they are in the cosmos, to gradually die out. The thought element we must consequently draw quite fine.

Figure 1

The further we go back, so the thoughts outweigh the Akashic images; the more we go forward, the ever denser the will element becomes. We should, if we want to look through this development, look at a light filled thought element in the most horrible time past, and on the most unreasonable element of will of the future.

Figure 2

But it doesn't remain like this, because we drag in thoughts which have been retained in our head. These thoughts are sent into the future. While cosmic thoughts die out more and more, germinate on human thoughts, from their point of origin they push through into the future as the cosmic element of will.

Figure 3

Thus we are the guardians of cosmic thoughts, thus the human being draws cosmic thought out of himself or herself into the world outside. Along the detour through the human being cosmic thoughts are propagated from ancient times into the future. The human being belongs to that which is the cosmos. However he doesn't belong like the materialist will think, that the human being is something which has developed out of the cosmos and is a piece of the cosmos, but that the human being also belongs to the creative element of the cosmos. He or she carries thoughts out of the past, into the future.

You see, here the human being enters into the tangible. If you really want to understand the human being you enter into what Schopenhauer and Hegel approached so one-sidedly. From this you realise that philosophic elements, being combined on a higher level, need to be threefold, just as the human being is to be understood in the cosmos.

Tomorrow we will consider the relationship between the human being and the cosmos in a concrete manner. I wanted to give you an introduction today, as promised; the necessity of it will be recognised in further lectures.