Approaches to Anthroposophy
These lectures provide an excellent introduction to some of the leading themes of anthroposophy. Steiner carefully corrects certain misunderstandings that had arisen regarding his spiritual-scientific research and demonstrates how anthroposophy has nothing whatever to do with mysticism or spiritualism; nor is it simply a revival of ancient esoteric teachings. Rather, it is a genuinely modern spiritual teaching for Western humanity that builds upon the achievements of science and develops its exact methodology further into the investigation of spiritual realities through the awakening of higher organs of perception.
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These two lectures are a response given by Rudolf Steiner to refutations of his spiritual science, anthroposophy. They comprise, in one place, the most cogent arguments which Steiner raised against his detractors, and make for worthy reading. Here's what he says about refutations in the Preface of the first lecture:
[page 3] They are to a certain extent typical 'refutations'. They are typical, not only because of what is alleged, but because of the manner in which an attitude is taken towards that to which objections are raised. This manner is characteristic. It is often the case that people do not fix their attention upon what spiritual science says and direct their attack against this, but fabricate an idea of what they think it says, and then attack this idea.
Have you ever been to a fair where an artist did caricatures of people? The subject sits down and the artist begins drawing immediately and within a few minutes, a rendering of the subject appears on a sheet which the subject can take home. Family members, seeing the caricature of their loved one, will notice the resemblance, but will note some objections, e. g., the nose is too big, the eyes too large, etc, and this is all understood as the essence of a caricature which is to create a semblance of the person, not an accurate rendition in all respects. No artist would ever attack their own caricature in such a way as the family members do because artists understand that is the very nature of their art: to create a semblance by exaggeration of some salient features. But consider what the critics of Rudolf Steiner's works did in his own time and continue to do today: they create a caricature of his work after an instant study of it and then attack their own caricature! Here's what he says about refutations in the Preface of the second lecture:
[page 37] As with the other lecture, I introduced into what follows some thoughts about objections which have been made from many quarters against anthroposophical spiritual science. These objections often arise in a most peculiar way. For these critics do not take a proper look at what spiritual science says and inveigh against that, but concoct a distorted image of what they think it says and launch their assault against this caricature.
Steiner is attacked not for what he is trying to do, but for the very opposite by people brimming with antagonism but lacking understanding of the very material they are condemning. For myself, as a newcomer to Steiner's works, I read about ten small books of his lectures and still didn't understand what he was getting at. I would have been a perfect critic of his work at that time because my knowledge of his work constituted a mere caricature of it, full of holes, lacunae, and exaggerations. Instead, I held an unanswered question: "Why am I continuing to read Rudolf Steiner's books?" I would find a book in a lower shelf in an occult bookstore, look through it, and buy it to read. After reading the new book, I would be even more confused than I was before. I wrote short reviews, caricatures, if you will, of the meaning, sparse as it was what I was able to glean from the book, and I was left with more questions than answers from each new book. Thus I continued until 1995 and the advent of the Internet when I asked my greatest unanswered question, "What should I be reading of Steiner's works?" The answers pointed me to his classic works, "Outline of Occult Science", "Theosophy", and "Knowledge of Higher Worlds". Through my study of these books, I realized that this man, this obscure Austrian philosopher and mystic, was answering for me the greatest unanswered questions in life that I had been holding. Life is a mystery with an enigma at both ends. I had devoted my life to studying the mystery portion and here was a man explaining the two enigmas, life before birth and life after death, showing that life flows from birth to death to birth to death in an unbroken skein of transitions.