February 2004 Archives

That Steiner considered Anthroposophy - the results of his spiritual research - accessible to anyone is evident in the following quotes:

"These facts [spiritual truths] have been investigated and communicated, and they can be grasped by healthy human intelligence, if this healthy intelligence will be unprejudiced enough not to base its conclusions wholly on what goes by the name of proof, logical deduction, and the like, in regard to the outer sense world. On account of these hindrances it is frequently stated that unless someone is able oneself to investigate supersensible worlds, one cannot understand the results of supersensible research." (Page 81)

"Once again I would like to emphasize: if these things are investigated, everyone who approaches the results with an unprejudiced mind can understand them with ordinary, healthy human reason ?just as he can understand what astronomers or biologists have to say about the world. The results can be tested, and indeed one will find that this testing is the first stage of initiation-knowledge. For initiation-knowledge, one must first have an inclination towards truth, because truth not untruth and error, is one's object." (Page 101)

Rudolf Steiner. "Esoteric Development." New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1982. From GA 305, Lecture of 20 Sep 1922.

Steiner on occult development


According to Steiner, esoteric training is open to anyone:

"Anyone can set out on the esoteric path; it is closed to no one. The mysteries are present in the breast of each human being. All that is required a serious inner work in the possibility to free ourselves of all the obstacles the block this subtle inner life. We must realize that the world's greatest and most distant aspects are revealed to us in the most intimate ways. Humanity's wisest members have no other means of attaining great truths in the path described here. They achieve these truths because they discovered the path with themselves, because they knew that they have to practice patients in steadfastness in carrying out these routines."

Rudolf Steiner. "First Steps in Inner Development." Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1999. Page 23. Lecture of 15 Dec 1904 (GA 53) translated by Catherine Creeger.

On the other hand, no one is obligated to walk this path:

"No one is exhorted to become an occultist; one must come to occultism of one's own volition. Whoever says that we do not need occultism will not need to occupy himself with it. At this time, occultism does not appeal to mankind in general. In fact, it is extremely difficult in the present culture to submit to those rules of conduct which will open the spiritual world."

Rudolf Steiner. "Esoteric Development." New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1982. Pages 2-3. Lecture of December 7th, 1905 (GA 54).

When thinking is too difficult


I found this Steiner quote to be interesting in light of advances in technology in education. First radio, then television, and now computers promise to revolutionize education and make the incomprehensible comprehensible in an ever easier manner. Neither radio nor television fulfilled this promise, but somehow computers will succeed where film failed?

"Recently we were forced to experience an article in an important weekly paper. It said, more or less, that many of our contemporaries find that when they read Spinoza and Kant, the concepts get so confused that they cannot cope with them. But then the author of the article suggests applying a new technical accomplishment to this problem, too. Let's make a film! Imagine a film in which Spinoza first explains how he grinds lenses and then goes on to explain the development of his thoughts and philosophy, and so forth. All you need to do is sit passively, and your thoughts on the subject will no longer be confused. This is totally in line with current preferences. Slide presentations would show us how Spinoza's Ethics and Kant's Critique Of Pure Reason came about. People would go to lectures like that."

Rudolf Steiner. "First Steps in Inner Development". Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1999. Page 88.
The Lecture is titled: How does the soul discover its true being? and was given in Kassel on May 8th, 1914. Translated by Catherine Creeger.

The source of materialism?


I came across this recently, and found it interesting:

"We can even say that spiritual research reveals the source of humanity's materialistic attitude. In this day at age, there are indeed materialistically-minded souls who say either that it is impossible for us to speak of the spiritual world or that we should not worry about that world because our human capacity for knowledge is restricted to the sensory world. They also say that it is unscientific to speak of the life of in the spirit. Nowadays such people go by the genteel name of monists; we used is simply call them materialists. They deem themselves especially scientific when they completely denied the existence of a spiritual world war say that science has nothing to do with that world. Of course, when we state the truth about spiritual phenomena, we can scarcely expect to find support among dyed-in-the-wool monists. This truth remains the truth however, and it is fear, rather than any logical reasons or proof, that keeps souls imprisoned in materialism or monism. People do not recognize this fear as such and do not acknowledge it to themselves. Nonetheless, fear gives rise to the idea that it is unscientific to investigate the spiritual world. Anyone who understands the factors involved knows that materialistic organizations attract souls dominated by fear of the spiritual world. It is not pleasant tell people with that they are basically fearful souls and that they are simply cloaking their fear in a semblance of logic, as if they could prove that only the phenomena of the physical world are entitled to exist."

Rudolf Steiner. "First Steps in Inner Development." Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1999. Pages 77-78. The lecture is titled: How does the soul discover its true being? (Kassel ? May 8th, 1914) Translated by Catherine Creeger.

Interpreting Parables


Someone recently quoted the Bible to me with the following explanation:

"Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

The explanation was: "It doesn't mean I'm any more perfect, but it does mean I've been down in this hole, and I know how to get out."

I'm not sure I agree with this understanding. There is certainly another interpretation of this passage. In another context, Christ said "Let he who is without sin among you cast the first stone." The logic of this was, first, no one was without sin, and secondly, even if anyone was without sin, why would they wish obtain sin by casting a stone? Would such a person (an ideal self) really be casting stones at people? Likewise let us enter the parable of the beam in the eye. First of all it has been pointed out how absurd the image of a beam in the eye really is. And this is not just an issue of translation; the original is also means "really huge piece of wood". It has been suggested that Christ used this ridiculous image of a beam in the eye intentionally. What would a person look like with a really huge piece of wood in their eye? Blind. And after removing said beam from their eye, how well would a person see? Would they really be worried about motes in other peoples eyes? Would they really be in a position to fish them out? To me the point of the parable is not that once you have removed a beam from your own eye you are suddenly ready to start working on other people's motes. Rather, the point is that there are better things to do than fish motes out of other peoples eyes, and Christ is suggesting that we come to recognize this.

Cultural Epochs


The issue of race, culture and theosophical-anthroposophical epochs is complicated. The first thing I should like to do is separate the theosophical from the anthroposophical viewpoints, as these are quite distinct philosophies and not in agreement on many issues, particularly that of race. In stating that the epochs of the anthroposophical theory of evolution are cultural, and not racial, I do not mean to imply that Steiner has nothing to do with race at all. I am arguing that the epochs - the division of time into seven cultural epochs - is primarily a distinction of cultural characteristics. Steiner himself called them "cultural epochs" and he most certainly never called them "racial epochs." That race and culture very often coincide, especially in ancient times, does not make Steiner a racist or his division or time into epochs a racist doctrine.

Of the Indian Cultural Epoch so little is known in history that the question of whether race and culture were exclusively a unit cannot be answered. The same is true of the Persian Epoch. The Third Epoch, usually called the Egypto-Chaldean, and sometimes called the Egypto-Chaldean-Assyrian-Semetic definitely encompasses more than one race; likewise the Greco-Roman, which extended into the late middle ages and thus included all the various peoples who migrated through Europe during that time. And of course our Fifth epoch is most definitely multi-cultural and multi-racial, though perhaps this is less evident in Western Europe than in California.

It is on these facts that I base my claim that epochs of the anthroposophical theory of evolution are cultural, and not racial. Race may or may not play an important role in the world, but it does not play a role in Steiner's division of time.

Steiner on Positivity


This quote is related to my last posting, and speaks to how we can practice thinking in opposites and overcoming our natural inclination to stay at our first conclusion.

"Step Four: Freedom from prejudice. This, the fourth characteristic, sees good in everything and looks for the positive element in all things. Relevant to this is a Persian legend told of Christ Jesus. On day Christ Jesus saw a dead dog lying be the wayside; he stopped to look at the animal while those around him turned away in disgust. Then Jesus said: "What beautiful teeth the dog has!" In that hideous corpse he saw not what was ugly or evil but the beauty of the white teeth. If you can acquire this mood, you will look everywhere for the good and positive, and you will find it everywhere. This has a powerful effect on the physical and etheric bodies."

Rudolf Steiner. "At the Gates of Spiritual Science" London, 1970. Page 111. Lecture of September 2nd, 1906 titled "Occult Development." This is the fourth of the six prerequisite exercises before beginning occult training.

Steiner on Thinking and Criticism


I came across this quote recently. It pertains to the uses of thinking, something that I don't think a lot of people actually think about. Mostly, we simply take our thinking for granted and speak or write whatever pops out of our heads, without pausing to think wearing a particular idea comes from more why we might hold it. And certainly very few people indeed will take an idea they disagree with and actively attempt to find the circumstances under which is true.

"The undeveloped person, said Rudolf Steiner, uses his power of thinking for criticism; the developed person searches out viewpoints from which he can see how things are connected, and learns to survey causes and effects."

Albert Steffen. "Meetings with Rudolf Steiner." Dornach: Verlag Für Schöne Wissenschaften, 1961. Page 65. Translated by Reginald Ernest Raab, Erna McArthur and Virginia Brett.

Feynman's epistomology


Is science compatible with Anthroposophy? Is Anthroposophy compatible with science? I submit that this view, presented by Richard Feynman as a practicing physicist, is fully compatible with Rudolf Steiner's view. To quote from the last paragraph: "...to stand with the fundamental laws, hoping that way to get a deep understanding of the whole world, with that aspect alone, is a mistake."


Which End Is Closer To God?
"For example, at one end we have the fundamental laws of physics. ... Heat is supposed to be jiggling, and the word for a hot thing is just the word for a mass of atoms which are jiggling. But for a while, if we are talking about heat, we sometimes forget about the atoms jiggling- just as when we talk about the glacier we do not always think of the hexagonal ice and the snowflakes which originally fell. ... On, up in the hierarchy. With the water we have waves, and we have a thing like a storm, the word "storm" which represents an enormous mass of phenomena? And then we go on, and we come to words and concepts like "man", and "history", or "political expediency", and so forth, a series of concepts which we use to understand things at an ever higher level. And going on, we come to things like evil, and beauty, and hope... Which end is nearer to God, if I may use a religious metaphor, beauty and hope, or the fundamental laws? I do not think either end is nearer to God. To stand at either end, and to walk off that end of the pier only, hoping that out in that direction is the complete understanding, is a mistake. And to stand with evil and beauty and hope, or to stand with the fundamental laws, hoping that way to get a deep understanding of the whole world, with that aspect alone, is a mistake."

Richard P. Feynman, "The Character of Physical Law". Chapter 5. 1965.

Steiner's attitude towards science


Reading Rudolf Steiner carefully, I find him continually specifying the scope of validity of scientific endeavor (and its importance) while emphasizing the necessity of a complementary (and not opposing) effort from another angle. Yet his is continually accused of "science bashing", both inside and outside of the Anthroposophical movement. Those thinking themselves more generous grant him merely an "ambivalence" towards science.

am·biv·a·lence, n.
1. uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
2. Psychol. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 2003

In the following quotes I find him to be neither uncertain and vacillating about, nor harboring negative feelings towards science. He is merely stating its scope.

"Not so long ago it was still possible to believe that natural science - which is by no means unappreciated by spiritual science but is as regards to its great advances fully valued - had the means to solve all the great riddles of human existence. But those who have entered with heightened inner faculties into the achievements of modern science have been increasingly aware that what natural science brings as a response to the great questions of human existence are not answers but, on the contrary, ever new questions.

"It is neither possible nor desirable to forestall the science difficult investigations of nature, for this is necessary of modern man is to introduce anything advantageous into his daily life.

"Hence those who have come together in the Anthroposophical Society are of the opinion that in spiritual science or Anthroposophy a bond is to be created between the great advances associated with natural science and the religious life of man. If we enter into the real significance of natural science we can say that it leads to a picture of the world in which the essence of man's nature has no place. In saying this I am not expressing my own view, but what becomes clearly evident when we study scientific research with an unprejudiced mind; for only an age which - though with justice admiring scientific knowledge - has been unable to recognize its limitations could deceive itself about this. Individual scientists have long recognized certain limitations; and the speech that Du Bois-Reymond gave in Leipzig in the seventies, which ended with the admission 'ignorabimus', 'we shall never know', has become famous. This eminent scientist meant by this that however much we may investigate the mysteries of nature with the methods of natural science, we shall never ultimately be able to discover what lives in the human soul as consciousness or understand what lies at the foundation of matter. Natural science is of little use when it comes to understanding matter and consciousness, which are in a certain sense the two poles of human life. It could be said that natural science has forced man as a spiritual being out of the picture of the world that it is building up. This can be seen if we take a look at the ideas which have emerged from a scientific foundation regarding the evolution of the Earth."

Rudolf Steiner, Lecture of 16 October, 1916. GA35, in English as "Approaches to Anthroposophy", Rudolf Steiner Press, Sussex, 1992. Translated by Simon Blaxland-de Lange.

The supersensible in the world


That the supersensible world is truly supersensible and beyond the measure of all scientific instruments is evident from this following quote:

"We must not fall into the error of certain theosophical circles, and imagine that the etheric and astral bodies as consisting simply of finer substances than our present in the physical body. For that would be a materialistic conception of these higher members of man's nature. The etheric body is a force-form; it consists of active forces and not a matter. The astral or sentient body is a figure of inwardly moving, colored, luminous pictures."
Rudolf Steiner. "The Education of the Child in light of Anthroposophy." London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1965. Pages 13-14.
Translated by George and Mary Adams

Gravity and Angels


This following quote illustrates perfectly the issue of paradigm in understanding physical phenomena and science.
"What makes planets go around the sun? At the time of Kepler some people answered this problem by saying that there were angels behind them beating their wings and pushing the planets around an orbit. As you will see the answer is not very different from the truth. The only difference is that the angels sit in a different direction and their wings push inward."
(R. Feynman, Character of Physical Law, 1967)
[A planet orbits because it accelerates in the direction of the sun's gravity. As far as we know, gravity could be caused by tiny angels beating their wings.]
Rudolf Steiner was always careful to distinguish between the research of science - physical laws, causes and effects, etc. - and the paradigm by which the results are interpreted. He was essentially arguing for a paradigm shift - no facts were to be contradicted; only the results were to be reinterpreted. He and other authors could consciously make the paradigm shift - think conventionally, then consider the same facts from a different (for example Anthroposophical point of view) and even compare them.

Baby Slings


Slings for carrying babies are much in vogue among attachment parenting circles. Books such Jean Liedloff's "The Continuum Concept" have also brought the importance of the carrying babies in slings to late 20th-century audiences. I find it interesting that Rudolf Steiner also recommended this practice.

"When I was back at home again Dr Steiner advised me to put the child in its pram in the garden or an the terrace when it was warm enough, but told me not to wheel it about in the pram but to carry it in its 'pillow-bag' as one used to do in the olden days, then it would experience the same rhythm as when it was in the womb."
Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sievers
By Ilona Schubert
Temple Lodge Press, London 1991

Heaven and Hell in modern fiction


Modern fiction writers, whether novel, short story, TV, film or comic book - understand the mechanics of evil extraordinarily well. All the various ways that human beings can transgress against their higher nature is detailed with chilling accuracy. And when the occult is brought in as a plot element, the evil always "comes alive" as it were. Demons have personality, hell is interesting. Heaven, on the other hand, is boring. It is full of straight-laced fundies playing harp. It even seems as if relinquishing freedom is the only way not to sin and therefore to get into heaven. Heaven is for conformists who held to the letter of the law as given in the Bible. There really is no understanding of the sublime role of Good in the world. Good is performed mostly by people who are not inclined to question why they are conforming to the letter of the Bible. This really is a curious phenomenon.

Steiner on Education


"Vague and the general phrases - 'the harmonious development of all the powers and talents in the child,' and so forth - cannot provide a basis for a genuine art of education. Such an art of education can only be built on a real knowledge of the human being. Not that these phrases are incorrect, but that at the bottom they are useless as it would be to say of a machine that all its parts must be brought harmoniously into action. To work a machine you must approach it, not with phrases and truisms, but with real and detailed knowledge. So for the art of education it is the knowledge of the members of man's being and of their several development which is important."
"There is of course no doubt that they truly realistic art of education, such as is here indicated, will only slowly make its way. This lies, indeed, in the whole mentality of our age, which will long continue to regard the facts of the spiritual world as the vapourings of an imagination run wild, while it takes vague and altogether unreal phrases for the result of a realistic way of thinking."
Rudolf Steiner
The Education of the Child in light of Anthroposophy
London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1965. Paages 22-23.
Translated by George and Mary Adams

Steiner at a christening


"I would next like to relate what happened at the Christening of my son Christward Johannes because that too shows so much of Dr. Steiner's character. It was in our room that the ceremony was enacted in the house of Frau Wirz which is the present `Schiefer' boarding-house. We had decorated the room very beautifully with flowers and the altar stood beneath the 'Milan' Christ picture. My son wore a traditional light blue Christening gown and was in a 'carrying-cushion' of the same colour. It had been worn in our family for generations and looked very festive and splendid. To my dismay the child cried a lot during the service and afterwards Dr Steiner Said to me: 'Yes, he was hungry.' I told him that he had had his bottle just before the Christening but Dr Steiner said, 'Nevertheless he was hungry. Get him another bottle straight away.' I was a little afraid that it might not be good for him because the ward sister had told me not to give him too much to drink. But when the bottle was ready Dr Steiner took the child on his lap, sat down comfortably in the armchair and fed it himself f and the bottle was empty in no time. 'You see, he is happy now and is laughing. Give him an extra bottle from me every day.' It did the child a lot of good and he throve splendidly."
(this was approximately 1923)
Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sievers
By Ilona Schubert
Temple Lodge Press, London 1991

What is existence?


What is existence? This is, of course, and a rather fundamental question. I've been thinking about it a bit recently, after someone told me "the etheric and astral bodies don't exist, Daniel." From a certain the point of view, this is, of course, absolutely true. By definition (Anthroposophical and not Theosophical) they are invisible and unmeasurable by any scientific instrument. So it is hardly an earth shattering revelation that they don't "exist" from that point of view. Their existence can only be deduced by observing the physical. So scientifically, the etheric and astral bodies are a hypothesis for explaining phenomena observed in the physical. We observe how one face contracts of the line of the lip somewhat downward. The concept presents itself: this is the frown. We then say that the person has become unhappy with something. How do we know this? From subtle changes in the color areas that have come to our attention through sensations that have passed through the optic nerve. That is, it has been deduced from manifestations in the physical world as presented to us thought the senses. The concept "unhappy" is an idea. This idea somehow connected to the idea "frown" but is not the frown. Do we say that "unhappiness" does not exist? Some do, but most will grant its existence. So why do we say the astral body does not exist? The astral body is, among other things, the sum of a person's inner or emotional state. Feelings are nowhere visible yet we do not doubt their existence. Just because something is not directly measurable does not mean that it does not exist. So at best to it could be said to that the etheric and astral bodies are a hypothesis of dubious merit; it is difficult indeed to argue that ideas do not exist.

Steiner in Prague


"Dr. Steiner dearly loved Prague. Time and again he walked through the city and drew the attention of those accompanying him to special objects of interest. He drew particular attention to the connection of the two chapels: the Wenzel Chapel in the Cathedral and the Hradschin and the Chapel the Holy Cross in the Karlstein Castle. It gave him especial pleasure to show us in the Goldmaker's Alleyway, where the alchemists used to live in the Middle Ages and which today still exercises a peculiar charm." (pages 38-39)
Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sievers
By Ilona Schubert
Temple Lodge Press, London 1991
Translated by John M. Wood

Steiner on tour


"And what fun we had on the long train journeys! Dr. Steiner visited the other compartments many times inquiring how we all were, made jokes and encouraged us. On one occasion we arrived in Prague fairly well exhausted after an over-night journey and were received by our hosts and hostesses in the usual way. After a ceremonious greeting the latter wanted to take their guests home with them but Dr. Steiner said, 'Wait a moment, first of all we want to have a good breakfast. I invite you all for that. The eurythmists must discover what a good Bohemian breakfast of coffee in the Kipfeln [croissants] is like." So this huge party sat down in the station buffet and enjoyed a very happy and comfortable time together."

Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sievers
By Ilona Schubert
Temple Lodge Press, London 1991
Translated by John M. Wood

Steiner at the theatre


"I was at the theatre with Dr Steiner an another occasion. It was a most amusing episode. Die Fledermaus was being performed in Mannheim which we heard of while we were sitting at lunch ­rather like on the previous occasion in Stuttgart. Dr Steiner was enthusiastic about it straight away and suggested that we should all go to see it. He even started to hum some of the tunes and said, `Are you as fond of Die Fledermaus as I am?' Whereupon I answered that I did not know it, for at that time I felt myself far too superior to go to an operetta! But Dr Steiner was of the opinion that one simply has to know it - 'It is a classical piece of music.' So again there was a large party assembled that evening in the theatre and we were all very happy. The one who enjoyed himself most was probably Dr Steiner. His Viennese nature with its familiarity with and love of the Strauss waltzes came to the fore. And how well he knew his Strauss! During the intervals he prepared us for the humorous bits that were to come and I noticed that during the performance he occasionally looked our way to study our reactions."

From: "Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sievers" By Ilona Schubert

Temple Lodge Press, London 1991

Steiner as drama coach


The original Goetheanum was built not primarily as a lecture hall, but as a theatre in which to stage the Mystery Dramas and other plays (Goethe's Faust, Ibsen's Peer Gynt among others). Steiner loved theatre, and spent years as a drama critic in his "Magazin für Literatur" (one entire volume in the complete works contains just his reviews of plays that were staged in mainstream theatres in Berlin from about 1896 to about 1904 - I'm too lazy to pull it out and check the dates). When Steiner wrote his four plays (between 1909 and 1912) he was intimately involved in their staging, advising on set design and coaching the actors. Theatre remained a central part of the Anthroposophical Society to his death and beyond. The quotes below refer to the period after the end of the First World War.

"In Dornach at Christmastime the Oberufer Christmas Plays were presented - they still are to this day. At that time there were no professional actors in Dornach. Those who were allowed to take part were all amateurs. It was an established tradition for the Schuurman couple to take a part of the Angel and Devil, a fact which lead one child to ask its parents if Angel and Devil are always married to one another. This gave rise to great merriment in Dr. Frau Dr. Steiner and in all of us." (page 40)

"These plays [the Oberufer Christmas Plays], collected by Carl Julius Schroer, are written in the Austrian dialect and it was priceless to see how the different actors - mostly foreigners - wrestled with the pronunciation. Dr. Steiner articulated most of the sounds, explained the meanings of the words and often acted them himself until the players could succeed in their efforts." (page 43)

Reminiscences of Rudolf Steiner and Marie Steiner-von Sievers
By Ilona Schubert
Temple Lodge Press, London 1991
Translated by John M. Wood

"None of us will forget what a performer Rudolf Steiner himself proved to be. His Cid was shattering. Danton and Robespierre could be heard and seen as if on the streets of Paris. Unusually moving was the lapidary scene in Lessing's Faust fragment, in which the spirit of Aristotle appears." (page 250)

Meetings with Rudolf Steiner
Albert Steffen
Verlag Für Schöne Wissenschaften, Dornach 1961
Translated by Reginald Ernest Raab, Erna McArthur and Virginia Brett

Soccer in Waldorf Schools


I've looked, and Steiner does not say anything about soccer in the Waldorf schools, either for or against. Those Waldorf educators who have decided that soccer and Waldorf Education are incompatible (such as Will Crane in Spring Valley) have done so out of their own work and have their own carefully elaborated reasons. I haven't pursued the issue in sufficient depth to have formed an opinion on it myself. Soccer is played in a large number of Waldorf schools, especially in the US. It is also not played in a number of Waldorf schools for various reasons, including the belief that Steiner spoke against it. Other reasons I have heard include a general aversion to competitive sports (which seems to originate more a cultural bias of one portion of the '60s counterculture than from a carefully examined pedagogical basis) and the opinion that engaging the feet instead of the hands would have negative pedagogical implications.

The German word "Geisteswissenschaft" (created by compounding the word "Geist" - meaning "spirit" - with "Wissenschaft" meaning "science/research/scholarship") is not one that Steiner made up. It is in general use in German, but primarily in one specific phrase: "in der Geisteswissenschaft tätig sein" where it means, "to work in research". "Wissenschaft" is built off the German verb "wissen" to know. The word "Wissenschaft" is actually also an obscure English word, borrowed from the German, and in English means "the systematic pursuit of knowledge, learning, and scholarship (especially as contrasted with its application)" according to the New Oxford Dictionary of English, 2002 edition. This really gets at the nuances of the word in German, even if every German-English dictionary lists the first meaning as "science". My Langescheit's German-English dictionary also lists "research" as a secondary meaning, along with "scholarship" and "academia". So "Wissenschaft", the first part of the compound, indicates the attempt to systematize knowledge. This is modified by appending "Geistes" (translated "spirit") to make "systematized knowledge of or research into the spirit". "Wissenschaft" can also be modified by other nouns, such as "Natur" (nature) where it means "natural science" or "systematized knowledge of or research into the natural world". In many cases where the translation "spiritual science" is used, I tend to think "systematic knowledge of the spirit" would be better.

Fly-By critics


Some time ago when I thought the MBA would be useful, I took a graduate course on Organizational Management. One of the case studies was the M&M Mars Corporation run by two billionaire brothers whose family had started the Mars confectionery company. These Mars brothers were used as an example of how not to manage. Their middle managers had found a name for their management style, and called it Fly-By Management. The Mars brothers would fly in from corporate headquarters, spend a single morning or afternoon poking around, upbraid everyone for incompetence, tell everyone how horrible everything was and what needed fixing, and then fly off again. This struck the middle managers as something like a seagull that would fly in, crap, and fly off again, hence the name. For future business managers there were obvious lessons in leadership and morale, as well as responsibility and follow-through.

In relating this I am reminded of certain "critics" of Anthroposophy who swoop in to anthroposophical mail lists, crap all over, and fly off again. The style is similar, and the results are likely to be the same: a bunch of annoyed people who are wondering: what's the point?

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