"The Character of Occult Science" Parsed 7foldedly

Oct. 2010

{The text within [brackets] is mine; the rest is Steiner's, through the translator. -- RM}

[As a continuation of my struggles with the 7fold dialectic, I have undertaken to parse this, the introductory chapter of Steiner's most comprehensive and basic book "An Outline of Occult Science", choosing this chapter mainly because of its fundamental nature -- but again, also because it is not too very long.

[I was looking for the sevenfolded dialectical rhythm that Bondarev has declared to be the natural development of a thinking that is carried through consistently. And, I have to confess, that I did not find here that rhythm as easily and as obviously as I seemed to with the speeches of the Guardians and with the last chapter from the book *Theosophy*. This chapter from *OS* would not fall neatly and easily into sevenfolded movements; it just flat refused to do it. For a while, the 7fold model seemed to break down; it seemed that Steiner's writing in this chapter did not fit into the pattern that Bondarev described. Nevertheless, after many repeated readings, I finally came to see that 7folded pattern emerge; not in a simple, straightforward way, but in a many-branched, tangled, complicated way. Still it is "there" to be seen, through the requisite effort.

[To me, this chapter seems to fall into two major parts: the first concerns the term and the concept of *occult science* itself, its justification as a "science" in the modern sense; the second concerns the development of the occult scientist himself, his inner changes and the method of his training. These two parts are brought together and combined in the final, short, emphatic, and startling final paragraph.

[The first part seems to be comprised of only one "cycle", but a cycle of three branches. The one "thesis" is opposed by three "antitheses", each flowing into its own branch of argumentation. One branch ends abruptly, but the other two streams into sub-branches which themselves provide the "elements" according to the pattern posited by Bondarev. Thus, this cycle is 7folded, but not in just one, but several, parallel (as it were) routes.

[The second main part seems (to me, after consideration) to be just as, or even more complicated, but still 7folded. The first cycle (i.e. the second of the whole chapter) itself divides into parallel branches, which then converge again, but *appear* to end short of completion. Then follow three more cycles, which are comparatively simply 7folded. But then, surprisingly, the first cycle of this part (i.e. the second cycle of the chapter) is resumed and completed in the final paragraph, which also concludes and completes the second main part, indeed the whole chapter.]

[In sum, I see two parts overall:

[part 1]
[Cycle 1: thesis: the term occult science
3 antitheses, 3 branches: a, b, c
1.2c goes no further
1.xb (x=2,3,4,5,6,7)
1.2a which itself branches into
a 7folded sub-cycle "aa" in a footnote;
also into three sub-streams
1.xaz (x=2,3,4,5,6,7; z=b,c,d)

[part 2: the soul development of the occult scientist]
[Cycle 2: thesis: two basic thoughts
and five antitheses 2.2x (x=a,b,c,d,e)
followed by four syntheses 2.3x (x=a,b,c,d)
elements 2.3a and 2.3b being 7folded sub-cycles;
cycle converging and apparently ending with 2.4
[Cycles 3,4 5: theses: strength, proof, study
(each *relatively* simply 7folded)
[Concluding paragraph: finishing Cycle 2 (2.5, 2.6, 2.7) and summing the second "part", and even the whole chapter]

* * *

Book: Occult Science (1972): The Character of Occult Science [from the eLib]

An Outline of Occult Science


[Cycle 1]

[1.1 -- "Thesis", theme: the term *occult science*:]

OCCULT science, an ancient term, is used for the contents of this book.

[1.2 -- The first, general "antithesis": various kinds of "contrariness":]

This term can arouse in various individuals of the present day feelings of the most contrary character.

[1.2a -- One kind of contrariness: false rejection (here begins what I call a *branch*; in this case the "a" branch):]

For many, it possesses something repellent; it arouses derision, pitying smiles, perhaps contempt. These people imagine that the kind of thinking thus designated can only be based upon idle, fantastic dreaming, that behind such "alleged" science there can lurk only the impulse to renew all sorts of superstitions that are properly avoided by those who understand "true scientific methods" and "pure intellectual endeavor."

[1.2b -- Another kind of contrariness: false acceptance:]

The effect of this term upon others is to cause them to think that what is meant by it must bring them something that cannot be acquired in any other way and to which, according to their nature, they are attracted by a deep, inner longing for knowledge, or by the soul's sublimated curiosity.

[Note: It is unclear to me, within this preceding sentence, what is meant by *any other way*. "Other" than what "way"? -- Another translation has: "Others are differently affected. They feel that what is signified by this term will bring them something unattainable in any other way, something to which they are drawn - according to their disposition - by a deep inner longing for knowledge or a refined curiosity of soul." -- The German has: "Auf andere wirkt das Wort so, als ob ihnen das damit Gemeinte etwas bringen müsse, was auf keinem anderen Wege zu erlangen ist und zu dem sie, je nach ihrer Veranlagung, tief innerliche Erkenntnissehnsucht oder seelisch verfeinerte Neugierde hinzieht." -- The key phrase here is *auf keinem anderen Wege*, meaning, literally, *in no other way*. So, the obscurity of the meaning seems not to be due to a defect in the translation. Therefore, I look forward in Steiner's text for a clarification. If the subsequent discussion (criticizing those for whom "the term, occult science, has a magical sound because it seems to satisfy their fatal passion for knowledge of an 'unknown', of a mysterious, even of an obscure something that is not to be acquired in a natural way") is a follow-up to, a commentary on, this immediately preceding sentence, then, apparently, the "way" referenced is meant to be "other" than "dreaming" and/or "superstition". The alternative interpretation would be that the "other way" is "true scientific methods" and/or "pure intellectual endeavor", as mentioned in the sentence immediately preceding the one under consideration here. But this interpretation would imply that this second kind of contrariness would not be very "other" than the first. The whole subsequent context seems to require that this second kind of contrariness is a false acceptance based on a non-scientific attitude. -- Therefore, I adopt my first interpretation, that this "no other way" is "dreaming" and/or "superstition". And so, we apparently have a second branch of the antithesis, a branch I call the "b" branch.]

[1.2c -- More antitheses: a general reference to myriad other kinds of contrariness:]

In between these sharply contrasting opinions there exists every possible kind of intermediate stage of conditional rejection or acceptance of what this or that person imagines when he hears the term, "occult science."

[1.3b -- A continuation, a "synthesis" of the "b" antithesis and the thesis: an evaluation of the indicated false defense of occult science:]

- It is not to be denied that for many the term, occult science, has a magical sound because it seems to satisfy their fatal passion for knowledge of an "unknown," of a mysterious, even of an obscure something that is not to be acquired in a natural way. For many people do not wish to satisfy the deepest longings of their souls by means of something that can be clearly understood. Their convictions lead them to conclude that besides what can be known in the world there must be something that defies cognition. With extraordinary absurdity, which they do not observe, they reject, in regard to the deepest longing for knowledge [*die tiefsten Erkenntnissehnsuchten*], all that "is known" and only wish to give their approval to something that cannot be said to be known by means of ordinary research.

[1.4b -- Here the "b" branch advances to Bondarev's fourth stage: the true proponent of occult science must recognize (behold) the truth about the false defenders of occult science:]

He who speaks of "occult science" will do well to keep in mind the fact that he is confronted by misunderstandings caused by just such defenders of a science of this kind - defenders who are striving, in fact, not for knowledge, but for its antithesis. [*von Verteidigern, die eigentlich nicht ein Wissen, sondern das Gegenteil {contrary, reverse} davon anstreben*.]

[1.5b -- And now the "b" branch moves forward to the stage of "perceiving" the archetypal Idea behind this rejection of the unscientific acceptance of the "occult, and thus points even to the intent behind the whole book (*OS*):]

This work is intended for readers who will not permit their impartiality to be taken away from them just because a word may arouse prejudice through various circumstances. It is not here a question of knowledge which, in any respect, can be considered to be "secret" and therefore only accessible to certain people through some special favor of fate.

[1.6b -- Further, the "b" branch proceeds to an "individualization" of this Idea: the example of Goethe:]

We shall do justice to the use of the term, occult science, employed here, if we consider what Goethe has in mind when he speaks of the "revealed secrets" in the phenomena of the universe.

[1.7b -- The "all-unity", the upshot of this "b" branch: what is occult is merely the non- sensory:]

What remains "secret" - unrevealed - in these phenomena when grasped only by means of the senses and the intellect bound up with them will be considered as the content of a supersensible mode of knowledge.1

[Parenthetical cycle 1.2aa -- A footnote in later editions refers back to the "a" antithesis; I call this the "aa" sub-cycle, which is itself 7folded.]

[1.2aa.1 -- The "thesis" element of this sub- cycle . . . .]

It has happened that the term "occult science," as used by the author in earlier editions of this book,

[1.2aa.2 -- . . . . is followed by the "antithesis" element of the sub-cycle:]

has been rejected for the reason that a science cannot be "something hidden."

[1.2aa.3 -- And the "synthesis", on consideration of those two:]

That would be correct if the matter were meant in this way.

[1.2aa.4 -- But "behold":]

But such is not the case.

[1.2aa.5 -- The archetypal Idea of "occult science" implies that it is not "hidden" in *that* sense: {This whole discussion naturally makes more sense in the original German than in the translation, for Steiner was writing in real German, not quasi-Latin as in the English translation. The crucial German term under consideration is *Geheimwissenschaft*, not *occult science*. *Geheim* means, literally, *secret* or *hidden*.}]

The science of nature cannot be called a "natural" science in the sense that it belongs by "nature" to everyone, nor does the author consider occult science as a "hidden" science, but one that has to do with the unrevealed, the concealed, in the phenomena of the world for ordinary methods of cognition.

[1.2aa.6 -- The particularized application of that Idea to the objection under consideration: {Again, this is more understandable in the German: ". . . . eine Wissenschaft von dem «Geheimen», von dem «offenbaren Geheimnis»". Literally, to my limited understanding of German: ". . . . a science of the "secrets', of the "revealed mysteries'.}]

It is a science of the "mysteries," of the "revealed secrets."

[1.2aa.7 -- The upshot of the sub- cycle/footnote: the essential thing is to seek (occult) knowledge (*Erkenntnisse*) by the "proper" methods:]

This science, however, should not be a secret for anyone who seeks knowledge of it by the proper methods.

[The main text resumes.]

[Branch 1.xab -- a continuation, another branch, of the "1.2a" antithesis (false rejection of occult science as allegedly being unscientific), a "xab" branch:]

[1.2ab -- Theme, an antithesis to "1.1": some consider science to deal only with the sensory:]

- What is meant here by "Occult Science" does not constitute science for anyone who only considers "scientific" what is revealed through the senses and the intellect serving them.

[1.3ab -- This limitation is not objectively justified; the synthesis of the two preceding elements (1.1 and 1.2a/ab) is that the essence of science is the soul-activity, not the subject-matter:]

If, however, such a person wishes to understand himself, he must acknowledge that he rejects occult science, not from well-substantiated insight, but from a mandate arising from his own personal feelings. In order to understand this, it is only necessary to consider how science comes into existence and what significance it has in human life. The origin of science, in its essential nature, is not recognized by means of the subject matter it is dealing with, but by means of the human soul-activity arising in scientific endeavor. We must consider the attitude of the soul when it elaborates science. If we acquire the habit of exercising this kind of activity only when we are concerned with the manifestation of the senses, we might easily be led to the opinion that this sense-manifestation is the essential thing, and we do not become aware that a certain attitude of the human soul has been employed only in regard to the manifestation of the senses.

[1.4ab -- Behold the crux of the matter: this putative limitation can be overcome in practice, through application of real scientific *activity*:]

It is possible, however, to rise above this arbitrary self-limitation and, apart from special application, consider the characteristics of scientific activity. This is the basis for our designating as "scientific" the knowledge of a non-sensory world-content.

[1.5ab -- The archetypal Idea here: occult science treats the non-sensory as natural science treats the sensory:]

The human power of thought wishes to occupy itself with this latter world-content just as it occupies itself, in the other case, with the world-content of natural science. Occult science desires to free the natural-scientific method and its principle of research from their special application that limits them, in their own sphere, to the relationship and process of sensory facts, but, at the same time, it wants to retain their way of thinking and other characteristics. It desires to speak about the non-sensory in the same way natural science speaks about the sensory. While natural science remains within the sense world with this method of research and way of thinking, occult science wishes to consider the employment of mental activity upon nature as a kind of self-education of the soul and to apply what it has thus acquired to the realms of the non-sensory. Its method does not speak about the sense phenomena as such, but speaks about the non-sensory world- content in the way the scientist talks about the content of the sensory world. It retains the mental attitude of the natural-scientific method; that is to say, it holds fast to just the thing that makes natural research a science. For that reason it may call itself a science.

[1.6ab -- A particular implication of this Idea in one's life: the significance of science is the soul-process involved and the concomitant development of the soul:]

When we consider the significance of natural science in human life, we shall find that this significance cannot be exhausted by acquiring a knowledge of nature, since this knowledge can never lead to anything but an experiencing of what the human soul itself is not. The soul- element does not live in what man knows about nature, but in the process of acquiring Knowledge. The soul experiences itself in its occupation with nature. What it vitally achieves in this activity is something besides the knowledge of nature itself: it is self- development experienced in acquiring knowledge of nature.

[1.7ab -- The upshot of the preceding discussion (of this branch or branch): the overall attitude of the occult scientist:]

Occult science desires to employ the results of this self-development in realms that lie beyond mere nature. The occult scientist has no desire to undervalue natural science; on the contrary, he desires to acknowledge it even more than the natural scientist himself. He knows that, without the exactness of the mode of thinking of natural science, he cannot establish a science. Yet he knows also that after this exactness has been acquired through genuine penetration into the spirit of natural-scientific thinking, it can be retained through the force of the soul for other fields.

[Branch 1.xac -- a third branch of the 1.2a antithesis (the objection that occult science is unscientific); I call it the "ac" branch:]

[1.2ac -- Another continuation of the antithesis 1.2a; this theme: the proposition that science requires the guidance of natural-sensory phenomena:]

Something, however, arises here that may cause misgivings. In studying nature, the soul is guided by the object under consideration to a much greater degree than is the case when non- sensory world contents are studied. In the latter study, the soul must possess to a much greater degree, from purely inner impulses, the ability to hold fast to the scientific mode of thinking. Since many people believe, unconsciously, that this can be done only through the guidance of natural phenomena, they are inclined, through a dogmatic declaration, to make their decisions accordingly; as soon as this guidance is abandoned, the soul gropes in a void with its scientific method.

[1.3ac -- Steiner's answer to the thesis and antithesis considered together (1.1 and 1.2ac): this objection arises through weak scientific practices:]

Such people have not become conscious of the special character of this method. They base their judgment for the most part upon errors that must arise if the scientific attitude is not sufficiently strengthened by observation of natural phenomena and, in spite of this, the soul attempts a consideration of the non-sensory regions of the world.

[1.4ac -- Behold the "self-evident": that there does exist much unscientific talk about the non- sensory:]

It is self-evident that in such cases there arises much unscientific talk about non-sensory world contents.

[1.5ac -- The archetype of such failed attempts at occult science:]

Not, however, because such talk, in its essence, is incapable of being scientific, but because, in such an instance, scientific self-education in the observation of nature has been neglected.

[1.6ac -- Individualization of this general principle: how the individual occult scientist ("whoever") deals with such failures, of which there are manifold examples (particular instances):]

Whoever wishes to speak about occult science must certainly, in connection with what has just been said, be fully awake in regard to all the vagaries that arise when, without the scientific attitude, something is determined concerning the revealed mysteries of the world. It would, however, be of no avail if, at the very beginning of an occult-scientific presentation, we were to speak of all kinds of aberrations, which in the souls of prejudiced persons discredit all research in this direction, because they conclude, from the presence of really quite numerous aberrations, that the entire endeavor is unjustified. Since, however, in the case of scientists, or scientifically minded critics, the rejection of occult science rests in most instances solely upon the above mentioned dogmatic declaration, and the reference to the aberrations is only an often unconscious pretext, a discussion with such opponents will be fruitless. Nothing, indeed, hinders them from making the certainly quite justifiable objection that, at the very outset, there is nothing that can definitely determine whether the person who believes others to be in error, himself possesses the above characterized firm foundation.

[1.7ac -- The upshot: what is required of the occult scientist for the avoidance of such aberrations and for the presentation of genuine occult science -- real science is open to testing and supported only by reason and facts:]

Therefore, the person striving to present occult science can simply offer what in his estimation he has a right to say. The judgment concerning his justification can only be formed by other persons; indeed, only by those who, avoiding all dogmatic declarations, are able to enter into the nature of his communications concerning the revealed mysteries of cosmic events. To be sure, he will be obliged to show the relationship between his presentations and other achievements in the field of knowledge and life; he will have to show what oppositions are possible and to what degree the direct, external, sensory reality of life verifies his observations. He should, however, never attempt to present his subject in a way that produces its effect by means of his art of persuasion instead of through its content.

[Branch 1.xad -- Another branch ("d") of the discussion growing from the 1.2a antithesis]

[1.2ad -- Theme: another objection, that occult science does not give "proof":]

The following objection is often heard in regard to the statements of occult science: "These latter do not offer proof; they merely assert this or that and say that occult science ascertains this."

[1.3ad -- Steiner's answer, the "sythesis" of thesis 1.1 and antithesis 1.2a/ad: the enhanced soul-abilities do in fact encounter non-sensory facts:]

The following exposition will be misjudged if it is thought that any part of it has been presented in this sense. Our endeavor here is to allow the capacity of soul unfolded through a knowledge of nature to evolve further, as far as its own nature will allow, and then call attention to the fact that in such development the soul encounters supersensible facts. It is assumed that every reader who is able to enter into what has been presented will necessarily run up against these facts.

[1.4ad -- But look: there is a difference between sensory and non-sensory facts:]

A difference, however, is encountered with respect to purely natural scientific observation the moment we enter the realm of spiritual science.

[1.5ad -- The archetype of this difference is that occult science brings soul activity into the forefront, even requires that this be so:]

In natural science, the facts present themselves in the field of the sense world; the exponent of natural science considers the activity of the soul as something that recedes into the background in the face of the relationships and the course of sensory facts. The exponent of spiritual science must place his soul activity into the foreground; for the reader only arrives at the facts if he makes this activity of the soul his own in the right way. These facts are not present for human perception without the activity of the soul as they are - although uncomprehended - in natural science; they enter into human perception only by means of soul activity.

[1.6ad -- Individualization of this archetype: the individual exponent reaches the individual student thusly:]

The exponent of spiritual science therefore presumes that the reader is seeking facts mutually with him. His exposition will be given in the form of a narration describing how these facts were discovered, and in the manner of his narration not personal caprice but scientific thinking trained by natural science will prevail. It will also be necessary, therefore, to speak of the means by which a consideration of the non-sensory, of the supersensible, is attained.

[1.7ad -- The upshot: what "proof" is in occult science:]

- Anyone who occupies himself with an exposition of occult science will soon see that through it concepts and ideas are acquired that previously he did not possess. Thus he also acquires new thoughts concerning his previous conception of the nature of "proof." He learns that for an exposition of natural science, "proof" is something that is brought to it, as it were, from without. In spiritual-scientific thinking, however, the activity, which in natural- scientific thinking the soul employs for proof, lies already in the search for facts. These facts cannot be discovered if the path to them is itself not already a proof. [*Man kann diese (Tatsachen) nicht finden, wenn nicht der Weg zu ihnen schon ein beweisender ist.*] Whoever really travels this path [*Wer diesen Weg wirklich durchschreitet . . . .*] has already experienced the proving in the process: nothing can be accomplished by means of a proof applied from without. The fact that this is not recognized in the character of occult science calls forth many misunderstandings.

[Cycle 2 -- The whole discussion of this chapter now takes a major turn, from the justification of "occult science" as a true science, to explanations of the development of the occult scientist himself.]

[2.1 -- The new thesis -- its theme: two essential premises of occult science:]

The whole of occult science must spring from two thoughts that can take root in every human soul. For the occult scientist, as he is meant here, these two thoughts express facts that can be experienced if we use the right means.

[2.2-- A preview of the antitheses:]

For many people these thoughts signify extremely controversial statements about which there may be wide differences of opinion; they may even be "proved" to be impossible.

[2.1 -- The exposition of the thesis resumes:]

These two thoughts are the following. First, behind the "visible" there exists an invisible world, concealed at the outset from the senses and the thinking bound up with the senses; and second, it is possible for man, through the development of capacities slumbering within him, to penetrate into this hidden world.

[Comment: These premises, the "thoughts", are not logically independent. Obviously, the second could be true only if the first were true. Therefore, the statement of the first thought makes explicit a logical implication of the second thought.]

[2.2 continues -- Four antitheses branch from the general antithesis 2.2: denials (four in particular {"a","b","c", and "d"} -- and one in general {"e"}) of the foregoing basic premises:]

[2.2a -- The objection that there is no non- sensory world, that the questions arising in that world can be solved out of that world itself:]

One person maintains that there is no such hidden world, that the world perceived by means of the human senses is the only one, that its riddles can be solved out of itself, and that, although the human being at present is still far from being able to answer all the questions of existence, a time will surely come when sense experience and the science based upon it will be able to give the answers.

[2.2b -- The objection that the inherent limits to human knowledge will not allow cognition of that hidden world, which might exist:]

Others state that we must not maintain there is no hidden world behind the visible, yet the human powers of cognition are unable to penetrate into it. They have limits that cannot be overstepped. Let those who need "faith" take refuge in a world of that kind: a true science, which is based upon assured facts, cannot concern itself with such a world.

[2.2c -- Another objection: that the attempt to gain *knowledge* of the hidden world is presumptuous:]

There is a third group that considers it presumptuous if a man, through his cognitive activity, desires to penetrate into a realm about which he is to renounce all "knowledge" and be content with "faith." The adherents of this opinion consider it wrong for the weak human being to want to penetrate into a world that is supposed to belong to the religious life alone.

[2.2d -- A fourth objection: that only personal opinion, not objective knowledge, of the hidden world is possible:]

It is also maintained that a common knowledge of the facts of the sense world is possible for everyone, but that in respect of supersensible facts it is only a matter of the personal opinion of the individual, and that no one should speak of a generally valid certainty in these matters.

[2.2e -- Just a note that many other objections exist:]

Others maintain still other things. [in response to the two premises]

[2.3a -- Steiner's answer, "synthesizing" the 2.1 thesis and the 2.2a antithesis: that the riddles in the sensory world cannot be solved in that world itself; they require answers from another world:]

[This "element" itself can be seen as a 7folded sub-cycle comprised of seven dialectical sub- elements.]

[2.3a.1 -- *These* (of the sub-cycle 2.3a):]

It can become clear that the observation of the visible world presents riddles that can never be solved out of the facts of that world themselves. They will never be solved in this way, although the science concerned with these facts may have advanced as far as is possible. For the visible facts, through their very inner nature, point clearly to a hidden world.

[2.3a.2 -- *Antithese*]

Whoever does not discern this . . . .

[2.3a.3 -- *Synthese*]

. . . . closes his mind to the riddles that spring up everywhere out of the facts of the sense world. He refuses to perceive certain questions and riddles; he, therefore, thinks that all questions may be answered by means of the sensory facts.

[2.3a.4 -- *Anschauung* (beholding):]

The questions he wishes to propound can indeed all be answered by means of the facts that he expects will be discovered in the future. This may be readily admitted.

[2.3a.5 -- *Wahrnehmung der Idee* (perceiving of the archetypal, Platonic Idea):]

But why should a person wait for answers to certain things who does not ask any questions?

[2.3a.6 -- *Individuallsierung*]

Whoever strives for an occult science merely says that for him these questions are self evident and that they must be recognized as a fully justified expression of the human soul.

[2.3a.7 -- *Einheit des Individuelien und des Allgemeinen* (unity of the individual and the general):]

Science cannot be pressed into limits by forbidding the human being to ask unbiased questions.

[2.3b -- Steiner's answer to the 2.2b antithesis: there are no inherent limits to human cognition:]

[Again, this "element" can be seen as a 7folded sub-cycle, if we presume that the sub-thesis 2.3b.1 is implicit, already stated in the thesis 2.1 of the larger cycle.]

[2.3b.2 -- The sub-antithesis, a re-statement of the antithesis under consideration, 2.2b:]

The opinion that there are limits to human cognition that cannot be overstepped, compelling man to stop short before an invisible world, . . .

[2.3b.3 -- The sub-synthesis: Steiner admits a partial justification of the antithesis:]

. . . . must be replied to by saying that there can be no doubt about the impossibility of finding access to the invisible world with the kind of cognition referred to here. Whoever considers that form of cognition to be the only possible one cannot come to any other opinion than that the human being is denied access to a possibly existent higher world.

[2.3b.4 -- But the crux of the matter is that if there were another kind of cognition, it might allow knowledge of a non-sensory world; the opposite premise implies the opposite conclusion:]

Yet the following may also be stated. If it is possible to develop another kind of cognition, this then may well lead into the supersensible world. If this kind of cognition is considered to be impossible, then we reach a point of view from which all talk about a supersensible world appears as pure nonsense.

[2.3b.5 -- The Idea behind the 2.3b synthesis is that the doctrine of the necessary limits to cognition rests merely on the lack of experience on the part of the advocate of that doctrine:]

From an impartial viewpoint, however, the only reason for such an opinion [that "this kind of cognition is considered to be impossible"] can be the fact that the person holding it has no knowledge of this other kind of cognition.

[2.3b.6 -- This Idea applied in this case shows that this critic's lack of knowledge does not justify his making his own lack into a general necessity for everyone:]

Yet how can a person pass judgment upon something about which he himself admits his ignorance? Unprejudiced thinking must hold to the premise that a person should speak only of what he knows and should not make statements about something he does not know. Such thinking can only speak of the right that a person has to communicate what he himself has experienced, but it cannot speak of the right that somebody declare impossible what he does not know or does not wish to know.

[2.3b.7 -- The upshot of this sub-cycle: that someone's lack of knowledge does not give him the justification to deny to everyone the possibility of such knowledge:]

We cannot deny anyone the right to ignore the supersensible, but there can never be any good reason for him to declare himself an authority, not only on what he himself can know, but also on all that a man can not know.

[2.3c -- Steiner's answer to the charge of presumptuousness: occult science is not presumptuous; on the contrary, not to strive for this kind of science is a shirking of cosmic duty:]

In the case of those who declare that it is presumptuous to penetrate into the domain of the supersensible an occult-scientific exposition has to call attention to the fact that this can be done, and that it is a transgression against the faculties bestowed upon man if we allow them to stagnate, instead of developing and making use of them.

[2.3d -- Steiner's answer to the charge that occult science is only a matter of personal opinion: genuine occult science arrives at consistent results:]

Whoever thinks, however, that the views concerning the supersensible world must belong entirely to personal opinion and feeling denies what is common to all human beings. It is certainly true that the insight into these things must be acquired by each person for himself, but it is also a fact that all human beings who go far enough arrive, not at different opinions about these things, but at the same opinion. Differences of opinion exist only as long as human beings wish to approach the highest truths, not by a scientifically assured path, but by way of personal caprice. It must again be admitted, however, that only that person is able to acknowledge the correctness of the path of occult science who is willing to familiarize himself with its characteristics.

[2.4 -- The "beholding" element of the second cycle (of the whole chapter): the two basic premises are grasped by "recognition", "assuming", "divining", "consciousness", "feeling":]

At the proper moment, every human being can find the way to occult science who recognizes, or even merely assumes or divines, out of the manifest world, the existence of a hidden world and who, out of the consciousness that the powers of cognition are capable of development, is driven to the feeling that the concealed is able to reveal itself to him.

[Now, apparently, this second cycle of the chapter stops short of completion; a new theme appears for consideration; the theme of the two premises is replaced by the theme of the strengthening of life forces:]

[3.1 -- The thesis: the prospect of "victory" over weakness in life:]

To a person who has been led to occult science by means of these soul experiences there opens up not only the prospect of finding the answer to certain questions springing from his craving for knowledge, but also the quite different prospect of becoming the victor over all that hampers and weakens life.

[3.2 -- The opposing principle: denial of the supersensible weakens life forces:]

It signifies, in a certain higher sense, a weakening of life, indeed a death of the soul, when a human being sees himself forced to turn away from the supersensible, or to deny it. Indeed, under certain conditions it leads to despair when a man loses hope of having the hidden revealed to him.

[3.3 -- Synthesis: the implications of the foregoing two contentions, considered together:]

This death and despair in their manifold forms are, at the same time, inner soul opponents of occult-scientific striving. They appear when the inner force of the human being dwindles. Then all force of life must be introduced from without if such a person is to get possession of any life force at all. He then perceives the things, beings, and events that appear before his senses; he analyses these with his intellect. They give him pleasure and pain, they drive him to the actions of which he is capable. He may carry on in this way for a while yet at some time he must reach a point when he inwardly dies. For what can be drawn from the world in this way becomes exhausted.

[3.4 -- The crux of the matter: something that is hidden in the "depths of things":]

This is not a statement derived from the personal experience of one individual, but the result of an unbiased consideration of all human life. What guards against this exhaustion is the concealed something that rests within the depths of things. If the power to descend into these depths, in order to draw up ever new life-force, dies away within the human being, then finally also the outer aspect of things no longer proves conducive to life.

[3.5 -- The big picture, the Idea: the individual's misfortune in the denial of occult science is a loss for the whole world:]

This question by no means concerns only the individual human being, only his personal welfare and misfortune. Precisely through true occult-scientific observations man arrives at the certainty that, from a higher standpoint, the welfare and misfortune of the individual is intimately bound up with the welfare or misfortune of the whole world. The human being comes to understand that he injures the whole universe and all its beings by not developing his forces in the proper way. If he lays waste his life by losing the relationship with the supersensible, he not only destroys something in his own inner being - the decaying of which can lead him finally to despair - but because of his weakness he creates a hindrance to the evolution of the whole world in which he lives.

[3.6 -- This general principle manifests in the deep feelings in the individual human soul:]

The human being can deceive himself. He can yield to the belief that there is no hidden world, that what appears to his senses and his intellect contains everything that can possibly exist. But this deception is only possible, not for the deeper, but for the surface consciousness. Feeling and desire do not submit to this deceptive belief. In one way or another, they will always crave for a concealed something, and if this is withdrawn from them, they force the human being into doubt, into a feeling of insecurity of life, indeed, into despair. A cognition that reveals the hidden is capable of overcoming all hopelessness, all insecurity, all despair, in fact all that weakens life and makes it incapable of the service required of him in the cosmos.

[3.7 -- The upshot, driving the point home: spiritual scientific knowledge strengthens the soul:]

This is the beautiful fruit of the knowledge of spiritual science that it gives strength and firmness to life, and not alone gratification to the passion for knowledge. The source from which this knowledge draws its power to work and its trust in life is inexhaustible. No one who has once really approached this source will, by repeatedly taking refuge in it, go away unstrengthened.

[Cycle 4 -- A new theme: concerning the accusation that occult science estranges the practitioner from life:]

[4.1 -- The thesis is implicit: "this knowledge", i.e. occult science, is possible and exists.]

[4.2 -- The antithesis: the charge of "unhealthiness":]

There are people who wish to hear nothing about this knowledge because they see something unhealthy in what has just been said.

[4.3 -- The synthesis of thesis 4.1 and antithesis 4.2: the partial justification of the charge of unhealthiness:]

Such people are quite right in regard to the superficial and external side of life. They do not wish to see stunted what life offers in its so-called reality. They consider it weakness when a person turns away from reality and seeks his salvation in a hidden world that to them appears as a fantastic, imaginary one.

[4.4 -- The crux of the matter: this justification is *only* partial; it is a half- truth:]

If, in our spiritual scientific striving, we are not to fall into an unhealthy dreaminess and weakness, we must acknowledge the partial justification of such objections. For they rest upon a healthy judgment that leads, not to a whole, but only to a half-truth through the very fact that it does not penetrate into the depth of things, but remains on the surface.

[4.5 -- The general principle at work here: the charge of unhealthiness is serious and would be fatal; it is not to be met in an abstract way:]

Were the striving for supersensible knowledge likely to weaken life and to estrange men from true reality, then such objections would certainly be strong enough to remove the foundation from under this spiritual trend. Also concerning such points of view, spiritual- scientific endeavors would not take the right path if they wished to "defend" themselves in the usual sense of the word.

[4.6 -- That charge is to be met rather by the factual, experiential examples of the individual, life-healthy occult scientists themselves:]

Here also they can only speak out of their own merit, recognizable to every unprejudiced person, when they make evident how they increase the vital force and strength in those who familiarize themselves with them in the right way.

[4.7 -- The upshot, the implication of this cycle:]

These endeavors cannot turn man into a person estranged from the world, into a dreamer; they give him strength from the sources of life out of which his spirit and soul have sprung.

[Cycle 5 -- Concerning the objection that the occult student is presented with information the likes of which he has never experienced --]

[5.1 -- Again, the thesis is implicit: occult science exists as a real science.]

[5.2 -- This antithesis consists of the objection that in the approach (as presented in this book) to occult science the reader is given information the likes of which he likely has not and does not experience himself:]

Many a man encounters still other intellectual obstacles when he approaches the endeavors of occult science. For it is fundamentally true that the reader finds in the presentation of occult science a description of soul experiences through the pursuit of which he can approach the supersensible world-content. But in practice this must present itself as a kind of ideal. The reader must at first absorb a comparatively large number of supersensible experiences in the form of communications, experiences that he, however, has not yet passed through himself.

[5.3 -- The resolution of the preceding conflict: this occult info is not given as dogma, but as a spark. (This chapter now being parsed is the introduction to the whole book, and here Steiner's discussion points to what is to follow, and to why it follows as it does.):]

This cannot be otherwise and will also be the case with this book. The author will describe what he believes he knows about the nature of man, about his conduct between birth and death, and in his disembodied state in the spiritual world; in addition, the evolution of the earth and of mankind will be described. Thus it might appear as though a certain amount of alleged knowledge were presented in the form of dogmas for which belief based on authority were demanded. This is not the case. What can be known of the supersensible world-content is present in him who presents the material as a living content of the soul, and if someone becomes acquainted with this soul-content, this then enkindles in his own soul the impulses that lead to the corresponding supersensible facts.

[5.4 -- The crux of the matter: when reading this info one is really living *in* the supersensible facts described:]

While reading the communications concerning spiritual-scientific knowledge, we live in a quite different manner than we do while reading those concerning external facts. If we read communications from the outer sense world, we are reading about them. But if we read communications about supersensible facts in the right way, we are living into the stream of spiritual existence. In absorbing the results we, at the same time, enter upon our own inner path to them. It is true that what is meant here is often not at all observed by the reader. Entrance into the spiritual world is imagined in a way too similar to an experience of the senses; therefore, what is experienced when reading about this world is considered to be much too much of the nature of thought. But if we have truly absorbed these thoughts we are already within this world and have only to become quite clear about the fact that we have already experienced, unnoticed, what we thought we had received merely as an intellectual communication.

[5.5 -- The archetypal Idea behind this principle: such communications are integral and necessary to the proper path of knowledge:]

Complete clarity concerning the real nature of what has been experienced will be gained in carrying out in practice what is described, in the second and last part of this book, as the "path" [*Weg*] to supersensible knowledge. It might easily be thought that the opposite would be the right way; that this path should be described first. That is not the case. For anyone who only carries out "exercises" in order to enter the supersensible world, without directing the attention of his soul to definite facts concerning it, that world remains an indefinite, confused chaos. We learn to become familiar with that world naively, as it were, by gaining information about certain of its facts, and then we account for the way in which we ourselves, abandoning naiveté, fully consciously acquire the experiences about which we have gained information. If we penetrate deeply into the descriptions of occult science we become convinced that this is the only sure path to supersensible knowledge.

[5.6 -- An important illustration of this Idea at work: this path does not work through "suggestion":]

We shall also realize that the opinion that supersensible knowledge might at first have the effect of a dogma through the power of suggestion, as it were, is unfounded. For the content of this knowledge is acquired by a soul activity that takes from it all merely suggestive power and only gives it the possibility of appealing to another person in the same way in which all truths speak to him that offer themselves to his thoughtful judgment. The reason the other person does not at first notice that he is living in the spiritual world does not lie in a thoughtless, suggestive absorption of what he has read, but in the subtlety and unfamiliarity of what he has experienced in his reading.

[5.7 -- The upshot and summation of this cycle, driving this point home: through study of the results of occult science the beginner already participates in supersensible knowledge:]

- Therefore, by first absorbing the communications as given in the first part of this book, we become participators in the knowledge of the spiritual world; by means of the practical application of the soul exercises given in the second part, we become independent knowers of this world.

[Here remains only the final paragraph of this chapter. But how does it fit into the 7folded pattern, if at all? The preceding cycle has been completed, so this last paragraph might seem to stand alone. But does it really? -- Not all the preceding cycles were completed; one apparently was cut short at the fourth element; it left off with the thought "that the powers of cognition are capable of development". The central idea of this last paragraph is that these developed powers of cognition make the occult scientist himself into the "instrument of research" in occult science. So: here, apparently, is a continuation of Cycle 2 and its completion, following where it left off:

[2.5 -- *Die Wahrnehnumg der Idee*; here is to be seen the essential Idea at work in the thesis that "it is possible for man, through the DEVELOPMENT OF CAPACITIES slumbering within him, to penetrate into this hidden world" in the practice of a true science:]

In the spirit and true sense of the word, no real scientist will be able to find a contradiction between his science built upon the facts of the sense world and the method by which the supersensible world is investigated.

[2.6 -- In this case, this general Idea means that the individual occult scientist is himself the "instrument" of research:]

The scientist makes use of certain instruments and methods. He produces his instruments by transforming what "nature" offers him. The supersensible method of knowledge also makes use of an instrument. This instrument is man himself. This instrument, too, must first be made ready for higher research. The capacities and forces given to man by nature, without his assistance, must be transformed into higher capacities and powers.

[2.7 -- The upshot, the summation of the second cycle:]

Man is thereby able to make himself the instrument for research in the supersensible world.

[That last sentence, even the whole paragraph is also a culmination of the second half of the chapter (concerning the development of capacities slumbering within the occult scientist), and by implication, the first half too (the contention that occult science is really scientific).]

[But why is the second cycle completed here, apparently in the "wrong" place? --

[What if the last elements of Cycle 2 had been placed in the normal sequence, immediately after the first elements? -- Then they would not have appeared as summarizing Cycles 3,4, and 5, and the whole second part, nor the whole chapter.

[What if the first elements of Cycle 2 had been placed immediately preceding the last elements of that cycle at the end of the chapter? -- Then they would not have appeared as introducing the second part of the whole chapter, with its theme of the path of development of the occult scientist.]

[This last paragraph appears as an emphatic, pithy, startling summary: a bomp-ba-domp musically for the whole chapter, which is like a first movement of a massive symphony, the greater part of which is to follow. -- Is this placement Steiner's conscious intention at work? Or, as Bondarev suggests, was Steiner "just thinking" and following the natural movements of the thoughts themselves? -- I suspect the latter; that this was Steiner's artistry, were it conscious or unconscious. Any true artist (as Bondarev also said?) does not impose a preconceived pattern upon his work; he follows the natural revelation of his subject-matter itself.]

[In parsing this chapter I have asked myself whether I am imposing a preconceived pattern (the 7fold dialectic as I understand from Bondarev) upon text that is not really patterned that way, or whether the pattern is really "there". (BTW, it is also logically possible that I was "imposing" while the pattern was really there anyway.) -- But in the actual history of my work here, I could not find the 7folded pattern in the way that I expected to find it. Yet it is also true that I likely would not have "seen" the 7foldedness at all if I had not already been looking for it. Now I feel fairly sure of the "streams", as it were (the "cycles" and "branches"), that I have marked, but somewhat less sure of my segmenting of these streams into the "elements". Still, I have held back from marking off some elements ("sub-elements") of which I was less sure. So, as in a previous post, I have the feeling that I might be missing some sub-cycles.

[And so . . . here is where I might hope that "two heads are better than one". Here is where I would ask for others' perceptions and criticisms; perhaps by working together we could arrive at greater clarity about the structure of this chapter. But yet again, I must caution that any discussion on my part would likely proceed very slowly.]

Submitted for your consideration,

Robert Mason

>> Back to Top

© Copyright 2021 Robert Mason. All Rights Reserved.