Notes By Rudolf Steiner written for Edouard Schure in Barr, Alsace,
Officially I studied mathematics, chemistry, physics, zoology,
botany, mineralogy, and geology. These subjects offered a much
firmer foundation for a spiritual conception of the world than, for
example, history or literature, subjects which German academic life
at that time provided neither with a specific methodology nor with
In my first years at college in Vienna I became acquainted with Karl
Julius Schroer. Initially I attended his lectures on the history of
German literature since Goethe's time, as well as his lectures on
Goethe and Schiller, the history of German literature in the 19th
century and Goethe's `Faust'. I also took part in his `Practicals
in the Spoken and the Written Word'. This was a proper college
course, following the pattern of Uhland's course at the college in
Tubingen. Schroer's background was German language studies and he
had undertaken important research into German dialects in Austria;
he was a researcher in the spirit of the Grimm brothers and in the
field of literary studies he was an admirer of Gervinus. Previously
he had been the director of the Viennese evangelical schools. He is
the son of the writer and outstanding educationalist Christian
Oeser. While I knew him he was devoting himself entirely to
Goethe. He has written a widely-read commentary on Goethe's `Faust'
and also on Goethe's other dramas. He studied at the German
universities of Leipzig, Halle and Berlin while German Idealism was
still a strong force. He was the living embodiment of German
education at its best. It was his human qualities which made him
attractive. I soon became friendly with him and thereafter spent
much time at his house. He was like an oasis of Idealism in the
dry, materialistic desert of German education. External events in
this period centered on the nationality struggles in Austria.
Schroer himself had no connection with the natural sciences.
But from early 1880 onward I started to work on Goethe's scientific
Then Joseph Kurschner founded the comprehensive `Deutsche
National-Literatur' Edition, for which Schroer acted as editor of
Goethe's dramas, also providing an introduction and commentary. On
Schroer's recommendation, Kurschner commissioned me to edit Goethe's
scientific writings. Schroer wrote a preface to them, in which he
introduced me to the literary public.
In this compendium I wrote introductions to Goethe's botany,
zoology, geology and theory of colour. Theosophical ideas can
already be found in these introductions, clothed in philosophical
Idealism. They also deal with Haeckel.
My Theory of Knowledge of 1886 is like a philosophical
continuation of these introductions.