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Steiner's Introduction to his Philosophy of Spiritual Activity

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  • DRStarman2001@aol.com
    Everything discussed in this book centers around two problems which are fundamental to the human soul-life. One of these problems concerns the possibility of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 23, 2001
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      Everything discussed in this book centers around two problems which are
      fundamental to the human soul-life. One of these problems concerns the
      possibility of attaining such insight into human nature that knowledge of man
      can become the foundation of all human knowledge and experience of life. We
      often feel that our experiences and the results of scientific investigations
      are not self-supporting; further experiences or discoveries may shake our
      certitude. The other problem is: Has man any right to ascribe freedom to his
      will, or is freedom of will an illusion arising out of his inability to
      recognize the threads of necessity on which his will depends, just like a
      process in nature? This question is not artificially created. In a certain
      disposition it arises quite spontaneously in the human soul. And one feels
      that the soul lacks in stature if it has not at some time faced in deep
      seriousness the question of free will or necessity. In this book the
      intention is to show that the inner experiences caused by the second problem
      depend upon what attitude man is able to take toward the first problem. The
      attempt will be made to show that it is possible to attain such an insight
      into man's nature, that this can support all the rest of his knowledge, and
      further that this insight completely justifies the concept of freedom of
      will, provided only that first the region of soul is discovered where free
      will can unfold.

      This insight in relation to the two problems is such that, once
      attained, it can become a living content of man's soul life. A theoretical
      answer will not be given which, once acquired is merely carried about as a
      conviction, retained by memory. For the whole manner of thinking on which
      this book is based, such an answer would be no answer. Such a finished,
      limited answer will not be given, but a region of experiences within the
      human soul will be pointed to, where, through the soul's own inner activity,
      living answers to the questions are to be found ever anew and at every moment
      when man needs them. Once the region of soul is discovered where these
      questions unfold, a real insight into this region provides man with what he
      needs for the solution of these two problems of life so that, with what he
      has then attained, he can penetrate further into the breadth and depth of
      life's riddles, as need or destiny leads him.
      -It will be seen that a knowledge has here been outlined, which proves
      its justification and validity, not only through its own existence, but also
      through the relationship it has with the entire soul-life of man.
      These were my thoughts about the content of this book when I wrote it
      twenty-five years ago. To-day, again I must write similarly if I am to
      characterize the aim of this book. In the first edition I limited myself to
      saying no more than was in the strictest sense connected with the two
      fundamental problems described above. If anyone should be surprised at not
      finding in this book as yet, any reference to that region of the world of
      spiritual experience described in my later writings, then he must consider
      that at that time it was not my purpose to describe results of spiritual
      research, but first to lay the foundation on which such results can rest.
      This "Philosophy of Freedom" does not contain any special results of this
      kind, any more than it contains special results of the natural sciences. But
      what it contains cannot, in my view, be dispensed with by anyone who strives
      for certainty in such knowledge. What I have said in this book can also be
      acceptable to many who, for reasons of their own, will have nothing to do
      with the results of my spiritual scientific research. But one who can regard
      these results of spiritual scientific research as something to which he is
      drawn, will recognize as important what is attempted here. It is this: to
      prove that an open-minded consideration of just the two problems I have
      indicated, problems which are fundamental to all knowledge, leads to
      recognition of the fact that man is living within the reality of a spiritual
      world. In this book the attempt is made to justify knowledge of the realm of
      spirit before entering upon spiritual experience. And this justification is
      undertaken in such a way that, for anyone able and willing to enter into this
      discussion, there is no need, in order to accept what is said here, to cast
      furtive glances at the experiences which my later writings have shown to be

      Thus it seems to me that, on the one hand, this book occupies a position
      completely independent of my writings on actual spiritual scientific matters,
      and yet, on the other hand, it is also most intimately connected with them.
      All this has caused me now, after twenty-five years, to republish the content
      of this book practically unaltered in all essentials. I have, however, made
      additions of some length to several chapters. The misunderstandings of my
      argument which have come to my attention seemed to make these detailed
      extensions necessary. Alterations have been made only where what I said a
      quarter of a century ago appeared to me clumsily expressed. (Only ill-will
      could find in these changes occasion to suggest that I have changed my
      fundamental conviction.)

      The book has been out of print for many years. Nevertheless, and in spite
      of the fact, apparent from what I have just said, that to me it seems that
      to-day must be similarly expressed what I did express twenty-five years ago
      about the problems I have characterized, I hesitated a long time about the
      completion of this revised edition. Again and again I have asked myself
      whether at this point or that, I ought not to define my position toward the
      numerous philosophical views which have been put forward since the
      publication of the first edition. Yet the heavy demands on my time in recent
      years, due to purely spiritual scientific research, prevented me doing as I
      might have wished. Also, a survey, as thorough as possible, of the
      philosophical literature of the present day has convinced me that such a
      critical discussion, tempting though it would be in itself, has no place in
      the context of what this book has to say. All that, from the point of view of
      the "Philosophy of Spiritual Activity," it seemed to me necessary to say
      about recent philosophical tendencies, may be found in the second volume of
      my "Riddles of Philosophy."
      April, 1918 
      Rudolf Steiner 
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