Steiner Rudolf - Mystics of the renaissance

Author : Steiner Rudolf
Title : Mystics of the renaissance and their relation to modern thought
Year : 1911

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FOREWORD. The matter which I am laying before the public in this book formed the content of lectures which I delivered during last winter at the Theosophical Library in Berlin. I had been requested by Grafin and Graf Brockdorff to speak upon Mysticism before an audience for whom the matters thus dealt with constitute a vital question of the utmost importance. Ten years earlier I could not have ventured to fulfil such a request. Not that the realm of ideas, to which I now give expression, did not even then live actively within me. For these ideas are already fully contained in my Philosophy of Freedom (Berlin, 1894. Emil Felber). But to give expression to this world of ideas in such wise as I do to-day, and to make it the basis of an exposition as is done on the following pages—to do this requires something quite other than merely to be immovably convinced of the intellectual truth of these ideas. It demands an intimate acquaintance with this realm of ideas, such as only many years of life can give. Only now, after having enjoyed that intimacy, do I venture to speak in such wise as will be found in this book. Any one who does not approach my world of ideas without preconceptions is sure to discover therein contradiction after contradiction. I have quite recently (Berlin, 1900. S. Cronbach) dedicated a book upon the world conceptions of the nineteenth century to that great naturalist, Ernst Haeckel, and closed it with a defence of his thought-world. In the following expositions, I speak about the Mystics, from Master Eckhart to Angelus Silesius, with a full measure of devotion and acquiescence. Other "contradictions," which one critic or another may further count up against me, I shall not mention at all. It does not surprise me to be condemned from one side as a "Mystic" and from the other as a "Materialist." When I find that the Jesuit Father Miiller has solved a difficult chemical problem, and I therefore in this particular matter agree with him unreservedly, one can hardly condemn me as an adherent of Jesuitism without being reckoned a fool by those who have insight. Whoever goes his own road, as I do, must needs allow many a misunderstanding about himself to pass. That, however, he can put up with easily enough. For such misunderstandings are, in the main, inevitable in his eyes, when he recalls the mental type of those who misjudge him. I look back, not without htmiorous feelings, upon many a critical" judgment that I have suffered in the course of my literary career. At the outset, matters went fairly well. I wrote about Goethe and his philosophy. What I said there appeared to many to be of such a nature that they could file it in their mental pigeon-holes. This they did by saying: A work such as Rudolf Steiner's Introduction to Goethe s Writings upon Natural Science may, without hesitation, be described as the best that has been written upon this question." When, later, I published an independent work, I had already grown a good bit more stupid. For now a well meaning critic offered the advice: "Before he goes on reforming further and gives his Philosophy of Freedom to the world, he should be pressingly advised first to work himself through to an understanding of these two philosophers Htmie and Kant . " The critic imfortunately knows only so much as he is himself able to read in Kant and Hume; practically, therefore, he simply advises me to learn to see no more in these thinkers than he himself sees. When I have attained that, he will be satisfied with me. Then when my Philosophy and Freedom appeared, I was found to be as much in need of correction as the most ignorant beginner. This I received from a gentleman who probably nothing else impelled to the writing of books except that he had not understood innimierable foreign ones. He gravely informs me that I should have noticed my mistakes if I had made more thorough studies in psychology, logic, and the theory of knowledge"; and he enumerates forthwith the books I ought to read to become as wise as himself: "Mill, Sigwart, Wundt, Riehl, Paulsen, B. Erdmann." What amused me especially was this advice from a man who was so "impressed" with the way he "understood" Kant that he could not even imagine how any man could have read Kant and yet judge otherwise than himself. He therefore indicates to me the exact chapters in question in Kant's writings from which I may be able to obtain an understanding of Kant as deep and as thorough as his own. I have cited here a couple of typical criticisms of my world of ideas. Though in themselves unimportant, yet they seem to me to point, as symptoms, to facts which present themselves to-day as serious obstacles in the path of any one aiming at literary activity in regard to the higher problems of knowledge. Thus I must go on my way, indifferent, whether one man gives me the good advice to read Kant, or another hunts me as a heretic because I agree with Haeckel. And so I have also written upon Mysticism, wholly indifferent as to how a faithful and believing materialist may judge of me. I would only like—so that printers' ink may not be wasted wholly without need—to inform any one who may, perchance advise me to read Haeckel's Riddle of the Universe, that during the last few months I have delivered about thirty lectures upon the said work. I hope to have shown in this book that one may be a faithful adherent of the scientific conception of the world and yet be able to seek out those paths to the Soul along which Mysticism, rightly understood, leads. I even go further and say: Only he who knows the Spirit, in the sense of true Mysticism, can attain a full understanding of the facts of Nature. But one must not confuse true Mysticism with the ''pseudo-mysticism" of ill-ordered minds. How Mysticism can err, I have shown in my Philosophy of Freedom (page 131 et seq.). Rudolf Steiner. Berlin, September, 1901. ...

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