Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, April 14, 1917:
“I must call attention in particular to the fragmentary character of all our historical knowledge, even the most complete. The wealth of information, the facts of past history are in content and extent far beyond the range of our knowledge, even if we were to pursue our investigations for thousands of years. Of the vast canvas of history only a fraction is accessible to the historian, only what is transmitted through source material and records. Everything else that was not transmitted or could not be transmitted because it belongs to the inner life of the spirit, to the hidden sphere of the psychic life, to the inner domain of the personal life, cannot be ‘known’ by the historian; it can only be surmised. And this ‘surmise’, however careful and conscientious our investigation, will at all times be marred by defects and subjective factors. When Goethe says: `No creative spirit can penetrate into the heart of nature’, we must add to this dictum, ‘And nobody can penetrate into the inner recesses of history.’ ”
“It is a waste of time to look for the after-life. Perhaps it does not even exist. No matter how we approach this problem we are never vouchsafed an answer. Let us leave all occultism to adepts and charlatans. Mysticism of every kind is wholly irrational. Let us submit to the authority of the Church because, supported by the authority and practical experience of centuries, it prescribes the code of ethics” (the Church if you please!) “in which nations and children must be instructed. And finally we must submit to the authority of the (Roman) Church because, far from exposing us to the dangers of mysticism, it definitely protects us against them, silences the voices of the mystic groves” (this is his term for the inspiration that could be received from the spiritual world), “expounds the Gospels for us and tailors the liberal anarchism of the Saviour to the needs of modern society.”(Barrès).
Original Notes:Note 1. These verses can be found in Goethes Gott und Welt — in the poem Allerdings.
NOTES BY TRANSLATORNote 1. Albrecht Haller (1708–77), born in Bern, was physiologist, botanist, historian and poet. His poem “Die Alpen” describes in realistic detail the Alpine landscape, rural scenes and the unsophisticated life of the Swiss peasant. It is a faithful record of sense-impressions. Goethe protested in “Allerdings” (quoted here from his collection of poems “Gott and Welt”) against the naturalism of Haller which echoed the rationalist philosophy of the Aufklärung, the view that ultimates are inaccessible to human reason, the Kantian view that we can never know das Ding an sich, “the thing in itself”.