Wonders of the World, Ordeals of the Soul, Revelations of the Spirit. Lecture 3 of 10.
Rudolf Steiner, Munich, August 20, 1911:
Let me begin today by mentioning just one thing. There is a concept, an idea, very familiar to you all, an idea which not only finds common expression in the vocabulary of all languages, but which has also tended to take on a certain scientific connotation. It is the word NATURE. When the word ‘nature’ is used in any context it at once arouses in modern man a whole number of ideas. We think of nature as the opposite of soul or spirit. Now, what the man of today means by ‘nature’ simply did not exist for Greek thought. You have to eliminate altogether what you mean today by the term ‘nature’ if you wish to enter into the thought of ancient Greece. The contrast between nature and spirit which we today experience was unknown to the Greeks. When the Greek directed his eye to the processes which took place in wood and meadow, in Sun and Moon, in the world of the stars, he did not yet experience a natural existence devoid of spirit, but everything which happened in the world was as much the deed of spiritual beings as for us a movement of our hand is an expression of our own soul-activity. When we move our hand from left to right, we know that a mental activity lies behind this movement, and we do not talk of an opposition between the mere movement of the hand and our will, but we know that the movement of the hand and our will, as an impulse of movement, constitute a unity. We still feel the unity when we make a gesture which our mind directs. But when we direct our gaze upon the course of Sun and Moon, when we become aware of the currents of air in the wind, then we no longer see in these things, as the Greeks did, the outer gestures, the moving hand so to say, of divine-spiritual beings, but we see something outside us which we study according to abstract laws, mathematical-mechanical laws. Such a nature — a nature which is calculated according to purely external mathematical-mechanical laws, a nature which is not simply the physiognomy of divine-spiritual activity — was unknown to the Greeks. We shall hear how the concept ‘nature’ as understood by modern man gradually came to birth.