Anthroposophy and Science
be writing another article addressing
at length the question "What
is Anthroposophy?" Essentially, anthroposophy can be defined as a
lifestyle, a system of teachings, or
a path of self-development. We shall
consider the relationship of all three
forms of anthroposophy to the various
types of science listed below. As a system
anthroposophy seeks to answer the deepest
questions of life and existence, including, "Why
are we here?" and "Where is here?"
word science is derived from the Latin "scientia" to
know. In ordinary usage it has several
meanings. Webster's lists seven:
sci·ence - noun
branch of knowledge or study dealing
with a body of facts or truths systematically
arranged and showing the operation of
general laws: the mathematical sciences.
knowledge of the physical or material
world gained through observation and
of the branches of natural or physical
knowledge in general.
as of facts or principles; knowledge
gained by systematic study.
particular branch of knowledge.
esp. reflecting a precise application
of facts or principles; proficiency.
that the first definition does not specify
what the object of study might be, hence
the frequent modifier "natural".
This creates the phrase "natural
science", designating a science
of the natural world. Rudolf Steiner
maintained that his investigations were
a form of "spiritual science", a study of the inner or spiritual world.
This world, he maintained, was accessible
only through pure thought or mental activity.
and third dictionary definitions of "science" indicate
that the phrase "natural science" has
been abbreviated in many contexts - shortened
to just the one word "science". The use
of the single word "science" to mean "natural
science" has lead many people to object
that anthroposophy can't possibly be
a "science" since it does not deal exclusively
with the material world. Within this
narrow definition, they are correct.
But considering the first, fourth, fifth
sixth and seventh dictionary definitions
of "science" it is clear that anthroposophy
qualifies. Anthroposophy is a systematically
arranged body of knowledge about the
nature of the human soul and spirit,
as well as the whole spiritual cosmos.
science has meanings beyond those listed
in Webster's. These meanings are the
implications and cultural baggage from
centuries of historical development.
Starting in the 17th century
many people found a clear distinction
between the discovered knowledge of the
natural world and the revealed knowledge
of traditional western theologies. And
many felt that they could believe the
knowledge and conclusions that were reasoned
from material, sensory experiences, and
not those revealed or dictated from tradition.
This culminated in the 19th century
in great intellectual battles between
the proponents of Darwinian evolution
and traditional theologies. This lead
to a common cultural perception that
all knowledge derived from material facts
is "science", and all thoughts concerning
spiritual matters are "religion". Religion,
of course, was "unscientific". Numerous
philosophers have attempted to reconcile
the two polarities, among them Rudolf
relationship to science?
Steiner attempted to go beyond science
without contradicting it. That is, he
does not contradict the facts determined
by the various physical sciences, only
sometimes the conclusions drawn from
these facts. Anthroposophy only contradicts "science" as
a nebulous worldview built on the thousands
of speculative hypotheses, and then only
on certain points. That this worldview
itself is continually changing as new
data is discovered should give pause
to those who would declare the error
of alternate hypotheses. Paleoanthropology,
to take but one example, is continually
one discovery away from completely revising
the picture of human evolution. Such
revisions number several per century.
Steiner himself had extensive training
in natural science. Beyond tutoring science
students at the university level, he
conducted laboratory experiments at his
own expense in the field of optics. In
his books and lectures he displayed a
thoroughgoing understanding of the scientific
advances of his day. When Rudolf Steiner
appears to be inveighing against "science" the
reader should read carefully. A close
reading will show that it was the materialistic
philosophical implications of natural
science the Rudolf Steiner was hostile
towards. Never did Rudolf Steiner claim
that an investigation of the natural
world was harmful. On the contrary, he
repeatedly called it necessary, and further
stated that such training in exactitude
was tremendously helpful as a preparation
for approaching Anthroposophy.