Becoming aware of the idea in reality is the true communion of man

From AnthroWiki

"Becoming aware of the idea in reality is the true communion of man" is a much quoted statement by Rudolf Steiner from his "Introductions to Goethe's Natural Scientific Writings" (1884 - 1897). Steiner wants to make clear with this that when man becomes aware of the idea through thinking, he is immediately empirically immersed in the spiritual reality that underlies the sensual world. This applies to comprehensive ideas as well as to simpler concepts: "Ideas are not qualitatively different from concepts. They are only more substantial, more saturated and more extensive concepts." (Lit.:GA 4, p. 57)

In this way Rudolf Steiner already characterised in his early work the philosophical basis of the anthroposophical spiritual science that he later developed, which seeks to explore the spiritual world through purely spiritual perception.

„Whoever recognises that thinking has a perceptive capacity that goes beyond the sensory perception must of necessity also recognise objects that lie beyond the mere sensuous reality. But the objects of thought are the ideas. By taking possession of the idea, thought merges with the source of the world's existence; that which works outside enters into the spirit of man: he becomes one with objective reality at its highest potency. Becoming aware of the idea in reality is the true communion of man.

Thought has the same significance towards ideas as the eye has towards light, the ear towards sound. It is the organ of conception.

This view is able to unite two things that are now considered completely incompatible: empirical method and idealism as a scientific view of the world. It is believed that the recognition of the former entails the rejection of the latter. This is not at all correct. If, of course, one holds the senses to be the only organs of perception of an objective reality, then one must come to this view. For the senses supply only those connections of things which can be traced back to mechanical laws. And thus the mechanical view of the world would be given as the only true form of such a view. In doing so, one makes the mistake of simply overlooking the other equally objective components of reality that cannot be traced back to mechanical laws. The objectively given does not at all coincide with the sensually given, as the mechanical conception of the world believes. The latter is only half of the given. The other half of it are the ideas, which are also the object of experience, albeit a higher one, whose organ is thought. The ideas, too, are accessible to an inductive method.

Today's empirical science follows the quite correct method: to hold fast to the given; but it adds the unstated assertion that this method can only deliver what is sensibly factual. Instead of stopping at how[1] we arrive at our views, it determines from the outset the what[1] of them. The only satisfactory conception of reality is empirical method with idealistic research results. This is idealism, but not the kind that pursues a misty, dreamed unity of things, but the kind that seeks the concrete idea-content of reality just as experientially as today's hyperexact research seeks the fact-content.“ (Lit.:GA 1, p. 125f)

„Whoever knows that man lets a divine stream flow into him with every thought, whoever is conscious of this, receives as a consequence the gift of higher knowledge. He who knows that knowledge is communion also knows that it is nothing other than that which is symbolised in the Lord's Supper.“ (Lit.:GA 266a, p. 48)


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References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
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Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. 1.0 1.1 cf. Goethe's well-known saying in Faust II, Act 2: Das Was bedenke, mehr bedenke Wie ("Consider the what, more consider how").