From AnthroWiki

History (from Greekἱστορία historia "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation"; GermanGeschichte) in the broadest sense encompasses everything that has happened in the course of time. In the narrower sense, in contrast to natural history, it is understood to mean human history, i.e. the historical and cultural development of humanity.

Meaning of history

„That which is now regarded as history is not much older than a hundred years. Before that, memorials were noted, 'stories' were noted; but what is called world history, this tracing of a thread through the development of humanity, is not older than a little more than a hundred years.“ (Lit.:GA 177, p. 259f)

The special meaning of the German word "Geschichte", which does not occur in this way in other languages, is explained by Rudolf Steiner as follows:

„In former times one described memorials. For sure, one does not call it history when someone writes down his so-called family history. Even the [German] word 'Geschichte' is not old at all. In languages other than German, the word does not exist at all, because "history" has a completely different original context. In the past, people used to say in the singular "what happens", "the happening of the apostles", for example, which is what "happens". And then the plural was formed: "the story", which is actually nothing other than the plural of "the happening"; today we have to say "the stories". But in Switzerland, one hundred and fifty years ago, "die Geschichte" meant the plural of "das Geschieht", and this was then transferred by changing the article to "die Geschichte" - singular - so the plural later became the feminine singular. This is how the word history came into being. You can follow this from the history of the word.

The concept of history only acquires meaning when spiritual impulses are understood. One can speak of what is really happening, one can speak within certain limits of what is going on behind the scenes. The limits are given by comparing the matter with what is also in the outer, physical world. One can say what the future position of the sun will be, let us say next summer, but one cannot say what the weather will be like in every detail. So, of course, things occur in the spiritual world that relate to the future position of the sun in the same way as the future weather does. But in general one will only be able to know something about the course of human development from the spiritual impulses. History, then, is embryonic, is not yet today what it ought to be, can only become something when it passes its hundred-year existence into the contemplation of the spiritual life which takes place behind the outer events in humanity.“ (Lit.:GA 177, p. 261f)

Historical symptomatology

In order to grasp the deeper motivations of historical events, Rudolf Steiner called for a historical symptomatology.

„One must, if one studies history, have a sense for doing symptomatology, that is to say, for taking much of what is taken today as history only as a symptom of something that lies much deeper behind it, what is really the spiritual current that only bears these symptoms. And so that which is in the depths of the development of humanity actually also emerges symptomatically in these or those diseases of the time.“ (Lit.:GA 73a, p. 240)

Rudolf Steiner spoke in great detail on this subject, using many examples, in his lectures on "Historical Symptomatology" (GA 185).


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: verlag@steinerverlag.com URL: www.steinerverlag.com.
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
steinerbooks.org - 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.