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Mysticism (from Greekμυστικός mystikos "indescribable, inexpressible, mysterious", derived from myein "to close the eyes and lips"; Latinmysticus) is one of the seven fundamental worldview moods that Rudolf Steiner characterised and assigned to the seven planetary spheres, whereby mysticism corresponds to the Venus sphere.

„Man is placed in the world; in his own soul he experiences something about the world that he cannot experience externally. Only then does the world reveal its secrets. One may look around oneself - one does not see what the world contains in secrets. - Such a state of mind can often say: What use is gnosis to me, which struggles with all its effort to attain all kinds of visions? The things of the outer world, about which one has visions, cannot reveal to one the inner world. How does logism help me to form a worldview? Logic does not express the essence of the world. What good is speculation about the will? It only detracts from looking into the depths of one's own soul. And one does not look into these depths when the soul is willing, but precisely when it is surrendering, will-less. - So even voluntarism is not the soul mood that the soul needs here, nor is empiricism, the mere looking or listening to what experience, experience gives; but the inner seeking, when the soul has become calm, how God shines forth in the soul. You will notice that this mood of the soul can be called mysticism.

One can be a mystic through all twelve spiritual constellations. It will certainly not be particularly favourable if one is a mystic of materialism, that is, if one does not inwardly experience the spiritual, the spiritual, but the material. For a mystic of materialism is actually one who has acquired a particularly fine feeling, for example, for the kind of condition one comes to when one enjoys one substance or another. It is something different when one, I want to say, enjoys the juice of one plant or that of another plant and now waits to see what effect it has on the organism. So one grows together with matter in one's experience, becomes a mystic of matter. It may even be that this can become a task for life, a task for life in such a way that one pursues in what way one or the other substance, which comes from this or that plant, has a special effect on the organism; for one has a special effect on this organ, the other on that organ. And so to be a mystic of materialism is a prerequisite for the investigation of the individual substances with regard to their healing power. One notices what the substances do in the organism. - One can be a mystic of the world of substances, one can be a mystic of idealism. An ordinary idealist or a gnostic idealist is not a mystic of idealism. A mystic of idealism is one who, above all, has the possibility in his own soul to bring up the ideals of humanity from sources hidden within, to feel them as inner divinity and as such to place them before the soul. A mystic of idealism is, for example, the Meister Eckhart.“ (Lit.:GA 151, p. 54f)

On the path of mysticism, the mystic strives to reach the direct experience of the highest spiritual reality by contemplating his own inner being, his own spiritual being. It culminates in the Unio Mystica, in becoming one with God or the world spirit. The Christian mystics sought to achieve this goal above all through a constant deepening of feeling, as it was systematically cultivated in the Christian path of spiritual training. Without the necessary clarity of thought, however, mysticism runs the risk of slipping into an unhealthy self-indulgent rapturous mysticism that is incompatible with genuine spiritual research - Rudolf Steiner repeatedly pointed this out emphatically.

„The error of a mystical way of looking at things, built merely on feeling, consists in this, that it wants to experience what it should know, that it wants to educate an individual, the feeling, to a universal.“ (Lit.:GA 4, p. 139f)

„When man, through spiritual-scientific methodology, as I can only briefly describe here in principle, makes ideas, which must not be reminiscences, into permanent ideas, when he devotes himself meditatively to easily comprehensible ideas, when he lets his soul rest on them, concentrates on them, but in such a way that everything is excluded which does not result from the human application of will, and when he excludes all nebulous mysticism, then man indeed arrives at looking behind the memory; he arrives at real self-knowledge. This self-knowledge, which anthroposophical spiritual science must strive for with its empirical methods, is itself very different from the poetic, in a certain sense admirable mysticism of St. John of the Cross or St. Therese. Whoever devotes himself to the writings of these spirits feels the high poetic, feels what is in these wonderful images. Whoever has become a spiritual researcher in the anthroposophical sense knows another thing, knows that it is precisely with such spirits that special facts flare up in the consciousness, one could say, from the subsoil of human nature into which the ordinary consciousness does not look. In the case of St. Therese or St. John of the Cross, abnormal things happen in the human organs, especially in the so-called physical human organs, in the liver, lungs and digestive organs - no matter how prosaic or profane this may be regarded, it is not profane for those who see through the matter - in these physical organs, they "steam up" into the consciousness and become such images as they then live out in such personalities as are suited to them. The real spiritual researcher, however, breaks through the mirror of memory. He does not attain such nebulous self-knowledge as is called mysticism and idolised, but he attains concrete self-knowledge. He arrives at a living view of what the human organs are. This opens the way to a real knowledge of the human organisation, the way on which spiritual science also leads over into the medical field. But this is only the beginning. For if one sees in this way through spiritual-supersensible forces into the actual material of the human organisation, then one also overcomes the mere material observation of this human organisation. For in the end one sees how that which presents itself to one as material in the human being is not merely born out of the hereditary current with which it has only connected itself, but how it is born out of a world which the human being lived through before his birth or conception. One looks into the pre-existent human life by a diversion through material inner knowledge. The pre-existent life becomes a reality before the supersensible cognition. Ordinary mysticism, as it is idolised by uncritical spirits, is rather an obstacle to real spirit-recognition.“ (Lit.:GA 77a, p. 35ff)


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: URL:
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.
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.