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Naturalism sees nature as the only reality. According to this view, spirit, soul, life and consciousness are also phenomena within and not outside nature and are therefore accessible to natural cognition. Spirit and nature do not form a contradiction here. Goethe, for example, held such a view. Rudolf Steiner, too, always held a spiritual monism, for which matter is a manifestation of the spiritual. For this reason, the question of how spirit and matter - for example, in the form of the mind-body problem - can interact with each other seemed pointless to him; rather, it was a matter of empirically researching how the spirit could produce its various manifestations, which on an elementary level also include matter. Sensual and supersensual research go hand in hand.

Another form of naturalism arises when only the external sensually visible or measurable phenomena are accepted and no independent reality is granted to the spiritual and mental phenomena, but these are regarded only as unreal outpourings of nature. Since today we do not experience reality directly, but only as an image reflected in the body, this view is widespread. What is called "mind" in Anglo-Saxon literature and is usually mistakenly translated into German as "spirit" is in fact only this unreal mirror image.

If nature is understood in purely physical terms, naturalism gives rise to physicalism, which encompasses material but also non-material physical phenomena such as electromagnetism. If only material elements are accepted, this becomes materialism.

According to Rudolf Steiner, naturalism, which he assigns to the Earth from a cosmic point of view, is at the same time one of the three soul tones by which every world-view can be modified.

„The man who does not go beyond the processes of nature, but stops at the individual phenomena, like the man who never raises his gaze to the Sun, but looks only at what the Sun brings forth for him on the Earth, is a naturalist.“ (Lit.:GA 151, p. 61f)

Naturalism in art

In art, naturalism is based on a careful observation of nature and on the vivid depiction of purely natural occurrences, right down to the social life of people. However, the mere imitation of nature does not constitute art.

„By dissolving what is enchanted in nature, one dissolves nature into its supersensible forces. One does not come to the case of searching in a allegorical or intellectually non-artistic way for something as an idea, as something conceived, as something merely supersensible-spiritual behind the things of nature, but one comes to simply ask nature: How would you grow in your individual parts if your growth were not interrupted by a higher life? - One comes to redeem from the sensuous a supersensuous that is already within the sensuous, while it is otherwise enchanted in the sensuous. One comes to be actually supernatural-naturalistic.“ (Lit.:GA 271, p. 92f)


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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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A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - books, lectures and articles by Rudolf Steiner online (Jim Stewart). - 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.