From AnthroWiki

Four epochs of science:
          poetic, superstitious;
          inquiring, curious;
          didactic, pedantic;
          methodical, mystical.

Goethe: Maximen und Reflexionen[1]

Science (from Latinscientia "knowledge, insight into a thing, skill, thorough knowledge"; Middle High German: wizzen[t]schaft, from Indo-European: *u̯e(i)d or *weid- "to behold, to see" and Old High German: scaf(t) or skaf(t) "nature, order, plan, rank", in this sense: "order of knowledge") - literally, therefore, that which creates knowledge - comprises, according to the current view, research and teaching. Research, in contrast to accidental discovery, is based on the deliberate methodical search for new knowledge, combined with the systematic documentation of the methods used and the results thus obtained and their publication in scientific works. Teaching consists of passing on the resulting knowledge in a mostly institutionalised framework. If one follows the tradition of thought or the working method of an important predecessor, a scientific school is formed.

People who systematically devote themselves to the further development of science are called scientists and in their totality form the worldwide scientific community (also called research community). The scientific discourse within the scientific community is of decisive importance. Scientists usually have a completed academic education and usually, but not necessarily, carry out their work professionally, but there are also private scholars or private lecturers and amateur scientists.

Anthroposophy and Science

According to Rudolf Steiner, the task of science is to reveal the ideal connections of world events, which are initially given to us through observation, through active human spiritual activity and to present them in a clear and completely comprehensible form. Rudolf Steiner orientates himself on the empirical method of the natural sciences. However, observation need by no means be limited to the physical-sensual world, but can also be extended to the soul and spiritual world through appropriate spiritual training. Consequently, Steiner's basic philosophical work "The Philosophy of Freedom" already bears the subtitle: Soul Observation Results According to the Scientific Method.

„It is usually believed that the content of science is taken in from the outside; indeed, one thinks that science can maintain objectivity to a greater degree than the spirit refrains from adding anything of its own to the material it grasps. Our remarks have shown that the true content of science is not the perceived external substance at all, but the idea grasped in the spirit, which introduces us more deeply into the gears of the world than all dissection and observation of the external world as mere experience. The idea is the content of science. In contrast to passively received perception, science is thus a product of the activity of the human spirit.“ (Lit.:GA 2, p. 131)

„What does the researcher today require of a method in order to call it 'scientific'? In answer to this question, the attitude of today's man has arisen: What is to be scientifically provable must, firstly, be investigable at any moment by any human being and, secondly, it must be completely independent of what is called 'subjective'.

These requirements are met by the experiment and, for the most part, by everything that is done in the laboratory. The experiment is independent of sympathy and antipathy and so on, in short, of everything that depends on what is subjectively going on in us.

It is different with the exploration of the spiritual world. We have to choose the path that is completely independent of the world of the senses, that is, of that on which present-day science is solely based. That is precisely what we need, what is to be excluded from present-day science. When we first speak figuratively of spiritual science, we want to use a word by Fichte. He says: What I have to tell you cannot be investigated with the ordinary mind, because a special, higher sense is necessary for this - just as when a person born blind is suddenly given the possibility of seeing colours and light, so it would be if one acquired this special sense, the "spiritual eye", as Goethe says.

If man must first have a new sense in order to recognise a new, different world, this already indicates that this is not possible in every place, at every time, by every person and so on, as external science demands.

If we take ordinary human life, this inner experience of one person differs greatly from the experience of another. This, however, should be ruled out by external science; in what people experience in themselves about the spiritual world, there can be nothing consistent. But this judgement is a very superficial one.“ (Lit.:GA 69d, p. 29f)

„True science in the higher sense of the word has to do only with ideal objects; it can only be idealism. For it has its ultimate ground in needs that stem from the spirit. Nature awakens questions in us, problems that strive towards a solution. But it cannot provide this solution itself. Only the fact that a higher world confronts nature with our faculty of knowledge creates higher demands. A being that did not have this higher nature would simply not be able to solve these problems. Therefore, they cannot receive their answer from any other authority than from this higher nature. Scientific questions are therefore essentially a matter that the spirit has to settle with itself. They do not lead it out of its element. But the region in which the spirit lives and weaves, as in its very own, is the idea, is the world of thought. To settle spiritual questions with spiritual answers is scientific activity in the highest sense of the word. And all other scientific activities are ultimately only there to serve this highest purpose. Take scientific observation. It should lead us to the knowledge of a natural law. The law itself is purely ideal. Already the need for a lawfulness that is behind the phenomena stems from the spirit.“ (Lit.:GA 1, p. 260f)

For Rudolf Steiner, truth is not something that already exists in the world, but a free creative product that must first be brought forth by the individual I of the human being - Rudolf Steiner already very resolutely advocated this point of view in his fundamental philosophical work "Truth and Science" (1892):

„The result of these investigations is that truth is not, as is usually assumed, the ideal reflection of some real thing, but a free product of the human spirit, which would not exist anywhere at all if we did not bring it forth ourselves. The task of cognition is not to repeat in conceptual form something that already exists elsewhere, but to create an entirely new realm which, together with the sensuously given world, only results in full reality. Thus the highest activity of man, his spiritual creation, is organically integrated into the general world event. Without this activity, world events could not be thought of as a self-contained whole. In relation to the course of the world, man is not an idle spectator who figuratively repeats within his spirit what takes place in the cosmos without his intervention, but the active co-creator of the world process; and cognition is the most complete link in the organism of the universe.“ (Lit.:GA 3, p. 11f)

Anthroposophy claims to be a science of the spiritual, i.e. a spiritual science in the true sense of the word "spirit", even though this view is currently rather underrepresented in conventional academic research and teaching. However, there are - at least in German-speaking countries - universities and colleges with anthroposophically oriented faculties, such as the Alanus University, the University of Witten-Herdecke and the Ottersberg University of Applied Sciences, even if there is occasional scientific dissent about this, because anthroposophy as a science has not yet been able to gain general recognition.

„Thus I strove to present in anthroposophy the objective continuation of science, not to place something subjective next to this science. - That this striving was not understood at first is quite natural. Science was considered to be closed to what lay before Anthroposophy, and there was no inclination to enliven the ideas of science in such a way as to lead to the comprehension of the spiritual. One was under the spell of the habits of thought formed in the second half of the nineteenth century. One did not find the courage to break through the fetters of mere sensuous observation; one feared to come into areas where everyone asserts his imagination.“ (Lit.:GA 28, p. 444ff)

Anthroposophy also goes beyond conventional science in that it imparts more than mere knowledge:

„And by doing ... spiritual science, you not only learn to know something, but you grow into becoming something that you would not otherwise be. That is the difference between spiritual science and other world views. All other world views relate to knowledge, anthroposophy relates to the being of the man.“ (Lit.:GA 107, p. 258)


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.


  1. Goethe-BA Bd. 18, S. 645