Sympathy and antipathy

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Sympathy (from Latinsympathia; Greekσυμπάθεια sympátheia "compassion") and antipathy (Greekαντιπάθεια antipatheia "counter-feeling, aversion"), the soul's affection and aversion, are the two basic forces that have a formative effect in the soul world (astral world). Love is the highest form of sympathy, hatred the antipathy increased to the highest degree. In sympathy, the connecting forces that give themselves to the astral world become effective, in antipathy the forces that egoistically close themselves off and repel.

The astral forces are all the higher and purer the more the forces of sympathy predominate in them. In order that the beings may develop a more or less independent being of their own, however, the antipathy forces are also necessary. The development of spiritual individuality is thus prepared on the astral plane in the form of egoism. Once the individuality is sufficiently developed, however, egoism can and must be overcome again. This overcoming, however, does not consist in an annihilation of egoism, but in its unlimited extension to the whole world, whereby it finally becomes perfect altruism. The more narrow-minded egoism is, the more harmful it is.

Whoever strives for higher knowledge and embarks on the path of spiritual education, or whoever generally endeavours to do justice to other people and the environment, should pay careful attention to his impulses of sympathy and antipathy and try to cultivate them:

„If I feel sympathy for a person, I first feel only my relationship to him. If I make myself dependent in my judgement, in my behaviour, only on this feeling of pleasure, of sympathy, then I place my peculiarity in the foreground; I impose it on the world. I want to insert myself, as I am, into the world, but I do not want to accept the world impartially and let it live itself out in the sense of the forces at work in it. In other words, I am only tolerant of what corresponds to my own nature. Against everything else I exercise a repulsive force. As long as the human being is caught up in the world of the senses, he has a particularly repulsive effect against all non-sensual influences. The learner must develop in himself the quality of behaving towards things and people in their own way, of accepting each in its value, in its meaning. Sympathy and antipathy, pleasure and displeasure must be given entirely new roles. There can be no question of man's exterminating them, of making himself dull in the face of sympathy and antipathy. On the contrary, the more he develops in himself the ability not to let every sympathy and antipathy be followed immediately by a judgement, an action, the more finely he will develop in himself the ability to feel. He will experience that sympathies and antipathies assume a higher nature when he restrains that nature which is already in him. Even the most unsympathetic thing has hidden qualities; it reveals them when man does not follow his selfish feelings in his behaviour. He who has trained himself in this direction feels more finely on all sides than others, because he does not allow himself to be seduced by himself into insensibility.“ (Lit.:GA 9, p. 82)

See also


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
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Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
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Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.