Tuesday, 17 May 2016

What is anthroposophy? Owen Barfield's definition (1944)

From Romanticism Comes of Age by Owen Barfield (1944 First edition) pp 60-61

[Note: I have lightly edited this passage for the sake of clarity of meaning - it is a condensed, not literal, transcription.]


What is anthroposophy? Believing without a shred of evidence everything that Rudolf Steiner chose to say?

This is exactly what it is not.

Anthroposophy is knowledge, as it is expressed and grasped by the Consciousness Soul; and the Consciousness Soul knows first and foremost that anybody's thought - once it is conceived in ideas and expressed in words - must be alloyed with error. 

It is easy to understand Steiner's extreme reluctance to have his lectures recorded; and it is easier still to realize why he kept on repeating, almost to exasperation, such phrases as 'what is contained in', 'what is reflected by'...

'Think these thoughts without believing them', he once said; and in nearly all of his utterances he employed the mode of pure assertion - and not of discursive argument; although he could syllogize as well as anyone if he chose to (as he showed in The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity). 

It is therefore really a kind of betrayal of the founder of anthroposophy to believe what he said. He poured-out his assertions because he trusted his hearers not to believe.  

Belief is something which can only be applied to systems of abstract ideas. To become an anthroposophist is not to 'believe', but to decide to use the word of Rudolf Steiner for the purpose of raising oneself to a kind of thinking which is beyond words, which precedes words. 

This is 'concrete' thinking, neither objective nor subjective, which is the source of all ideas and propositions, the source of all meaning whatsoever. And it can only take the form of logical ideas, propositions and grammatical sentences at the expense of much of its original truth.

To be an anthroposophist is to seek to unite oneself with this concrete thinking, whose existence can only finally be proved by experience.  

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