Wednesday 8 June 2016

Our task is not to pose our own questions, but to notice those questions that arise from dominant spiritual problems; and to answer *them*

"A great number of educated readers today will immediately reject unread any literary or scientific book that appears with a claim to being philosophical. There has hardly ever been a time when philosophy has enjoyed less favour than now… 
"Questions of the most general interest, and which therefore have been widely read, one does not go too far in saying that philosophical works are read today only by people in the profession. Nobody bothers except them. An educated person not in the profession has the vague feeling: This literature contains nothing that meets my spiritual needs; the things dealt with there do not concern me; they are not connected in any way with what is necessary for the satisfaction of my spirit... 
"In contrast to this lack of interest, there stands an ever-growing need for a satisfying view of the world and of life. What for a long time was a substitute for so many people, i.e., religious dogma, is losing more and more of its power to convince. The urge is increasing all the time to achieve by the work of thinking what was once owed to faith in revelation: satisfaction of spirit.
"The involvement of educated people could therefore not fail to exist if the sphere of philosophy about which we are speaking really went hand in hand with the whole development of culture, if its representatives took a stand on the big questions that move humanity.
"One must always keep one's eye on the fact that it can never be a question of first creating artificially a spiritual need, but only of seeking out the need that exists and satisfying it.  
"The task of philosophy is not to pose questions, but rather to consider questions carefully when they are raised by human nature and by the particular level of culture, and then to answer them.
"Our modern philosophers set themselves tasks that are in no way a natural outgrowth of the level of culture at which we stand; therefore no one is asking for their findings. But this philosophy passes over the questions that our culture must pose by virtue of the vantage point to which our classical writers have raised it. We therefore have a philosophy that no one is seeing, and a philosophical need that is not being satisfied by anyone."
From The theory of knowledge implicit in Goethe's world view by Rudolf Steiner - published in 1886
Note: This passage (from 130 years ago! - yet more than ever applicable) struck home - specifically the passage I have rendered in bold.

Substituting a spiritual Christianity for 'philosophy' (into which I have retranslated Wissenschaft, which the original translator had - I think misleadingly - rendered as 'science': it means c. systematic knowledge) - it is tempting to try and create the need for which Christianity is the answer.

Tempting... but this is futile and will be resisted. The starting point must be to consider the questions that are raised by human nature, and to answer them.

The main 'questions' are - I think - related to feelings of alienation, meaninglessness, futility and despair - how to solve these deep and demoralizing problems.

These all lead to a consideration of Christianity if pursued honestly and rigorously (and we can do no more than induce people to a serious consideration) - the (difficult) task is therefore to encourage people to be honest and rigorous about their spontaneous spiritual needs.

1 comment:

Imnobody said...

"religious dogma, is losing more and more of its power to convince." (steiner)

It seems to me that, long after the death of Steiner, dogma is alive and well:

1. Thou shalt not discriminate.
2. All people/cultures art equal.
3. Freedom is the greater good.
4. Democracy is the only legitimate political system.
5. All evil in the world is caused by X
6. If a person believes s/he is X, then s/he is X.

(and I could add lots and lots more, please remove the ones you find non-publishable)

These are dogmas. There is no rational explanation for them (as for the dogmas held in the past) but only the constant repetition, as Hillaire Belloc observed.