Skylark Books


Science - Rudolf Steiner - An Introductory ReaderScience – An Introductory Reader
selected lectures by Rudolf Steiner
Original texts compiled with an introduction, commentary and notes by Howard Smith

The word “science” comes from the Latin scientia (knowledge), which has as its root, scīre (to know)

Science as we have come to understand it deals exclusively with all that can be described in terms of the quantitative principles of the physical world – matter, energy and force, electric charge, space and time, etc. – and works to establish their relationships, framing the results as laws. A particular amount of force applied to a known weight of matter will result in a predictable acceleration of that body of matter. All science follows this format and all that falls within this purview is legitimate science, while the realm of consciousness, which can share in this external quantitative world but is in itself purely qualitative, is viewed as the subject of philosophy. It is not assessable by the methods of natural science. It can be scientifically demonstrated that there is a functional relationship between ordinary human consciousness and the state of the physical organism, especially the brain, but consciousness itself cannot be explained in terms of the purely external principles by which the matter of the brain is compiled.

The knowledge of science is therefore incomplete simply because it cannot integrate the knower into its schema. Even the current vogue of science which is to find the “unifying principle of everything” – the underlying principle which gives rise to all phenomenal existence – completely ignores the presence of the knower.

The methods employed by Rudolf Steiner to examine the world and its myriad relationships are certainly not admissible as legitimate science by those who admit only the external physical world as fundamental reality. (Some consider that consciousness is somehow an evolved development out of the purely mechanical world, even though logic, the backbone of science, stubbornly refutes this as a possibility.) Steiner maintains that human consciousness can be heightened to the point where it is able to perceive the world and also to know its own existence without reliance on the physical organism. He also maintains that from this state of perception, the world and the realm of consciousness are both perceived, as is their relationship to each other. Both are seen in dramatically different aspects then the physical senses convey. It is also seen how the physical universe, with all its quantitative relationships, is patterned on unseen (by the senses) realms of soul and consciousness, out of which it has become “externalised” and “crystallised”. What the senses convey is "maya" - an illusion - which "occults" the true nature of the physical world and also of the inner soul realm, creating impressions, which thinking must then follow as a matter of course. Accurate spiritual perception couple with disciplined consciousness, which has externalised itself from physical organs, removes this corrupted experience of the world. The eyes are sight to the body but scales to the spiritual organs of perception.

Steiner also points out that this one-sided view of contemporary science is itself a temporary peculiarity which results from the current spiritual state of the human organism. It was not always thus and in the future will again alter to allow a more comprehensive experience of the world. Science of the future will look back on current methods and outlook of science as both brilliant in its ingenuity as well as dogmatic and superstitious in its one-sidedness.

This collection of lectures surveys a wide range of scientific subjects from a spiritual perspective. This is the first time such a catalogue of Steiner's lectures on so many scientific subjects has  appeared in one volume, giving the reader a good general view of his heightened scientific approach as well as insight into many individual subjects as examined with spiritual perception.

Subjects include:

  1. From pre-science to Science
  2. The Origin of Mathematics
    1. Ptolemy, Copernicus and Newton: the development of astronomy
  3. The Roots of Physics and Chemistry, and the Urge to Experiment
    1. from ritual to experiment
  4. Are there Limits to what Science can Know?
    1. Where does thinking go wrong?
    2. Goethe’s use of thinking: reading nature like a book
  5. Understanding Organisms: Goethe’s Method
  6. The Quest for Archetypal Phenomena
  7. Light, Darkness and Colour
    1. The Primary phenomena of colour
  8. The Rediscovery of the Elements
    1. What did the Greeks mean?
    2. Solid, liquid and gas between earth and cosmos
    3. First steps of a new method
  9. What is Warmth?
    1. Not just energy
    2. Negative gravity and negative form
    3. Warmth between the physical and the spiritual
  10. The Scale of Nature
    1. Spatial and non-spatial pressure and suction
  11. The Working of the Ethers in the Physical
    1. The ethers in the human organism
  12. Sub-nature
    1. What is the relation of chemical forces and substances to the spiritual world?
    2. What is electricity?
    3. From nature to sub-nature
  13. What are Atoms?
    1. What did Democritus mean by ‘atoms’?
    2. Atomism  versus continuism
    3. Spiritual perception of atoms
  14. Natural Science and Spiritual Science
    1. Scientific concepts in social life
    2. Science and the individual
    3. Natural science as a foundation for spiritual science
    4. Mathematics: origins and future possibilities
    5. From projective geometry to Imagination
    6. From phenomenon to Imagination


Sophia Books
Trans. Revised M. Barton
256pp; paperback
ISBN: 1 85584 108 8



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