new age spirituality

This Classic work is now copyright expired and therefore in the public domain.

An Outline of Occult Science by Rudolf Steiner, Ph.D.

Authorized Translation from the Fourth Edition : (Newly Revised)
AnthropoSophic Press : New York : 1922

Preface to the Fourth Edition
Author's Remarks To First Edition
Chapter I. The Character of Occult Science
Chapter II. The Nature of Man
Chapter III. Sleep and Death
Chapter IV. The Evolution of the World and Man
Chapter V. Knowledge of the Higher Worlds
Chapter VI. The Present and Future Evolution of the World and of Humanity
Chapter VII. Details from the Domain of Occult Science Man's Etheric Body


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One who undertakes to represent certain results of scientific spiritual research of the kind recorded in this book, must above all things be prepared to find that this kind of investigation is at the present time almost universally regarded as impossible. For things are related in the following pages about which those who are today esteemed exact thinkers, assert that they will probably remain altogether indeterminable by human intelligence. One who knows and can respect the reasons which prompt many a serious person to assert this impossibility, would fain make the attempt again and again to show what misunderstandings are really at the bottom of the belief that it is not given to human knowledge to penetrate into the superphysical worlds.

For two things present themselves for consideration. First, no human being will, on deeper reflection, be able in the long run to shut his eyes to the fact that his most important questions as to the meaning and significance of life must remain unanswered, if there be no access to higher worlds. Theoretically we may delude ourselves concerning this fact and so get away from it; the depths of our soul-life, however, will not tolerate such self-delusion. The person who will not listen to what comes from these depths of the soul will naturally reject any account of supersensible worlds. There are however people--and their number is not small--who find it impossible to remain deaf to the demands coming from the depths of the soul. They must always be knocking at the gates which, in the opinion of others, bar the way to what is "incomprehensible."

Secondly, the statements of "exact thinkers" are on no account to be despised. Where they have to be taken seriously, one who occupies himself with them will thoroughly feel and appreciate this seriousness. The writer of this book would not like to be taken for one who lightly disregards the enormous thought-labour which has been expended in determining the limits of the human intellect. This thought-labour cannot be put aside with a few phrases about "academic wisdom" and the like. In many cases it has its source in true striving after knowledge and in genuine discernment. Indeed, even more than this must be admitted; reasons have been brought forward to show that that knowledge which is to-day regarded as scientific cannot penetrate into supersensible worlds, and these reasons _are in a certain sense irrefutable_.

Now it may appear strange to many people that the writer of this book admits this freely, and yet undertakes to make statements about supersensible worlds. It seems indeed almost impossible that a person should admit _in a certain sense_ the reasons why knowledge of superphysical worlds is unattainable, and should yet speak about those worlds.

Yet it is possible to take this attitude, and at the same time to understand that it impresses others as being inconsistent. It is not given to every one to enter into the experiences we pass through when we approach supersensible realms with the human intellect. Then it turns out that intellectual proofs may certainly be irrefutable, and that _notwithstanding this_, they need not be decisive with regard to reality. Instead of all sorts of theoretical explanations, let us now try to make this comprehensible by a comparison. That comparisons are not in themselves proofs is readily admitted, but this does not prevent their often making intelligible what has to be expressed.

Human understanding, as it works in everyday life and in ordinary science, is actually so constituted that it cannot penetrate into superphysical worlds. This may be proven beyond the possibility of denial. But this proof can have no more value for a certain kind of soul-life than the proof one would use in showing that man's natural eye cannot, with its visual faculty, penetrate to the smallest cells of a living being, or to the constitution of far-off celestial bodies.