Chapter 2 September 17, 2009 Translation

Submitted by Tom Last on Thu, 09/17/2009 - 9:44pm.

Chapter 2 has been restored to its original Mind-Matter discussion by bringing back the original text, removing Steiner's text revisions, and correcting the later translations which replaced Mind with Spirit. I surprised myself by removing the 1918 revisions Steiner made to chapter 2, but they were obviously added for theosophists. Steiner considered the original text complete. "Changes of text have been made only where it appeared to me that I had said clumsily what I meant to say a quarter of a century ago. (Only ill will could find in these changes occasion to suggest that I have changed my fundamental conviction.)"

Now the chapter 2 discussion in the new translation is restored to its original Mind-Matter debate relevant for today and not the Spirit-Matter debate of yesterdays theosophy.

1918 Steiner additions to Chapter 2 removed and replaced with the original Mind-Matter text
2-0 In that man is aware of himself as "I", he cannot but think of this "I" as being on the side of the spirit; and in contrasting this "I" with the world, he is bound to put on the world's side the realm of percepts given to the senses, that is, the world of matter. In doing so, man puts himself right into the middle of this antithesis of spirit and matter. He is the more compelled to do so because his own body belongs to the material world. Thus the "I", or Ego, belongs to the realm of spirit as a part of it; the material objects and events which are perceived by the senses belong to the "World". All the riddles which relate to spirit and matter, man must inevitably rediscover in the fundamental riddle of his own nature.

2-4 [7] When man reflects upon the "I", he perceives in the first instance the work of this "I" in the conceptual elaboration of the world of ideas. Hence a world-conception that inclines towards spiritualism may feel tempted, in looking at man's own essential nature, to acknowledge nothing of spirit except this world of ideas. In this way spiritualism becomes one-sided idealism. Instead of going on to penetrate through the world of ideas to the spiritual world, idealism identifies the spiritual world with the world of ideas itself. As a result, it is compelled to remain fixed with its world-outlook in the circle of activity of the Ego, as if bewitched.

September 2009 New Translation

Chapter 2
The Fundamental Desire For Science


Two souls, alas, dwell within my breast,
And each withdraws from and repels its brother.
One, in hearty lovelust,
Clings to the world with clutching organs;
The other strongly lifts itself from dust,
Into the high ancestral spheres.
Goethe, Faust I, 1112

2.0 Transcending The World Of Phenomena
[1] In these words Goethe expresses a characteristic deeply rooted in human nature. A human being is not a self-contained unity. We always demand more than the world, of its own accord, offers us. Nature has given us needs; among these are some left to our own activity to satisfy. Abundant are the gifts we have received, but even more abundant are our desires. We seem born to be dissatisfied. Our desire for knowledge is only a special case of this dissatisfaction. We look twice at a tree. The first time we see its branches at rest, the second time in motion. We are not satisfied with this observation. Why, we ask, does the tree appear to us now at rest, then in motion? Every look at nature produces a number of questions in us. Every phenomenon that comes our way presents a new problem to be solved. Every experience becomes a riddle. We see, emerging from the egg, a creature similar to the mother animal, and we ask the reason for this similarity. We observe a living being grow and develop to a certain level of perfection, and we seek the determining factors of this experience. Nowhere are we satisfied with the facts that nature displays before our senses. We seek everywhere for what we call the explanation of the facts.

[2] This something more which we seek in things, over and above what is given to us immediately, splits our whole being into two parts. We become aware of our contrast to the world. We confront the world as independent beings. The universe appears to us in the polarity: I and World.

[3] We erect this wall of separation between ourselves and the world as soon as consciousness is first kindled within us. But we never lose the feeling that we do belong to the world, that a bond exists that connects us to it, that we are beings whose place is not outside, but rather within the universe.

[4] This feeling makes us strive to bridge the contrast. And, in the final analysis, the entire spiritual striving of humankind consists of nothing but the bridging of this contrast. The history of our spiritual life is a continuous searching for the unity between us and the world. Religion, Art and Science all pursue this goal. The religious believer seeks in the revelation granted by God, the solution to the world problem posed by his “I”, which is dissatisfied with the merely phenomenal world. The artist seeks to incorporate the ideas of his “I” into various materials to reconcile what lives within him with the outer world. He, too, feels dissatisfied with the world as it appears and seeks to mold into it that something more that his “I”, transcending the world of phenomena, contains. The thinker seeks the laws of phenomena, striving to penetrate with thinking what he experiences through observation. Only when we have made the world-content into our thought-content do we again find the unity from which we have detached ourselves. We will see later that this goal can only be reached if the task of scientific research is understand on a much deeper level than is usually the case.

The whole relationship I have presented here between the “I” and the world is found historically in the conflict between the one-world theory, or Monism, and the two-world theory, or Dualism. Dualism directs its view solely to the separation between “I” and World brought about by human consciousness. All its effort is an ineffectual struggle to reconcile these polarities, which it may call Mind and Matter or Subject and Object, or Thought and Phenomenon. The Dualist feels that there must be a bridge between the two worlds, but is not able to find it.

Monism directs its view only upon the unity and tries either to deny or blur the contrasts actually present. Neither of these two points of view satisfy us, for they do not do justice to the facts. The Dualist sees in Mind (I) and Matter (World) two fundamentally different realities, and therefore, cannot understand how they can interact with each other. How should Mind know what goes on in Matter, if the essential nature of Matter is entirely alien to Mind? Or how should Mind under these circumstances influence Matter in such a way that its intentions translate into deeds? The most ingenious and the most absurd hypotheses have been put forward to solve these questions.

But, so far, the Monists are not in a much better position. They have tried to solve the problem in three different ways. Either they deny Mind and become Materialists; or they deny Matter in order to seek their salvation as Spiritualists; or they claim that even in the simplest entities in the world, Mind and Matter are indivisibly united so it is not surprising if these two kinds of existence both appear in the human being, seeing that they are never found apart.

2.1 Materialism (Material World)
[5] Materialism can never provide a satisfactory explanation of the world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with the formation of thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism, therefore, starts with the thoughts of Matter or material processes. But in doing so, it already has two different sets of facts before it: the material world and the thoughts about it. The Materialist tries to understand thoughts by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain in about the same way as digestion takes place in the animal organs. Just as he attributes mechanical and organic effects to Matter, so he also credits Matter with the capability, under certain conditions, to think. But he overlooks that all he has done is shift the problem from one place to another location. The Materialist attributes the power of thinking to Matter instead of to himself. This brings them back to his starting point. How does Matter come to reflect upon its own nature? Why is it not simply satisfied with itself and content to accept its own existence? The Materialist has turned his attention away from the specific subject, his own I, and occupies himself with an unspecific, hazy configuration. And here the old problem comes up again. The materialistic view cannot solve the problem; it can only shift it to another place.

2.2 Spiritualism (World of Mind)
[6] And what of the Spiritualist view? The pure Spiritualist denies Matter (World) any independent existence and regards it merely as a product of Mind (I). He regards the whole phenomenal world to be nothing more than a fabric woven by Mind out of itself. This view of the world finds itself in difficulties as soon as it attempts to deduce from Mind any single concrete phenomenon. It cannot do so either in knowledge or in action.

2.3 Knowledge of the External World (External World)
If one would really know the external world, one must turn one's eye outwards and draw on the fund of experience. Without experience Mind can have no content. Similarly, when it comes to action, we have to translate our intentions into realities with the help of material things and forces. We are, therefore, dependent on the external world.

2.4 Idealism (World of Ideas)
The most extreme Spiritualist, or if you prefer, Idealist, is Johann Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to derive the whole world structure from the "I". What he actually accomplished is a magnificent thought-picture of the world, but one without any empirical content. As little as it is possible for the Materialist to argue the Mind away, just as little is it possible for the Idealist to do without the external world of Matter.

2.5 Fiction of Senses and Thought
[8] A curious variation of Idealism is the view of Friedrich Albert Lange presented in his widely read History of Materialism. He holds the position that the Materialists are right in declaring all phenomena, including our thoughts, to be the product of purely material processes, but, conversely, Matter and its processes are themselves a product of our thinking.

“The senses give us only the effects of things, not true copies, let alone the things themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses themselves, along with the brain and molecular vibrations within it."

That means our thinking is produced by the material processes, and these are produced by the thinking of the "I". Lange's philosophy, in other words, is nothing more than the story, translated into concepts, of the brave Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up freely in the air by his own pigtail.

2.6 Indivisible Unity
[9] The third form of Monism is the one that sees even in the simplest thing (the atom), the union of both Matter and Mind. But nothing is gained by this either, for here again the question, which really originates in our consciousness, is shifted to another place. How does the simple thing manifest itself in a two-fold way, if it is an indivisible unity?

2.7 Contrast Ourselves
[10] In regard to all these points of view, we must emphasize the fact that it is within our own consciousness that we first encounter the fundamental and original polarity. It is we who free ourselves from the mother ground of Nature and contrast ourselves as "I" with the "World". Goethe has given classic expression to this in his essay Nature, although his manner of expression may at first sight be considered completely unscientific: "Living in the midst of her (Nature) we are strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet tells us none of her secrets." But Goethe also knows the reverse side: "Human beings are all within her and she is within all human beings."

2.8 Feel We Belong
[11] It is true that we have estranged ourselves from Nature; but it is just as true that we feel we are within her and belong to her. It can only be Nature’s own working that also lives in us.

2.9 Know Nature Within
[12] We must find the way back to her again. A simple reflection can show us the way. We have, it is true, torn ourselves away from Nature, but we must still have taken something over into our own being. This essence of Nature within us we must seek out, and then we will discover the connection with her once again. Dualism misses this. It considers the human Mind as a spiritual entity totally alien to Nature, and then seeks somehow to connect it to Nature. No wonder that it cannot find the connecting link. We can find Nature outside us only if we first know her within us. What is akin to Nature within us will be our guide. With this our path is mapped out for us. We will not engage in any speculations about the interaction between Mind and Matter. We will rather descend into the depths of our own being, to find those elements that we saved in our escape from Nature.

2.10 Something More Than “I"
[13] The exploration of our own being must bring us the solution to the riddle. We must come to a point where we can say to ourselves: Here we are no longer merely 'I', here is something that is more than 'I'.

2.11 Description Of Experience
[14] I am aware that some who have read this far will not find my remarks in conformity with "the current position of science." I can only reply that, so far, I have not been concerned with scientific results of any kind, but rather with the simple description of what every one of us experiences in his own consciousness. A few sentences about attempts to reconcile Mind with the World have been included only to clarify the actual facts. This is why I attach no value to using single expressions like "I," "Mind", World," "Nature," in the precise way that is usual in Psychology and Philosophy.

2.12 Facts Without Interpretation
The ordinary consciousness is unaware of the sharp distinctions made by the sciences, and up to this point it has only been a matter of recording the facts of everyday experience. To object that the above discussions have been unscientific would be like quarreling with the reciter of a poem for failing to accompany every line at once with aesthetic criticism. What concerns me is not how science, so far, has interpreted consciousness, but rather how we experience it hour by hour.

Split by John Ralph
Geist and Mind by Tom Last
Integrity of text by John Ralph
at the risk of sounding by danterosati (not verified)
Collaborators by John Ralph