Page 10 - The Philosophy of Freedom By Rudolf Steiner
P. 10

specially written for the English.

Spirit, Soul And Mind

Spirit, Soul And Mind are not precise equivalents in English of the German Geist and Seele. Perhaps 

because we use the concept of mind to include all our experiences through thinking, the concepts of 

spirit and soul have practically dropped out of everyday use, whereas in German there is no distinct 

equivalent for "mind" and the concepts "spirit" (Geist) and "soul" (Seele) are consequently broader in 

scope. Any work describing Steiner's point of view in terms of English philosophy would have to deal 

with the mind as a central theme (see fn 5), but here our task is to introduce readers to Steiner's 

concepts of spirit and soul.

For Steiner, the spirit is experienced directly in the act of intuitive thinking. The human spirit is that 

part of us that thinks, but the spiritual world is not limited to the personal field of the individual human 

being; it opens out to embrace the eternal truths of existence. The English word "spirit" gives the sense 

of something more universal, less personal, than "mind ", and since Steiner's philosophical path leads 

to an experience of the reality of the spiritual world, I have kept the word wherever possible, using 

"mind " or "mental " in a few places where it seemed more appropriate. The "spiritual activity" here 

meant is thus more than mental activity, although it starts at a level we would call mental; it leads the 

human being, aware of himself as a spirit, into the ultimate experience of truth.

The soul, too, is directly experienced; it is not a vague metaphysical entity, but is that region in us 

where we experience our likes and dislikes, our feelings of pleasure and pain. It contains those 

characteristics of thought and feeling that make us individual, different from each other. In many 

common phrases we use the word "mind" where German has the word Seele, but since Steiner 

recognizes a distinction between soul and spirit, it is important to keep these different words.

Even in modern English usage something of this difference remains, and it is not too late to hope that 

Steiner's exact observations in this realm may help to prevent the terms "soul" and "spirit" becoming 

mere synonyms. Therefore I have kept these words wherever the distinction was important, though in 

a few places an alternative rendering seemed to fit better; for instance, the "introspective observation" 

quoted in the motto on the title-page could have been rendered literally as "observation of the soul" -- 

this observation involves a critical examination of our habits of thought and feeling, not studied from 

outside in the manner of a psychological survey of human behavior, but from inside where each person 

meets himself face to face.

The whole book can be considered as a study of the mind, but using an exactness of observation and 

clarity of thinking never before achieved. Nevertheless, the stream of materialism still flows so 

strongly that there is a real danger that the mind, and indeed the whole realm of the soul and the spirit, 

will be dismissed as a metaphysical construction. Only by adopting a philosophy such as is developed 

in this book will it be possible to retain an experience of soul and of spirit which will be strong enough 

to stand up to the overwhelming desire to accept nothing as real unless it is supported by science. For 

in this philosophy Steiner opens the door to a science of the spirit every bit as exact and precise as our 

current science of nature would be.

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