i’ve posted parts of this before but I’ll do it again here, with some additions; this is truly a Steiner I can admire almost unconditionally. I also post this because I was reminded of it today, reading something on facebook about this essay, Individualism in Philosophy, being published again by Steiner Verlag (in German) with its original title as subtitle (Der Egoismus in der Philosophie). So here are a few passages from the essay, more specifically, passages dealing with religious belief, and less with other philosophical implications of Steiner’s text.
“One way man comes to terms with the outer world consists, therefore, in his regarding his inner being as something outer; he sets this inner being, which he has transferred into the outer world, both over nature and over himself as ruler and lawgiver.
“This characterizes the standpoint of the religious person. A divine world order is a creation of the human spirit.”
“No matter how one studies this, one finds that there are countless people who believe themselves governed by gods; there are none who do not independently, over the heads of the gods, judge what pleases or displeases these gods. The religious person cannot set himself up as the lord of the world; but he does indeed determine, out of his own absolute power, the likes and dislikes of the ruler of the world.”
“What proclaimer of gods has not at the same time determined quite exactly what pleases these gods and what is repugnant to them?”
“If one wants to characterize the standpoint of the religious person one must say: He seeks to judge the world out of himself, but he does not have the courage also to ascribe to himself the responsibility for this judgment; therefore he invents beings for himself in the outer world that he can saddle with this responsibility.”
“What is religion? The content of religion springs from the human spirit. But the human spirit does not want to acknowledge this origin to itself. The human being submits himself to his own laws, but he regards these laws as foreign. He establishes himself as ruler over himself. Every religion establishes the human “I” as regent of the world. Religion’s being consists precisely in this, that it is not conscious of this fact. It regards as revelation from outside what it actually reveals to itself.
“The human being wishes to stand at the topmost place in the world. But he does not dare to pronounce himself the pinnacle of creation. Therefore he invents gods in his own image and lets the world be ruled by them. When he thinks this way, he is thinking religiously.”
“In the normal course of development within the spiritual evolution of the West, the discovery of egoism would have to have followed upon Neo-Platonism. That means, man would have to have recognized as his own being what he had considered to be a foreign being. He would have to have said to himself: The highest thing there is in the world given to man is his individual “I” whose being comes to manifestation within the inner life of the personality. This natural course of Western spiritual development was held up by the spread of Christian teachings.”
“And for centuries this childish form of human self-estrangement has had the greatest conceivable influence upon the philosophical development of thought. Like fog the Christian teachings have hung before the light from which knowledge of man’s own being should have gone forth.”
“The thickness of the fog in which Christianity enshrouded human self-knowledge becomes most evident through the fact that the Western spirit, out of itself, could not take even one step on the path to this self-knowledge. The Western spirit needed a decisive push from outside. It could not find upon the ground of the soul what it had sought so long in the outer world. But it was presented with proof that this outer world could not be constituted in such a way that the human spirit could find there the essential being it sought. This push was given by the blossoming of the natural sciences in the sixteenth century. As long as man had only an imperfect picture of how natural processes are constituted, there was room in the outer world for divine beings and for the working of a personal divine will. But there was no longer a place, in the natural picture of the world sketched out by Copernicus and Kepler, for the Christian picture. And as Galileo laid the foundations for an explanation of natural processes through natural laws, the belief in divine laws had to be shaken.”
“Man’s own “I” also belongs within the category of real things. And does it not almost seem as though man’s natural predisposition makes him unable to look at this “I” without bias? Only the development of a completely unbiased sense, directed immediately upon what is real, can lead to self-knowledge. The path of knowledge of nature is also the path of knowledge of the “I.””
“Man’s self was not allowed to follow itself; it had to follow something foreign. Selflessness in one’s actions in the moral field corresponds to self-estrangement in the realm of knowledge. Those actions are good in which the “I” follows something foreign; those actions are bad, on the other hand, in which it follows itself. In self-will Christianity sees the source of all evil. That could never have happened if one had seen that everything moral can draw its content only out of one’s own self. One can sum up all the Christian moral teachings in one sentence: If man admits to himself that he can follow only the commandments of his own being and if he acts according to them, then he is evil; if this truth is hidden from him and if he sets — or allows to be set — his own commandments as foreign ones over himself in order to act according to them, then he is good.“
“This development of European thought manifests a very definite character. Man must draw out of himself the best that he can know. He in fact practices self-knowledge. But he always shrinks back again from the thought of also recognizing that what he has created is in fact self-created. He feels himself to be too weak to carry the world. Therefore he saddles someone else with this burden. And the goals he sets for himself would lose their weight for him if he acknowledged their origin to himself; therefore he burdens his goals with powers that he believes he takes from outside. Man glorifies his child but without wanting to acknowledge his own fatherhood.”