This is a catch-up post to bring you up to date with some of the study history from the last couple of decades. Actually it is not a long list since we truly have taken our time!
The first thing to say is that we initially wanted to focus on Steiner’s philosophical written work. This was driven by a wish to start right at the beginning and, for my part, NOT wanting to go through his lectures. He took a massive amount of care with his written work, feeling that he had a deep responsibility to his readers. Obviously lectures would not be able to have that same depth of care since they were more of a living experience.
[Background Point: Steiner initially did not want his lectures written down at all since he maintained that the lectures were delivered for the particular audience. However events somewhat overtook him and some of his critics started misquoting what he had said. Thus he felt the need to have the lectures transcribed by a stenographer. I believe there are about 6000 lectures available now.]
However when some lectures have piqued my interest I have actually found it good to listen to readings of them since it gives you that auditory experience which, I think, works well with the content. However sometimes you need to realize that he was talking at a different time. See Dale Brunsvold’s site where he has produced audio recordings of his readings – which has been a great resource for allowing me to listen to lectures in the car. A real labour of love I think and deserving of a small donation towards hosting costs if you do end up using his site a lot.
However, back to the study list so far:
1: Truth & Knowledge : 1892
The very beginning. Steiner’s epistemological doctoral dissertation and a prelude to the Philosophy of Freedom.
2: Boundaries of Natural Science : 1920
A lecture series with an exploration of how Goethean Science and the Philosophy of Freedom can help us go beyond the limits of natural science to provide a healthy foundation for social science.
3: Anthroposophy Science : 1921
A lecture series that somewhat covered our favourite subject of technology and its relationship the development of consciousness.
4: Philosophy of Freedom : 1894
Also known as the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, to highlight the fact that freedom is never a finished thing but requires constant activity. This is the main foundational book to all he subsequently worked on. In hindsight we should have perhaps studied this earlier.
5: Study of Man : 1919
This is a series of lectures given to teachers of the first Steiner School in Stuttgart.
In future posts I will attempt to summarize some of the earlier study texts but some of the content is now lost in the mists of time.
The main thing that I remember is that in the early stages of our study it was too easy to just skip through the texts without really grasping them. Thus it was that we really, really slowed it down and would not move forward if we did not think we had ‘got it’.
There was many a wrinkled brow, coupled with a feeling of “I am just not getting this”, which brings me to an important question that we and many other people have about Steiner’s output:
“For goodness sake, why is it so DIFFICULT to work with?”
From where I stand now, I can say that there is a very, very good reason for this.
Steiner is not giving us finished answers. His whole raison d’etre is to help us come to a different way of perceiving the world, something that our education beats out of us. In what he writes, he is trying to give you indications about different ways of seeing things, AS WELL AS doing it in a way that challenges you to try and develop this different way of perception as you study.
Remember I talked about congruence in a previous post between his content and method? But oh dear me, it really can make it hard going at times. The way I have come to see this now is that we are literally creating extra organs of perception in our thinking, and this is a long process. It is as if we have been given all the physical senses at birth, but now we need to take our own development in hand, creating new dynamic senses in our thinking.
So no quick fixes here.
[Definition: Anthroposophy was the term Steiner coined for his approach. Literally “wisdom of the human being”. Indicating that Steiner felt that it was important to understand and develop ourselves, embracing this task consciously, since we represent a strongly co-creative force in the world.]