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- Man or Matter - 2/74 -




A The relation of the electrical polarity to Levity and Gravity

B The Spectrum phenomenon as conceived by Goethe

C Light under the action of a transverse field-gradient


I. Robert Hooke's 'proof' of the non-reality of human concepts

II. Leaf-metamorphosis

III. Leaf-metamorphosis

IV. Goethe's sketch of a cloud-formation

V. A Snow-Crystal

VI. A cluster of Calcite crystals

VII. Various species of bacteria

VIII. Various species of fresh-water algae

Author's Note

The author makes grateful acknowledgment of the help he has gained from other works in the wide field opened up by Rudolf Steiner, and of his debt to the friends who in various ways assisted him in preparing his manuscript.

Quotations have been made from the following books by kind permission of their respective publishers:

The Life of Sir William Crookes by E. E. Fournier d'Albe (Messrs. Ernest Benn Ltd.); Man the Unknown by A. Carrel (Messrs. Hamish Hamilton Ltd.); The Philosophy of Physical Science and The Nature of The Physical Worldly A.. Eddington (University Press, Cambridge); Science and the Human Temperament by E. Schrödinger (Messrs. George Allen and Unwin Ltd.); Centuries of Meditations and Poetical Works by Th. Traherne (Messrs. P. J. and A. E. Dobell).


In this book the reader will find expounded a method of investigating nature by means of which scientific understanding can be carried across the boundaries of the physical-material to the supersensible sources of all natural events, and thereby into the realm where is rooted the true being of man.

The beginnings of this method were worked out by Goethe more than 150 years ago. The nineteenth century, however, failed to provide any fertile ground for the development of the seeds thus sown. It was left to Rudolf Steiner, shortly before the end of the century, to recognize the significance of 'Goetheanism' for the future development not only of science but of human culture in general. It is to him, also, that we owe the possibility of carrying on Goethe's efforts in the way required by the needs of our own time.

The following pages contain results of the author's work along the path thus opened up by Goethe and Rudolf Steiner - a work begun twenty-seven years ago, soon after he had made the acquaintance of Rudolf Steiner. With the publication of these results he addresses himself to everyone - with or without a specialized scientific training - who is concerned with the fate of man's powers of cognition in the present age.


The reader may welcome a remark as to the way in which this book needs to be read.

It has not been the author's intention to provide an encyclopaedic collection of new conceptions in various fields of natural observation. Rather did he wish, as the sub-title of the book indicates, to offer a new method of training both mind and eye (and other senses as well), by means of which our modern 'onlooking' consciousness can be transformed into a new kind of 'participating' consciousness. Hence it would be of no avail to pick out one chapter or another for first reading, perhaps because of some special interest in its subject-matter. The chapters are stages on a road which has to be travelled, and each stage is necessary for reaching the next. It is only through thus accepting the method with which the book has been written that the reader will be able to form a competent judgment of its essential elements.

E. L.

Hawkwood College Easter 1950


Science at the Threshold



If I introduce this book by relating how I came to encounter Rudolf Steiner and his work, more than twenty-five years ago, and what decided me not only to make his way of knowledge my own, but also to enter professionally into an activity inspired by his teachings, it is because in this way I can most directly give the reader an impression of the kind of spirit out of which I have written. I am sure, too, that although what I have to say in this chapter is personal in content, it is characteristic of many in our time.

When I first made acquaintance with Rudolf Steiner and his work, I was finishing my academic training as an electrical engineer. At the end of the 1914-18 war my first thought had been to take up my studies from where I had let them drop, four years earlier. The war seemed to imply nothing more than a passing interruption of them. This, at any rate, was the opinion of my former teachers; the war had made no difference whatever to their ideas, whether on the subject-matter of their teaching or on its educational purpose. I myself, however, soon began to feel differently. It became obvious to me that my relationship to my subject, and therefore to those teaching it, had completely changed. What I had experienced through the war had awakened in me a question of which I had previously been unaware; now I felt obliged to put it to everything I came across.

As a child of my age I had grown up in the conviction that it was within the scope of man to shape his life according to the laws of reason within him; his progress, in the sense in which I then understood it, seemed assured by his increasing ability to determine his own outer conditions with the help of science. Indeed, it was the wish to take an active part in this progress that had led me to choose my profession. Now, however, the war stood there as a gigantic social deed which I could in no way regard as reasonably justified. How, in an age when the logic of science was supreme, was it possible that a great part of mankind, including just those peoples to whom science had owed its origin and never-ceasing expansion, could act in so completely unscientific a way? Where lay the causes of the contradiction thus revealed between human thinking and human doing?

Pursued by these questions, I decided after a while to give my studies a new turn. The kind of training then provided in Germany at the so-called Technische Hochschulen was designed essentially to give students a close practical acquaintance with all sorts of technical appliances; it included only as much theory as was wanted for understanding the mathematical calculations arising in technical practice. It now seemed to me necessary to pay more attention to theoretical considerations, so as to gain a more exact knowledge of the sources from which science drew its conception of nature. Accordingly I left the Hochschule for a course in mathematics and physics at a university, though without abandoning my original idea of preparing for a career in the field of electrical engineering. It was with this in mind that I later chose for my Ph.D. thesis a piece of experimental research on the uses of high-frequency electric currents.

During my subsequent years of stuffy, however, I found myself no nearer an answer to the problem that haunted me. All that I experienced, in scientific work as in life generally, merely gave it an even sharper edge. Everywhere I saw an abyss widening between human knowing and human action. How often was I not bitterly disillusioned by the behaviour of men for whose ability to think through the most complicated scientific questions I had the utmost admiration!

On all sides I found this same bewildering gulf between scientific achievement and the way men conducted their own lives and influenced the lives of others. I was forced to the conclusion that human thinking, at any rate in its modern form, was either powerless to govern human actions, or at least unable to direct them towards right ends. In fact, where scientific thinking had done most to change the practical relations of human life, as in the mechanization of economic production, conditions had arisen which made it more difficult, not less, for men to live in a way worthy of man. At a time when humanity was equipped as never before to investigate the order of the universe, and had achieved triumphs of design in mechanical constructions, human life was falling into ever wilder chaos. Why was this?

The fact that most of my contemporaries were apparently quite unaware of the problem that stirred me so deeply could not weaken my sense of its reality. This slumber of so many souls in face of the vital questions of modern life seemed to me merely a further symptom of the sickness of our age. Nor could I think much better of those who, more sensitive to the contradictions in and around them, sought refuge in art or religion. The catastrophe of the war had shown me that this departmentalizing of life, which at one time I had myself considered a sort of ideal, was quite inconsistent with the needs of to-day. To make use of art or religion as a refuge was a sign of their increasing separation from the rest of human culture. It implied a cleavage between the different spheres of society which ruled out any genuine solution of social problems.

I knew from history that religion and art had once exercised a function which is to-day reserved for science, for they had given guidance in even the most practical activities of human society. And in so doing they had enhanced the quality of human living, whereas the influence of

Man or Matter - 2/74

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