Science Group of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain

Newsletter - March 2000

An edited HTML version of the original printed newsletter issued to members.



Georg Cantor and Rudolf Steiner, Renatus Ziegler

Conference Report: "The Victory of the Human Spirit over the Computer", Ron Jarman






Georg Cantor and Rudolf Steiner*

Renatus Ziegler

Translated by David Wood

Georg Cantor (1845-1918) is above all recognized as one of the most important mathematicians of the 19th century, single-handedly founding and formulating set theory – in particular the theory of transfinite numbers.1 Cantor’s interests, however, extended far beyond the field of pure mathematics. He was substantially involved in the founding of the German Mathematicians Association in 1890, and its first president until 1893. In connection with his researches into mathematical infinity, he was deeply occupied with philosophical issues.2 Furthermore, he worked with great intensity on theological and literary-historical problems. However, in his main area of research – set theory and the transfinite numbers – he certainly wasn't accorded any immediate understanding, having instead to battle against the incomprehension and mistrust of many of his contemporaries both orally and in writing.

Cantor’s analysis of the so-called Shakespeare-Bacon Theory began in the 1880’s. For an attentive and active contemporary it was not unusual to occupy oneself with a problem of this kind. This theory specifically questioned the authorship of the Shakespearian dramas and poems. An advocate of this theory sought to demonstrate that the person known to us as the actor from Stratford – William Shakespeare (1564-1616) – a man otherwise barely provable from the documents available to us, could not have been the author of the works attributed to him. Instead there come into consideration a number of other writers originating from the higher educational and/or society circles. Many supporters of this view consider the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon (1561-1626) to have been the author, believing only he alone possessed enough erudition and learning to write the dramas in question.3

Written remarks from Cantor on the Shakespeare-Problem first appear after the middle of the 1890’s. He proved himself thoroughly at home in the relevant primary and secondary literature. In dealing with this problem he also exhibited his customary thoroughness, vehemence and force of conviction, and just like the opponents of the Shakespeare-Bacon theory, he too did not refrain from expressing himself polemically at times.

During this period he also ventured to speak publicly about the results of his researches, both in general public lectures and in meetings of local societies. However, it is evident that Cantor had difficulties finding open ears and willing publishers for his oral presentations and written compositions. These difficulties form the background to his meeting with Rudolf Steiner in Berlin. A source of information about this meeting is a letter Cantor wrote from Berlin to his son Erich on the 1st February l900: 4

"[...] The purpose of my somewhat longer stay here is a very important one, and it appears as if I’ve finally achieved it; in two, or three days at most, I shall be home again. As you are aware for a long time now I’ve been seeking a channel – and one without cost at that – to bring my Shakespeare research before the learned public. This will allow my findings to be examined, and whatever is of any good to be of some value to humanity. You know of the many fruitless and rather expensive attempts that I have had to make to reach this goal. Just consider the number of refusals I've received from publishers, editors, etc. etc. That is, I sought a channel [Kanal] but have until now only encountered scoundrels [Kanaillen], who treated me with scorn. Arrogant fellows and block-heads, who know nothing of my work and would not help me, all because of the learned-cliques whose theory I oppose; who with their inflated appearances and long guarded, antiquated ways, are comparable to that notorious wall which has surrounded the Chinese empire for millennia.

Through the writer Eugen Reichel, whom I visited the day before yesterday, I have now become acquainted with the editor of the Magazin für Literatur – Dr. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian. He is engaged by the ‘Free Literary Society’, which he directs, and whose mouthpiece is the above mentioned academic journal.

For 10 years Steiner worked in Weimar as the joint-editor of the new edition of Goethe’s works – specifically the natural scientific part. He is a natural scientific researcher and philosopher by profession. And just like Husserl in regard to mathematics, Steiner began with physics and has now become a philosopher and literate.

I visited him today in Friedenau; he is a young man of approximately 37 years of age. But the main point: He is independent of the ruling-clique; regarding the Shakespeare-problem he is on my side, and most importantly, he was delighted to accept my essays for his journal. To begin with, the essay I recently delivered before the Thuringia-Saxony Society, the very one the Halle and Saale newspapers would not print because their editors believed it their duty to uphold the old Shakespeare fable. […]

I am very happy to have found Dr. Steiner, a splendid man, refined soul, noble character etc. etc. […]"

The writer Eugen Reichel (1853-1916) was a regular co-worker for the journal the Magazin für Litteratur – and had also intensively concerned himself with the Shakespeare-Bacon problem (see further below). In July 1897 Rudolf Steiner took over the editorship of the Magazin together with Otto Erich Hartleben (1864-1905). He then held the position by himself for a while, until his resignation in September 1900. The Magazin für Litteratur was also the organ of the ‘Free Literary Society’ to whose committee Steiner was elected. Rudolf Steiner comments on this in The Course Of My Life:

"I could only take over the journal if I additionally imposed on myself an activity which seemed likely to increase its circle of subscribers. – This was the activity in the ‘Free Literary Society’. I had to so arrange the content of the journal that the society received its due. […] It also fell to me to give lectures in this society, in order that the mediation of the spiritual life to be given through the Magazin could also be personally brought to expression." (GA 28; 340ff.)

As may be gathered from the further explanations given by Steiner in The Course Of My Life, he was indeed commissioned to work in an independent way within the ‘Free Literary Society’, but was neither an employee of it, nor its ‘director’. And as Steiner himself had foreseen, difficulties arose after a short period of time which finally led to him giving up the editorship.5

In ‘Section II: Goethe’s Natural Scientific Writings’ of Goethe’s works, published under the commission of the Grand Duchess of Saxony (Weimar Edition or Sophie-Edition; Weimar Böhlau 1887-1919), Rudolf Steiner worked together with Bernard Suphan on the volumes, ‘On Morphology’ (Volume II.6, 1891; II.7, 1892; II.8, 1893), ‘On Natural Science in General, Mineralogy and Geology’ (Volume II.9, 1892; II.10, 1894) as well as ‘On Natural Science, General Theory of Nature’ (Volume II.11, 1893; II.12, 1896).

Whether Steiner actually stood on Cantor’s side with regard to the Shakespeare problem will be looked at later. In any event, Cantor's euphoric sounding characterisations of Steiner are presumably because he believed he had (finally) found in Steiner a potential editor for publishing his essays on the Shakespeare-Bacon problem. And in fact, not long after, Cantor sent the manuscript of an essay to Steiner. Reports of two lectures on this theme given by Cantor in Leipzig shortly before on the 28th of November 1899 and the 5th of December 1899, can be found in the newspaper Leipziger Tagblatt und Anzeiger.6

On the 7th of February 1900, Cantor wrote to Steiner from Halle on the Saale, Händelstrasse 13 : 7

"Dear Sir,

Please find enclosed the completed first essay for your journal, which I now take the liberty of sending to you. Hopefully it is possible to print the article, which has become somewhat longer, in one and the same number. The following article comprises the second part of the commenced first chapter. When can you make use of the second article?

I believe my work will not fail to have repercussions on the Shakespeareologists’ struggle. You will notice I hold the fundamental principle of speaking candidly; for a severe approach is necessary when dealing with philologists.

With best wishes to you and your wife,

Yours faithfully, Georg Cantor.

P.S. Yesterday my colleague Vaihinger lent me his copy of your book on Nietzsche, which greatly interests me. I also hope to find here among my acquaintances some of your other publications in order to study them some time."

The essay in question appeared in the Magazin für Litteratur under the title, ‘Shakespeareology and Baconianism; Historical-Critical Contributions to the Solution of the Shakespeare problem’ (No.8, 1900, Columns 196-203). Steiner had therefore complied with the request for publication in the same number. However, a continuation of the commenced series of articles never appeared.8

The philosopher, Hans Vaihinger (1852-1933), a Kant and Nietzsche scholar, founder of the Kantstudien (1897), as well as the Kant Society (1904), was Cantor's professorial colleague in Halle. He is best known for his principal work, The Philosophy of As-If; System of Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Humanity on the basis of Idealistic Positivism; with an appendix on Kant and Nietzsche (Berlin 1911), in which all values and ideals are presented as fictions of humanity. The book mentioned by Cantor is Steiner's: Nietzsche, ein Kämpfer gegen seine Zeit (Weimar: Emil Felber 1895; GA 5) [published in English under the title Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom.]

Not long after on the 13th of February 1900, Cantor again wrote to Steiner from Halle on the Saale, Händelstrasse 13 : 9

"Honoured Doctor. By now you would have received my manuscript ‘Shakespeareology and Baconianism’. I would be grateful if you could tell me when the printing of this first article will roughly take place. I would also like to make (this is hopefully self-explanatory?) a correction to the copy. I’ve noticed an error; regarding the ‘Sammler-Hypothesis’, George Chalmers (1742-1825) should be credited as the author, not Boader; and a few other minor things could be improved upon.

I’ve received an offer from a publisher in Offenbach to write a more substantial work on the Shakespeare-problem. With regards to that I will wait until my three articles have appeared in your magazine. Today I received the stationery printing for ‘College Pedagogy’ from Dr. H. Schmidkunz ; in any case, many thanks for the stimulus I have received from you. Could you also please give my regards to Privy Councillor Förster.

Respectfully yours, Georg Cantor."

The correction indicated by Cantor was carried out. It is unknown whether Steiner sent Cantor a page-proof, but is most unlikely since Cantor’s article appeared on the 24th of February 1900. This article was the final work that Cantor did on the Shakespeare-Bacon problem; both a continuation of the article as well as a more detailed treatment failed to eventuate.

The philosopher and educator Hans Schmidkunz (1863-1934) was the secretary of the ‘Association for College Pedagogy’ founded in 1898.10 In the association’s 11 first lecture-series he presented a talk on the 28th of November 1898 entitled, ‘College-Pedagogy’; with Steiner giving a lecture on the 12th of December 1898 called, ‘College Pedagogy and Public Life’.12

The Privy Councillor mentioned by Cantor is Wilhelm Julius Förster (1832-1921), who was an astronomer at the Imperial Urania-Observatory in Berlin. Moreover, he was president and co-founder with Hans Schmidkunz of the ‘Association for College Pedagogy’ to which Steiner also belonged. In the above mentioned lecture-series he spoke on the 21st of November 1898 on: ‘School and College in the light of recent life conditions’.13

We will now look into the question why Steiner accepted Cantor's highly polemical essay for publication in the Magazin für Litteratur. Cantor's prospects for publication in the Magazin presumably effectively ended after Steiner’s departure. Steiner’s own attitude to the Shakespeare-Bacon theory seems to have been neither an explicit embracing of it, nor a whole-hearted rejection. The only two statements known to me in Steiner’s written works are reviews on the work of other researchers on this problem. In an obituary of Wilhelm Preyer (1841-1897), a professor of physiology and psychology in Jena, Steiner mentions a few of Preyer’s unusual objects of investigation:

"He especially liked to immerse himself in the fledgling areas of science. Hypnotism, graphology, the question as to whether Bacon was the author of Shakespeare’s dramas, occupied his time and inspired him to write books and essays that are of value and are original, despite the fact their contents evoked considerable doubt. Things which appeared so absurd to many people that they would not even seriously discuss them, became the object of Preyer's work and thought." (Magazin für Litteratur, no. 30, 1897; GA 30, p. 347).

In another connection Steiner speaks about Eugen Reichel, an author intimately known to him. He says:

"Reichel is of the opinion that the profundity in Shakespeare’s dramas and the ‘Novum Organum’ of Bacon of Verulam, reveal a powerful and brilliant personality, equally great as poet and thinker, yet who had died in obscurity without being understood by the world. [...] Bacon of Verulam was the bungling and amateurish character in question. He appropriated the unpublished works of this forgotten genius, ‘re-worked’ them in the manner indicated above; then using his own name presented to his contemporaries and posterity the philosophical writings, while the dramatic works were published under the name of the Stratford actor Shakespeare." (Magazin für Litteratur, no. 24, 1900; GA 29, pp. 389-90).

Steiner is here referring to a book by Eugen Reichel that is also present in his personal library: Shakespeare Litteratur (Stuttgart: Adolf Bonz & Comp. 1887). In the table of contents there appears amongst others the following headings – ‘Who wrote the ‘Novum Organum’ of Francis Bacon?’, ‘Shakespeare’s literary estate’, and ‘Shakespeare’s Dramas’. After the passage cited above Steiner adds: "I myself am still unable to come to any sort of conclusion regarding this difficult problem - a problem to which Reichel devoted so much of his energy."

Steiner’s general view with respect to the publication of Cantor’s work seems to be that of trying to give voice to as many different opinions on a subject as possible. For as he writes in the "Dramaturgische Blätter" (No. 36, 1898) – a supplement to the Magazin für Litteratur – "It is my conviction that it is the duty of an editor of a literary journal to allow many diverse standpoints to be expressed on a matter." (GA 29, p. 141). The extent to which Steiner tried to remain independent of the various prevailing views can perhaps be seen in the obituary of the Anglican Friedrich August Leo (1820-1898): "On the 30th of June a man passed away who accomplished much for Shakespeare scholarship – Professor Dr. Leo – one of the co-founders of the German Shakespeare Society and longtime publisher of the Shakespeare Yearbook." (Magazin für Litteratur, No. 27, 1898; GA 32; p.442) Yet in the Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft (1885, pp.190-227), in a very cutting and attacking article entitled: ‘The Bacon-Society; together with a few comments on the Bacon-Shakespeare Affair’, this very same Professor Leo had also expressed a few highly scathing criticisms of the supporters of the Bacon-Shakespeare theory. Cantor naturally felt himself included among those attacked and correspondingly replied to Leo's criticism.14

Perhaps also interesting in this regard are a few of Steiner’s comments on Shakespeare which don’t explicitly relate to the authorship of Shakespeare’s dramas, but may shed light on his attitude and view of Shakespeare as a person. In an article called: ‘Also a Shakespeare Secret’ (Dramaturgische Blätter, No.30, 1898), Steiner writes: –

"I believe the most suitable words to describe Shakespeare’s world view are expressed when we say: The world is a drama for him. By dint of his nature he views all things with a certain theatrical effect. Whether they reflect typical fundamental forms, or hang together morally, or whether they express something mysterious – are all of no consequence to him. [...] I hope my article is not interpreted as if I am accusing Shakespeare of being superficial. He delves into all one-sidedness with a certain brilliant intuitiveness, yet doesn’t become embroiled in any one-sidedness himself. He transforms himself from one character into another. Shakespeare is an actor with the whole of his being - and therefore the most effective dramatist." (GA 29, pp. 139-140).

In an essay called, ‘Dr. Wüllner as Othello’, in the journal Deutschland (No. 335, 1896, p.2), Steiner reviews a touring show playing at the Hoftheater in Weimar. The review begins with the words:

"A happy, illuminating experience can be enjoyed by one, who realizes that the greatness of Shakespeare’s plays can be explained by the fact that their poet was an actor. However, it is not of importance to know that this poet was professionally trained in acting, but to realize he possessed an actor nature as a fundamental trait in his personality. It belongs to the very essence of such a nature that they can, with the total denial of their own personality, immerse themselves in a foreign character. Hence, the actor renounces being himself. He is now given the possibility of speaking forth out of a foreign being. The more he is flexible and capable of transformation, the more he is an actor. There is deep and symbolic meaning in the fact that we know next to nothing about Shakespeare as a person. How does he relate to us? For he doesn’t speak to us as a person, rather, he speaks to us out of his rôles. He is the true chameleon. He speaks to us as Hamlet, as Lear, as Othello. Shakespeare even acts out theatre while writing his plays. He no longer senses what is going on in his own soul while creating the figures of his dramas. Because Shakespeare himself was so wholly an actor, are therefore only genuine actors able to perform his plays." (GA 29; p. 399)

An exchange between Cantor and Steiner on philosophical or mathematical topics appears not to have taken place. With the dedication, "Halle on the Saale/4th Febr. 1900/Rudolf Steiner in Berlin, Best wishes, yours sincerely, the author", Cantor sent to Steiner, with handwritten corrections affixed, his work Zur Lehre vom Transfiniten; Gesammelte Abhandlungen aus der Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Philosophische Kritik. Erste Abtheilung (On the Theory of Transfinites; Collected Papers from the Journal for Philosophy and Philosophical Criticism. Part One. [all that appeared] Halle-Saale: Pfeffer 1890). There seems to have been no immediate reply from Steiner. The volume contained the two essays, ‘On the various standpoints in relation to the actual infinite’15 and ‘Discussions on the Theory of Transfinites’.16

As far as I'm aware Steiner never explicitly mentions Cantor, neither in his written works, nor in the extant lectures. On the other hand, apart from Cantor’s reading of his Nietzsche-book (letter dated 7th February 1900), there also appears to be no concrete indication that Cantor occupied himself with Steiner’s work.17 There is only one indirect indication of Steiner’s acquaintance with the fundamental concepts of Cantorian set theory, and this is in answer to a question, after a lecture on the 15th of October, 1920. (GA 324a). There we find:

"If one has no sense for reality, then one can, having only mathematical formulae and mathematical methods at one’s disposal, calculate in the most brilliant manner into space and time, and thus obtain the most dreadful abstractions here.

Often these abstractions have something extremely seductive about them. We need only call to mind modern set theory, which is used, is it not, as a basis for explanations of the infinite. There you have a dissolution of the mathematical principle in itself, a dissolution of number in itself, insofar as number is no longer taken in its usual meaning, but rather, a set is compared to another set. One disregards the qualities and ordering of the individual elements and only considers the relation they may have with one another. It is then possible to erect certain theories of the infinite. However one continually swims in abstractions, because in concrete reality the things do not admit of being carried out.

Now it is of great significance that one has gradually become accustomed to refraining from this immersion in reality. You see in this regard Spiritual Science must certainly rectify many things. I have presented you with two contrasts. It may appear as if all these things have nothing to do with the theory, but in reality they have very much to do with it. For with all these things we are not just dealing with a theory that will bring about its own correction when a sound approach to thinking is present, but much more with the development of a healthy manner of thinking. Yet this manner of thinking isn’t merely logical, for the logical is also valid for the mathematical, and one can simply calculate with the logical on into the mathematical, thus receiving thoroughly consequential formations, which need not have any application to reality."

Steiner’s discussion relates to Cantor’s investigations into the different levels of infinity. At the basis of these investigations lies the following definition more or less alluded to by Steiner: "I understand by a power or cardinal number of a set M (consisting of totally distinct, conceptually separate elements, m, m’, ... and hence is insofar determined and bounded), the general concept or generic concept (universale), which can be obtained by abstracting the set, the composition of its elements, as well as all the relations they may have among each other or with other things, and therefore especially with the order reigning among the elements, and then by solely reflecting it with everything common to those sets equivalent with M. I call two sets M and N equivalent, however, when it is possible to put them in such a relation with one another, that to every element of one, there corresponds one and only one element of the other." This definition stems from the essay, ‘The Theory of the Transfinites’.18

* Dr. Ziegler's essay first appeared in the volume Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, Nos. 114/115, pp. 53-61, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach, 1995.


1. For biographies of Cantor see: Walter Purkert/Hans Joachim Ilgauds, Georg Cantor 1845-1918 (Basel/lBoston/Stuttgart 1987); Andor Kertész, Georg Cantor 1845-1918, Schöpfer der Mengenlehre (Halle/Saale: Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher 1983; Acta Historica Leopoldina, No.15); Herbert Meschkowski, Georg Cantor, Leben, Werk und Wirkung. Mannheim/Wien/Zürich: Bibliographisches Institut 1983.

2. Joseph Dauben, Georg Cantor: His Mathematics and Philosophy of the Infinite (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1979); Hans Bandmann, Die Unendlichkeit des Seins: Cantors transfinite Mengenlehre und ihre metaphysischen Würzeln (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang 1992; Studia Philosophica et Historica, Volume 18).

3. Cf. Purkert/Ilgauds (Note 1), pp. 82-92 and in particular for what follows, see the informative essay by Hans Joachim Ilgauds, ‘Zur Biographie von Georg Cantor: Georg Cantor und die Bacon-Shakespeare Theorie’, NTM-Schriftenreihe für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin, Volume 19, 1982, Booklet 2, pp. 31-49. Concerning the Shakespeare-Bacon Theory, see especially R .P. Wülker, ‘Die Shakespeare-Bacon-Theorie’, Berichte über die Verhandlungen der Königlich-Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig. Philologisch-historische Classe, 1889, IV, pp. 217-300.

4. Herbert Meschkowski/Winfried Nilson (Editors), Georg Cantor; Briefe (Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer 1991), Letter No.168, pp. 423-424.

5. See the lecture of October 27, 1918 in Dornach on, ‘Brief reflections on the publication of the new edition of the ‘The Philosophy of Freedom’ . In From Symptom to Reality in Modern History (GA 185), (Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1976).

6. Ilgauds (Note 3), pp. 39-40. ibid. on p.39, an editorial comment to Cantor’s article in the Saale newspaper is quoted, where the negative attitude of this newspaper to the Shakespeare-Bacon Theory is clearly evident.

7. Archive of the Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Department: Letters to Rudolf Steiner.

8. [The original German title is: ‘Shakepeareologie und Baconianismus; Historisch-kritische Beiträge zur Lösung der Shakespearefrage’] For an analysis of Cantor’s article, see Ilgauds (Note 3), pp. 40-43.

9. Archive of the Rudolf Steiner-Nachlassverwaltung, Department: Letters to Rudolf Steiner.

10. "Verband für Hochschulpädagogik." Cf. Walter Kugler, ‘Rudolf Steiners frühe Vortragstätigskeit im Spiegel der zeitgenössischen Presse II, Berlin 1899-1903’ in Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe No.101 (1988; pp.53-71).

11. See Steiner’s report, ‘Schule und Hochschule’, in the Magazin für Litteratur, 1898, Nos.49 and 50 (GA 31; pp.289-301, 660).- Also see the announcement of this series of lectures as well as the exposition, ‘Ziele der Hochschulpädagogischen Bewegung’, in the ‘Mitteilungen zur Hochschulpädaogik’ (Issue, No.1), edited by Hans Schmidkunz for the ‘Verband für Hochschulpädagogik’.

12. Steiner published in a leaflet a short written version of this lecture ‘Hochschulpädagogik und öffentliches Leben’, (GA 3l;pp.66l-3). A longer version appeared under the title, ‘Hochschule und öffentliches Leben’, in the Magazin für Litteratur, 1898, Nos. 50 and 51 (GA 31; pp.301-314)- On the subject of College pedagogy, also consult the following essays by Steiner: ‘Der Universitätsunterricht und die Erfordernisse der Gegenwart’, in the Magazin für Litteratur, 1898, No. 19 (GA 31; pp.235-9); ‘Über den Lehrfreimut’, Magazin für Litteratur, 1899, No.11 (GA 31; pp.327-9); ‘Collegium Logicum’, Magazin für Litteratur, 1899, No.12 (GA 31; pp.337-341).

13. Steiner reports extensively on this lecture in, ‘Schule und Hochschule’, (Note 11). Also see the autobiographical remark by Steiner in the lecture of May 18, 1919 (GA 192; pp.106-7).

14. Cf. Ilgauds (Note 3), p. 33 and pp. 43-46.

15. ‘Über die verschiedenen Standpunkte in bezug auf das aktuale Unendliche’ in the Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Philosophische Kritik, Volume 88, 1886, pp. 224-233. Republished in Georg Cantor, Gesammelte Abhandlungen mathematischen und philosophischen Inhalts (Edited by E. Zermelo), Berlin: Springer 1932 (Reprints: Hildesheim, Olms 1966 and Berlin/Heidelberg/New York, Springer 1980), pp. 370-376.

16. ‘Mitteilungen zur Lehre vom Transfiniten’ in the Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Philosophische Kritik, Volume 91, 1887, pp. 81-125, 252-270; Volume 92, 1888, pp. 240-265. Republished ibid. (Note 15), pp. 378-439.

17. The editors of Cantor’s correspondence have also expressed this view (Note 4): "The meeting of Cantor with Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, did not lead to any intensive contact between the two academics." (p.424). In a letter dated the 28th of September 1994, Hans Joachim Ilgauds assured me that nothing more relating to Steiner has been found, either in the files of the Prussian State Archives in Merseburg or in Cantor’s literary estate in the Göttingen University Archive.

18. ‘Die Lehre vom Transfiniten’, ibid. (Note 15), p. 387.


Conference Report

"The Victory of the Human Spirit over the Computer"

held at the AnthroTech Institute at Les Sciernes-d’Albeuve, Switzerland from 29 to 31 October 1999 in the English language and led by Paul Emberson.

There were 14 participants – 6 from England, 5 from Switzerland and one each from America, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Besides the excellent five lectures given by Paul Emberson, each illustrated by exact demonstrations with fine apparatus there were rich conversations, a workshop and three choral sessions where the participants were accompanied by orchestral instruments so that the scientific work was balanced by most enjoyable artistic experience.

In the Friday evening lecture Paul spoke of the greatest battle for the future, that concerning intelligence technology – which is not known to the Hierarchies. Computer designers are often afraid of what they have brought into being. Even Marvin Minsky, a father of it all, feels this but rightly adds, "there is no way of going back." Professor Warwick (Reading University cyberneticist) in his recent book asks if it is justifiable to defend ourselves against these machines, but asserts that the "survival of the fittest" also applies to machines and argues that it is right for human intelligence to be superceded by machine intelligence on ecological grounds, since less energy is needed. His further argument that if computers decided to wipe us out, we would be in the same position as if we had to face a nuclear weapon attack waged by chimpanzees seemed to us science fiction at its most absurd.

Can machines think ? Behind or indwelling all things are conscious beings, so a quick dismissive "No" courts great dangers. Before going deeper into the weekend’s main theme,"Thinking, artificial intelligence and electricity" we focussed upon "electricity in nature", asking if lightning, the Aurora Borealis and electric fishes manifest the same kind of electricity as is used in a computer or an electric motor. The first has been described as a downward radiation of the Seraphim, the second as an upward radiation of earth to heaven and the third which produces narcosis in prey or predator all lack the purely physical-mechanical generation of electricity witnessed in computer and motor. We cannot just assume that the same beings or kinds of being are active in the two cases.

It was in early Greek times that through Thales human thinking first distinguished beween "I" and "world". At the same time he and others became aware of the attractive powers in iron (magnetic) and in amber (electrical). In the great catastrophe of Atlantis huge coniferous forests were quickly destroyed and the buried, compressed resin gave rise to very large quantities of amber. Not until the 15th century were explanations and ramifications of attractions and repulsions investigated, e.g. in William Gilbert’s "De Magnete".

At this point many well-known experiments were carried out in the conference room, using ebonite, glass, magnets, etc showing the usual polarities and their applications in simple machines, including the Wimshurst machine invented in 1883.

The presence of sparks in electric machines, both of frictional and magnetic motivation, demonstrates the continual interruption of electric flow in them. This is similar in character to the series of neurons in our nervous systems; without such interruption sense perception would not be possible. After amputation of a leg for example (a complete interruption) the person continues to feel his lost foot resting on the floor. (I have a clear memory as a boy of this happening to my grandfather - R.A.J.)

In the early years of the present century physicists felt that they had finally understood what matter is, but Max Planck disabused them of this feeling by stating that matter does not exist – only levels of (electrical) energy exist, related by intervals not dissimilar to musical ones or changeable from one to another as one uses a gear lever in a car. Rudolf Steiner was excited by these remarks, hoping that "humanity will now know that behind physical appearance there lies something else." This hope was not realised. The evening closed with contemplation of the statements

(i) atoms are nothing else than electricity,

(ii) human thoughts are made of the same substance as electricity - but which kind of electricity?

Recollections of Lemuria was the theme chosen for the Saturday morning session, during which the lemniscatory nature of time was alluded to. The division of the sexes in ancient Lemuria (which is connected with the separation of moon from earth) and the contrast between sun-like and moon-like human characteristics as shown between Cain and Abel has given rise to certain thematic repetition in the nineteenth century. In the past sexual intercourse was still largely an unconsciously motivated activity, as was the acceptance of hierarchy in human social relationships. At the end of the eighteenth century Count St. Germain had tried to prevent the carnage of the French Revolution whilst recognising the need for new sociality. In science the need arose to recognise the presence of electricity in animal and human bodies (e.g. Galvani). Consciousness of electrical resistance (Ohm) of various metallic substances developed – from lead’s high to copper and silver’s low resistance. Several experiments were carried out at this point of the morning using simple voltage producing cells, beginning with water, copper and zinc plates. The electricity was seen to have differences from the "surface" type in the static electricity experiments. The electricity arising through chemical action could be described as "inside metals" electricity.

The polarity of the sexes reminds us of electrical attraction. It was from Lucifer that we received freedom to be attracted to the opposite sex not only in the spring time. Just as immorality can arise from misuse of Lucifer’s gift, so can it arise from misuse of electromagnetism, which may be seen as a gift coming through Ahriman. Such a strong spiritual force as the latter contains cannot be led directly through the Gods into matter. They have to ask (otherwise) hostile beings to do this. Only in this manner can such spirit either enter or leave matter.

On Saturday afternoon we had a Workshop on Artificial Intelligence. This involved setting up circuits , two—way switches for electric lighting, simple arrangements for "and" and "or" operations. Moving magnetised elements about on a metal blackboard enabled everyone to see clearly how various participants attempted to solve the intelligence problems which were posed.

The evening lecture — demonstration was entitled The power of Mars and Venus. Reference was again made to Count St. Germain, who appeared not only at the beginning of the nineteenth century but again towards its end. In between there lived and worked one of the greatest individualities in the field of science — Michael Faraday. A very humane person, his researches, especially in magnetism and electricity, were carried out to the highest scientific standards. His methods and conclusions remain a shining example to this day. Rudolf Steiner has said only little about magnetism. It is instructive to compare magnetic with electric fields. The former have permanence (e.g. the Earth’s magnetic field). They require iron above all, iron compounded with other elements such as carbon (steel) and tungsten. Magnetism has a Mars quality in so many ways. Electric fields on the other hand are variable and collapsing. They require copper; miles of copper wire is used in generators for example. It is the best of conductors (apart from silver, which would be too expensive). Copper is a Venus metal.

The problem of assessing the spiritual significances of magnetism and electricity can thus be tackled by comparing the two with Mars and Venus, the first having its orbit outside the Earth’s orbit and the second inside the Earth’s orbit. The first we can associate with Ahriman and the second with Lucifer. When working together (electromagnetism) they provide the strongest motive power in factories, land transport and so on.

Christian Rosenkreutz understands technology more than anyone else. It was he who gave humanity the Temple Legend. In it we see how Cain, an older soul than Adam and offspring of a different Eloha, appears again in Hieram and the story of "The Molten Sea". He appears again as Lazarus-John. Then again he appears as Christian Rosenkreutz and finally as Count St. Germain. It was this being who helped royal families to transform base metals into gold and in England he inspired the development of the steam engine.

The battle of the future – the destiny of the further use of magnetism and electricity and above all of intelligence technology, which uses these forces in its hardware and software – will require all the cosmic wisdom we can obtain through individualities like Faraday, Steiner and Rosenkreutz. The theme for the lecture-demonstration on the Sunday morning was The deeper nature of electricity.

Paul Emberson preceded his talk with a description of the aim of AnthroTech. It is not to make use of computers and electricity, but to develop etheric forces to drive machines. This requires selfless love. Such machines will not operate like contemporary ones using electrical, magnetic, fossil fuel, steam or atomic energy power sources, where the operator simply has to press a button or move a lever. It will depend upon the moral quality of the individual controlling the machine.

The machines we have in the world today are there because we have projected them out of our intelligence into that world. We need to know the answers to the questions, "What is intelligence? What is electricity?" There is a great danger in thinking of ourselves as machines, needing hospital repairs from time to time or in the case of people with criminal tendencies brain surgery and implants. If we regard the brain as the mechanical decider of our actions, that leaves no room for a moral decider within us. We become "manipulated by our symbols". But this means that we allow another being to usurp the divine right of our own individuality to determine the actions our organism shall carry out.

Reference was made here to the lecture given on 28th July 1924 by Rudolf Steiner printed in the 3rd volume of the Karma lectures. Steiner spoke there of the new age of Michael, which began in 1879. Prior to this in the first third of the 15th century the first hierarchy carried over the Cosmic Intelligence into the human head organisation. Formerly the human being had been a heart-man, now he became a head-man; the Intelligence could become his own. In the 450 years between these two events Michael and Ahriman have waged battle on the issue — shall human beings make the aquisition of Cosmic Intelligence their own in true individual freedom or shall Ahriman appropriate it and make it altogether earthly, governed solely by the forces of reproduction and inheritance ? It is those who are able to receive Anthroposophy with true and deep devotion in their hearts who can unite with Michael in this battle, for the heart’s enthusiasm is essential if we are to make Cosmic Intelligence our own. Although we have today become head-men, we must not lose what we developed as heart-men. The inspiration and enthusiasm of the human heart pouring into the individual thinking head-man is what will help Michael defeat Ahriman.

Blacking out the conference room cum laboratory, we then applied our enthusiasm to investigating the nature of electricity at a deeper level. A high voltage was applied to terminals at the ends of a horizontal glass tube from which the air was exhausted to form an increasing vacuum. The less "matter" the tube contained, the more the tube glowed with colour. Polaric colour differences became more pronounced. Were we now actually "seeing" electricity? Electricity and matter always seem to exist together, but with the elimination of matter, electricity seems to reveal itself as coloured light. Yet this colour and light is quite different from what we normally experience in the natural world. They lack the vitality of the latter. So to refer to electricity as "fallen" light or "fallen" light ether has justification.

In the final session on Sunday afternoon the title of the final lecture was The victory of the human spirit. A recapitulation of the main themes and experiments concerning electricity and magnetism led on to viewing matter as a compounding of Luciferic electrical forces coming down from above and Ahrimanic crystallising forces coming up from below. The oscillating rhythm in electromagnetism between the iron-Mars and copper-Venus elements services this compounding.

The discovery in 1948 of solid state semi-conductors revolutionised information technology. Silicon, a dull grey metal whose compounds are well known in biodynamic agriculture (it enables the cosmic influences to penetrate the soil), was melted. Adding a tiny crystal of it to the liquid brought about a lengthening of this crystal. It was then "doped" by introducing impurities (other metals) and the original non-conductor (silicon) became a semiconductor, i.e. able to transmit electric current in one direction only. The discovery of this "chip" was actually foreseen by Rudolf Steiner. He proposed a counter discovery and indicated it in the "Strader" machine; in his instructions to Schmiedel he asked for a hemisphere of copper facing a hemisphere of silicon, the latter to have a blue colour. Then he put forward the following Imagination:

Go in soul below the crystal rocks in the Alps, which is a holy place for the Gods. The stars are mirrored there; all the silicon-quartz transparent rocks are eyes for the cosmos.

Whereas computer design depends upon the Gemini-Saggitarius axis of the zodiac and serves a good purpose in the reduction of human labour, it is the axis at right angles to it — the Pisces-Virgo axis, on which will depend the success of the new etheric technology. Electromagnetism is governed by the Gemini line, the midday-midnight line, whereas the etheric machines depend upon the Pisces line, the dawn-sunset line.

Continuing the Imagination . . . At Midsummer we see in soul how the Cosmic Intelligence with yellow light radiance carried by hosts of many beings all operating within each other and overseen by the serious countenance of Uriel shines down towards the earth and meets the upward moving blue Cosmic Will full of elemental beings. With them comes silver to be united with gold from the cosmos.

Even in the experience of the light-glowing vacuum tube in the morning session we could also see a polarity between the violet streams at the cathode (negative pole end) and the rose-red colour at the anode which finally took shape. The violet could only emerge as matter became rarified, but the rose-red bears a link to Uriel.

When we contemplate the great dangers of modern inventions, especially in information technology, we can see how easily their positive features can be outweighed by their negative ones and eventually see how the monster could eat up our humanity. What shall be our answer ? Only with the help of courage and sacrifice can this monster be overcome. The attempt may even be made to introduce the souls of the dead to machines working from the Gemini line, so the need to develop the morning and evening impulses succouring the Pisces-Virgo axis and etheric technology is of paramount importance.

Here is a task for highly developed knights having a Michaelic Christian devotion to enter the machine world. We must change machines from inside. It is the only way to transform the dragon. The dragon no longer exists in the thought world. He operates in the physical.The task is one for the spiritual scientists of the West. AnthroTech wants to support such efforts in this direction. But it does not regard its main field of work to be that of developing Strader or Keely machines. Rather does it want to conduct researches into moral technology – etheric forces which can drive such machines – which have to be non-electrical and non-magnetic. It feels it has a kinship with biodynamic agriculture.

Following a short break the participants were invited to visit the machine shop in the basement below the conference room, where the apparatus for AnthroTech Research is fashioned. It contains a set of highly efficient lathes, milling machines, drilling and planing machines,etc. of very modern design and high monetary value. These are the gifts made by wealthy supporters from many countries to the work of AnthroTech. Among the research being carried out are projects with colour and sound, projects studying the whole field of vibrations of many kinds, machinery for stimulating gravity-free and gyroscope-free movements whereby liquids containing high dilutions of mineral salts and plant saps may be subject to earth-freed cosmic forces. One machine being designed was for field spraying on biodynamic farms. It should be realised that the AnthroTech Institute relies solely upon gifts of money and equipment to further its work. This includes income from conferences and lectures and from annual subscriptions and although the small number of workers helping Paul Emberson both in Switzerland and on the island of Mull is increasing, they mostly give their time and effort free. Courage and sacrifice are fully in evidence.One has to fervently hope that more people of wealthy means will come forward to support this well grounded scientific impulse, whose value for humanity in the future could be of inestimable worth.

Ron Jarman, November 1999.


Supplement to a lecture given by Imre Boejtes at the Goetheanum on 18-3-1999 on the work of AnthroTech. In the discussion following the lecture the question of HAARP was raised. Translated by Barbara Saunders Davies.

The HAARP installation (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project) occupies an area of 20 hectares near Gakora, 320 km. north-east of Anchorage in Alaska. It consists of a forest of antennae with 360 masts, 24m. high.

In February 1995 the American army first used this establishment as a testing ground. Since 1998, after its installation, they have been radiating an output of at least 10 Mrd watts into the ionosphere. This means that in every working hour the energy of an Hiroshama atom bomb is radiated into the atmosphere!

No scientist can really know how such experiments affect the equilibrium of the Earth nor how the reaction will appear. Though HAARP is considered a civil project of research into the Northern Lights (aurora), one of the largest armament firms in the world (Raytheon) possesses the basic patents of HAARP technology (they go back to N. Tesla's discoveries). Thus it can be assumed that what is presented to the public as a harmless scientific project, is actually the most powerful military construction ever built. It can be taken for granted that such invasions of the ionosphere produce holes in the ozone layer!

Further it can be very alarming to know that HAARP technology can be adapted for global manipulation of consciousness. Whenever desired, radiating ELF (Extreme Low Frequency) waves can, when targeted, influence the brain currents of humans (and animals).

In view of the terrible possibilities connected with this radiation technique, critical scientists and some lay initiatives have sounded the alarm. In spite of these protests however, HAARP has been built.

Recommended literature J. Manning and N. Begich: "Locher im Himmel. Der geheime Okokrieg mit dem Ionosphärenheizer HAARP". (Holes in the sky. The secret ecological war with the ionosphere heating apparatus HAARP). Publisher:- Verlag 2001, 1996. The original american publication of 1995 bears the title "Angels don't play this HAARP. Advances in Tesla technology".



International Conference of the Science Section of the School of Spiritual Science

Hawkwood College, 16th - 18th June 2000

Every two years the international meeting of the Science Section takes place away from the Goetheanum. This year the meeting will be held for the first time in the UK. The programme will include the 6th Class Lesson, contributions from the work of section members and practical projective geometry.

For further details please contact Johannes Kühl, Naturwissenschaftliche Sektion am Goetheanum, Hugelweg 59, CH4143 Dornach, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 61 706 42 10; Fax: +41 61 706 42 15. Email:

UK group of the Science Section

Date: 21st October 2000. Venue: Alder Bridge Rudolf Steiner School, Reading.

Date: 24th February 2001. Venue: Elmfield Rudolf Steiner School, Stourbridge.

If you intend to attend either or both these meetings please contact Richard Swann at Orchard Leigh Camphill Community, Bath Road, Eastington, Stonehouse, Glos., GL10 3AY. Tel: 01453 825617. Fax 01453 823811. Email

The Culture of the European Landscape as a Task

From 6th to 9th September 2000 an international conference will take place in Dornach, Switzerland, titled The Culture of the European Landscape as a Task. This preliminary announcement covers the aims of the conference and the form it will take. For further information please contact the organisers at the address below.

Aim of the Conference: How can we cultivate our own personal relationship to nature? How can such a relationship be developed into an instrument for planning and shaping landscape? In doing this, how can the natural and cultural characteristics of the different European landscapes be given objective validity without losing sight of their history and their creative development in the future?

These questions form the starting point of the conference The Culture of the European Landscape as a Task. It aims especially to take a new look at the methodology of landscape planning and development in theory and practice, and to take it further. The focus will be on European landscapes under agricultural management.

The conference offers an opportunity for exchanging ideas and experiences to everyone for whom landscape is part of their daily concern (scientists; farmers; conservationists; landscape architects, planners, developers, gardeners; politicians; decision makers etc).

The conference will involve a co-operative way of working and result in the production of an action plan for the Culture of the European Landscape as a Task. Artistic approaches will accompany and facilitate the process.

Background: Sustainable development of the variety and differentiation of European cultivated landscapes needs new approaches which can not only replace but also go beyond concepts such as "conserving the present situation" or "reproducing traditional forms".

The tendency towards obliterating the local individual character of European landscapes poses a challenge to many people involved in researching, planning and developing landscape.

In the European Union and in the European Parliament a need has arisen for formulating new models. Various political concepts have been developed to oppose the tendency towards uniformity in European landscape (e.g. pan-European strategies for biological and landscape diversity (PEBLDS), the Landscape Convention and many specialised landscape concepts in various countries.)

It is clear that it is increasingly necessary to develop capacities which allow us to include living formative processes in how we shape landscapes, instead of resorting to fixed, static planning concepts. This demands new thinking which enables us to relate to the life processes of a landscape. We should keep in mind the aesthetic and health promoting aspects of landscape.

In a responsible approach to nature, it is crucial that ultimately we involve the individual human being. The questions which this raises are of fundamental significance for everyone who wants to take responsibility for nature and landscape. All who are seeking new ideas, ways and approaches are warmly invited to collaborate in the conference process.

Preparatory 'Round Table' in October 1999: In a preparatory step for the conference 35 specialists were invited to a 'round table' in Dornach in October 1999 to share thoughts on new ways for working with landscape. The variety of contributions confirmed the topicality of the theme and the value of considering the different methods for approaching landscape. It became clear that the fruitfulness of new models ultimately depends upon how "beauty", "diversity" and "individuality" etc (e.g. as used in the Swiss "landscape concept") are approached by individuals in their perception of various levels of reality. This means that from the outset we must always aim to include a holistic view of the individual in community. That is how landscape conservation can become objectively orientated.

The themes to be focussed on in the September 2000 conference are based on the experiences and results from the round table.

Central issues to be discussed at the conference: Some important questions to be worked on during the conference include:

Initiative and Organisation: The Goetheanum Science Section has for more than ten years held annual landscape seminars in various parts of Europe. In connection with these, a network of working groups (comprising, for instance, landscape planners, farmers & ecologists) has arisen throughout Europe devoted to pursuing landscape issues on the basis of anthroposophy. The seminars have always taken place in collaboration with local authorities and nature conservation organisations. Many of the regular participants themselves work in such organisations.

This work in the context of the landscape seminars forms the basis of this conference. The initiative, organisation and conduct of the conference, The Culture of the European Landscape as a Task, is in the hands of the Science Section of the Goetheanum School of Spiritual Science, Dornach, Switzerland. Since autumn 1998 an initiative group has been involved in intensive preparation for the conference. The group comprises Jochen Bockemühl, Andreas Bosshard, Thomas van Elsen, Johannes Kühl, Bas Pedroli, Hermann Seiberth, Johannes Wirz and Hans-Christian Zehnter.

Contributing: The following, inter alia, have been approached to take part in the conference The Culture of the European Landscape as a Task: Prof. Gerd Aufmkolk (Freiraum Community, Nürnberg), Dr. Jochen Bockemühl (Goetheanum Science Section, Dornach), Prof. Dr. Gernot Böhme (University of Darmstadt); Dr. Eduar Kaeser (University of Bern); Dr. Manfred Klett (Agriculture Department, Goetheanum, Dornach); Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Küster (University of Hannover); Ricardo Priori (European Parliament); Prof. Dr. Michael Succow (University of Greifswald); Dr. Andreas Suchantke (Education Seminar, Witten-Annen).

Organisation: Venue: Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland. Dates: Wednesday evening, 6th September to Saturday evening 9th September 2000. Supplementary excursion on Sunday 10th September 2000. Conference languages: German, English (with simultaneous translation). Conference structure: The emphasis is on working groups on particular themes; lectures; short contributions to stimulate discussion; podium discussions; poster sessions; excursions. Written contributions and poster presentations will be included in the posters & proceedings of the conference which will be published in 2001.

Cost: ca. 375 Swiss Francs

Contact address: Hans-Christian Zehnter, e-mail: Naturwissenschaftliche Sektion am Goetheanum, Hügelweg 59, CH-4143 Dornach. Tel.: +41 61 706 42 10; Fax: +41 61 706 42 15. Internet: Progress on conference preparations will be posted on the home page: This announcement has been made possible by a donation from the Iona-Foundation, Amsterdam.

The process of putting on the conference The Culture of the European Landscape as a Task is dependent upon donations. Bank details: Allgemeine Anthroposophische Gesellschaft e.V., Dornach; GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG, Sorting Code (BLZ): 430 609 67; Account Number (Konto-Nr.) 988 100; Reference Number (Kennzeichen): 60445/1120.


Thinking beyond Darwin: The idea of the type as a key to vertebrate evolution. Ernst Michael Kranich. Lindisfarne Books,1999. ISBN 0-940262-93-2.

In place of a review we are pleased to be able to reprint in full here Craig Holdrege's foreword to Kranich's book (Ed.).

Listening to E. M. Kranich describe an animal is an unforgettable experience. He characterizes the animal vividly through word and gesture so that it comes alive before the mind’s eye. You see how the parts of the animal are related to each other and to the whole animal; you glimpse what it actu-ally means to be an organism. His descriptions are based on a rich knowledge of detail wedded with the ability to see the connections between seemingly disparate parts. This approach is very difficult, because once we begin to analyze an animal into its parts to gain detailed knowledge, we understandably tend to lose sight of the whole. When we concentrate, for example, on understanding the anatomy and physiology of the cow’s four-chambered stomach, we can’t at the same time concern ourselves with its horns, hooves, or tail. We have to take the animal apart, and the question is, can we put it back together again in a way that gives us a more accurate and living understanding of the animal than we had before we undertook the analysis?

If we want to do justice to the cow as an organism, then we must overcome the isolation of the parts into which we have analyzed it. The cow’s horns, stomach, hooves, and tail all hang together in some way; they are not isolated from each other. We may never understand their interrelationships completely, but we can try.

When Kranich is describing an animal he penetrates to the essential character of a given feature of the organism and then moves from part to part, recognizing how that quality is expressed in each. It is as though each part becomes a gesture that appears in a modified form in other parts, so that the organism begins to speak as a harmonious whole. We see the whole in every part. This approach utilizes the imagination, but in an exact way. Listening to Kranich, one senses some-thing of the unique way of being of the given animal. But the picture that forms is a living picture that cannot be fixed or defined without dying—analogous to the life of the organism itself. To be present, it must he recreated anew. I know many teachers who carry the memory of Kranich’s descriptions as a guiding image in their efforts to present animal life vividly to their own students.

When one has learned to understand animals in this way, all expectations regarding explanations of animal evolution change. Typically, evolutionary biologists consider the charac-teristics of an organism separately from each other as traits that have come into being in isolation. Each characteristic is considered to be a different survival strategy: horns have survived as weapons, the four-chambered stomach as an effective way to digest grass, the wide-set eyes as a good way to see predators, the tail as an efficient tool to remove flies, and so on. In this approach the organism becomes an agglomeration of parts, put together by natural selection. It is essentially an additive approach.

As Kranich takes pains to show in this book, such an approach does not do justice to the reality of the organism. The cow separated into individual characteristics is an artifact of human analysis. When one builds a theory of evolution on an artifact, the artifact will be what is explained, not the fullness of the actual organism. Kranich asks us to take the organism seriously as a coherent whole and to try to adapt our way of viewing to it, so that our understanding is a more adequate reflection of its wholeness. In a sense he is saying that we have much more work to do before we can come to adequate con-cepts of evolution, since we have barely begun to understand the organism on its own terms in its present configuration.

The first step, then, is to begin to form a picture of the ani-mal that recognizes how the whole lives in every part and how the parts interrelate. Kranich gives examples of this way of viewing throughout the book. They are not as easy to follow as his spoken descriptions, which are always accompanied by gestures, voice modulation, and other forms of communication that help us to imagine qualitatively—to see—the connec-tions. The written word is more distant and asks more of the reader, and since Kranich’s descriptions are brief, they are demanding. Nonetheless, I think the reader can recognize a different way of looking at animals that opens up a new dimension of understanding—with immense consequences for evolutionary thinking.

A central concept in this book is that of the type. Kranich knows that in introducing this concept he is opening himself to the possibility of massive criticism and misunderstandings. He knows that typology is treated with derision among most con-temporary evolutionary thinkers. Isn’t this a return to a long-outmoded concept that actually precludes evolution?

But Kranich shows that the type he is talking about is not the type in the mind of most biologists. This is the first hurdle to overcome: the type has nothing to do with a static general scheme that has been abstracted out of the phenomena. Kranich’s use of the term goes back to Goethe, who formed the concept based on his botanical and zoological investigations. Goethe is well known in the history of botany for discovering that the foliage leaf, the sepal, the stamen and the carpel are all leaves. They are the metamorphosis of one principle that he called "leaf." As he put it, "From top to bottom the plant is all leaf".1 The reality of this principle becomes visible in following the development and transformation of a plant from first leaf to last. The concept of the type points to the unity within the many separate parts. It is an attempt to recognize—and name—the coherency and the formative principle of the organism. It is not abstract, but concretely present when we understand the organism.

The problem is that as soon as one speaks of "the type" it sounds abstract and separate. It "feels" dualistic. But Kranich is building on the work of Goethe and Rudolf Steiner, who elaborated Goethe’s conceptions epistemologically—both of whom are eminently monistic thinkers. For them there is one world, which, as Steiner puts it, appears initially to us in concepts and percepts, a separation we overcome in the process of knowing.2 The type is not added to the phenomena but is rather a concept that arises when one begins to understand the dynamic wholeness of a living organism.

Goethe called metamorphosis a "dangerous gift from above"3 since it leads to constant transformation and dissolution. I would like to add that the concept of the type is even more dangerous, since it is even more difficult to hold in its concrete vitality and is in constant danger of escaping us and dying into a corpse of its actuality. Part of the problem here lies in the nature of discourse and language. Once we have formed a concept, we can remove it from its context and speak of it separately; it thereby becomes almost thing-like. What is a unity then appears as a duality—organism and type. Since what Kranich describes as the type is actually the dynamic formative dimension of the organism itself, we must call forth the vibrant picture of the organism whenever the term type is used. This is difficult, but necessary if the concept of the type is not to degenerate into an abstraction.

In Chapter 5 Kranich gives a brief description of the mammalian type as revealed in the different systems—sensory, nervous, respiratory, etc.—and we can see how the various functions are intimately related to each other. A picture of a coherent whole emerges. When Kranich turns to specific examples in other chapters, we see how different tendencies dominate in a given species or higher systematic group. For example, the horse’s anatomy, physiology, and behavior become more understandable when one sees in them the dominance of leg-formation, just as in the giraffe neck-formation is dominant, with consequences for the whole animal. Kranich speaks of a specialization of the type, meaning the way in which the wholeness present in any given animal is channeled in a particular direction connected with the dominance of a given system or organ.

Through this way of viewing we can begin to see not only the formative integration in a given animal, but also the inner connection between different groups of animals. This becomes especially apparent when Kranich discusses vertebrate evolution, showing how we can understand the relations between fishes, amphibians, and reptiles as a process of interplay between changing internal organization and environment.

Another feature of Kranich’s presentation is striking when compared with typical contemporary descriptions of evolutionary processes, which usually start with the temporal order of the appearance of fossils (first the fishes, then the amphibians and reptiles, and finally the mammals). In contrast, Kranich illuminates fish, amphibian, and reptile evolution in light of the concept of the organism (type) formed by the study of the mammals. In other words, he starts with what appeared last in time. For example, only when we have compared the bony fish’s paired fins to the more differentiated structure of the tetrapod mammalian limb, can we understand the fins as relatively simple bony structures. Through this comparison the development of paired fins can be regarded as a significant stage in limb evolution, since the earliest fish-like vertebrates, the jawless fish (Agnatha), had no paired fins, while the later amphibians had four legs. Each evolutionary stage takes on meaning in the light of the context provided by the later, more differentiated stages.

Rudolf Steiner makes the simple, but far-reaching observation that if we had never seen a human being and had no concept of a human being, we would never be able to derive the concept of the human being out of our knowledge of an ape.4 Ape evolution is understandable in light of the human being, just as fish evolution is understandable in the light of the organization of mammals. Temporally, evolution appears in the sequence from fish to mammals, from apes to the human being, but we gain an understanding of the earlier stages from the principles that also encompass the later evolutionary stages.

The importance of this way of viewing evolution becomes more apparent when we observe how contemporary scientists try to derive the later stages from the earlier ones. Let me give an example. In his new book Consilience, Edward 0. Wilson strives to show how modern human behavior derives from previous evolutionary stages.5 In one description he imagines the paleolithic hunter to be scheming and considering the pros and cons of cooperative behavior, thinking about how it may increase his chances of survival by providing the protection of the group. But what is Wilson doing? He is projecting the mind of a modern evolutionary biologist into the paleolithic hunter. In a similar manner Wilson describes the behavior of social animals like wolves and monkeys to show the origins of human dominance behavior. The dominant male wolf is "proud," the dominant rhesus monkey also shows such "mannerisms" and walks in a "deliberate, ‘regal’ manner while casually staring at others." What is the original source of Wilson’s knowledge about pride, mannerisms, and regality? His own internal emotional experience and the concepts he forms out of these and out of the observation of other human beings. Only then does he "see" the regal monkey. Wilson’s "derivation" of modern human behavior from animal behavior is in reality a process of drawing out of the animals what he projected into them in the first place.

This is a fatal flaw in most pictures of evolutionary processes and a consequence of scientists not attending to the whole context that could provide understanding. Kranich avoids this pitfall. On the basis of comparisons of the different animals, he strives to form living concepts that can provide the connecting thread between what appears separate in space and time. In this respect Kranich makes a real contribution to the development of more adequate, and epistemologically solid, conceptions of evolution.

To formulate the relations between the type and the different groups of animals, Kranich uses expressions like "imperfect manifestation", "more perfect manifestation", "higher" and "lower".

Many American readers at the end of the twentieth century will take issue with these expressions since they sound judgmental— as if the mammals were "better" than the fishes. But this is clearly absurd. Kranich himself shows beautifully (Chapter 7) how there is a complete correspondence between fish organization and environment. What could be more perfect?

As Goethe already saw:

"Every creature is its own reason to be. All its parts have a direct effect on one another, a relationship to one another... therefore we are justified in considering every animal physiologically perfect."6

From this perspective all animals are "equal"—they exist meaningfully in their given context. There is no "better" or "worse," "higher" or "lower." Traditionally in biology the terms higher and lower have been used to express varying degrees of differentiation: the sponge, the starfish, the cod, and the porpoise are all marine animals and can be said to be adapted to life in water. But this statement does not indicate that each of these animals shows a different kind of internal and behavioral differentiation. The sponge has no distinct body parts or internal differentiation into organs; this fact in no way denies that they are "perfect" bottom-dwelling sessile filter feeders. The porpoise, in contrast, has the complex internal organization of the mammal and has a great learning capacity. The latter features cannot be derived from life in water, but can be derived from what Kranich describes as the mammalian type. Following traditional word usage, he speaks of a "higher" principle. Since this is not a felicitous term in our culture of plurality, it would be best to avoid it. But that does not deny the distinction.

From the point of view of internal differentiation of structure, function, and behavior the human being is clearly the most evolved creature on Earth. Recognizing this fact is often confused with placing the human being on a pedestal; as a result the distinction is denied in an attempt to eradicate the sentiment. But that’s a bit like throwing out the baby with the bath water. Herder, a contemporary of Goethe and one of the first evolutionary thinkers, clearly saw that human existence is a two-edged sword:

"Because the human being has to learn all things, because it is our instinct and calling to learn everything like our upright gait, we learn to walk by falling and come often to truth only through error. Its four-legged gait carries the animal forward securely, guided by its comparatively stronger senses and instincts. The human being has the advantage of a king to look to far horizons, upright and with head held high. Of course, we also see much darkly and falsely. We forget our steps only to be reminded when stumbling on what a narrow basis the whole head and heart edifice of our concepts and judgments rests.... The human being is the first to be set free in creation. We stand upright. The balance of good and evil, of false and true hangs in us. We can search, we shall choose. Just as nature gave us an overviewing eye to guide our gait, so also do we have the power not only to place the weights, but—if I may put it this way—to be the weights on the balance."7

To the degree that we are freed from natural constraints to act out of ourselves, we also have the freedom to act completely out of harmony with the world—a capacity we have exhibited only too well. We have no cause for arrogance, but just as little need we deny the distinctions between ourselves and our fellow creatures.

The eminent evolutionary scholar Stephen J. Gould is in tune with current trends in that he works vehemently against any tendency to see progress in evolution. Gould is an inspiring iconoclast and rightfully recognizes how destructive the concept of progress has been to those human beings and the rest of creation that do not fit into the conceived line of progress. But he has also gone to an extreme in taking a purely statistical view of evolution, which has led him to the conclusion that bacteria—as the original form of life—are still the dominant organisms on earth. They are, in his terms, the dog that wags the tail of evolution, meaning all other organisms. Evolution is radical contingency:

"At any of a hundred thousand steps in the particular sequence that actually led to modern humans, a tiny and perfectly plausible variation would have produced a different outcome, making history cascade down another pathway that could never have lead to Homo sapiens, or any self-conscious creature."8

In taking a statistical approach Gould neglects all qualitative distinctions—which he knows well—and therefore does not need to explain them in his theory. Once you reduce evolution to statistics, you can only find statistical trends. All other distinctions are "spurious"—which actually means they cannot be caught with the intellectual net that has been cast. This removes the human being from an evolutionary pedestal, but Gould has simply replaced progress with statistics on the pedestal of human arrogance. Instead of reading evolution through the glasses of progress, which he abhors, he reads it through the one-dimensional, highly abstract view of statistics, acting as if he could explain the phenomena of evolution by reducing them to a narrow statistical consideration.

In a way Gould has taken neo-Darwinism to its logical consequence. Once one loses sight of the organism and begins to "explain" it mechanistically in terms of inner (genes) and outer (selection) factors, in the long run one can only end up with Gould’s view of radical contingency. There are no evolutionary trends, there is no thread of meaning in evolutionary processes. The analytical intellect stands before the result of its own activity: a contingent universe void of meaning and sense. This is the dilemma of modern consciousness.

What this approach overlooks is the activity of the human being, without which there would be no questions and no science. We can’t abstract ourselves out of the process. Rather, the question is whether we can develop ways of knowing that consciously include the human being. Goethe once said that we seldom realize how anthropomorphic we are. But he also remarked that the human being is the most accurate instrument of knowledge.9 This paradox is resolved when we recognize that we must consciously engage all of our faculties to enable ourselves to illuminate the object of inquiry.

Evolutionary scholar Richard Lewontin—a colleague of Gould’s at Harvard—sees clearly that our knowledge of the facts alone neither proves that evolution is a contingency, nor is it synonymous with understanding evolutionary processes. He presents succinctly the fundamental challenge to evolutionary thinking—the discovery of general biological principles:

"The exact forms that have left descendants visible in fossil remains may indeed be accidental variants of a historically accidental process. But they may all be distinctions without a difference, superficial orthographic variants of a deep structure whose rules we have yet to uncover. A description of all the organisms that have ever been cannot decide the issue. It may be that all swans are not white, but that there is some other non-trivial attribute that they all necessarily possess. We cannot know the answer unless we have a theory of biological form that is deduced from some general principles of biological organization, rather than inferred from the collection of objects."10

Kranich’s book focuses on this central problem of evolutionary science: Are there underlying principles that connect the disparate facts? He shows us a way—developing Goethe’s method—of seeing the coherence and inner dynamics of organisms. He has begun to address Lewontin’s challenge. As Kranich acknowledges in the epilogue, he is trying to lay a foundation for further work that needs to be developed and elaborated. I hope his book is a stimulus not only to look at animals in a new way, but also to carry further a Goethean approach to evolutionary phenomena, an approach still in its infancy, with a rich future before it.

Craig Holdrege majored in philosophy at Beliot College and studied biology and did research at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. He has been a high school teacher of life sciences for over sixteen years, and is director of the Nature Institute for phenomena-centered research and education in Ghent, N.Y.

1. J. W. von Goethe, quoted in J. Bockemühl and A. Suchantke, The Metamorphosis of Plants (Capetown: Novalis Press, 1995), P. 8. The German original is taken from a letter Goethe wrote to his friend and colleague Herder on May 17, 1787.

2. Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Freedom, esp. chapters 3-5. Available in various translations from various publishers; the newest translation available as Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path from Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY.

3. Quoted in Douglas Miller, ed., Goethe: Scientific Studier, Collected Works, vol. 12 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), p.43.

4. Rudolf Steiner, "Practical Training in Thought" in Anthroposophy in Everyday Life (Hudson, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1995), p. 20.

5. Edward O. Wilson, Consilience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), p. 251ff.

6. Quoted in D. Miller, Goethe: Scientific Studies, note 3, p. 121

7. J. G. Herder, Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, vierter Band (Berlin: Aufbauverlag, 1982), p. 65. (English translation by C. H.)

8. Stephen J. Gould, Full House (New York: Three rivers Press, 1996), p. 215-16.

9. J. W. von Goethe, Spruche in Prosa (ed. R. Steiner, Stuttgart: Verlag Freies Geistesleben, 1967), pp. 23 and 21. (The second statement can be found in Miller, note 3, p. 311.)

10. R. C. Lewontin, "Fallen Angels," a book review in The New York Review of Books,June 14, 1990, p. 3ff.

FINDING DARWIN’S GOD by Kenneth R. Miller

Reviewed by Paul Carline

Kenneth Miller is a distinguished professor of biology at Brown University in the United States. He is also a committed Roman Catholic. His book: "Finding Darwin’s God", subtitled ‘A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution’ (Harper Collins, New York 1999), is an attempt to challenge what he refers to as "the common assumption that Darwinism is a fatal poison to traditional religious belief" and to maintain that it is possible to reconcile – in Bacon’s words – the study of ‘the book of God’s word [and] the book of God’s works’.

Miller’s book appeared at the end of a decade in which a number of science writers had rallied to the defence of the citadel of Science, and especially evolution theory, against a perceived attack both from the rising tide of the ‘forces of Un-reason’ under the lunatic attraction of the high tide of the approaching millennial ‘full moon’, and from an increasingly vocal and well-argued challenge from members of the non-fundamentalist wing of Christianity, especially in the U.S., including both scientists such as Daniel Behe ("Darwin’s Black Box") and non-scientists such as law professor Phillip Johnson ("Darwin on Trial") and philosophers William Dembski ("The Design Inference") and David Berlinski (various articles inc. "The End of Materialist Science"

Miller’s defence of Darwinism [he makes the common mistake of conflating ‘evolution’ and ‘Darwinism’ as if they were the same thing] is unusual in that he straddles – very uncomfortably – the divide which normally separates mainstream, fundamentalist and both implicitly and explicitly atheistic Darwinism from any theistic approach, fundamentalist or otherwise.

An early example of the establishment defence was Carl Sagan’s 1995 "The Demon-Haunted World", reviewed in 1997 for the New York Review of Books by Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin. The review is well worth reading in its entirety (it is available online at:

Lewontin outlined Sagan’s core belief that ‘we exist as material beings in a material world, all of whose phenomena are the consequences of physical relations among material entities’ and stated, correctly, that "Nearly every present-day scientist would agree with Carl Sagan that our explanations of material phenomena exclude any role for supernatural demons, witches, and spirits of every kind, including any of the various gods from Adonai to Zeus.". According to Lewontin, Sagan’s ‘demonic’ world includes "in addition to UFOs and their crews of little green men who take unwilling passengers for a midnight spin and some wild sex, astrological influences, extrasensory perception, prayers, spoon-bending, repressed memories, spiritualism and channelling, as well as demons sensu strictu, devils, fairies, witches, spirits, Satan and his devotees, and, after some discreet backing and filling, the supposed prime mover Himself".

Miller, as enlightened Catholic rationalist, also dismisses all such beliefs (except, of course, the last-named. Satan he ignores!), which in their modern form he believes to be a foolish regression to the ‘abject darkness’ of our primitive, animist past. On this score, he is, as they say, ‘singing from the same hymn-sheet’ as his atheist scientific colleagues, and singing vigorously (at least in the first part of the book). Having noted, in complete agreement with Lewontin, that "in the scientific world of the late 20th century, the displacement of God by Darwinian forces is almost complete", he lends considerable support to the basis of that displacement:

"Any idea that life requires an inexplicable vital essence, a spirit, an elan vital, has long since vanished from our lives and laboratories, a casualty of genetics and biochemistry"… "Materialism in biology, the search for mechanistic and chemical explanations for living phenomena, works, and it works brilliantly"…"Naturalistic explanations can account for the workings of living things…. Our existence is the product of material forces"…"Evolution dashed the hope of those who might have seen life as the one thing in the natural world that science would never be able to explain…. It didn’t turn out that way. Life turned out to be chemical after all…" "We have learned enough of the natural world to understand that it operates according to physical principles that are accessible to science."…. "..under the right [physical-chemical] conditions, the evolution of an improved, more complex system is only a matter of time" …. "living things…are constructed by the execution of a series of genetic messages encoded in DNA" … "the living cell works by purely material rules"… "Science [has] shown that material mechanisms, not spirits, [are] behind the reality of nature"… "We really do understand the essence of the sun’s fire, and we really do understand the forces that brought our species into existence. There is no point in pretending that we don’t."

Miller indulges considerably in what Owen Barfield called ‘chronological snobbery’ – the arrogant and unfounded dismissal of the understandings of ‘pre-scientific’ ages – a now standard part of the myth modern science has invented for itself:

"For thousands of years, humankind thought itself the focus of the universe, watching the sun and moon revolve around a human center… This view was confirmed by a story of origins detailing our species and all others brought abruptly [Genesis does not state this!] into existence by the action of the Creator. The great legacy of the scientific age is the understanding that neither of these stories is scientifically correct….. It is high time that we grew up and left the Garden. We are indeed Eden’s children, yet it is time to place Genesis alongside the geocentric myth in a basket of stories that once, in a world of intellectual naivete, made helpful sense."

"My ancestors knew the gods, and so did yours. For thousands of generations these men and women…huddled in fear each time the sun god dipped below earth’s cold horizon. They prayed as children, asking mercy from the gods of darkness, the demons of the night, imploring favors from the moon and stars…. Our gods did magic. They did the work of nature, and they ruled the lives of man… They healed us when they wished, and other times they struck us down with sickness and death….Gods filled the voids in nature we could not explain…. Then something happened. Something wonderful. A few of our ancestors began to learn the rules by which nature worked, and, after a while, we no longer needed Apollo to pull the sun’s chariot across the sky.. The movements of the sun and moon became part of a mechanism, a celestial machine in which each motion could be calculated and explained… Gradually, humans took up the greatest challenge of all – we sought to understand life. We learned the causes of sickness, and with such knowledge conquered [??] the very diseases that had slain so many and produced such fear. We discovered the units of life itself… How did we do all this? What changed a minor species of bipedal primates into the masters of the planet? In a word, we learned to explore nature in the systematic way we now call science… the gods themselves are gone and we are no longer subject to their tyranny…"

Miller as scientist reveals himself as completely in step with his atheist colleague Lewontin, who, in the article quoted from above, wrote: " put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads, we must first get an incorrect view out. People believe a lot of nonsense about the world of phenomena… the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth". [My emphasis]

In the second half of the book, having previously stated that "one of the great beauties of evolution is that it is automatic", Miller then stands on his head to argue that nothing he has said rules out the possibility either that God exists, or that He has had a hand in evolution: "God could, in principle, act without being scientifically detectable.." "A God who presides over an evolutionary process is not an impotent, passive observer. Rather, He is one whose genius fashioned a fruitful world in which the process of continuing creation is woven into the fabric of matter itself" – this, despite Miller agreeing with the other Darwinists that "evolution admits to no obvious purpose or goal" and that rewinding and replaying the ‘tape of evolution’, to use Gould’s metaphor, would most likely not result in the appearance of homo sapiens.

Miller reconciles the irreconcilable with a single concept – that of chance, which he equates with quantum indeterminacy. "Chance events are genuine because the physical world has an existence independent of God’s will. Chance is not only consistent with the idea of God, it is the only way in which a truly independent physical reality can exist." Miller places all his eggs in the one basket of indeterminacy: indeterminacy is the ‘gap’ which allows the possibility of divine interference and indeterminacy is the presumed platform for human free will – though Miller never explains exactly how one gets from the apparent indeterminacy of sub-atomic particles to a freedom of action which must, if it is to have any meaning at all, consist in more than the presumed indeterminacy of brain activity at the quantum level.

Miller’s Roman Catholic position is essentially one of a classic Cartesian dualism, the simple division of the world into ‘spirit’ – essentially reserved for God alone, since the status of the human soul is unclear – and the ‘independent physical reality’ of matter. Ultimately, his book is a mish-mash of confusions: long on unsubstantiated assertions about scientific ‘certainties’, short on logic and philosophy (like Darwin’s Origin). I do not believe that it makes any worthwhile contribution to the debate. Rather, it confuses both sides. The Darwinists will probably welcome it because of its apparently authoritative, but in fact flawed, attack on Johnson, Behe and others. They will approve of Miller’s scientific orthodoxy and simply ignore as facile his equally flawed attempt to keep God in the picture. Some believers may be persuaded that they can, after all, embrace evolution theory with an easy conscience. Miller’s book does them a disservice.

The real debate has not yet begun. Serious contributions are beginning to be made and be published. Ernst-Michael Kranich’s "Thinking Beyond Darwin" points in the right direction. The new book by Jos Verhulst "Der Erstgeborene" (Verlag Freies Geistesleben 1999) deals with a theme which is very close to my own heart and about which I have also written, a theme which should become a major theme for our new century: the re-discovery of the centrality and chronological primacy of the human form; the true story of evolution as an evolution towards freedom, in which the human has evolved and continues to evolve precisely because the spirit working in and through matter has held back from the specialisation and adaptation to the environment which characterises the animals.

Paul Carline, Newhall 22.02.00

Goethe: the Poet and the Age Vol II: Revolution and Renunciation, 1790-1803

Nicholas Boyle. Hardcover - 964 pages (February 2000) Clarendon Press; ISBN: 0198158696.


Web Sites

Whirlpower –

A site of likely interest to etheric technologists and vortexologists which was brought to our attention by one of the workers on the Whirlpower project, Neil Simmonds.


A useful resource for mathematicians. Hosted by the University of St Andrews at:



In Context – The Newsletter of The Nature Institute

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