Anthroposophical Spiritual Science


♦ Whilst natural science ascribes objective reality only to the physical world, spiritual science attributes objective existence to both the physical and spiritual worlds.

♦ Besides, spiritual science also recognises the polarity between the spiritual and material laws of existence which demands different approaches to the investigations of relations between things, beings and phenomena that are observed.

♦ The lack of such an approach is the true reason for the 'contradictions' between spiritual and physical worldviews which – if they are applied in their proper places – form two halves of the existence which mutually support one another.

Objective Existence of Supersensible Realities

The characteristic of the physical world is that we can perceive it through our physical senses and with the help of instruments, which can be seen as extensions of our sense organs. Consequently there is no serious objection to the existence of the physical world. The most extreme form of denial is the standpoint of some people that all that we perceive is only an illusion – that the real existence is hidden behind sense perceptions. However, the undisputable fact is that we all perceive the existence of the physical world, regardless if we agree about the true nature of what we perceive.

In comparison to this there exists many people who nowadays deny the existence of the spiritual world on the grounds of the argument that we cannot perceive it. Is this actually the case or is the problem really in the manner of how we understand all this?

Nobody can deny the existence of thoughts, but they are only perceptible to us inwardly when we think. It is evident that questions about the meaning of life, memories, world outlooks, and moral values are not physical entities, but their impact on the physical world is evident because people are guided by them into numerous actions. Therefore ideas and ideals belong to the world of spirit.

We also perceive our feelings of joy and sadness, sympathies and antipathies; we can be driven by instincts into activities which we later regret, or we can feel compassion for the suffering of other people. All these are manifestations of the soul realm of supersensible existence.

We also perceive if we feel healthy or sick, well or unwell, full of vigour or exhausted, tired after a whole day of work and refreshed after good sleep. These are perceptions of the state of our inner life forces that also belong to the realm of supersensible world.

Therefore, the right conclusion is: These are all manifestations of the spiritual pole of existence in contrast to the manifestations of the physical pole of existence which we can perceive with our physical senses. We all perceive the phenomena of the supersensible world, but not all people are aware of this fact. This means that we must have also sense organs that can perceive some manifestations of the spiritual world. [1]

Although science doesn't go to the extreme of denying existence of these non-physical realities, they are usually looked upon as manifestation of the physical processes. For example, "the materialist tries to understand the thoughts by regarding them as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place in the brain in much the same way as digestion takes place in the animal organism. Just as he attributes mechanical and organic function to matter, so he credits it in certain circumstances with the ability to think. He overlooks that he merely shifts the problem to another place. Instead of ascribing the ability to think to himself, he ascribes it to matter." [2] In the same manner materialists ascribe to matter the abilities to perceive, remember, feel, and to create and maintain life.

Materialists who promote such explanations of the origins of living, of psychological and spiritual activities in the human being, never bring their explanations to the above logical conclusion. Therefore they are not forced to admit that minerals in nature don't exhibit such attributes. If they did so then they would be more willing to accept the explanations of spiritual science that say:

We can approach the question of the existence of spiritual realities from another direction. The attribute of physical objects is that they can be perceived, measured and quantified. Because of this we recognise them as objective realities of the world existence. Now, in recent decades, science has discovered that the vast majority of the universe consists of so-called dark matter and dark energy. [3] They are called 'dark', because they cannot be detected by physical instruments. Their existence has been figured out on the basis of their effects on what can be perceived. Here we have scientific evidence of the existence of the supersensible world! For what science 'see' as dark, spiritual science see as supersensible.

And while scientists openly admit that they do not know what is there in the darkness, spiritual science is capable of explaining what is the true nature of the invisible matter and energy: "When people look out into the universe they think that space is empty and that the stars are in this empty space. In times gone by, peasants believed that there was emptiness all around them as they moved about. Today everyone knows that there is air around us, not emptiness. So, too, we can know that in the universe there is no emptiness anywhere; either matter is there or spirit is there." [4]

Polarity of the Physical and the Spiritual Worldviews

In the world there exists more than one single explanation of the origins of the universe and living beings and in them we can find many differences or even contradictions. This is an obvious hurdle for anybody who would like to arrive at one, all-encompassing worldview. How can this seemingly insurmountable hurdle be overcome?

The first precondition for this is that we recognize the existence of both worlds – the physical and the spiritual one – and consequently the existence of two groups of worldviews:

If we take the ultimate representatives of these two groups – the materialistic worldview and the spiritual worldview – we can arrive at the key reason for the lack of understanding between these two views of the world by the help of the following explanation.

When we investigate the nature of people we can recognise the existence of many polarities. For example, on one side "are people so constituted that it is not possible for them to find the way to the spirit, and to give them any proof of the spirit will always be hard. They stick to something they know about, in accordance with their nature. Let us say they stick at something that makes the crudest kind of impression on them – materialism. We need not regard as foolish the arguments they advance as a defence or proof of materialism, for an immense amount of ingenious writing has been devoted to the subject, and it holds good in the first place for material life, for the material world and its laws.

On the other side are people who, owing to a certain inwardness, are naturally predisposed to see in all that is material only the revelation of the spiritual. Naturally, they know as well as the materialists do that, externally, the material world exists; but matter, they say, is only the revelation, the manifestation, of the underlying spiritual. Such persons may take no particular interest in the material world and its laws. As all their ideas of the spiritual come to them through their own inner activity, they may go through the world with the consciousness that the true, the lofty, in which one ought to interest oneself – all genuine reality – is found only in the spirit; that matter is only illusion, only external phantasmagoria. This would be an extreme standpoint, but it can occur, and can lead to a complete denial of material life. We should have to say of such persons that they certainly do recognize what is most real, the spirit, but they are one-sided; they deny the significance of the material world and its laws." [5]

Can we say that the representatives of the spiritual worldview are right? "As regards the spirit, their assertions could bring to light some exceptionally correct ideas, but concerning matter and its laws they might reveal very little of any significance. Can one say the materialists are correct in what they maintain? Yes, concerning matter and its laws they may be able to discover some exceptionally useful and valuable facts; but in speaking of the spirit they may utter nothing but foolishness. Hence we must say that both parties are correct in their respective spheres." [6]

Therefore it is of crucial importance that we are aware that explanations of materialistic and spiritual worldview are contradictory because they are describing two different worlds where there are active different laws of existence. Consequently both of them are valid inside their own domain. "It is only the universalising of them that is wrong. Thus it is essential, if one wants to form a correct idea of what thinking is, to understand clearly that the truth of a thought in the realm to which it belongs is no evidence for its general validity. Someone can offer me a perfectly correct proof of this or that and yet it will not hold good in a sphere to which it does not belong. Anyone, therefore, who intends to occupy himself seriously with the paths that lead to a conception of the world must recognise that the first essential is to avoid one-sidedness." [7]

Although we cannot go now into the complexity of all "those world-outlooks which are possible for man – so possible that certain valid proofs can be produced for the correctness of each of them in a certain realm" [8] – we can "begin to understand why there are so many disputes about conceptions of the world. People generally are not inclined, when they have grasped one standpoint, to grasp another as well," [9] and yet another, and so on. Such people are not able to see that "the world is boundless, both qualitatively and quantitatively. The worst enemies of truth are cosmic conceptions that are exclusive and strive after finality; the conceptions of those who want to frame a couple of thoughts and suppose that with them they can dare to build up a worldview" [10] that can explain everything that exists.

The only way to achieve this is to become familiar with all worldviews which offer suitable explanations for various domains of the world existence. Only with such a holistic approach can we investigate the relationship between the sensible and supersensible world in such a manner that we do not come to false conclusions or grope in the dark. Then we can have a true all-embracing science which is capable of building bridges between the spiritual and the physical worlds in both directions. And this is what anthroposophical spiritual science strives for.


  1. The findings of spiritual science about the constitution of the human being confirm the existence of soul and spiritual senses. Here we cannot go into this very complex topic. For the sake of this introductory text it will suffice if we grasp that even the extreme materialists have supersensible perceptions by mediation of these special senses.
  2. Rudolf Steiner, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity – A Philosophy of Freedom, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1992
  3. "The total mass–energy of the universe contains 5% ordinary matter and energy … while dark energy plus dark matter constitute 95% of total mass–energy content." (Wikipedia/Dark Matter, July 2019). Besides the science has discovered also antimatter and other types of subatomic particles which behave contrary to laws of classical physics to such a degree that American physicist Richard Feynman said that physics of subatomic particles deals with "nature as she is – absurd." 
  4. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 09.08.1924, From Sunspots to Strawberries, Rudolf Steiner Press, 2002
  5. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 21.01.1914; Human and Cosmic Thought, Rudolf Steiner Press, 1991
  6. As above
  7. As above
  8. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 22.01.1914; same source as in note 5
  9. See note 5
  10. Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 23.01.1914; same source as in note 5

Anthroposophical Spiritual Science as an All-Encompassing Worldview
By Brane Žilavec