Philosophy of Freedom

Rudolf Steiner

Notes of the translation – Spirit, Soul and Mind, page XVII

“Spirit, Soul and Mind are not precise equivalents in English of the German Geist and Seele. Perhaps because we use the concept of mind to include all our experiences through thinking, the concept of spirit and soul have practically dropped out of everyday use, whereas in German there is no distinct equivalent for mind and the concepts spirit (Geist) and soul (Seele) are consequently broader in scope. Any work describing Steiner’s point of view in terms of English philosophy would have to deal with the mind as a centrel theme, but here our task is to introduce readers to Steiner’s concepts of spirit and soul. For Steiner, the spirit is experienced directly in the act of intuitive thinking. The human spirit is that part of us that thinks, but the spiritual world is not limited to the personal field of the individual human being: it opens out to embrace the eternal truths of existence. The English word “spirit” gives the sense of something more universal, less personal, than “mind”, and since Steiner’s philosophical path leads to an experience of the reality of the spiritual world, I have kept the word wherever possible, using “mind” or “mental” in few laces where it seemed more appropriate. 

The “spiritual activity” here meant is thus more than mental activity, although it starts at a level we would call mental: It leads the human being, aware of himself as a spirit, into the ultimate experience of truth. The soul, too, is directly experienced, it is not a vague metaphysical entity, but is that region in us where we experience our likes and dislikes, our feelings of pleasure and pain. It contains those characteristics of thought and feeling that make us individual, different from each other. In many common phrases we use the word “mind” where German has the word Seele, but since Steiner recognizes a distinction between soul and spirit it is important to keep these different words. Even in modern English usage something of this difference remains, and it is not too late to hope that Steiner’s exact observations in this realm may help to prevent the terms “soul” and “spirit becoming mere synonyms. Therefore I have kept these words wherever the distinction was important, though in a few places an alternative rendering seemed to fit better, for instance, the “introspective observation” quoted in the motto on the title page could have been rendered literally as “observation of the soul”- this observation involves a critical examination of our habits of thought and feeling, not studied from outside in the manner of a psychological survey of human behaviour but from inside where each person meets himself face to face. 

The whole book can be considered as a study of the mind, but using and exactness of observation and clarity of thinking never before achieved. Nevertheless, the stream of materials still flows so strongly that there is a real danger that the mind, and indeed the whole realm of the soul and the spirit, will be dismissed as a metaphysical construction. Only by adopting a philosophy such as is developed in this book will it be possible to retain an experience of soul and of spirit that will be strong enough to stand up to the overwhelming desire to accept nothing as real unless it is supported by science. For in this philosophy Steiner opens the door to the science of spirit every bit as exact and precise as our current science of nature would be.”