The Challenge of Spiritual Language

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The Challenge of Spiritual Language: Rudolf Steiner’s Linguistic Style

“Development in the science of the spirit will always…involve what we may call developing the inner meaning and inner configuration of our language.” —Rudolf Steiner

Our present-day language cannot easily convey spiritual concepts. This is epitomized by Rudolf Steiner’s search for the words and style to express a contemporary spiritual worldview. In seven chapters that organically develop the subject, Martina Maria Sam presents longstanding relevant research. As a writer, editor, and lecturer, she observed the increasing difficulty that many—especially academics—have with Steiner’s style. However, this style was something that Rudolf Steiner developed deliberately. As she states, “What was most important for me in this was to point out Rudolf Steiner’s intentions in his specific, and often original, linguistic forms and, consequently, to create the introductory basis for a deeper understanding.” Gaining such understanding, she says, also enables us to develop insight into spiritual matters.

The author begins by quoting contemporaries of Steiner who criticized his “grating” style. She describes why he had to create new forms of expression and examines the specific nature of his lectures. She considers two comprehensive stylistic principles that permeate Steiner’s entire body of work, as well as his special way of handling the pictorial element in language. She also focuses on Steiner’s construction of meditative verses and mantras and the development of an artistic, linguistically creative element that will be possible only in the future.

C O N T E N T S:


“If only it were all said more succinctly!”
Is Rudolf Steiner’s Language Still Understandable Today?
• The Irritation with Rudolf Steiner’s Style
• Seeking a New Language

“A constant struggle for an expression that seems sufficient…”
Why Rudolf Steiner Had to Develop a New Language
• The Battle with Language
• Impetus for a Free Spiritual Collaboration
• Uncovering the Inner Gestures of Language

“To turn and move the language so that its shortcomings are not experienced”
The Special Character of the Lectures
• The Audience Participants
• The Rhetorical Flow of the Lectures
• A Continuous Element of Activity and Development

“…that we really feel each word to be inadequate”
Characterizing Rather than Defining
• Emancipation from Nomenclature
• From Various Sides around an Open Middle
• In Contradiction and between Things
• Delicate Nuances of the Spiritual
• Understanding the Active Spirit through Participation

“…a style that can be presented fully in pictures…”
The Pictorial Element in the Language
• A Cautious, Provisional Allusion
• Speaking Comparatively Preserves the Intrinsic Character of a Thing
• The Original, Etheric Word Gesture
• The Example with Something Left Over
• Spiritual Activity in the Emergence of the Image

“…so that their content can never be entirely fathomed…”
On Forming and Experiencing the Mantras
• Everything in the Verses Has Meaning
• The Dynamic of the Change in Perspective
• Sound and the Feeling of Sound
• Creating Words Anew from the Feeling for the Sounds
• Inexhaustible Word Combinations

“Rising to the level of the process through which language is created…”
Spiritual Scientific Language as a Work of Art
• The Anthroposophical Book—A Kind of Musical Score
• The Artistic Factor in Spiritual Scientific Literature
• Returning to the Source where Language Arises
• The Whitsun Experience of Language in the Future

About the Author

MARTINA MARIA SAM was born in 1960 in Hornbach, Odenwald, Germany. From 1979 to 1981, she studied sociology and political science at the University of Heidelberg. Between 1981 and 1986, she attended the Institute for Waldorf education, Witten-Annen, where she studied eurythmy and education. From 1987 to 1992, she was a eurythmist on the Goetheanum stage, while also working for various publishers. From 1989 to 2000, she assisted in the publication of Rudolf Steiner’s collected works. Meanwhile, she also studied art history, German, and history at the University of Basel, where she wrote her Master’s thesis on Rudolf Steiner’s blackboard drawings (Dornach, 2000). From 1996 to 1998 she was editor of the weekly newspaper, Das Goetheanum. In January 2000, Martina Maria Sam became leader of the the Literary Arts and Humanities Section of the School for Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum.

Additional information

Weight 14 oz
Dimensions 5.5 × 0.5 × 8.5 in


Douglas E. Miller, Marguerite V. Miller




August 2020






Rudolf Steiner Press


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