Steiner placed great importance on certain numbers, especially 3, 4, 7, and 12. He tried to impose his preferred numbers onto the subjects he discussed — he tried to jam phenomena into boxes having 3, 4, 7, or 12 compartments. Three and four are the occult numbers of divinity and creation, he taught. [See "Magic Numbers".] Seven, the number of perfection, is the sum of 3 + 4. Seven is also the number of seals mentioned in the Book of Revelation, and it is the number of "sacred planets" (i.e., the "planets" known to the ancients, which include non-planets such as the Sun and the Moon). Twelve is the product of three and four (3 x 4). It is the number of Christ's disciples as well as the number of signs of the zodiac. Steiner insistently divided subjects into twelve components and then linked them to astrological signs.
Steiner taught that human thought is amenable to seven “world-outlook-moods”: gnosis, logicism, voluntarism, empiricism, mysticism, transcendentalism, and occultism. He associated each of these with one of the seven sacred planets. Likewise, Steiner posited twelve “shades of world-outlooks:” Materialism, sensationalism, phenomenalism, realism, dynamism, mathematism, rationalism, idealism, psychism, pneumatism, monadism, and spiritism. He linked each to a sign of the zodiac
Here's a brief synopsis, drawn from HUMAN AND COSMIC THOUGHT, a brief book consisting of four Steiner lectures. We will begin with the twelve world outlooks, since this is how Steiner arranged things in his talks. I have highlighted certain words for clarity. (Steiner's scheme, in itself, lacks clarity — divisions he created are often arbitrary, leaving plenty of overlap and fuzziness around the edges.)
Twelve Shades of World-Outlooks
"For a thinker who can penetrate into the nature of thought, there is not one single conception of the world, but twelve that can be equally justified — so far justified as to permit of equally good reasons being thought out for each of them. There are twelve such justified conceptions of the world." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN AND COSMIC THOUGHT (Rudolf Steiner Press, 1991), p. 40.
1) "There are people so constituted that it is not possible for them to find the way to the Sprit, 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." — Ibid., p. 30.
2) "We can go further, and can say: 'The world of phenomena we certainly have around us, but all that we believe we have in these phenomena is what we have ourselves added to them, what we have thought into them. Our own sense-impressions are all we can rightly accept. Anyone who says this — mark it well! — is not an adherent of Phenomenalism. He peels off from the phenomena everything which he thinks comes only from the understanding and the reason, and he allows validity only to sense-impressions, regarding them as some kind of message from reality.' This outlook may be called Sensationalism." — Ibid., p. 38.
3) "One can say...'I am clear that there is a world which appears to me; I cannot speak of anything more. I am not saying that this world of colours and sounds, which arises only because certain processes in my eyes present themselves to me as colours, while processes in my ears present themselves to me as sounds — I am not saying that this world is the true world. It is a world of phenomena.' This is the outlook called Phenomenalism." — Ibid., p. 38.
4) "There can also be persons who say...'I recognize the external world; that is something I see and can think about. I have no particular reason for supposing that it is or is not spiritual at root. I restrict myself to what I see around me' ... [W]e can call such Realists, and their concept of the universe: Realism ... [O]ne can advance the most ingenious reasons for Realism...." — Ibid., 31.
5) "There can be persons who...hold that 'forces' are dominant everywhere. If, for example, a stone falls to the ground, they say, 'That is gravitation!' When a magnet attracts bits of iron, they say: 'That is magnetic force!' ... A world-outlook of this kind — which looks everywhere for forces behind phenomena — can be called Dynamism." — Ibid., p. 37.
6) "The crudest kind of materialism...will consist in this, that people carry to an extreme the saying...that in the individual sciences there is only so much real science as there is mathematics ... [A]nyone who raises himself above...crude materialism will become a mathematical thinker, and will recognize as valid only whatever can be treated mathematically. From this results a conception of the universe that really admits nothing beyond mathematical formulae. This may be called Mathematism." — Ibid., pp. 32-33.
7) "Someone, however, might think this over, and after becoming a Mathematist he might say to himself: 'It cannot be a superstition that the colour blue has so and so many vibrations. The world is ordered mathematically. If mathematical ideas are found to be real in the world, why should not other ideas have equal reality?' Such a person accepts this — that ideas are active in the world. But he grants validity only to those ideas that he discovers outside himself — not to any ideas that he might grasp from his inner self by some sort of intuition or inspiration, but only to those he reads from external things that are real to the senses. Such a person becomes a Rationalist, and his outlook on the world is that of Rationalism." — Ibid., p. 33.
8) "[T]here may be other persons who speak as follows ... [The] world of material phenomena is in itself devoid of meaning. It has no real meaning unless there is within it a progressive tendency ... [T]here must be a realm of ideas and ideals within the world-process ... [T]heir view is that life has meaning only if ideas work through it and give it purpose ... The adherents of such a world-outlook as this, which takes everything as a vehicle for the ideas that permeate the world-process, may be called Idealists and their outlook: Idealism." — Ibid., pp. 31-32.
9) "Idealism can be enhanced. In our age there are some men who are trying to do this. They find ideas at work in the world, and this implies that there must also be in the world some sort of beings in whom the ideas can live. Ideas cannot live just as they are in any external object, nor can they hang as it were in the air ... Anyone who understands that ideas, if they are there are all, are bound up with some being capable of having ideas, will no longer be a mere Ideal ... He becomes a Psychist and his world-outlook is that Psychism." — Ibid., p. 34.
10) "When someone is a Psychist, and able as a thinking person to contemplate the world clearly, then he comes to the point of saying to himself that he must presuppose something actively psychic in the outside world. But directly he not only thinks, but feels sympathy for what is active and willing in man, then he says to himself: 'It is not enough that there are beings who have ideas; these beings must also be active, they must be able also to do things.' But this is inconceivable unless these beings are individual beings. That is, a person of this type rises from accepting the ensoulment of the world to accepting the Spirit or the Spirits of the world. He is not yet clear whether he should accept one or a number of Spirits, but he advances from Psychism to Pneumatism, to a doctrine of the Spirit." — Ibid., p. 35.
11) "Someone may not take the path we have tried to follow to the activities of the spiritual Hierarchies, but may still come to an acceptance of certain spiritual beings. The celebrated German philosopher, Leibnitz, was a man of this kind ... His view was that a being — as, for example, the human soul — can build up existence in itself. But he formed no further ideas on the subject. He only said to himself that there is such a being that can build up existence in itself, and force concepts outwards from within itself. For Leibnitz, this being is a “Monad” ... A person with this outlook...reflects...upon the spiritual element in the world, allowing it to remain indefinite...[he picks] out from them an abstract characteristic ... Monadism is an abstract Spiritism." — Ibid., pp. 36-37.
12) "[T]here are people who, owing to a certain inwardness, are naturally predisposed to see in all that is material only the revelation of the 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 ... Let us call their conception of the universe: Spiritism." — Ibid., pp. 30-31.
"Apart from the seven world-outlooks I have drawn here, there can be no others." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN AND COSMIC THOUGHT, p. 49.
1) "A man can be so attuned in his soul — for the present it is immaterial by which of these twelve “mental-zodiacal signs” his soul is illuminated — that the soul-mood expressed in the whole configuration of his world-outlook can be designated as Gnosis. A man is a Gnostic when his disposition is such that he gets to know the things of the world not through the senses, but through certain cognitional forces in the soul itself ... [I]f we want to put Gnosis in its right place, we must draw a circle, and the whole circle signifies that the Gnosis can move round through all twelve world-outlook signs. Just as a planet goes through all twelve signs of the Zodiac, so can the Gnosis pass through the twelve world-outlook signs. Certainly, the Gnosis will render the greatest service for the healing of souls when the Gnostic frame of mind is applied to Spiritism. One might say that Gnosis is thoroughly at home in Spiritism. That is its true home ... [But] Gnosis is a “planet” which passes through all the mental-constellations." — Ibid., pp. 43-45.
2) "Logicism. The special mark of Logicism consists in its enabling the soul to connect thoughts, concepts and ideas with one another. As when in looking at an organism one comes from the eyes to the nose and the mouth and regards them as all belonging to each other, so Hegel arranges all the concepts that he can lay hold of into a great concept-organism — a logical concept-organism. Hegel was simply able to seek out everything in the world that can be found as thought, to link together thought with thought, and to make an organism of it — Logicism! ... Logicism is again something that passes like a planet through the twelve zodiacal signs." — Ibid., pp. 45-46.
3) "Schopenhauer lays hold of everything in the soul that pertains to the character of will. The forces of nature, the hardness of a stone, have this character for him; the whole of reality is a manifestation of will. This arises from the particular disposition of his soul. This outlook can once more be regarded as a planet which passes through all twelve zodiacal signs. I will call this world-outlook, Voluntarism ... [M]etaphysics of the will: Voluntarism in the mental constellation of Psychism." — Ibid., p. 46.
4) "Empiricism. Empiricism signifies a soul-mood which simply accepts whatever experience may offer. Through all twelve constellations one can be an empiricist, a man with a world-conception based on experience." — Ibid., p. 47.
5) "[W]hen the soul has become quiet and seeks inwardly for the divine Light, this soul-mood can be called Mysticism ... [O]ne can be a mystic through all the twelve mental constellations. It would certainly not be specially favourable if one were a mystic of materialism — i.e. if one experienced inwardly not the mental, the spiritual, but the material ... One can be a Mystic of the world of matter, and one can be a Mystic of Idealism." — Ibid., pp. 47-48.
6) "[T]he soul may be so attuned that it cannot become aware of what may arise from within itself and appear as the real inner solution of the riddle of the universe ... In this mood, a person presupposes that outside his soul, and beyond anything his soul can experience, the essential being of things lies hidden; but he does not suppose that this essential nature of things can flow into his soul, as does the Mystic. A person who takes this standpoint is a Transcendentalist ... He accepts that the essence of a thing is transcendent, but that it does not enter into the soul — hence Transcendentalism.” — Ibid., p. 48.
7) "We should be Transcendentalists if we said: “The world is spread out all around us, and this world everywhere proclaims its essential being.” This we do not say. We say: “This world is Maya, and one must seek the inner being of things by another way than through external sense-perception and the ordinary means of cognition.” Occultism! The psychic mood of Occultism! ... [O]ne can be an Occultist throughout all the mental-zodiacal signs." — Ibid., p. 49.
Twelve Signs and Seven Planets
"Let us begin with Idealism, and let us mark it with the mental-zodiacal sign of Aries; in like manner let us mark Rationalism as Taurus, Mathematism as Gemini, Materialism as Cancer, Sensationalism as Leo, Phenomenalism as Virgo, Realism as Libra, Dynamism as Scorpio, Monadism as Sagittarius, Spiritism as Capricorn, Pneumatism as Aquarius, and Psychism as Pisces. The relations which exist spatially between the individual zodiacal signs are actually present between these shades of world-outlook in the realm of spirit. And the relations which are entered into by the planets, as they follow their orbits through the Zodiac, correspond to the relations which the seven world-outlook-moods enter into, so that we can feel Gnosticism as Saturn, Logicism as Jupiter, Voluntarism as Mars, Empiricism as Sun, Mysticism as Venus, Transcendentalism as Mercury, and Occultism as Moon." — Rudolf Steiner, HUMAN AND COSMIC THOUGHT, pp. 50-51.
— Compilation and commentary by Roger Rawlings